Wait! What did you just say? Are mountaineering and rock climbing are same? Absolutely not, rock climbing and mountaineering have a lot of similarities on the surface, but if you study them in-depth then they are actually very different sports. Today through this article we will make you realize that both of them are different from each other.
So, now you might ask what is the difference between mountaineering and rock climbing? Well the answer to this would be that rock climbing is a specific activity centered around vertical cliffs, but mountaineering is a more holistic sport focused on summiting mountains.
Rock Climbing is considered to be a more specific sport than mountaineering. Mountaineering is broadly defined as the act of summiting hard-to-reach peaks using a variety of skills like rock climbing, ice climbing, or skiing, but rock climbing centers only around using your hands and toes to climb sheer vertical faces, where the summit may not be the only goal.
Mountaineering vs Rock Climbing
Let’s get to know exactly does these terms means:
- Rock climbing- It is the sport of scaling vertical or near-vertical cliffs using your hands and feet and sometimes you want to get to the top of the cliffs; whereas the other times, you only need to reach a set of ‘anchors’ that signify the end of the ‘route’ that you’re on, which means the goal is not the top. Rock climbing is to climb an established line of holds that someone else has already climbed up.
- Mountaineering- It is the technical form of mountain climbing, where you try to get to the top of mountains using a variety of skills and it often involves hiking up steep terrain, dealing with snow and ice, and even crossing large glaciers.
So from this we can understand that mountaineering is a much more broad adventurous sport than rock climbing is.
To better understand this difference between the rock climbing and mountaineering, a good analysis can be made by using track and field: rock climbing is like running a 5000-meter race, while mountaineering is like running a triathlon or a decathlon.
Rock climbing is its own specific activity, on the other hand mountaineering is much more comprised of other activities. While you are climbing a rock you only rock climb but in case of mountaineering, you will need to use a variety of different skills to get to the summit of whatever peak you are aiming for and these skills mostly includes glacier travel, hiking, mixed climbing, and others.
The most important thing is that one of the skills required for mountaineering is rock climbing, which is why you will see a high overlap between rock climbers and mountain climber. Let me tell you one thing clearly that the line between the two disciplines can get fuzzy at some points, like in the film Meru, three alpinists, namely Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin, and Renan Ozturk attempt to climb a ridge in the Himalayas. Most of the part of the ridge, they are on a sheer rock face, using rock climbing tools and equipment. So what were they exactly doing, were they rock climbing, or were they mountaineering? Well they were actually doing both! So here is the interesting fact that you can be rock climbing as part of a mountaineering trip, as rock climbing is one of the elements that goes into mountaineering.
However, you can also rock climb without mountaineering this mostly happens when you go to a climbing gym, or even if you just go to the local crag, you are not really considered to be mountaineering.
Still we could not tell you the differences between Rock climbing and Mountaineering, so let’s hop on to a time machine and see what more we can find about them.
Let’s have a ride on a Time Machine!
You know what did we came to know? We came to know that mountaineering preceded rock climbing by more than a hundred years and moreover the roots of mountaineering can be traced back as far as the 1786, when Jacques Balmat and Michael Gabriel Paccard summited Mont Blanc.
This introduced the world to the sport of mountaineering, and the sport exploded after that over the next 150 years, mountaineering spread throughout the world like an epidemic. Mount Everest was first climbed in the year 1953.
At those ancient times, rock climbing did not exist as a stand-alone sport, it was seen as an extension of mountaineering. The mountaineers would rock climb when they had to, but no one went out of their way to do it and the only time is was practiced was when it was required to reach the summit of a mountain. It started to change in the 1950’s and to understand how rock climbing came to flow it is really important to understand what the world was like that time, especially in America. As the World War II just ended, and the sense of security had settled over the nation most of the people wanted risk avoidance, conformity, and a factory job that could buy them a house .
Mountaineering fit in well with the cultural philosophy at the time and it was seen as a proper adventurous sport practiced by gentlemen, who mostly took every step possible to minimize the danger that they were in. Then after some time, a counterculture began to form which was led by novelists such as Jack Kerouac, and youth began to seek out challenges and fight back against the conformist nature of their society. While doing so they discovered mountaineering, but pushed back against its strict rules .
As a way to rebel against much of the pomp surrounding mountaineering, they took part in rock climbing and turned it into its own sport so instead of climbing only when necessary and taking the easiest possible route to the top, these youth started to seek out challenging cliff faces and pushing themselves to their physical limit to see if they could climb them up. So in this way the sport of rock climbing was born.
So, here lies the most important difference and that is if you are rock climbing as part of a mountaineering trip, then you will often look for the easiest way to the top, but if you are climbing just to climb, you might opt for the hardest route to the top, just to challenge your limits.
Similarities and Differences
Now that we have taken a time machine ride and have some idea about what rock climbing and mountaineering are, so it is the high time that we discuss about the similarities and the dissimilarities.
