From Rock to Mountains

The Alpine Transformation
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Experience alpenglow on the Torres in Patagonia.
Because it's there

The Great Trango Tower, the Walker Spur, Fitzroy, the Eiger, Mount Hunter, and K2 are the stuff of dreams: lofty summits, sparkling faces of ice and rock, adventures in cold, pure mountain air. Alpine impressions are sublime and enduring. But for the uninitiated, those dreams may seem unattainable. Many climbers want to experience the mountains but are overwhelmed by the apparent complexities of the alpine realm.

Veteran alpinists don't seem to be much help. When asked how they prepare for their alpine adventures, they typically shrug their shoulders and answer, "I just go climbing."

The veterans are telling the truth, however. No set training program will make an alpinist. To become an alpinist, don't build strength—build experience. Alpine climbing has little to do with campus boards and front levers. The ability to do one more fingertip pull-up will not do much to improve your chances of success in one of the world's great ranges.

Your springboard to the mountains is a well-rounded base of experience. Successful alpinists are proficient, but not necessarily expert, in many aspects of climbing: rock-, ice-, snow-, mixed-, and big-wall climbing, as well as camping, planning, and mountain travel.

The advice, "just go climbing," is the path that leads to the great mountains, and what could be a better training regime? Here is a list of skills you'll want to learn to make going to the mountains less intimidating, a few tips, and some motivational advice to start your alpine journeys.


Gregory Crouch, a regular contributor to Rock & Ice and Climbing, is living proof that any motivated, untalented fool can mold his own experience to climb in the mountains.

Published: 30 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 8 Nov 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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