Treacherous Climb of the Week: Mount Hood

Underestimating a mountain is never a good idea. Mount Hood in eastern Oregon is not as high as many summits in the area, nor is it as long a hike as Shasta and some of the others peaks. However, thousands of climbers attempt Mount Hood every year, many of them beginners who don’t realize Mount Hood’s dangers.

The primary danger on Mount Hood is the cornices that form on the leeward side of the mountain. A cornice is an overhanging ledge of snow that forms from wind and heavy precipitation. It can cause avalanches and falling rock if the wind blows in the wrong direction. If you’re climbing a mountain that has cornices, your best bet is to avoid them entirely. Mount Hood, for example, is safest to climb on the opposite side of the mountain. The route is a bit more technically challenging, but you don’t have to worry as much about boulders falling on your head.

Rock Fall
When climbing Mount Hood, stick to the snow and the ice rather than trying to gain footholds on the rocks along its face. Rock fall is a significant source of injury on the mountain, mostly for inexperienced climbers who mistakenly believe that climbing on rock will be safer. Not only is this dangerous for you, but also for anyone coming up behind you.

The below-freezing temperatures on Mount Hood can be excruciating, particularly if you don’t think to bring a warm jacket and a pair of insulated gloves. It is also a good idea to bring a compass or other navigational tool just in case you happen to get lost.

Inexperienced climbers are far more likely to reach a point in the climb and realize they can’t go any further. About 40 people are rescued every year from the face or summit of Mount Hood because they can’t go either forward or back. Don’t get into this situation; take an experienced climber with you.

Treacherous Climb of the Week: Acadia National Park

Most people, when they are interested in treacherous mountain climbing, head to the Rockies or to the canyons of Arizona, but few think to visit Maine. Acadia National Park, located off the coast of Maine on Mount Desert Island, is home to some of the most spectacular climbs in the entire United States.

What’s unique about Acadia? The view, for one thing. Many of the most treacherous climbs involve sea cliff climbing, which means that climbers are hovering above the ocean while the scale rocky, crumbly cliffs. This is quite a head rush when you consider the dangers of falling in such an environment. Plus, a backdrop of ocean creates a strange but exciting illusion as you struggle toward the top.

The Otter Cliffs, for example, are about 60 feet tall, with routes that range in difficulty from 5.7 to 5.12, and boast a beautiful view of the water. For less experienced climbers, however, there are one-, two- and three-pitch routes in South Bubble that are perfect for TRing. South Bubble is also not as populated as the Otter Cliffs on the weekends, so you might consider that when you travel.

The danger of climbing at Acadia National Park is not necessarily the pitch or the grade of the climb, both of which can be difficult, but the threat of the tide. Visitors who fail to check the tide times upon arrival or who have no respect for the cycles of the ocean can find themselves caught on cliffs with no way to descend.

If you’re going visit Acadia National Park in the summer, however, make sure to bring a pair of comfortable walking shoes for long strolls along the cliffs in the evening. The Merrell Siren Syncs are a great choice for women who enjoy walking, as these can be worn both on vacation and at home.

Acadia National Park is a great place for climbing, especially since there are so many diverse ways to get in your daily climb. Bouldering is common here and is the perfect way to warm up for longer and more difficult climbs.

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Death Defying Climbs: Mount Temple in Banff National Park

When asked to come up with a Canadian-themed sketch for the comedy series “Second City TV,” cast members Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas created Bob and Doug McKenzie, two backwoods brothers with a taste for beer and jelly doughnuts. Wearing toques on their heads and heavy winter coats, Bob and Doug would feel right at home on Mount Temple, one of the more challenging climbing destinations in the Great White North.

Located near Lake Louise in Banff National Park, Mount Temple reaches a height of 11,624 feet, which means that the dangers of dehydration, altitude sickness and frostbite are very, very real. Before heading to the summit, you might want to have a hearty breakfast of Canadian-style back bacon, but leave the beer back at base camp for the celebration after the climb. also advises climbers to watch the weather conditions carefully on Mount Temple because they can change quite quickly. If you expect the route to become cold and slick, make sure to lace up a pair of Kayland Super Ice boots before starting your climb. This sturdy footwear can help you with some of the difficult parts of the climb as well as navigating the icy areas.

Just as Mount Temple attracts climbers of different skill levels, the accommodations in and around Banff National park and Lake Louise vary greatly. If you are looking to really get away from it all, bring along your tent and sleeping bags for an outdoor adventure. After heading down from the summit, however, you may want to relax at one of the mid-level or five-star resorts in the area.

