How to climb your first 4000m peak
“I want to climb an Alpine 4000m peak – how experienced to I need to be and what should I start off with?”
If you are heading out to the Alps to climb your first 4000m peak you are going to want a few skills in place first. Whatever mountain you choose it will involve moving on snow and ice and so you are going to want some winter skills such as the ability to move confidently and efficiently in crampons and know how and when to use an ice axe. These sorts of skills can be learnt in the UK mountains through the winter months in preparation for your summer of Alpine dreams.
See winter skills courses
Before you head out get some big hill days in the UK preferably on scrambling ground in big boots to improve movement skills and hill fitness. You can also learn/practise rope skills in the UK before you arrive in the Alps.
See scrambling courses
Another great way of preparing for a trip to the Alps is to visit some other 4000m peaks in an environment that does not have the objective dangers of the Alps. A great example is the Atlas Mountains of Morocco where there are no glaciers, seracs, crevasses etc and they are also easily accessible from the UK. Our week each December climbs 3-4 x 4000m peaks as well as teaching you the winter skills required.
See our Toubkal trip to the Atlas Mountains
Once you arrive you will need to learn how to safely navigate across glaciers including how to escape or help your partner escape from a crevasse. You will also need to learn about the additional objective dangers you will find in an Alpine setting such as serac collapse, rockfall and avalanches. These are best learnt from experienced friends or an IFMGA qualified guide at the start of your trip.
Before climbing at 4000m you will need to tackle some smaller peaks or passes to get you fit and acclimatised. Over 3000m go slowly and sleep no more than 300m higher each day. You can get lots of helpful advice and a free book on altitude sickness here: http://medex.org.uk
Alpine trekking is a great way of getting acclimatised and getting used to the system of huts in the Alps.
View our Alpine Trekking courses
Finally use plenty of high factor sun cream, be prepared to get up early each day and learn to drink red wine with lunch and enjoy strong coffee! Have fun!