The 5 Serious Dangers of Mountain Climbing Explained


Mountain climbing is dangerous by nature but it might help to understand these dangers in a more concrete manner.

What are the dangers of mountain climbing? Among the most obvious dangers of mountain climbing include slipping, falling, freezing, starving, suffocating, becoming dehydrated, getting eaten by animals, and succumbing to altitude sickness. You could also start coughing up blood due to frozen lungs or get poisoned by plants and animals.

Not appreciating how dangerous mountain climbing can be can lead to your death, whereas knowing about them can help you have a safe and satisfying experience.

Is Mountain Climbing Dangerous?

There is no denying the fact that mountain climbing is dangerous, but to most people, that concept is rather vague and too broad to really impress just how risky it can really be. To some, just the thought of having to ascend such imposing natural formations is frightening enough, while others simply let their imaginations get away from them.

For those aspiring to become mountain climbers, though, there are a few main causes of dangers worth looking out for. These are the:

·         Weather

·         Environment

·         Wildlife

·         Terrain

·         Climbers

As you can see there, it isn’t just the mountain that will pose a threat to you when you are climbing. In a lot of ways, you can actually be a lot more dangerous to yourself and even to other people. The table below can give you plenty of ideas on that front:

DangersDescription
NaturalRefers to terrain, greenery, steepness, etc.
ArtificialEquipment malfunction, lack of preparation
HealthAltitude sickness, heat stroke, heart attack, oxygen deprivation, etc.
EnvironmentalClimate, weather, landslides, natural disasters
EcologicalWildlife, poisonous plants

Those are just the general ideas with regards to the dangers that you are going to face when you climb mountains, though. As such, we will need to dig into them a little deeper. However, before we do so, it’s worth pointing out that the risks of climbing mountains will only ever be an issue if you are unprepared. What you do before the climb ever starts will matter most.

If you are someone who has never climbed a mountain before, for example, you are at a much higher risk of getting injured or death than those who have already done it. This is because their bodies have already experienced the trek before and understand what it is like. More often than not, it is those who underestimate just how dangerous climbing can be who gets hurt.

More than that, though, are those who become overconfident with their capabilities after having done a few climbs in relatively safe mountains. Make no mistake, those well-managed areas with park rangers and public employees paving the way for climbers are nothing compared to the real thing. Mountains in remote regions pose the kind of dangers that even experienced climbers worry about.

Natural – Among the most obvious and glaring dangers of mountain climbing are those that are naturally found on it. That is to say, the landscape, terrain, and the greenery can all be a source of great peril for you to be wary of. This is why it is worth looking into the various ways in which even trees and rocks can harm you when making your ascent.

Now, the only real way that you can actually address this particular issue is to train yourself so that you will be able to walk over tough terrain without much of a problem. That is to say, you need to be physically fit enough that you can climb without hyperventilating and you need to be able to walk with a steady gait.

There have been a lot of times where physical and mental exhaustion has led to climbers slipping, grabbing unreliable handholds, or just failing to traverse uneven terrain. If you are not physically capable, don’t even think about trying to overcome a dangerous mountain peak. You will find that nature is not that nice.

With that said, it’s not as if mountain climbing is completely closed off to you if you really want to try doing it. You just need to choose destinations that offer pre-established trails that you can follow with ease. There are even mountain climbing expeditions where you literally ride horses or other animals while someone else carries your stuff for you.

It will not be as satisfying, but you can take all of the selfies you want. Speaking of which, there have been those who died while taking careless selfies near cliffs or on mountain tops. So be careful on that front.

Artificial – Next is the artificial dangers that you will be facing when are climbing mountains, which is basically what you get when you are not as experienced as you should be. This involves practically anything that you bring with you from the ground to the top and back again. These include your gear, your food, your camping equipment, and your clothes.

Now, it should not have to be said, but awful quality is an enemy when you are doing something as risky as climbing a dangerous mountain. Straps that could easily snap, anchors that are too brittle, harnesses that are too thin, and many others are nightmare fuels for climbers. This is why experienced veterans always go for quality, no matter how they have to go about it.

One of the biggest mistakes that novice climbers often make is going for looks rather than functionality. It does not need to be said just how foolish such a move can be. It would be far better to choose the ugliest, least appealing equipment you can find if you know that you can rely on them no matter what. After all, up in the mountains, it’s just you and your gear.

On that note, concerns with regards to outfits and even consumables are important considerations. Wearing the shoes that you just purchased and have not broken in yet can be quite problematic and the same goes for bringing the wrong snacks for the climb.

Health – With regards to health, it was already mentioned that if you are going to climb a mountain, it would be for the best if you were in the best possible physical condition that you can be. This means that you have already trained for the ascent and that you are fit enough to withstand the rigors of the trip. It’s not just about seeing beautiful scenery, after all.

On that matter, even if you are physically fit enough to endure the climb itself, other aspects of the journey can be problematic. For example, if you have allergies, there can be occasions when pollen will be an issue along the way. There might be fresh air on the mountain, but there are also other points of concern such as the various plant life to be found there.