The main similarities between rock climbing and mountaineering includes the following:
Both rock climbing and mountaineering often occur in mountainous environments which is usually away from the civilization and this is one of the main draws of the sports; being able to get out in nature while also practicing a challenging but rewarding activity can be an excellent way to keep yourself healthy, both mentally and physically.
Rock climbing and mountaineering use a lot of similar tools, though mountaineering has a much broader varieties of toolset. Much of the packs and clothing are similar, as well as the ropes and the protection used and a lot of the techniques like belaying are also same.
As promised we have told you the similarities between mountain climbing and rock climbing, now we would talk about the differences between mountaineering and rock climbing:
Like we have mentioned in the similarities section, that mountaineering requires a much wider set of tools and skills to perform. So on the top of the rock-climbing gear like harnesses and ropes, you will also require:
Similarly, you also need a wider variety of skills for mountaineering, however, being a rock climber, you should also be skilled in the following :
Mountaineering can be quite dangerous at that time because it is often practiced in more remote locations, with higher stakes and worse protection and you absolutely need to worry about avalanches, crevasses, hypothermia, and altitude sickness.
With rock climbing, you usually only have to worry about the danger of a fall but it should still be taken seriously. It is not as dangerous as mountaineering is.
Which Should You Opt For?
Now that you know the differences between mountaineering and rock climbing, we do know your next question which is: Which one should we do, mountaineering or rock climbing?
Well to be very honest with you this really depends on your own personal preferences and what you are trying to get out of the sport. Everyone of us has a different tastes opinion and want different experiences that can lead them to prefer one over the other. But we do have some points which will actually help you choose:
- Rock climbing is often more accessible. Rock climbing can be accessed almost everywhere, even in towns in the middle of the prairie will have a climbing gym that you can go to, but if you have to go mountaineering, you need mountains, which is not found everywhere!
- Rock climbing is cheaper and easier to learn. One of the greatest thing for rock climbing is that it takes just a climbing gym and a day pass which is about $20. Whereas in case of Mountaineering it is much harder to get into you will probably have to hire a guide to go mountaineering, which can cost at least $200 or more .
- Mountaineering is more rewarding. Yes, this can be a controversial topic but according to me, mountaineering is much more rewarding than rock climbing, because it requires a lots of hard word and physical labour to reach the summit and as we know hard works pays off, so mountaineering is more rewarding than rock climbing.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):
Is ice climbing harder than rock climbing?
Ice climbing is easier than rock climbing, because you are just swinging your tool in ice climbing . In Rock climbing technique can get pretty tricky but ice climbing can be riskier than rock climbing. In rock climbing, you have to focus while placing trad gear, but in case of ice climbing you don’t need to be skilled for placing the ice screws.
What is the difference between mountaineering and alpinism?
The difference between mountaineering is usually used to describe traditional ‘siege’ tactics, where you go up and down the mountain multiple times before making an actual push for the summit, whereas in case of alpinism, you need to focus on ‘fast and light’ ascents.
What is the difference between mountaineering and hiking?
Hiking means long hours of walking on trails and it is quite easy because it does not require climbing skills and equipment. But on the other hand, mountaineering refers to sports of mountain climbing and it requires high technical skills and fitness level.
Is Alpine climbing dangerous?
Alpine climbing or alpinism is inherently dangerous because between the complicated rope systems, technical knowledge, and rapidly changing weather patterns of alpine environments, any foray into high altitudes it can really be very scary.
What are the examples of mountaineering activities?
The examples of mountaineering activities are:
What is the best mountain to climb for a beginner?
The best mountains to climb as a beginner are:
Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
Mount Kenya, Kenya
Mount Elbrus, Russia
Pico de Orizaba, Mexico
Volcán Cotopaxi, Ecuador
Mount Rainier, Washington
Mont Blanc, France
Island Peak, Nepal
What is the goal of a mountaineer?
The sole goal of a mountaineer is to stand on the summit of the peak. Mountain climbing embodies the thrills produced by testing climber’s courage, resourcefulness, cunning, strength, ability, and stamina to the utmost in a situation of dangerous risk
What exactly is mountaineering?
Mountaineering, which is also known as mountain climbing. Mountaineering the sport of attaining, or attempting to attain, high points or higher area in mountainous regions, mainly for the pleasure of the climbing.
What are the types of mountaineering?
The types of mountaineering are ice climbing, trail climbing, and rock climbing.
What do you call a person who climbs mountains?
The person who climbs up the mountains are known as mountain climbers.
How dangerous is mountaineering?
The mountaineering can be really very dangers and the dangers abound from the hazards that are already present in nature like avalanches, bad weather, and rock fall, plus there are the hazards that come from the climber, even at times equipment can fail, and falls from fatigue, poor technique and other subjective hazards are among the dangers you would face up on the mountain.