Though Bob and Doug McKenzie may never climb much higher than the counter at the nearest doughnut shop, you can enjoy Canada’s natural wonders and the climbing challenges that Mount Temple has to offer. With the right attitude and equipment, you can almost be certain of having a G’day on the way to the summit.


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Treacherous Climb of the Week: Mt. Shasta

As the second-highest volcano in the United States, Mt. Shasta in northern California is something of a white whale for many climbers, offering a challenging climb with a beautiful summit and plenty of difficult routes. This is one of the most accommodating mountains in the U.S. because it offers technical climbs, non-technical climbs, rock climbing, ice climbing and dozens of other options.

In other words, you could climb Mt. Shasta once a week for a year and never have to take the same route twice.

Mt. Shasta is unique in that the optimal time for climbing is different depending on the route you take. Routes on the south side, for example, are best between May and July, while routes to the north are better in the later summer because falling rock isn’t as big an issue.

If you’ll be climbing Mt. Shasta, particularly on any of the more difficult technical routes, make sure you have crampons and an ice pick handy. Most climbers also bring flashlights, pocket knives and plenty of clothing layers. Sunglasses are advised, especially during the winter, because the glare from the snow can be dangerous.

Because there are so many different routes on Mt. Shasta, climbing with a guide is ideal. He or she can tell you which routes are appropriate for your skill level and physical condition, and you’ll probably enjoy yourself more. A guide can also point out important sites from the side and summit, which makes the experience complete.

If you decide to go it alone, however, know that camping on Mt. Shasta can be brutal. High winds, freezing temperatures and rocky or barren land are all common, and you might not get much sleep. Most people choose to camp at Helen Lake, though there are other possible stops before you reach the summit.

When climbing Mt. Shasta, make sure you bring a sleeping bag that is designed specifically for extreme temperatures such as the North Face Dark Star. This bag is approved for temperatures as low as 40 degrees, which means that you’ll be snug regardless of the weather on Mt. Shasta.

Death Defying Climbs: Mount Erciyes

Most people don’t consider Turkey when looking for great mountain climbing spots, but Mount Erciyes in the Kayseri valley is one of the most challenging mountains in the world. A stratovolcano, Mount Erciyes is 3,916 meters of course, jagged rock.

Although mountain climbing is extremely popular on Mount Erciyes, it is also the site of numerous winter sports. In fact, it is located in the prestigious and luxurious Erciyes Ski Resort, which means that the accommodations when you decide to climb it are far more pleasant than with other mountains. If you don’t feel like camping out, you can stay in one of the resort’s private cabins.

Mount Erciyes is most often climbed from the northwest side, through there are also difficult routes that lead up from the south. If you want to try this mountain climbing challenge, your best bet is to visit during July and August when the weather is most temperate and there are plenty of mountaineering guides to lend a hand.

This is not only a difficult climb, but also one of the most beautiful in the world. Numerous animals make their homes on the west and east flanks of the mountain, including mountain goats and sheep. At the west summit, climbers are afforded a spectacular view of central Anatolia. The Sutdonduran Plateau is likewise beautiful and is a popular camping spot for climbers during the summer months.

The most dangerous aspect of climbing Mount Erciyes is the potential for avalanches. The surface of the mountain is dry and cracked, with plenty of rock chunks breaking loose on a regular basis. For this reason, a hard hat is recommended on your trip, just in case. I recommend the Black Diamond Half Dome.
You should also make sure to bring several lengths of rope, particularly if you plan to ascend the tower, as well as a warm sleeping bag if you’ll be camping. The Mount Erciyes area can get very cold, even in the summer. And if you enjoy yourself, why not come back for a ski weekend in the winter to round out your mountain time?

Death Defying Climbs: Grand Teton

There are plenty of ways to gain mountain climbing experience, from deep gorges and canyons to great slabs of rock in the hill country. The best way, however, is to go on a good-old-fashioned alpine climb, the kind you read about in books and watch on TV. This is where you run into the nitty-gritty details of climbing, and there is no better destination than Grand Teton.

After all, an entire national park was named after this monstrosity in northwestern Wyoming, and Grand Teton is perfect for large groups with beginners and experts alike. Although you do need previous mountain climbing experience to attempt Grand Teton, there are 5.4 routes easy enough for the intermediate amateur.

The real fun, however, starts with the 5.11 and 5.12 climbs on Grand Teton. Many climbers have failed to even make it to the lower saddle, so this mountain presents a unique challenge in some of the most beautiful country in the world. Surrounded by rugged mountain peaks and grassy valleys (depending on the season), your climb will be complemented by awesome views you’ll remember forever.

