Mountaineers are hikers, backpackers and climbers who have developed the yearning to stand on the summit of a mountain that is not accessible by easy means. If you've been on a backpacking trip and been fascinated by "what the view must be like from up there" or wanted to traverse an airy ridge or narrow ledge with the additional confidence and safety of a roped belay then a few simple tricks will help you reach your goals. By definition, mountaineering involves 3rd, 4th and sometimes easy 5th Class climbing usually with your pack on and with certain "exposure" and the possibility of falling off (or slipping/sliding down) something. Many mountains have an exposed patch of ice (early season or early morning), a hands and feet "move or two" that is mandatory to access a critical passage way or even mount the final summit block. True mountaineers routes involve the basic use of rope and minimal climbing equipment to protect the climbing party from these objective hazards and others. As a leader, you can give a little extra confidence and security to those in your party. Although the technical aspect of these ascents is minor, it is integral to these summit bids - the object of course being the summit!

EQUIPMENT The equipment list is brief and the tools lightweight. After all we have to carry it all in our packs and may only need its use for a small portion of our adventure. The key is the equipment's versatility in the hands of a crafty mountaineer. For now, we will leave the specifics of glacier travel and crevasse rescue to another workshop - a detailed study in its own right. The following is a list of what's in my "Houdini Kit" - as the name implies just enough to get me out of an awkward situation should the need arise.

1 7-8mm x 80 ft rope
2 1" X 22' tubular web
6 lightweight biners
3 5-6mm x 24" prussik slings

2 locking biners (munter style)
optional: belay device, micro ascenders
2 lightweight runners 1
double runner


1. Route finding: rule #1 stay on route and out of trouble. Research and recon your travel plans - mountaineers routes are usually the "easiest" way up... and down. Use your map, compass & altimeter and guidebook to keep on course. If the climbing is more difficult than described or expected or is uncomfortable for the group take it as your first clue... did you miss a turn? are you on the correct ledge system?

2. 3rd class climbing - get used to scrambling over talus and climbing low grades with your big boots and pack on. Be sure to practice with a safe landing zone and "spotter" or a top rope - ankles and more are at risk with a heavy pack on.

3. Basic Knots: water knot, double fisherman's, figure 8 follow thru, bowline on a coil, garda knot, friction hitches: prussik, klemheist, bachman, munter. Practice, practice, practice!

4. Improvised harness: you've got to know how to tie in to the rope and make a basic Swiss Seat (that's what the 22' of web is for)

5. Simple belay anchors and anchoring the belayer: stances (seated and standing), chock stones, packs, snow anchors (another story).

6. Belaying: snub belays, shoulder belay, hip belay, munter hitch, belay devices.

7. Short roping: hiking & climbing together while roped. Reasons to stay roped on easy terrain: altitude illness, low visability (night, fog, blizzard) weak team mate (illness, kids, etc.)

8. Leading: when to belay, secure stances, picking the line, weaving the rope, protection for the second (5th class).

9. Catching a fall / Recovering from a fall: climbing up, prussiking up, hanging the pack

10. Fixed rope: anchors, moving along with sling & biner, prussik, passing anchors.

11. Rappelling: dulfer, modified dulfer, munter hitch, 4-6 biner brakes, devices. Rappel anchors must be "bombproof" as you are 100% dependent on your gear for support. Define a "safe area" & watch for climber generated rock fall. Keep every one anchored if exposed until the last person is down.


If you plan on venturing onto glaciated peaks, bone up on glacier travel, crevasse rescue and avalanche safety and the related gear: ice axe, crampons, snow & ice anchors.

Wilderness first aid training, navigation, self rescue,



Mt Whitney - Mountaineers Rte (N. Ridge) C3-4 often icy
Kings: Angel Wings, Thunder Mountain, Kearsarge Pinnacles
Monarch Divide: Grand Sentinel, Y-Gully C-4
Palisades: Several "knap sack" passes & cols C2-4
Evolution's: Mt Darwin W. Ridge C3
Mono Recesses: Piute Crags (many), Bear Creek Spire C3-4, Mt Abbot C3-4
Minarets: many C3-4 and lots of C5!!!
Clark & Cathedral: Tenaya Cyn C3-4, Mt Lyell C3-4 (snow or ridge), Echo Peaks (many C3-5), The Cockscomb C3-4
Northern Yosemite: Sawtooth Ridge (many C3-5)