Planning And Preparation

In deciding what peak to try and which route to climb, you will take a lot of factors into account:

Difficulty of the route: It's generally best to choose a route well within your climbing ability because the challenges of remoteness, changeable weather, and routefinding will add to the difficulties. Until you have gone on a few expeditions, think of the trip as an opportunity to apply well-practiced climbing skills in a new environment, rather than to push the limits of your ability.

Duration of the climb: Again, be realistic. Don't try to cram a twenty-five-day route into two weeks of annual leave.

Time of year: Study information on seasonal temperatures, winds, storms, rains, and amount of daylight. Your trip will be planned far in advance, so in choosing your dates you'll have to deal with probabilities and likelihoods, and hope that the realities will measure up when the time comes.

Costs: Major costs are equipment for the climb, transportation, and other expenses on the way to the peak, and hiring porters and pack animals to haul gear to base camp. In many cases, expenses within a country are minor compared with the cost of getting there. Estimate your costs based on research about the peak and/or area.

Location: Where to go? Alaska, Mexico, the Andes of South America, Europe, Nepal, Pakistan, India, the Soviet Union, and areas of Africa all boast difficult, remote peaks. The experience of traveling in a remote or foreign land is often one of the most enjoyable and rewarding aspects of an expedition.

After choosing your peak, research the mountain and its routes. Talk to climbers who have been there, look for write-ups in the journals of the American Alpine Club and of climbing organizations in Canada and Europe, and seek out guidebooks and stories in climbing magazines. Get all possible details on logistics, potential problems, where to buy fuel, what foods are available, objective hazards on the mountain, and so forth.

Have a backup route in mind in case the main objective is scratched because of avalanche hazard, bad weather, inability of some party members to continue, or any other reason. If you've chosen a highly technical route up your mountain, consider acclimating by climbing the standard route first, then taking on the tougher challenge.

Find out what permits and approvals are necessary. It helps to have typewritten itineraries, climbing resumes of party members, equipment lists, and medical information in hand ahead of time and while traveling to the peak. The appearance of good organization impresses bureaucrats the world around.

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