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Am I an Alpinist?
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May 3, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: Stemming on Terrace Mountain, taken August 18, 201...
The term "Alpinist" seems to be often loosely defined, hence why I'm starting this thread. Wikipedia redirects to the term Mountaineering. According to Wiktionary it is "A mountain climber, especially in the European Alps or in ranges of similar ruggedness and elevation". The second definition is "A downhill skier who practises the sport on high mountains". According to SuperTopo "The climbing medium will often involve rock, snow, ice and variable weather conditions." When digging deeper I found a great article on SummitPost about this subject which mentions handling objective hazards, educating oneself, physical training, gear, rock climbing, mountaineering, ice climbing, skiing, mixed, and exploring greater ranges.

A friend of mine believes you have to be a pro skier, ice climb WI6, rock climb 5.10+, and be able to do serious mixed climbing to be considered an Alpinist. I have not heard this opinion anywhere else.

I personally have hiked/scrambled hundreds of mountains, ice climbed, sent a few 5.9's (as well as many other alpine rock climbs), climbed Alpamayo, much glacier travel, steep snow climbing, have hit rock bottom , and am starting to get into skiing. I've been working hard on alpine style since my climbing accident due to my spinal compression and other injuries. I've also been getting back into the mountains a lot these days. According to the broad definition I make the cut, but not in accordance to my friend's definition. Thoughts on this?
Josh Lewis
Joined Jan 11, 2010
41 points
May 3, 2016
Go here and you will be an alpinist. Mike0110
From Long Beach, CA
Joined Jan 19, 2015
5 points
May 3, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: ice'n
when you combine skiing, technical rock, ice and mixed climbing in a glaciated setting you are practicing alpinism.

however, to be an alpinist, to me, it implies that this s also your source of income/everyday life.

I don't think a hobbyist can be an alpinist. I love alpine climbing, being in the mountains, especially big terrain like the alaska range. but I would't classify myself or any of my freinds "alpinists", but I would call them and myself climbers.
christoph benells
From tahoma
Joined Nov 14, 2014
239 points
May 3, 2016
I don't know - that's like saying you can't be a tennis player because you only play on weekends.

I think you can be a recreational alpinist. And that you don't have to be professional to be called an alpinist.
FrankPS
From Atascadero, CA
Joined Nov 19, 2009
284 points
May 3, 2016
Alpinism connotes some minimum degree of technical difficulty. I don't know what that minimum is (like Potter Stewart, I know it when I see it).

It's currency also is to help the ego draw a distinction between ones' self and casual peak baggers / backpackers. I once heard someone say "alpinism is what we do in the PNW, and mountaineering is what Colorado 14-er chasers do". I don't agree, but you sorta get the idea. To hit close to home for OP, maybe TRs worthy of cascadeclimbers.com are alpinism, but those for nwhikers.net aren't?

If you're asking for a modern definition, I'd throw my hat in the ring for "climbing with sustained technical difficulty in an alpine setting". This way we can kick the can down to the "what is alpine?" debate. To belabor PNW examples again, South Face of the Tooth and North Face of Chair Peak - alpinism?

I believe the genesis of the term was to draw a distinction in climbing style on big objectives (where mountaineering implicitly connotes siege - style tactics on large mountains). This distinction is fairly useless today, in that under this original definition anyone doing stuff in the mountains that doesn't involve establishment of multiple camps and complex fixed lines is doing alpinism.
jaredj
Joined Jan 30, 2013
150 points
May 3, 2016
Josh Lewis wrote:

That's a hell of a story
Stagg54
Joined Dec 12, 2006
7 points
May 3, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: Bottom of the bottle
So.... who cares what your FRIEND SAYS.

What do you think you are?

Just climb


EDIT... I just read your story. Big adventure comes at a big cost, good job on the self rescue. Stuff like this makes one stronger.
Guy Keesee
From Moorpark, CA
Joined Mar 1, 2008
363 points
May 3, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: ice'n
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you are an alpinist based on the pure badassness of this photo.

you've earned it.

and you've had a finger amputated, that screams alpinist.
christoph benells
From tahoma
Joined Nov 14, 2014
239 points
May 3, 2016
Spooner = alpinist

Spoonee = gumbay

Thats all there is to it

;)
bearbreeder
Joined Mar 1, 2009
3,068 points
May 3, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: This is a novel auto blocking belay device.  I thi...
Saw your website/blog. If you want to call yourself an alpinist, who are any of us to argue?

You are one damn fine photographer though. Great stuff!
Rick Blair
From Denver
Joined Oct 16, 2007
376 points
May 3, 2016
Josh,
You obviously have a passion for climbing as well as photography. What anyone else thinks(including your friend) doesn't matter a bit. Don't let the "being" get in the way of the doing-if you follow me.