Dust and snow can also be an issue, so if you are not equipped to deal with those, they can make your journey to the top of the mountain rather bothersome. Of course, if you have certain health problems like asthma and susceptibility to heart palpitations, attempting the climb could put you at risk of exacerbating those conditions.

Heatstroke and altitude sickness will be a point of concern, as well. The latter can be especially bothersome for those who have never been so high up before because they may not even notice the symptoms until it’s too later.

Environmental – The prospect of dealing with the cold was already mentioned, but getting caught in a blizzard can be a huge bother. Torrential rain, unexpected snowstorms, thunderstorms, and more would impede your journey, for sure. However, they also increase the likelihood of you getting injured to dying via landslide, flash flood, and the like.

You have to remember that it’s not just at the mountaintop that danger lurks. Even on the way there or as you climb down, the chances of something unfortunate happening is not nothing. As such, if you are going to go outdoors, you need to make sure that the risks of those things happening while you are in the area are slim.

Mountaineers do a lot of research and preparation before they set out to accomplish their goals. This includes choosing the right time to make their climbs. If they don’t, they will only be placing themselves in an unreasonable amount of danger, which would place them farther from what they want to do. They also draw on the experiences of those who went before them as well as their own.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that when you are up in the mountains, the weather can turn for the worse without warning. Even if you take the climate itself into account, there are no guarantees that in the hours during your climb, nothing will change. So it is always best to prepare for the unexpected before you make your ascent.

Ecological – Finally, there are the various ecological threats that you will need to look out for. These are the local wildlife that lives in the mountains, as well as the various plants that can be found there. Depending on where you climb, there can dangers that are obvious and those that are not. A vine that looks harmless to you can cause violent reactions even when you just brush against them.

Even if you are keeping your eyes out for predators, there are no guarantees that the other animals will not suddenly turn hostile towards you. A deer, for example, is not known for being much of a danger to a lot of people. However, if they feel threatened and cornered, they can attack. The same goes for such things as moose, elk, and stags.

Naturally, you will also need to watch out for insects and arachnids. Even if the notion that spider bites can kill you instantly is wrong, some members of the species can cause allergic reactions that could incapacitate you. Scorpions and snakes can be some of the most troublesome critters to deal with, but the same goes for certain species of flies and mosquitoes.

How Dangerous is Mountain Climbing?

Depending on the region, the country, and the mountain, the danger levels of the climb that you are about to embark will naturally vary. You can’t expect that a local hiking spot will be as dangerous as one where hardly any human dares to venture. You better believe that mountains with jungles and those with snow will be vastly different in the kinds of dangers that they pose, as well.

So, how dangerous can mountain climbing be? It can range from not at all to extremely so based on the factors brought up above.

In order for you to judge how dangerous a mountain is, you will need to take a few things into consideration. First, you need to know where it will be located. If it is near or in the area you are living in, you might be able to adjust easier to it since you are somewhat familiar with your surroundings. With a little more research, you can identify the things to watch out for.

The climb can become significantly more problematic if it is located in another country. Aside from the changes in the climate, you will also need to worry about the locals and the wildlife that might be found there. Of course, if it is a popular tourist destination already, the local government might have already taken steps to reduce the danger.

Without a doubt, though, the most dangerous mountains to climb are those that even the local populace avoids. Mt. Everest might be one of the most well-known natural formations to climb, but there are many others that hardly see the sight of people.

The remote mountains of Nepal, come to mind, as well as those in harsh regions in Asia and Africa. Kangchenjunga and Nanga Parbat are just two examples of these dangerous peaks, which few have attempted to climb and have already claimed the lives of many.

How to Stay Safe When Mountain Climbing

In order to climb the mountains safely, the first order of business is to always be prepared. That is to say, you need to be as ready as you can possibly be and if you have never climbed before, you might not appreciate what this means without context. To start with, climbing mountains is not just about putting one foot in front of the other with the occasional lift with your hands and arms.

There are technical aspects to climbing mountains that rely on masterful control of your entire body. Some of the best climbers in the world even train their toes to the limits, which is what allows them to traverse terrain that few others could. The higher the technical difficulty of a mountain, the harder it will be to climb and therefore, the more dangerous it becomes.

With remote peaks, for example, reaching the top means overcoming many natural obstacles that few others might have had to deal with and even fewer have successfully triumphed over. These include narrow ledges, rock faces with practically no footholds, and slopes so steep, the slightest missteps can mean a tumble to the bottom.

To reach the top, you will need to skillfully use not only your tools but also your fingers. In some climbs, you might not have a choice but to risk losing a hand in order to progress. These are the kinds of odds that professional climbers have to deal with on a regular basis.

So, now that those aspects have been impressed upon you, how do you make sure that you will be safe during your climbs. Naturally, the best way is to be as physically capable as possible. Rock climbing, strength training, cardio exercises, and oxygen deprivation sessions are just some of the things you will need to do.

