Alpine Climbing Myth #1: Alpine Climbing takes a lot of experience.
Sheldon’s truth: Every alpine climber starts somewhere, often just hiking and having spent time outdoors can give you a great foundation. The terrain is usually less than vertical, offering routes that are typically lower climbing grades. Also, when you climb with a guide, the ratios are lower. Frequently, you can move together through terrain, allowing you to stay close to your guide or more experienced partner so you can watch and emulate their every move.
Alpine Climbing Myth #2: You have to be a strong climber to venture into the Alpine.
Karen’s truth: While alpine routes require efficiency and the ability to keep going, the movement relies much more heavily on your lower body. Being stable and balanced on your feet is key – and easily attained by scrambling non-technical peaks and hiking in rough terrain. Also, mountain sense, route finding, and reading the weather often play a big role. I’d say having a 5.10 adventure spirit is more important than rock climbing 5.10.
Alpine Climbing Myth #3: Being in the Alpine is cold and miserable.
Sheldon’s truth: It’s all about the layering and being prepared: A spare pair of gloves and extra hand warmers help to keep you warm and dry. Often, you’ll be wearing boots and thick socks, which are warmer and more comfortable than tight climbing shoes. If you keep a keen eye on the sky, you’ll change layers in anticipation of weather moving in. My favorite tip: Bring an extra sports bra and underlayer to change into after a strenuous approach.
Alpine Climbing Myth #4: Alpine Climbers always carry huge packs.
Karen’s truth: Ha, only if they are German backpackers… I have seen them with 90L packs stuffed to the brim. Usually, they don’t make into the alpine, though. On long alpine climbs, light is right, because speed equals safety. With some trial and error and help from your guides, you’ll find what exactly you need and what is luxury. For example, on some routes with bad weather potential, a shelter is necessary whereas a stove is a luxury. Also, high quality gear has gotten really lightweight these days, shaving pounds off your backpack weight. We Chicks partner with the best in the industry and can help you get your kit together.
Alpine Climbing Myth #5: You have to live off energy bars and freeze-dried dinners for days.
Sheldon’s truth: Well, if you’re Super Woman, you can climb 10,000’ with 3 GU packets, but the rest of us will have to pack a little more. Real food is often much more loaded with calories and more satisfying to eat. My friend and fellow guide Lindsay Mann likes to bring fried chicken from the grocery store. Other good options are cold pizza, or burritos. For snacks, real food choices include nuts, dried fruit, beef jerky, and of course chocolate. If you really want to save weight, look for energy drink mixes to add into your water bottle.
If these truths haven’t convinced you that alpine climbing is really fun and rewarding, there is only one way to find out: Join Chicks on Mt. Baker or the Tetons and try it for yourself!
Sheldon Kerr is an AMGA Certified Ski Guide and Apprentice Rock and Alpine Guide, an Outdoor Research Athlete, has a PO Box in Jackson, and can be found climbing massive glaciated peaks in Alaska, when she’s not ripping up all the powder stashes she can find. Karen Bockel is her roommate, and co-owner of Chicks.