Climbing trips all require preparation, but what should you focus your attention on when preparing?
Climbing is a fantastic pastime. It’s an opportunity to explore, exercise and see the world from a perspective that very few people get to.
Adventure food supplier Summit to Eat have provided a number of climbers with meals for their trips, from casual hikers to people like Ben Silvestre, a British climber who has completed ascents across the globe, from the Himalayas to Patagonia and Alaska. In the process, they have gathered a number of tips for planning a mountain climbing expedition.
Research and defining goals
The first stage in any expedition plan is to look at where you actually want to go.
Think about the sort of climbing you want to do. Do you want to truly challenge yourself by attempting new routes or do you want a more relaxed opportunity to climb established, famous routes?
One way to identify goals and build your knowledge of an area is talk to someone who has previously climbed there. For example, when researching his most recent trip to the Himalayas, Ben looked into the Arjuna mountain and reached out to American climber Jeff Shapiro for some insights into the area to help with overall planning and defining his goals for the trip.
Having a goal in mind for your trip can help you to focus the rest of your planning around finding the best way to achieve that goal.
As part of your research, you should also think about the sort of conditions you want to face; different mountains and faces exist within different climates and, depending on the time of year or the location, you will face varying weather conditions.
Choosing a destination where you’re comfortable with the conditions or will be challenged by them can be a key influence on your choice. This might impact the time of year that you travel, which in turn could affect logistical factors in your trip, such as changes to the best way of getting to and from a location.
You should also look into other factors, such as the political climate in an area. Are you thinking of climbing in an area that can be openly hostile or is currently facing political unrest? Are there potential issues for people travelling to that area? You want to ensure your trip is as safe as possible, so being mindful of these sorts of issues is important.
Deciding on a location should be exciting and form the foundation for the planning of the rest of your trip.
Your next step after deciding on a location is planning your logistics and itinerary for the trip. The length of your expedition has a major impact on a number of factors, including:
- Transport – every aspect of getting to your destination, from flights, to vehicles to get you to your base camp
- Accommodation – consider every stage of your trip. Are you in hotels for a portion of the trip? Are you camping for others?
- Insurance – protect yourself, the trip and your belongings – this is important for helping cover medical costs, lost equipment, etc.
- Equipment – depending on the routes you’re taking, weather, time of year etc., the equipment you need might change subtly, particularly in terms of clothing and food choices. You should also keep in mind the wear and tear on equipment. If you’re going on a longer trip, you need to account for additional wear on ropes etc. and budget for additional equipment.
- Your team – not just in terms of planning around how many of you are on the trip, but also if you are enlisting a guide or someone with more experience of the area to lead you on your climb.
It’s important to plan for as many eventualities as possible. Being as ready and prepared as possible can help to eliminate nerves and help you focus on the climb ahead.
Supplies and nutrition
Your choices for supplies and nutrition will be largely tied into your planning. You need to account for every scrap of weight you need to carry, so finding the lightest weight solutions is crucial.
Food is integral, so finding simple options for transporting and preparing food is going to help you reduce weight and conserve energy. Freeze-dried meals are a great way to pack plenty of food without additional weight. If you can eat the meals in the containers they come in, you can reduce weight by needing fewer utensils, and only having to carry the means to boil water, either via a small stove or camping heater.
You also need to pack ways to ensure you have access to clean water, such as purification tablets. It’s also worth packing energy bars to help maintain energy levels.
Your diet while on a climb will likely be rich in carbohydrates and protein in order to help keep you full, warm and full of energy.
Once you’re well underway with the organisation of your trip, you should begin to think about your physical and mental preparation.
Training can involve physical preparation, such as smaller climbs closer to home that help you get used to using new equipment, or camping excursions to help you learn how to quickly and easily set up your camp.
There’s also the more common training in the gym and focussing on nutrition to help you start your trip in peak condition. Focus on training regimens that improve strength and endurance.
Being far from home and in a physically demanding environment can take a toll mentally as well as physically. Training doesn’t stop when you set off for your expedition. You should be constantly looking for ways to build up your mental fortitude and prepare for a climb.
Ben found that he needed to take time to acclimatise when he arrived in the Himalayas due to some concerns about taking risks due to the stage he was at in his life, having just moved to a new house and gotten engaged. But, after walking the route from basecamp to the start of their route a few times, he felt much more comfortable.
The key to preparing for any adventure is to give yourself plenty of time. Plan as far in advance as you can and consider as many variables as possible. Being adaptable can help to not only ensure you are safe and prepared but also allow you to contend with and overcome issues which could otherwise detract from the overall fun and sense of adventure you should have.