Do baby mountains exist??
July 19, 2010 7:59 PM   Subscribe

Can people recommend a baby mountain a friend and I can climb?

My friend and I are interested in climbing a mountain in the contiguous United States sometime in the next year, when she has accrued enough vacation days. We are both relatively in shape, me more so than her at this point. What are some good beginner mountains that we can start with? I suggested Mt. Rainier until I actually wikipediad that mountain's article. We've never really climbed anything before beyond rock walls!
posted by astapasta24 to Health & Fitness (28 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Check out some of the mountains in Sequoia/Kings Canyon. Summitpost has lots of info on potential routes. It's incredibly beautiful there and you should be able to find a peak that matches up with the difficulty level that seems right to you. The weather in the Sierras is much more predictable than the Pacific Northwest so you're less likely to end up stuck in a tent waiting for the rain to stop.
posted by foodgeek at 8:06 PM on July 19, 2010

By "climb" do you mean mountaineering, with ropes? Or, merely getting to the summit? For the former, others can advise, but for the latter, you can hike to the top of any mountain in the Appalachians, assuming good weather and sturdy hiking boots.
posted by dfriedman at 8:07 PM on July 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

Stay away from Mt Hood too. It's one of the deadliest in the continental US.
posted by at the crossroads at 8:10 PM on July 19, 2010

How technical are you looking to get? By climb do you mean you want level 5.0 and above rock climbing as part of the assent? Do you want ice climbing as part of it? Do you just want a really hard hike where you would be doing general mountaineering?
Are you looking for winter or summer conditions? (Winter is generally MUCH more difficult - more gear to carry, conditions are harder to read, more experience usually needed.)

Once you answer those questions everyone will be able to give you much better information.
posted by zephyr_words at 8:11 PM on July 19, 2010

Mount St. Helens is a great day hike with a rewarding view. I haven't done it in a few years but, as I recall, you need to book a spot at least a couple months in advance if you want to do it during the summer when the weather is good. I think it took me about 5 hours to get up, and 3 to get down.

More info here.
posted by esome at 8:12 PM on July 19, 2010

Mount Diablo is visible from San Francisco and is unlikely to kill you. On a clear day, you can see the Sierra Nevada. It is not in the least a technical climb, but you will be able to say you climbed a mountain.
posted by rtha at 8:17 PM on July 19, 2010

I had some of the same questions as zephyr_words and a few more: are good views important to you? Do you really want to only climb one, or go to an area where you can bag multiple peaks in a week? Open to a long approach hike (and camping), or really looking for a long day car-to-car? Are you open to hiring a guide if it means a more ambitious summit? Do you have flexibility on when you go, or are you locked in to a particular month/months? The good news is, no matter how you answer these questions, there are many, many possible mountains in the lower 48 that are a fit for you.
posted by kovacs at 8:20 PM on July 19, 2010

We really need to know how serious you are and where you want to do it, which part of the US you are in, or want to be in. Rainier is pretty hardcore and really would require a guide if you aren't knowledgeable of glacier travel/high alpine climbing.

You may want to consider spending a week in colorado (my suggestion would be in the san juans on the western slope- stay away from the front range as it's crowded) and knocking off a couple of 14'ers over the week. It's challenging in and of itself.

If you want more of an alpine style, crampons/ice axes/roped up, then you could always consider going back into the high sierra. My first 14er was Mount Sill which was pretty awesome- a serious hike in, some glacier travel (but not too hard-core, and then a 5 or 6 pitch rock climb (easy 5.6 or so) to the summit and then back down. We did the swiss arete.
posted by TheBones at 8:21 PM on July 19, 2010

How about South Sister? A long hike but not a technical one located between Eugene and Bend in the Central Oregon Cascades.
posted by jz at 8:22 PM on July 19, 2010

And without that information, I guess I would recommend Mt. Washington as it can fit the bill for whatever you're looking for.