The best to you and your full recovery!
.
T340
From Idaho
Joined Oct 25, 2011
5 points
May 3, 2016
Josh,
I disagree with your friend. I think the minimum requirement for alpinism is the classic definition of Class 4 (you'd want a rope in case you fell) and the objective, which is presumably a mountain top. Whether the climbing involves rock or snow or ice or all of them, with or with out glaciers, I think the definition is pretty broad. I guess mountaineering begins at altitudes where cerebral/ pulmonary edema are typical risks, where alpinism doesn't necessarily include those risks. (Perhaps Alpinism is Low Altitude Mountaineering?)

I think the distinction between pro and amateur is pretty much contained in those words.

From what I can see, you've earned the right to call yourself an alpinist.
caribouman1052
Joined Nov 3, 2012
9 points
May 3, 2016
i think that what differentiates alpinism from other aspects of climbing is the combination of a few different factors. mixed/variable conditions(specifically the presence of snow/ice), being in the ALPINE environment, climbing with the goal of attaining a summit, and technical difficulty of the route. you could also throw in such aspects as remoteness, glaciers and all the hazzards that go therewith, tricky routefinding, or a long, tricky approach.

the tricky thing about climbing is all of the convoluted definitions of what things are classified as.

if you climb a hard technical route on the diamond in july would it be considered alpinism? probably not. i'd call that alpine rock climbing. you probably wouldn't encounter snow or ice. you would be in the alpine environment. you could go up to the top of longs afterwards so i guess that box would be ticked off, and the technical difficulty is there. i think that climbing the diamond in winter would undoubtedly fall into the alpinism category.

climbing something like the avalanche gulch on mount shasta would certainly include being in the alpine, snow/ice, a very long route, going to a summit. all that being said i would consider that route to be more like semi-technical mountaineering than full-scale alpinism.

i think the word 'alpinism' has a very fluid definition and can vary not just from climber to climber but even from outing to outing. i've done routes and after i got down i was so worked and so beleaguered that it MUST have been alpinism. but then i did the same route in much better conditions, with better weather and it felt just like a fun outing in the mountains but i personally felt as though i didn't suffer enough or have a hard enough time to let it fall into the mythic category of alpinism.

however you want to categorize it, rock climbing is just for hipsters, mountaineering is exhausting and boring, ice climbing is scary and stupid, skiers spend too much time chasing after white powder, mixed climbing is silly and masochistic. mountains are ugly and they should bulldoze all of them and build a bunch of strip malls.

get psyched, go outside, and go suffer your way up a mountain. call it what you will, it'll all be badass!
T.L. Kushner
Joined May 21, 2009
7 points
May 3, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: top out worth the bushwhack
Alpinism is a style. Not much to do with technical difficulty. It is characterized by light and fast, single push ascents. As contrasted to traditional expedition style where loads of gear is hauled up, and many camps are established. An Alpinist carries all his gear up and down and relies on himself and his teammate instead of previously established camps. Things like fixing lines are also avoided for a purer style.

I would say it's more aligned with the style to pick more vertical and technical routes but there's no rules here ;) Also, IMO the technical difficulty isnt really important, 5.6 or 5.16 can still be done alpine style.

Also - nice post man, I clicked for the gnarly photograph but got hooked by the writing, read the whole thing. Keep it up
SteveMarshall
Joined Jul 24, 2014
51 points
May 3, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: Batman Pinnacle
The lift operators in Chamonix shouted out "alpiniste" while inviting me to the front of the line for the ride down, so... yes? Scott O
From California
Joined Mar 30, 2010
76 points
May 3, 2016
SteveMarshall wrote:
Alpinism is a style. Not much to do with technical difficulty. It is characterized by light and fast, single push ascents. As contrasted to traditional expedition style where loads of gear is hauled up, and many camps are established. An Alpinist carries all his gear up and down and relies on himself and his teammate instead of previously established camps. Things like fixing lines are also avoided for a purer style. I would say it's more aligned with the style to pick more vertical and technical routes but there's no rules here ;) Also, IMO the technical difficulty isnt really important, 5.6 or 5.16 can still be done alpine style.


I disagree with this broad of a definition. Since nearly all mountains in the lower 48 can be climbed in single day or single push, does summiting Adams via the south side walk up make someone an alpinist? I do not think so. If so, it is no different than mountaineering, and then what is the point of two words?

Like some others in this thread, I think "alpinist" carries some measure of minimum and sustained technical difficulty. I won't try to put a grade to it, but it's gotta be steep enough that mortals will want a rope; steep enough to use 2 ice tools, 5th class climbing, etc. I lean towards the objective requiring multiple types of climbing (rock, snow, ice), but that seems debatable. I don't think that a snow slog and/or a rock scramble qualifies.

I do not think you need to be a professional to be an alpinist. There are people with day jobs out there sending serious routes, the source of their paycheck seems irrelevant.

