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Mountaineering - passion that can be dangerous
Mountaineering is more than climbing, panoramic view and wilderness experience. It is also challenge, risk and hardship. And it is not for everyone. Those drawn to the mountains can find them exhilarating and irresistible, as well as frustrating and sometimes even deadly.
There are qualities to mountaineering that inspire us and bring us to revel in a pursuit that is more than a pastime, more than a sport; a passion, certainly, and sometimes a compulsion.
If you want to climb mountains, be prepared for the totality of nature - storm as well as soft breezes, tangled brush as well as alpine flowers, biting insects as well as singing birds. Climbing mountains is a tough way to spend your time, and anyone who does it knows what "alpinism is art of suffering" mean.
The beauty of wild places could be their undoing as they attract us to them - leaving them touched by human hands and eventually less than wild. We are consuming wilderness at an alarming rate, using it and changing it as we do so. As mountaineers traveling in the wilderness, out minimum charge for this privilege is to leave the hills as we found them, with no sign of our passing. We must study the places we visit and become sensitive to their vulnerability, them camp and climb in ways that minimize our impact.
Before going on mountains, we should have skills for safe, enjoyable passage. For our sake and the sake of everyone we climb with, we should know the tools and techniques of climbing, navigation, weather,camping, belaying, rappelling, glacier travel, safety, snow and ice, and the most important, rescue.
We should never underestimate mountaineering because it is very demanding activity, both physically and mentally. Good physical conditioning is one of the keys and can make difference between enjoying and outing and merely enduring it. More important, the safety of the whole party may hinge of the strength - or weakness - of one member.
Running, cycling, swimming, hiking uphill with a heavy pack are daily exercises of every mountaineer. Physical fitness is the foundation for all activities of mountaineering.
Just as important as physical conditioning, our mental attitude often determines success of failure. We need to be positive, realistic and honest with ourselves. Personal balance is required here. A "can do" attitude may turn into dangerous overconfidence if it isn't tempered with a realistic appraisal of ourselves and the situation. Judgment is the key factor of all mental qualities in climbing that integrate our experience and knowledge. All we need to do is to learn from our experience. The ability to deal with adverse weather, long hikes, thick brush, high exposure, and the like, make us better decision-makers, and the experience we gain are useful for comparison the next time the going gets tough.
New situations, however, will arise for which we have no trustworthy precedent. We won't be able to make an automatic, confident response, so we will have to exercise careful judgment. In this uncertainty lies much of the charm and challenge of mountaineering - as well as the potential for the tragedy. This is the code or "rules" that every beginner should followed:
- Never climb beyond your ability and knowledge.
- Never let judgment be overruled by desire when choosing the route or deciding whether to turn back.
- Carry the necessary clothing, food, and equipment at all times.
- Leave the trip schedule with a responsible person.
- Behave at all times in a manner that reflects favorably upon mountaineering.
- A climbing party of three is the minimum, unless adequate prearranged support is available. On glaciers, a minimum of two rope teams is recommended.
- Rope up on all exposed places and for all glacier travel. Anchor all belays.
- Keep the party together, and obey the leader or majority rule.
This climbing code is built on the premise that mountaineers want strong changes of safety and success, even in risk-filled or doubtful situations, and that they want safeguards in case they have misjudged those changes. Many serious accidents could have been avoided or their effects minimized if these simple principles had been followed.
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