Mountaneering Techniques

If you dream of climbing the world's highest mountains, or even if you simply hope to climb Mt. Rainier or the Grand Teton this summer, click through these pages for expert advice on everything related to mountaineering and alpine climbing. Inside, you'll find illustrated articles on training, rope work, rescue, health, altitude sickness, mountaineering equipment, and much more.

To the uninitiated, climbing a vertical pillar of frozen water looks impossible. Ice climbing requires a wide range of skills, from movement technique to placing ice screws and other protection, and the articles in these pages will help you climb ice quicker, safer, and with more fun all around. Plus, we'll help you train for ice climbing this winter so you'll be more confident on steep ice.
  • HPAnchorShelf

    Learn This: Using the Anchor Shelf

    Efficiency is directly related to success on any multi-pitch climb, and being neat and tidy from the beginning is a key to efficiency. Keep your belay orderly with this effortless technique: using the “shelf.”

  • Make Your Own Suspension Trainer on a Budget

    With a $199 price tag, the TRX Suspension Trainer is cheaper than most exercise equipment, but possibly outside the budget for many climbers. The system is so incredibly simple that it can be easily replicated with materials readily available to most climbers: webbing and biners. The homemade version won’t be nearly as adjustable, and the loops of webbing are not nearly as cushy as foam stirrups, but if you’re strapped for cash you won’t feel left out of the suspension training party (a pretty expensive party to attend).

  • HP10ExercisesCore

    Training: 10 Exercises for a Complete Core

    A strong core is crucial to progressing as a climber. Body tension, keeping your feet on, moving efficiently, toeing-in on overhangs—it all revolves around the core. Plus, a solid core helps prevent injury. You’ve probably heard a core-strength evangelist preach the benefits before, and you’ve probably been pointed toward endless crunches or even expensive programs like Pilates, TRX, or yoga. Get ready for a new approach: varied exercises that are specifically targeted to work multiple parts of your body at the same time—just like climbing does.

  • HPTheMindGame660

    The Mind Game: How to Overcome Fear

    After a near-death climbing experience, I was inspired to dig deeper into the psychology of fear and find out what I could learn about its effect on performance, how it wells up in the first place, and what we can do to deal with it. What I found will take your climbing to the next level—and could save your life.

  • HPLightningRotator

    Learn This: Laws of Lightning

    In July 2014, two hikers in Rocky Mountain National Park of Colorado were killed by lightning strikes in two separate incidents on back-to-back days, and collectively, about a dozen others were injured. While these fatalities occurred on hiking trails relatively close to the road, lightning is an even bigger risk for backcountry and alpine climbers who are committed to being far away from a safe place for hours at a time. As the number of these climbers grow, it’s important to realize that lightning is a very serious threat that occurs practically every day in the high country. We teamed up with meteorologist William Roeder, who works with the U.S. space program in central Florida (aka Lightning Alley), and NOLS Curriculum and Research Manager John Gookin to compile the most pertinent information and best protocol for backcountry climbers.

  • HPPinchPoint

    Learn This: Pinch Points

    You’re cruising a broken and blocky ridgeline that leads to the summit when all of a sudden a 20-foot technical section stops you in your tracks. Your partner doesn’t skip a beat and starts to head up, but you’re intimidated by those six or seven moves because they’re surrounded by a 1,000-foot drop on either side. Though you’ve got gear and a harness in your pack, time is of the essence. Thankfully, there’s a fast and efficient way for the leader to use the broken nature of the rock to build a simple anchor and belay a follower—with minimal gear and no harness. Use a “pinch point,” the area of contact between two large rocks that provides 360° of access to thread or tie a sling, as an anchor to save time and keep everyone safe and happy.

  • HPStuckRapRopes

    Learn This: Free Stuck Rappel Ropes

    When I look back on my 30-year tenure as a climber, I realize that I’ve spent as much (or more) time descending than ascending. After all, knowing when to turn around is what keeps us climbers alive and climbing. All that “downtime” easily adds up to several thousand hours of dodgy anchors, scary raps, and uncertain ends. That stuff would make any grown man nervous, but by far the scariest experiences of all were the few times I’ve gotten the rappel rope hopelessly stuck. This scenario can cause even the hardest of climbers to break out in a cold sweat. When your rope is stuck, you ain’t going nowhere. Here are my hard-won tips for getting your rope unstuck and—even better—preventing it from happening in the first place.

  • Cirque Traverse Training Exercises

  • HPPack

    Learn This: Pack Smarter

    When I see that guy on the trail with a tent, banjo, puppy, and pony keg swaying from carabiners, I’m just left wondering why. Why do so many of our otherwise reasonable mountain buddies want so badly to strap their kit to the outside of their sad, under-utilized packs instead of just putting it all inside?

  • Traveling on a Rope Team

    Got a peak like Mt. Rainier on your tick list? If you have Alaskan or Himalayan aspirations, you should. Rainier’s classic Disappointment Cleaver route is the perfect introduction to mountaineering: You’ll get a taste of glacier travel, extreme weather, and altitude, on a route that’s never steeper than 45 degrees and that most can easily pull off in a long weekend.

  • Ueli Steck's Annapurna Kit

    How much gear do you need for a new route on an 8,000-foot Himalayan face? Traditional, expedition-style ascents required so much in the past that an army of porters and yaks had to haul it all to base camp. But times have changed.

  • The Comeback: Recovering From Climbing Injuries

    Life would be great if we bounced back quickly to 100 percent after recovery. But the reality is that once you get back on the vertical horse, you are still in recovery. Comeback climbing takes patience and acceptance of your vulnerability. It takes stepping back to the grades you began at and working your way back up.