If you can do it in boots and microspikes, it's probably hiking. If you need 1 axe and you're plunging the shaft, it's probably mountaineering. If you're swinging tools over your head and belaying pitches, it's probably alpinism.
Kyle Tarry
From Portland, OR
Joined Mar 5, 2015
96 points
May 3, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: Coffee after freezing our asses off near James Pea...
Concerning oneself with the labels others bestow or withhold is a futile and pointless endeavor. Stich
From Colorado Springs, Colorado
Joined Jan 1, 2001
1,669 points
May 4, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: Red Rock
I just like to go outside and get high.

Lets leave it with that.
ViperScale
Joined Dec 22, 2013
201 points
May 4, 2016
Alpinist: Someone who yodels, wears long wool socks, carry's a pick axe suitable for trenching at CALTRANS, Wears a feather, and nailed, tele boots, self cobbled with calf hide from the family farm, Cuts himself across the chest with a huge sword like Billy in the movie Predator.


Rock Climbing Photo: Boss Alpinist
Boss Alpinist
sean burke
From Concord, Ca
Joined Jul 30, 2014
78 points
May 4, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: Somewhere on Prusik Peak.
To me alpinism is climbing technical routes in an alpine environment. An alpinist is someone who has tackled at least several such routes. I've climbed Triple Couloirs on Dragontail Peak, certainly a route that has the feel of "ALPINISM", but don't consider myself an alpinist yet. I have a lot more left to learn and a lot of experience to build before I would be so bold to assign that name to myself. Nick Sweeney
From Spokane, WA
Joined Jun 8, 2013
673 points
May 4, 2016
mountainproject.com/v/differen... T Burgess
From Fort Collins, CO
Joined Oct 27, 2008
50 points
May 4, 2016
If you have to ask....no tim
From Boulder, CO
Joined Aug 6, 2006
60 points
May 4, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: Dow Williams, 2011
The words alpinist and alpinism typically refers to climbing objectives situated in an alpine environment (the word alpine being more readily defined), rock, ice, glaciated terrain, etc. The "route" and mountain you got hurt on and eventually caused the amputation of your finger is called a scramble in Canada and is included in our scramble guide book. I have taken my daughters, pre-teen, and their sheltie dog up that same scramble. Folks get hurt walking, hiking and scrambling in Canada, but we don't really consider it an alpine accident when that happens.

"Climbing", now days, has as loose of a definition as alpinism. So it really is in the eyes of the beholder. Having an argument about what is and/or who is alpine climbing does seem quite futile to me, but good luck with whatever answer you might be seeking.
Dow Williams
From St. George, Utah; Canmore, AB
Joined Mar 13, 2006
241 points
May 4, 2016
I have a shirt by black diamond that says they make equipment for alpinists. I wear it at the gym while bouldering and chalk up my hands out of a black diamond chalk bag. Therefore I am an alpinist.

Really screw terms and other people's interpretation of them. Go out in the mountains, scare yourself, but enjoy your time there, hope for no more than type 2 fun and come back in mostly one piece.

Nice write up on the rockfall incident, steep scrambles with loose rock scare me more than technical rock. I've been lucky to dodge those rocks, but come damn close to the same scenario. If you're worried about labeling what "style" of climbing at the time, really it doesn't matter. The bottom line is that you were able to self evac and get out of there with injuries. The grit to do that is every bit, if not mores, admirable than climbing a route that combines multiple technical disciplines at a high grade.
Nick Drake
From Newcastle, WA
Joined Jan 20, 2015
393 points
May 4, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: top out worth the bushwhack
Kyle Tarry wrote:
I disagree with this broad of a definition.


I'm going by the writings of famous alpinists I've read. For example, in Extreme Alpinism, mark twight defines it similarly.

"alpine climbing near one's limits"
"the ethos of climbing the hardest routes with the least gear"
"attempting to climb mountains on the most equitable footing possible, applying neither excessive technology to overcome defecits in skill or courage, nor using permanently damaging tactics"

he contrasts it directly to expedition style and bigwall-style hauling and taking days. and then goes on to say anyone can apply the term to a different style if they like. after all, there are no rules.

if it makes you happy, the "near one's limits" kind of puts the kibosh on scrambles you took your dog up, since that's not really near anyone's "limit."

IMO it's a style of climbing, like "clean aid" and "free climbing" just applied to mountains. free climbing is clearly "coolest" when it's the hardest line, but you can still free climb 5.6.

anyway, its just a word, having a good clean style is fun to me but in the end we're all just trying to have "fun"
SteveMarshall
Joined Jul 24, 2014
51 points
May 4, 2016
jaredj wrote:
.. It's currency also is to help the ego draw a distinction between ones' self and casual peak baggers / backpackers….

Dow Williams wrote:
…I have taken my daughters, pre-teen, and their sheltie dog up that same scramble. Folks get hurt walking, hiking and scrambling in Canada, but we don't really consider it an alpine accident when that happens. ...

Good thing OP didn’t ask if his accident qualified as an “alpine accident”.
jaredj
Joined Jan 30, 2013
150 points


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