Definitions of Mountaineering

The word mountaineering means an activity or a sport of mountain climbing.

Mountaineering is a non-consumption physical activity that requires mental and physical endurance and stamina and shrewdness.

Mountaineering means visiting high spots in mountainous regions lying beyond snowline purely for pleasure or pastime. Since these regions are subject to frequent natural hazards, safety is a major concern. And it requires special skills, techniques, and experience.

Mountaineering is a dangerous activity. But this outdoor activity is mainly based on nature. So it is categorized as nature based tourism.


Elements of Mountaineering

Mountaineering is a combination of different adventure activities:

  • Camping
  • Ice and snow Climbing
  • Navigation
  • Rock Climbing
  • Trekking


Objectives of Mountaineering

The activity has multiple objectives:

  • Challenging physical and mental fitness
  • Reaching the highest point / conquering the peaks for fame or record making
  • Enjoying spectacular pristine mountain vistas
  • Education and research to find how mountains impact our lives.
  • Gathering and collating knowledge about mountains.


Limits of Mountaineering

As I said before mountaineering is a dangerous activity requiring special skills. In light of these basic traits, here is a short list of prohibitive factors:

  • Age of climber
  • Cost of climbing
  • Dependence on guides and high altitude porters, especially in case of traditional mountaineering expeditions
  • High risk
  • It is mainly a group activity. Solo climbs are a few. Therefore, making a suitable team is the first obstacle.
  • Unpredictable weather
  • Extremely risky alpine style


Alpine Style of Climbing

The style means:

  • Using minimum equipment
  • Using minimum supplies
  • Climbing without the help of porters or any other support
  • No use of artificial oxygen
  • You will make your own judgements and decisions


Definitions by Eminent Institutes and People

Here are a few definitions of mountaineering spelt out by eminent institutes and people:

“An attempt to reach a mountain summit.” (Langton. 1996)

“Mountaineering is the activity of climbing a mountain, today it is generally accepted that mountaineering is the activity of climbing which requires technical skill and gear.” 2011. Nugara, Andrew. Snowshoeing in the Canadian Rockies. Rocky Mountain Books Ltd.

“Mountaineering includes various ‘stand-alone’ activities – such as rock climbing, ice climbing, scrambling and hill walking- an holidays which combine various activities-such as guided, skills-based mountaineering courses and high-altitude mountaineering expeditions.” 2015. Musa, Ghazali, et al. Mountaineering Tourism. Routledge.

”Mountaineering is a form of physical activity that may be understood to be competitive or recreational, structured or unstructured, goal orientated or participatory (Hinch and Higham 2004).” 2015. Musa, Ghazali, et al. Mountaineering Tourism. Routledge.

A proposed definition: “Mountaineering is the collective term for all of the activities associated with climbing and descending mountains, cliffs, slides, boulders, stream beds and waterfalls. It includes technical activities, such as rock and ice climbing, that typically employ specialized safety equipment, as well as activities, such as slide climbing and bouldering, that may or may not employ specialized safety equipment.

Support a more current and inclusive definition of the term mountaineering: one that includes rock climbing, ice climbing, slide climbing and bouldering , ski mountaineering, camping, ski touring, hiking.” 2015. Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan Amendment (APSLMP), USA.

The International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation (UIAA) defines mountaineering as a group of climbing, hiking, and ski touring. This is a broad definition. For example, climbing subset includes aid and free climbing on natural faces, ice climbing, dry tooling, climbing fixed and marked routes, indoor and outdoor sport climbing, and bouldering. Hiking subset consists of hiking marked trails, cross-country hiking, winter hiking above snow line, and trekking. Ski touring subset consists of ski touring and mountaineering, snowboard mountaineering, and competitive ski touring (2011. Mrak, Irena. High Mountain Areas and Their Resilience to Tourism Development. University of Ljubljana Faculty of Arts.


What is Mountaineering Tourism? A Discussion

Argument 1: Trekking-Individual Activity vs. Trekking-Part of Peak Climbing

If all mountain activities are included in mountaineering tourism, how we will distinguish between trekking as an individual activity and peak climbing as an individual activity. Because trekking is an integral part of the peak climbing. Gathering data for trekking and trekking for peak climbing would be difficult.

Argument 2:

Mountaineering has different meanings in different context. For example, scaling the summits have been referred to as mountaineering.

Broad definition of mountaineering includes all activities performed in mountainous environments. It is therefore a sum of all activities.


Is there an agreement about definition of mountaineering?

No I do not think so.

Not yet.

Mountaineering is being defined in context.

But all definitions have something common.

We have two definitions:

  • All-inclusive / broad and
  • Activity-focused / narrow

2 Different Definitions of Mountaineering

The narrow version or focused definition is more useful for making business decisions.

The activity focused definitions divide mountaineering into skiing-mountaineering, trekking-mountaineering, rafting-mountaineering and so on.

Skiing is also mountaineering / scaling summits. Because it involves ascending and descending mountain faces. But not always.

Are aero adventure activities in mountains partly mountaineering?

No because these activities require little trekking. It is about sky above the mountain and not the mountain slopes.


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