The Mountain is 6,288ft so you don't need to worry about the effects of altitude which can really take a toll on even people who are in awesome shape. However, the prominence is 6,138ft which makes it "taller" than over half of the ultra prominent peaks in the US and it offers very long assents in a multitude of different ways.

I did a route there this past winter where we did standard winter hiking up until Tuckerman's ravine, then went through a gully doing technical mountaineering, did some ice climbing, and then some rock climbing to get to the top of a sister peak before continuing on to the summit.

But if you aren't into that you can also go there and stay on the trail and hike all the way to the summit. You'll need an ice axe and crampons though.

It's also no joke there depending on what the weather is like. It can be a nice 32 degrees with no wind and then 75mph winds with a cold front and sleet can come through instantly. It's know to have the worst weather in the world.

I would recommend going with some type of guide company if you decide to do winter mountaineering. You can spend about $100 a person and the company will provide all the technical gear for you (ice axe, crampons, gloves, day packs, etc) they can customize the trip for you too and make it as technical or laid back as you want. So maybe you would do 2 days where the first day you learn needed skills and safety...go on some shorter routes\hikes and then the second day you do an assent.
posted by zephyr_words at 8:26 PM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

mount marcy in the adirondacks. total baby satisfaction!!!!!
posted by lakersfan1222 at 8:33 PM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Seconding Mt. Marcy in the Adirondacks. Algonquin is a little shorter, but a little more challenging, if I recall.
posted by stefnet at 8:54 PM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

nthing the South Sister. Basically a long steep hike, and very beautiful.
posted by Danf at 8:57 PM on July 19, 2010

Come to Wyoming. Medicine Bow Peak is relatively easy as far as mountains go, and it's about 12,000 feet. You don't need any technical equipment or special skill to reach the summit, just endurance and preparation for all weather.

(Really? 6,288 feet is considered a mountain?? I live at that elevation and there's no climbing here).
posted by Lobster Garden at 9:07 PM on July 19, 2010

If Rainier was your initial target, I'm guessing you want something snowy and prominent. Please don't do this by yourselves without experience. Ice axes and crampons are great, but you need to know how to use them. Even on "baby" mountains, there things beyond your control that can turn the situation bad very quickly: A sudden white-out, rockfall injuring someone, avalanches, etc. A guided trip is a great idea.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 9:10 PM on July 19, 2010

I couldn't give you a sold suggestion, but I've known people who have climbed Rainier and it took them multiple tries to get to the summit. So I wouldn't really consider it a "starter" climb.
posted by P.o.B. at 9:19 PM on July 19, 2010

Seconding Mt. Washington, for all the reasons z_w laid out. It's in an area with a lot of great hikes/climbs, and you can plan to do something that meets your level of ability- including a guided hike if you're not comfortable by yourselves but still want something technical, even in winter. That's where a lot of people I know have done their first ice climbing, safely and supervised.

It is, however, a mountain where you can get over your head if you don't know what you don't know. Make sure that you do and seriously consider a guided hike, particularly if you're planning something in snow/ice without a lot of experience. I scrambled up the Huntington's Ravine route last summer (no snow at the time, no gear required, but some hands-and-feet and thoughtfulness are) and met a couple coming down stuff that they should absolutely not have come down because of a freak-out on one half's part, making the hike about 20X more dangerous than it should have been.

(Lobster Garden: I know! Those East Coasters don't really know what they're talking about, mountainwise. In New Hampshire they seem to compensate for lack of real altitude by steadfastly refusing the sensible option of switchbacks).
posted by charmedimsure at 9:19 PM on July 19, 2010

Thanks for the suggestions already! To clear things up, I'm looking more of a climb climb, with ropes while my friend is looking for something like a hike. In a perfect world, there would be a peak where there's a little bit of both with the climbing with ropes part not being very technical as I've never climbed outdoors with ropes before (A curse of growing up in North Texas then moving to the flat Midwest for college). However, I am a very quick learner. I'd really like to stay away from guided hikes because I like being out in various places figuring out things on my own (I know, not the best thing to hear from someone wanting to climb a mountain with absolutely no experience).