You will know that you are somewhat ready to attempt a technical climb, for example, if you can pull your entire body up with just one arm. Some of the best climbers can even do that with one finger, which makes them a bad match for pull-up contests. However, this is just the start.

You will also need to get used to staying up mountains for extended periods of time. When dealing with the elements, there is no room for hesitation when going to the bathroom via a plastic bag or tube, for example. Spending some time up safer peaks is a good starting point and you can increase the difficulty gradually.

Finally, you need to get used to moving with heavy gear. Balance is very important when you are climbing and you need to constantly be aware of your center of gravity. Along with your grip and your stance, you need to make sure that no matter your position, your equipment and bag will not cause you to fall over. This is not something you want to risk when you’re up a mountain.

Related Questions

Is Climbing Mt. Everest Dangerous?

Even with the assistance of sherpas and whatever kind of equipment that you bring with you, climbing Mt. Everest can still be quite dangerous. However, comparatively speaking, it is no longer as risky to climb it as it was in the past thanks to established paths that climbers can use.

What Mountain Has the Highest Death Rate?

The mountain with the highest number of deaths in terms of climbers who try to overcome it is Mount Annapurna. It has the highest rate of fatalities of all the known peaks that have been challenged by mountaineers in the world due to the high level of a technical challenge.

Why Climb Dangerous Mountains?

With all of this talk about how dangerous mountain climbing is, you might then wonder why on earth anyone would want to climb mountains that have a good chance of killing them. Unfortunately, there isn’t a clear cut answer to this question since climbers often have their own reasons for doing so. Some see it as a way to prove something to themselves while others simply like the challenge.

There are even those who try to find meaning in their lives by chasing greater and greater challenges, and mountain climbing is just the next thing on their list. Suffice it to say, if you are looking for a single, universal answer to this question, you are going to be disappointed. Then again, there is no rule that says diversity is not a good thing.

In the case of those who want to take on the challenge of climbing mountains because this is where they find the most meaning in life, it’s just as valid of a reason as anything else. At the end of the day, the only person who can really tell you if something is worth doing or not is yourself. So if you want to risk it all in order to get satisfaction, then you can do just that.

Of course, there are also those who do it for personal gain such as prestige, fame, and of course, money. Yes, there is actually money in climbing dangerous peaks and it can come in a variety of different sources. For example, there are climbers who sell their stories to magazines and book publishing companies who use their accomplishments and reputation to sell guides.

There are also many who sell the rights to their stories to movie companies and the like. Then there is the more direct route of sponsorship, which is basically where a company will provide the climbers with gear and money in order to advertise their products. From the point of view of climbers, many of whom are impoverished, it’s just a way for them to support their lifestyles.

If your reasons for wanting to climb a mountain does not fall under any of these categories, that’s fine. You can forge your own path as you ascend those heights as long as you are fully aware of what dangers you will be facing.

Surviving Dangerous Mountains

So, you decided that you are going to go for it; you will climb a dangerous mountain. There are a few questions that need to be asked before you do anything else:

·         Have you ever been on a climb that lasted several hours?

·         Are you fit enough to climb without wheezing?

·         Do you exercise regularly?

·         Have you done anything remotely challenging in your life?

·         Do you have the funds for such an expedition?

·         Do you have the necessary knowledge for such a climb?

·         Are you prepared for the inconveniences that come with climbing?

If you answer any or all of these questions with a no, then you are not yet ready to climb. There is a reason why mountaineering is seen as one of the clearest testaments to the unyielding human spirit. This is because it is literally one of the hardest things that you can do and it will not only test your body but also your entire being.

Speaking to any experienced mountain climber who has done the impossible will likely reveal just how punishing the conditions can be during the excursion. During such times, climbers are forced to answer some very tough questions. It is quite common that you will begin to wonder at who you are as a person while forcing yourself to climb towards the highest peaks.

This is one of the reasons why mountaineers would often pursue challenging sites. They want to see just how far they can go before they break. Entering this kind of field without the necessary preparations on that front can ultimately lead to you losing yourself.

So, to survive a dangerous mountain climb, you will need an unbreakable will on top of a trained body. You will also need reliable gear and outfits that you will be able to put your trust in so that you can focus on trying to overcome overwhelming odds.

Remember that the mountain will be throwing everything it has at you and it will be your job to answer. If you can’t even trust your equipment to support you when the time comes, you might as well not start at all. There is also the small matter of your own knowledge with regards to the mountain you are planning on climbing.

It’s worth remembering that every peak will have its quirks. Some will be taller, some will be wider, and some will be quite cantankerous with regards to its mood. Just because you were able to climb one mountain, this does not automatically mean that you will be able to do the same thing with another. There is a reason why some mountains have higher fatality rates than others.

Suffice it to say, there are no guarantees that you will be able to survive the climb even with all of that. For all of your training, research, and preparations, there are just cases where it comes down to the luck of the draw. A slip, a momentary lapse in concentration, or even a mistake from a companion can all contribute to your injury or death. This is what mountain climbing is.  

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