So you’ve bagged your first peak, or maybe two or three. You found a few summits with nice trails to the top and took in the glory of becoming a mountaineer once and for all. Now it’s time to consider your ultimate goals as a mountaineer. Do you mostly enjoy nice walks through nature to the top of a mountain with breathtaking views with an essence of solitude and silence? Then keep doing what you’re doing. There is a lifetime worth of mountains out there that fit this description so you’ll never get board. But if you have ambitious visions of standing atop the world highest peaks, discovering new routes, and becoming a mountaineering legend then it’s time to take the next step.
You found an easy way into mountaineering that doesn’t require much equipment or risk. Now it’s time to start factoring those elements in. But don’t overdo it. You’ll want to find a mountain with a rout rated at a class 3 scramble. This will be the first step beyond a normal packed hiking trail. For this you will need to invest in a little more equipment. You won’t need much so this is a perfect time to start gradually learning the ins and outs of all that complicated mountaineering equipment you see in climbing shops.
For a class 3 rout you will want to invest in a good climbing helmet. This isn’t as much for the risk of you falling as it is for the risk of rocks falling on you. A class 3 scramble typically winds up and around tall rocky ridges and cliffs and sometimes pieces of that rock break loose from above and cause serious injuries or death if you don’t have a helmet.
You’ll also want a pair of approach shoes or mountaineering boots. This footwear has a special type of sole that handles particularly nice on steep rocky terrain. If you will mostly be hiking in dry areas and good weather a pair of approach shoes will usually do. If the approach (trail leading up to the technical sections) will be cold, snowy, muddy, sandy, or anything besides a dry packed trail you can either wear your regular hiking boots and switch into your approach shoes when the terrain gets technical or you can use a pair of mountaineering boots that will get you through almost anything. Mountaineering boots will run you about $500 so if you’re on a budget it’s probably not the best first choice for this level of climbing.
A rope and harness are usually not required for class 3 scrambles but if you can swing for those then it can be a good time to start learning how to use ropes, harnesses, and belays in mountaineering.
Training for your first class 3 climb can be lots of fun. This skill isn’t as much endurance as it is focus and balance. If you’ve been doing allot of trail running on rough terrain then you’re already on a great start. But you should also consider some activities such as yoga or slacklining to improve your balance, focus, and flexibility.
Do a little research and read some trail and rout descriptions to get an idea of the exact terrain you’ll be encountering and any accessories that might be handy to have along the way. But lastly, don’t be afraid to just go out there and try a class 3 rout. Most of these will be pretty easy to downclimb so if you ever get to a point you’re not comfortable there’s never any shame in turning around and trying again later.