A view would be great as I'm somewhat of a photographer but a great climb is also awesome though I'd like to think that any view from the top of a mountain would be awesome just because I've expended so much energy to get there!

The climb will most likely occur during the spring or summer since those are the only times I am able to have breaks from college without any parental interference.
posted by astapasta24 at 9:33 PM on July 19, 2010

Lobster Garden -- It is a mountain when you consider you are starting at a base elevation of about 0-1000ft on most of the east coast. Medicine Bow (pic) is half the prominence of Mt. Washington. So if you were standing at the base of both of them (love that area of Wyoming, btw) Mt. Washington (pic) looks a bit more impressive.
The routes up Mt. Washington I've taken werea harder climb than most any 14'er I've done so far.

Well you are only as strong as your weakest link. If your friend is looking for a hike and that's all they are capable of that's what you'll need to do. If they'll do a rock climb then awesome, but they need to want to do that and be educated on how to climb.
If you've never climbed outdoors it would be incredibly stupid to open that chapter by solo leading a climb up a mountain, much less with a friend with no experience. This is a lot more serious than I think you know, judging by your posts so far.

Even if the rock climbing portion isn't "very technical" there is a lot of gear, knots, safety, and rigging technicalities that go along with each climb. If a thunderstorm comes in while you're in the middle of a pitch with your friend following would you know what to do? Do you have any idea how to place SLCDs, transfer belay, self-rescue, and on and on...

Hiring a guide can add a lot of enjoyability to a trip. You'll learn a lot -- maybe even enough to go out and do your next mountain SAFELY. There is seriously A LOT to know and practice before doing a mountain with rock climbing involved for someone with no outdoor climbing experience.

Also, if you do this without hiring a guide you're going to need to buy ropes if you don't have them, trad gear, harnesses, and a lot of other stuff. That's a lot of money to spend for a one-off event that you may take a year or more to get back to again.

At your current level of experience, look to do a mountain that is a hike.

If you'll spend the money on getting education\training\gear before your mountaineering trip you would be able to tackle a mountain with a pitch or two throw in.
Otherwise, PLEASE hire a good guide if you're going to do something technical (and I'd still recommend one or an experienced friend along for the first few times)
posted by zephyr_words at 10:30 PM on July 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

The fact that you are looking to lead a climb with one other person who has no experience, when you've never even climbed outside before, makes me wonder in what other ways you may be overestimating your ability and underestimating the risks.

Even for a long hike on a "baby mountain" you both need to have proper safety equipment, gear for horrible weather, and plenty of experience with navigating in what could end up being very bad visibility.

I like being out in various places figuring out things on my own

The mountain rescue people don't want to have to risk their lives pulling you and/or your friend off the mountain when you get it wrong. It's not only your own safety you're playing with here. If you don't know what you're doing, or you've never done it before, go and learn the ropes with someone experienced before you try it on your own.
posted by emilyw at 3:04 AM on July 20, 2010

I just summited Cathedral Peak in Yosemite this weekend and HIGHLY recommend it. You can get to the summit with a day hike or you can start at the southeast buttress and climb the face of it. Its rated at a 5.6ish but keep in mind it's a 1930's 5.6 so it would probably be rated higher today. If you're just hiking, the last 30 feet or so requires some protection unless you're crazy.

