By Sylvia Karcz, Contributing Blogger
Mountain climbing tends to evoke images of exposed alpine scrambles and demanding snow-capped summits, but it can really be any act of ascending a mountain, and there’s a piece of it available for every skill set and in every locale.
So whether you’re in trail runners on high desert scree or decked out with crampons on a frozen waterfall, rock climbing granite slabs or bootpacking high elevation ridgelines, or, simply hiking up your local mountain in whatever way is possible for you, isn’t the fact that our bodies have the power to get us up a mountain worth celebrating?
National Mountain Climbing Day is August 1st, and here a few ways you can help honor it.
GET OUTSIDE AND CLIMB SOMETHING NEW
It seems like the most obvious celebratory act, but really: get out there, and try not to make it just another jaunt on the mountain or your go-to route on the crag.
Devote some time to researching a new project or trail that will challenge your skill, stamina and spirit, and spend the day, the weekend, or heck, even the week, getting after it.
That can mean upping a regular hike to one that includes some rock scrambling or a steeper approach, or if you’re an experienced climber, step up to a higher grade with a trusted partner or two, and work your fingers, feet and neurons in a whole new way. Challenge is vital to growth, after all!
LEARN! LEARN! LEARN!
To immerse yourself in the world of mountain climbing is to commit to a lifetime of learning. Mountains can be a dangerous place, and chasing alpine dreams safely takes interdisciplinary knowledge of climbing theory, equipment and safety measures, snow and rock science, and lots of hands-on skill training. The good news is: you can always start somewhere!
There is no shortage of topics to educate yourself on, so spend some time immersing your mind in something new. Read about climbing techniques, or take an online course on risk management and avalanche safety. Or maybe, watch a documentary about an alpinist or mountaineering team that has redefined what is possible in the mountains, and see what lessons their journeys reveal.
Successful mountain climbing is as much about mental acuity and preparedness as it is about physical ability, so learn as much as you can, as often as you can.
HEAD TO YOUR LOCAL CLIMBING GYM
Whether you’re a gym staple with a dedicated locker or your limbs have never touched a plastic hold or crash pad, a climbing or bouldering gym is an invaluable resource for rain-or-shine training.
Although not a replacement for the real outdoors, they provide a motley of tools for keeping muscles toned, reflexes sharp, and honing technique; plus, they a create a sense of community. So even if you’re a first timer, your local gym will happily- drumroll- show you the ropes.
Now if you’re a gym regular, maybe take this day to invite a friend that has been begging to tag along, or spend a few hours volunteering as a belayer. Teamwork is essential in climbing, and sharing your time and knowledge is very simply, good climbing karma.
SPREAD THE LOVE
For every person fortunate enough to thrive in the world of mountain climbing, there’s someone whose socioeconomic means or physical disabilities doesn’t afford them the same opportunities to get involved: so, spread the love!
If you appreciate the mountains, and appreciate humanity, and want to see people of all backgrounds benefiting from the joys of being in the mountains, put some of your energy into one of the countless organizations or charities working towards making the outdoors a more inclusive, accessible and diverse place.
Some ideas include: volunteering at a climbing gym that holds free events for low-income learners or high-risk youth; spending a day with an outdoor club that takes persons with disabilities into the mountains; donating your gently used gear to a climbing non-profit; or, donating money to a specific project that embraces and promotes inclusivity outdoors.
Mountains should be shared by all, so be an advocate for diversity in the natural spaces we recreate in.