virtuoso communities 11 Tips for Summiting Your First Mountain

11 Tips for Summiting Your First Mountain

An eye-opening way to see the world: Climb its mountains. 
An eye-opening way to see the world: Climb its mountains. 
Photo by Getty Images 
Peak prep: Travel advisors share advice for a safe, fun, and successful ascent. 

When it comes to adventure, few feats deliver as big a thrill as summiting a mountain. Intrepid globe-trotters can use this time at home to plan for the next big climb – and there’s a lot to consider. Uneven terrain, dizzying altitudes, and bare-bones campsites just a few of the challenges, and preparation is paramount. Here, Virtuoso travel advisors share their advice to make the most of your trek to the mountaintop. 

Consider the Calendar

It might sound obvious, but the timing of your trek is crucial. “First and foremost, consider the time of year for the best climb,” says Virtuoso advisor Caroline Labbé, whose clients have summited Grand Teton in Wyoming and Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro. “For example, July sees fewer thunderstorms, so that’s the optimal time for the Tetons.”

One of the Seven Summits, Mount Kilimanjaro reigns over Africa. 
One of the Seven Summits, Mount Kilimanjaro reigns over Africa. 
Photo by Getty Images 

Know the Effects of High Altitude

“Altitude isn’t something to underestimate, even if you’ve been climbing for years,” Virtuoso travel agency CEO Joshua Bush says. He’s an avid hiker who has conquered two of the world’s Seven Summits, the highest peaks on each continent. “Know your limits and experiment at lower elevations before considering higher challenges. The more you know how altitude affects you personally, the better chances you’ll have of reaching your goal.”

Build Up Endurance 

Distance and load-bearing can be daunting, too. “Build up your stamina and know your limits before you go,” Virtuoso travel agency owner Becky Lukovic says. “If your hike includes carrying your own gear, train with gear or weights to prepare. If you’re aiming for a long or multi-day tour, start with mileage that you’re comfortable with, then increase your distance by 10 to 20 percent each week.”

Test Run Your Gear

Simply put, make sure your gear works before you get to base camp. “Use your gear, and all of it, ahead of time,” says Virtuoso travel advisor Tania Swasbrook. “Break in the boots, wear the wool socks – wool is key, never use cotton in any weather – use your backpack, and see how much water you need to drink. Wear your hiking clothes under the backpack and see if it actually fits.”

Find the Right Route

Often, there’s more than one way to reach a mountaintop. “Some treks have many different routes that vary depending on level of difficulty, distance, scenery, and accommodations,” Virtuoso travel advisor Jodi Fox says. “Make sure you talk with your advisor about your top priorities and abilities before choosing your route.”

Pack Properly

“You will never be too cold, hot, sweaty, or wet if you are dressed correctly,” travel advisor Wayne Muhlstein says. To help his clients prepare, Muhlstein provides a packing list and suggests where to shop for the best selection and value. But that’s not all. “I arrange for their gear to arrive at the destination, as well as to be picked up and returned home at the end of the adventure,” he says.  

“Invest in great socks that wick away sweat and have some cushion,” Lukovic adds. “I love Smartwool socks, even in the summer – they pull moisture away and regulate the temperature of your feet.”

Good gear is everything. 
Good gear is everything. 
Photo by Getty Images

 Motivate with Music

“Good headphones and a killer playlist can keep you focused and pumped for the reward that awaits a few thousand feet above you,” Bush says. He recommends traditional wired earbuds rather than the now-ubiquitous wireless variety. “If one of those wireless buds falls out, you don’t want to be chasing it down a cliff. Besides, wired earphones won’t run out of juice when you need a little Metallica to help get you over a false summit or two.”

Wake Up the Right Muscles and Joints

“Actually climb a mountain!” Swasbrook says. “Many people think that running marathons, going to the gym, and walking stairs means they’re ready. That isn’t necessarily true: Your body uses very specific muscles and joints to clamber up a slope. Get those ankles working different angles.”

To prepare, embark on practice hikes closer to home. 
To prepare, embark on practice hikes closer to home. 
Photo by Getty Images 

Give Your Feet First Aid

“When you take a long break, loosen your boots or take them and your socks off to let your feet breathe,” says Lukovic. “Bring a roll of bandage adhesive to put on spots where blisters start to form. You can also tape the inside of your boot if a rough spot is bothering you.” 

Establish Realistic Expectations

“I make sure my clients are prepared for everything involved, including basic trek aspects such as sleeping arrangements, meals, and toilet facilities,” says Fox. “Even with simple amenities, reaching a summit goal makes up for any discomfort on the way up.”

Protect Yourself

Heeding the recommendations of reputable travel outfitters and advisors in the months leading up to your ascent increases your chance of a successful summit. But having a safeguard for the unexpected is also imperative. “Make sure you have evacuation insurance with a trustworthy company, such as Medjet,” Labbé says. Available plans vary and can cover everything from medical cash advances to helicopter transport.

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