The trail starts in the meadows and is about 3 miles to the base. It's not easy, but my girlfriend who has limited experience with rock climbing made it to the top. The best part is looking at a 360 of the entire Yosemite valley. Standing high above half dome is a treat.
posted by JimmyJames at 3:20 AM on July 20, 2010

Good advice from zephyr_words and emilyw. Climbing in a rock gym isn't anything like 4th and 5th class scrambling/leading on a mountain; it is like the difference between riding a stationary bike in a gym and a mountain bike on singletrack. So if you aren't ready or willing to hire a guide, save the technical stuff for when you have a chance to climb with more experienced people. There are plenty of fun/exciting walk ups where you will still get great views and plenty of exposure. A couple of other posters have suggested the Oregon Cascades (e.g. South Sister and the like) -- I'm nthing that suggestion. Someone else said Colorado but go for San Juans rather than front range. I'll put in a vote for the front range. Even though the front range may be more crowded, there is a lot to do and logistics are easy. If your window is spring/summer, then I'd suggest you schedule the trip as late in that window to give the snow a chance to melt off.
posted by kovacs at 3:37 AM on July 20, 2010

Nthing the recommendation that you stay away from 5th class. IMO multipitch climbing should only be attempted by two experienced climbers with some self-rescue proficiency. One isn't enough, because (s)he could be the one incapacitated in an event. Beginners can learn as a party of three. If you really want to climb hire a guide, you won't regret it.

I recommend Half-Dome. It is a long day hike, less so if you backpack to Little Yosemite or my fave: Bunnell Cascades. The final lap up the shoulder of the elephant is steep polished granite with cables to grab that follow a line close to the original first ascent. They are clamping down the access now I believe, I think you need permits. Personally I like going before the cable supports are installed to raise the cables, bring leather gloves.

There are tons of other amazing spots to hike to in the vicinity. Clouds rest is a favorite. Cathedral Peak as mentioned above can be reached by hiking up the descent (original first ascent) line. You may want to skip the 4th/5th class moves to the summit block.

Another great hike is Mt. Whitney, the tallest peak in the continental US. It's long and grueling but earns you stellar views and bragging rights.
posted by Manjusri at 8:08 AM on July 20, 2010

I recommend Half-Dome... They are clamping down the access now I believe, I think you need permits.

You need a permit to hike the cable route only if you're going on a weekend or holiday.

If you spend this season outside learning to lead on gear, you'd almost certainly be comfortable leading something like Tenaya Peak.
posted by foodgeek at 8:52 AM on July 20, 2010

How about Angel's Landing in Zion National Park? The majority of the route is a fairly strenuous hike with the last quarter mile involving some scrambling over rocks, careful footwork and a tiny bit of problem solving. There are chains to hold on to at places for those are less sure of themselves and you don't need to use (or master) any technical equipment to reach the top.

Plus nearby are lots of outfitters who will take you out Canyoneering where you can start learning "the ropes".
posted by mmascolino at 10:08 AM on July 20, 2010

Tenaya Peak is a 14 pitch climb and, while I haven't climbed it myself I know a couple experienced climbers who finished after dark. There are any number of things that can go wrong in steep terrain, including easier lines where routefinding is often not as obvious. That's not a good recommendation for someone looking for "climbing with ropes part not being very technical as I've never climbed outdoors with ropes before". Yosar is a crack team but they're not looking for more business.

If the OP really wants ropes to be part of the adventure then do some toproping down low and take a grand hike to any number of peaks that can be reached without gear. I mean, do you really want to carry a heavy rope and pro on something that is mainly a hike?
posted by Manjusri at 12:27 PM on July 20, 2010

Check out the Appalachian Mtn Club. Find a similar organization in your area and you'll get hooked up with great local climbs and hikes, and people who will be knowledgeable and helpful. Go to your library, where your reference librarian will help you find books with similar info. Mt Ktahdin is climbable with no aids, but is reputed to be a challenging hike with beautiful views. (Sadly, I'm too arthritic.)
posted by theora55 at 5:56 PM on July 20, 2010

Mount Rogers is an easy hike from beautiful Grayson Highlands SP to the tallest point in Virginia. Not much of a view at the very top itself, but great views on the way up. Also ponies.
posted by FlyingMonkey at 12:33 PM on July 21, 2010

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