Most people choose to climb Grand Teton between September and July, when most of the snow and ice is melted and you don’t have to worry about blockages near the trailhead. Of course, some mountaineering experts are undeterred by weather and might venture a climb in December or January. If you want to do this, check with local outfitters to inquire about their services.

If you’re going to climb Grand Teton, remember that it’s cold here all year long. A warm, insulated jacket is absolutely essential, and I recommend trying out the North Face Himalayan Parka , which is part of the Summit Series and designed for cold-weather climbs.

You’ll have to pay $20 to get into Grand Teton National Park, and your pass will be good for seven days. Make sure to bring all necessary camping equipment if you plan to stay overnight, but have a back-up plan just in case the weather becomes too extreme. The last thing you want is to be stuck in an alpine environment during a snow storm or blizzard.

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Death Defying Climbs: Cerro Torre

Typically, the most difficult aspect of taking on a dangerous mountain is the height. Lose your concentration or footing for just a moment, and you may find that it’s a really long way down with a very sudden (and fatal) stop at the bottom.

Reaching a height of 10,278 feet, Cerro Torre in the Patagonia region of Argentina offers the double whammy of height and extreme weather conditions, which can include snow, rain and powerful winds. reports that climbs on Cerro Torre may take as long as eight days to complete.

The unpredictable weather conditions mean that you need to dress properly before setting one foot on Cerro Torre. One recommended piece of clothing is the R1 Flash Pullover , which is made, appropriately enough, by a company called Patagonia. By itself, the R1 is good in moderate temperatures, but it also can be used as one of many layers when the temperatures start to tumble.

If the height and the weather don’t discourage you from climbing Cerro Torre, some of the local conditions might prove hazardous to your health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends talking to your primary care physician to make sure you are protected against such diseases as rabies, yellow fever and typhoid before heading to Argentina.

The U.S. State Department Web site also recommends making sure your medical insurance will cover a health emergency in a foreign land. Without adequate medical or travel insurance, your climb up Cerro Torre could turn out to be extremely expensive.

Because you will be leaving the United States, you will have to get your paperwork in order, including a current passport. You can obtain a free climbing permit, but members of your party have to pay a small fee to enter Parque Nacional Los Glaciares, the National Park which serves as the home of Cerro Torre.

With bad weather and the very real possibility of disease, Patagonia’s Cerro Torre ranks quite high among the most dangerous mountains to climb. Plan carefully, dress warmly and make sure you have all your shots.


Treacherous Climb of the Week: Hyalite Canyon in Bozeman, MT,

Climbing mountains and canyons during any season is a challenge, but it is particularly difficult when you add winter ice to the mix. Ice climbing has gained significant popularity in the U.S. and abroad in recent years, and Hyalite Canyon in Bozeman, MT, is one of the most challenging locations for ice climbing.

Ice climbing, for the uninitiated, is the practice of climbing, not the rocky faces of mountains and canyons, but instead scaling frozen waterfalls and other natural ice formations. These are usually up against the sides of a rock formation and present unique challenges.

When climbing at Hyalite Canyon, you’ll need an ice axe to create footholds on the sheer, icy face of your obstacle. The Grivel Alp Monster is a good choice, because it features a posterior hammer, anti-clip saw and a lightweight, rubber shaft. It won’t add much weight but will get the job done.

You might also need to invest in a pair of high-quality mountaineering boots with good ankle support. Make sure that you are dressed for frigid weather, including hats and gloves, to ensure the most enjoyable experience.

In Hyalite Canyon, there are a number of ice climbing routes, some of which are already equipped with ice screws and rope set-ups. Some of the more difficult routes feature very thin ice and shouldn’t be attempted unless you are a professional.

Additionally, it is a good idea to check with the Hyalite Canyon authorities before you head to Montana for a climb. Some seasons, the ice formations do not appear until late winter, depending on local temperatures and rainfall. Some might not be available when you arrive due to too much climbing or because of perceived dangers created by ice climbing tools.

If you are interested in visiting Hyalite Canyon during other seasons, or if you aren’t too sure about ice climbing, there are plenty of things to do in this area during the spring, summer and fall. Mountains and ridges in Bozeman, present numerous possibilities for the avid climber and some are open all year.

You might also want to hook up with an outfitter if you’ve decided to try ice climbing in Hyalite Canyon. Having a professional who knows the area in your corner is invaluable.