The logistics of travel can be a headache. Our guide offers tips on how to plan for summits overseas....
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Ever scroll absentmindedly through your Instagram feed, feeling like everyone else is off having adventures in far-flung corners of the world? It happens to the best of us. You’ve bagged some peaks close to home, maybe even summited a few Fourteeners. But once the climbing bug has bitten, you spend your days at work daydreaming about planning your next epic trip. At some point, it’s time to take the leap from armchair mountaineer to adventurer-at-large.
With some planning, diligent research, and flexibility, you can make it happen. It’s also possible to make your climb meaningful for others with tools like Big City Mountaineers’ Summit for Someone program, which puts climber-raised funds toward backpacking trips for under-resourced teens (more on that later).
When you’re ready to stop scrolling and start scouting, follow this guide to plan an international climbing trip.
Set Your Sights
Narrow down your options by considering your motives. What kinds of photos get your heart pumping—snowy, glaciated peaks? Gaining a lot of elevation? Rocky scrambles with panoramic views? Technical, multi-pitch climbs? Do a little digging to find beta on the peaks that inspire you most.
Be sure to pick a goal within your capability. Traveling will already put you outside of your comfort zone, and a first time climbing trip abroad should be enjoyable. Consider the logistics of the approach, and how you will navigate traveling on the ground to reach your peak. Ask yourself how comfortable you are with experiencing a language barrier. If you’re a first-time international traveler, think about the climbs in the area that see plenty of tourism, where many locals will likely speak English. If you’re a seasoned jetsetter, it might be time to venture off the beaten path.
The next step is settling the age-old question: Do I need a guide? The answer, of course, depends. Think of everything you will need to have a successful climb: from climbing or mountaineering skills, and navigation skills in both the surrounding area and on the peak itself, to general logistical tips. If summiting is key, hiring a guide certainly improves your odds, even if you have some, or most, of the necessary know-how. If you’re more concerned with self-sufficiency and have all the technical skills, you’ve probably already answered this question.
The American Mountain Guides Association is a great place to start when you’re looking for a good fit for your objective.
Do Your Homework
Before your trip, lay out all your gear and use a checklist to make sure you have everything you will need. Photo: Emma Walker
Traveling internationally adds some additional components into the planning process, so start early. Here’s where you’ll have to start being flexible. Read any good adventure book: plans are constantly evolving and changing.
Google Flights searches for flights between your home and destination with a bunch of airlines. It also lets you know about cheaper fares on nearby dates. If you have time, set an alert to receive notifications of price changes on your desired flights. Keep in mind, that you will likely have a lot of gear with you- some of it large or unwieldy. The guide from AirfareWatchdog keeps track of most major airlines’ baggage policies. To save money, pay for checked bags up front.
Research whether or not you will need a special visa to enter your destination country. Either way, an up-to-date passport is a necessity. Most countries mandate that a foreign passport be valid for six-plus months beyond the date of your visit. Be wary of non-government sites that advertise expedited passport services. Renewing by mail is the safest way to get your little blue book back on time. This may take up to six weeks, depending on backlog; you can expedite your passport for an additional fee.
When it comes to accommodations and logistics at your destination, don’t underestimate the power of the good old-fashioned guidebook. Many local guidebooks include information on the best lodging, food, shopping, and transportation to get you to the base of the mountain. The American Alpine Club Library will ship books from its vast, climbing-specific collection to members for free. (Another great reason to join the club if you’re not already a member: the AAC offers international rescue insurance with membership.)
There’s an old joke among climbers that mountaineering is, at its core, “moving slowly uphill while not feeling very well.” Of course, the more training you do, the better you will likely feel. When in doubt, load up a backpack with water, weights, or a climbing rack and walk uphill—even stairs will do in a pinch. Pick up Steve House’s Training for the New Alpinism, an excellent resource for mountaineering fitness, to start putting together a training plan.
Looking for training hikes in your area? Join the Gaia GPS community (it’s free) to see GPS tracks of what others in your area are up to. You can also download the Gaia app to your phone ($20, available for iOS or Android), effectively turning your device into a GPS unit. Once you’ve downloaded maps, the app works in airplane mode, so it’s still usable on international soil, regardless of your wireless plan.
Hiking or skiing with an increasingly heavy pack is guaranteed to get you in tip-top shape. Photo: Bix Firer
Climb for a Cause
If you’re feeling inspired by your next big adventure, consider some ways to make it meaningful for others in your community, too. National organization Big City Mountaineers takes under-resourced teens from urban areas on weeklong backpacking and canoeing trips, giving kids the chance to learn critical life skills and experience the transformational power of time spent outside. Their Summit for Someone program gives climbers like you the resources to pick a climb (one of their guided climbs or your own custom climb) and raise money for BCM programming. A Summit for Someone climb can mean reaching the summit you’ve been dreaming of and making the same thing possible for the next generation of outdoor enthusiasts.
Originally written by RootsRated.
Preview photo: © Josh Vertucci