|NATIONAL PARKS QUICKLINKS|
Backpacker Magazine – June 2001
Everything you need to know about hiking in the high country, from talus hopping to finding the right gear to dealing with wind and glaciers.
When descending steep terrain, face away from the slope and go down "crab" style, using your butt for friction (but don't let your pack launch you out from the slope). As the descent steepens, face sideways to the slope. This allows a good view of holds and the route below. When it's nearly vertical, face directly into the cliff, just like when climbing down a ladder.
Setting The Pace
Know Your Limits
Don't climb on "exposed" terrain (where bone-breaking falls are possible) without a climbing rope and trusted belayer. Beware of crossing "necky" spots (where the trail is narrow or treacherous) you'll have to recross later, since afternoon thunderstorms or snow can make the descent more dangerous.
Mountains Of Class
Understanding the standard American climbing classification system will help you match a guidebook description of off-trail travel with your personal ambitions.
Easy as a trail; you can keep your hands in your pockets.
Rugged enough that you'll regularly place a hand on a boulder for balance.
You'll need both hands for security or to pull yourself up. Step carefully, and don't push beyond your comfort zone. It's better to turn around, build your skills, and come back another day.
Use ropes for belay, with increasing reliance on climbing gear (protection, harness, helmet).
Picks And Spikes
Hard snow on a steep slope, ridge, or pass can keep you from seeing the other side of the mountain. To march safely over a few yards or miles of frozen trail, carry a lightweight ice axe and ultralight crampons. (See www.backpacker.com/gear for reviews; axes cost $50 to $100, crampons about $100, instep crampons vary widely.)