Someone once said, “getting there is half the fun,” and, oh boy, is that the case when you’re trying to get to the summit of a mountain. Bagging a peak is a huge accomplishment both mentally and physically because, along with the fun, there’s also a whole lot of bruises, scrapes, sore muscles, aching feet and tired lungs going on.
Reaching your first mountain summit—whether you’re on maintained trail, shimming along a rocky ledge, or climbing with harness and rope—should be on everyone’s bucket list, but you’ll need to prepare first. Here’s what you need to know to get started…
Being In Shape is Non-Negotiable
No matter how many mud runs or Crossfit workouts you do, nothing gives you a butt kicking quite like hiking a mountain. Varied terrain, boulder fields, high elevations and steep elevation gains all combine for a killer workout, not to mention you’re probably carrying 20 pounds of water and gear on your back. Start increasing intensity of your cardiovascular workouts as you near summit day (weighted squats are especially helpful!).
Weather Will Dictate Your Every Move
In mountainous regions, the weather can change at the drop of a hat. A sunny day can quickly change to rain, snow and even hail. Keep an eye on the weather forecast and keep an eye on where you might find shelter should a storm pounce on you and you’re too far from the car.
Injury (and Death) Are Very Real Possibilities
When I summited Long’s Peak in Colorado, a man slipped on ice and fell 150 feet just minutes after we’d crossed the same section. He died before we made it down the mountain. Never let your guard down, even when conditions are pristine, and teach yourself some basic first aid ahead of time. Remember: A summit is never worth your life—know when to turn around.
Good Gear Is Essential
Dressing appropriately and having comfortable gear can mean the difference between going big or going home. Back in the 1800s, women used to summit mountains in wool dresses and flats—luckily, modern ladies and gents have options, and they involved lots of cool colors and sweat-wicking styles. Layering is essential so you’ll be comfy and cozy when you’re sweating at the base and when the wind hits you at the summit.
* Base- This layer wicks moisture from the skin and keeps your temperature at a steady. Make sure the layer touching your skin is made from synthetic material or wool (even your underwear!).
* Insulation- This layer traps warmth—think down jackets and thick hiking pants.
* Shell- This layer blocks rain and wind (rain shell, rain pants) and should be breathable to let sweat escape.
* The Accessories: A solid backpacking bag, polarized sunglasses, wool socks, a fleece hat, waterproof gloves, hiking boots with a grippy sole, trekking poles, water bottles and first aid equipment are necessary. (Throw in a camera for good measure.)
My SWELL Picks:
* The GoPro LCD Touch BacPack is a nice accessory for this tough little camera—you’ll be able to make sure you got the summit shot.
* I prefer the stretch of compression leggings for long hikes and rock climbs to regular hiking pants, so I love the O’Neill Ridgeline Pants, which double as a base layer on cold days.
* The Roxy Perfectly Seamless Sports Bra is the most comfortable sports bra I’ve ever worn. I love the mesh detailing, which allows sweat to escape.
* Polarized glasses make a huge difference—they bring out colors and details in a landscape you’d never know where there. You can’t beat a pair of Oakley’s, and the Holbrook sunglasses have curvature to protect your entire eye.
It’ll Definitely Be Worth It
Climbing a mountain is tough. It’s tiring. But when you get to the summit (and even if you don’t), it’s a moment you’ll remember forever. I can’t explain this part—you’ll just have to go out there and experience it for yourself.
- by Johnie Gall | See more at her blog ‘Dirtbag Darling‘Thank you for visiting the Swell blog. Visit us on www.facebook.com/swell for more exclusive fan offers, giveaways and more.