Successfully completing an alpine climb is like earning a degree. First you need to learn and practice a lot of different skills, then mix them together and see if they work in a real environment.
Carrying rough sleeping gear on a day climb as a precaution often turns into a self-soothing move due to the added weight and the elimination of the fear of staying up late. A camping bag, a lightweight sleeping bag, and a stove for melting snow are all must-haves for more than a day of climbing. Whether you’re lying flat, curled up into a ball, or sitting all night, the most important thing is to have a barrier between your body and the ground. The foam pad on the back of the pack is a good seat cushion, and if you choose to lie down, you can use the rope to pad it under your legs.
In cold weather or snowy areas, a lightweight foam sleeping pad is a worthwhile weight to carry. Of course, the surest way to stay warm during rough sleep is to squeeze hard with a partner, but most men would rather freeze than do so.
Some camping bags can be used as emergency shelter in times of wind and rain. The key is to be light enough. (Life-saving aluminum film is also a good choice, small in size, light in weight, and can withstand certain harsh environments.)
Unless you’re climbing Aiguill du Midi in Chamonix, when you reach the top, you can enjoy a good meal and a French ale before you can catch the next downhill cable car. Otherwise, reaching the top means the battle is only halfway through. Maybe the other half isn’t the most difficult, when it’s usually the most dangerous. You may feel fatigued and your vigilance relaxed, as the afternoon sun softens the turquoise valleys and the surfaces of glaciers and snowfields. Accidents often occur when a momentary negligence or error of judgment occurs.
If abseiling is required, check every knot and anchor point for safety. If there is a shortage of equipment and you can only use a single-point drop anchor, you need to make a backup without force, and then let the heavy person carry the backpack to descend first. The person above pays attention to the anchor point under stress. If everything is normal, the person behind can safely remove the backup. However, try to keep as much equipment as possible. As long as you think about it, once there is a problem, no matter how much equipment you have, you will not regret it. When choosing an abseiling route, be aware of the sharp edges and pine rocks on the route. Before the last person descends, make sure the rope doesn’t get stuck when you draw. When lowering the drawstring, be aware of turquoise stones that may be brought down by the rope.
On the slopes, be careful that the soft and sticky snow gets between the crampons, which will become hard and slippery over time. In these snow conditions, it may be safer to take off the crampons and kick the snow down with your boots. Be especially careful of changes caused by sunlight or rising temperatures on the glacier, if you follow your footsteps back in the morning, the softened snow bridge may no longer be able to support your weight.
Bad weather is a mountain climber’s never-ending nightmare. Every time you start climbing, there is a chance of a storm hitting the mountains. You should know how to deal with this ordeal when it comes, and even better if you can avoid it.
Tall cirrus clouds, sometimes referred to as “horsetail clouds,” are typical precursors to storms, usually within 12-24 hours. Using an altimeter to observe changes in air pressure can also help identify weather trends. High air pressure usually means stable weather, with a rise or fall in air pressure bringing wind and weather changes. Low air pressure means instability. Of course, the low pressure here refers to the relative changes in the mountains.
Lightning is the nightmare of the mountains, and you will be roasted immediately if you hit it directly. But even exposure to nearby ground currents can have serious consequences, possibly causing heart arrest, muscle cramps, and even scalding from melting synthetic clothing. If the stone is rattling or there is a crackling discharge, it means that lightning is coming. To protect yourself, choose a spot that is as flat as possible, and be careful not to hide in caves or under rock eaves, where the arc will burn you into a microwave roast. Sit or curl up on your pack, insulated from the ground. In addition, metal objects such as protective equipment or ice axes should be removed from the body (of course not by throwing them down the mountain), because metal objects will concentrate current and burn the body. Curl up as much as possible to reduce the distance the current may travel through your body. All that’s left is prayer.
Game of Mind
Climbing a mountain is a game of the mind, and it’s full of fear. The mountains are full of awe and the potential for injury and even death. Skilled technology and good equipment can certainly minimize these dangers, but more than any technology and equipment, only a strong and rational mind can handle it. Great mountaineers like Anderl Heckmair, Walter Bonatti, and Riccardo Cassin are living examples. These old guys have climbed incredible routes with rudimentary tools now only found in barns. Will they be afraid? Most definitely. During the summit push? Surely – when they feel the danger is too great and there is a possibility of retreating, they will turn and retreat. All of these people are still alive today. In the mountains, we should know when fear is normal and when it is not normal, know how to deal with each situation, and never allow fear to develop into confusion or stupidity. We want to be such people, we only can depend on such a person.