Mountain Climbing in BC

British Columbia Mountain Climbing

What is Mountain Climbing (Mountaineering)


Vertical height is the difference between hiking and climbing. Mountain climbing is ice faces, ridges, rock crags, rock faces, alpine meadows and lakes, icefalls and glaciers. It means learning to read topography maps and compasses. Mountaineering also means, you will learn about repelling, how to rope up, how to traverse crags, crevices and crevasses. This very strenuous sporting activity calls for stamina, proper climbing gear and careful planning.

The Back Country:

British Columbia back country is often undeveloped trails. It means stream crossing, making your way through dense bush, and log walking. There are definitely some signs to watch for when heading into the back country. Stay out of burns, they are messy and full of fallen timber. Avoid moraines and slide alder areas as they can be unstable. Where possible, stay to ridge crests because the under brush will be less in these areas.

Back Country Travel:

Many difficult and back country hiking trails also serve as the starting point of mountain climbing sites. In certain areas of the province logging roads offer access to the remote wilderness. Logging companies often bar roads or lock gates between 6:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. on work days and during high fire hazard periods. Vehicles with good high clearance, four-wheel or rear-wheel drive are the best types to use on any logging road. Most logging roads are not ploughed or maintained during the winter months. Travel on back roads means self reliance and care. Make sure the vehicle is equipped with good tires and has plenty of fuel. Carry a first aid kit, clothing that is warm and waterproof, plenty of water and food.

In the southwestern section of British Columbia, the timberline runs from about 1600 metres (5200 ft.) to 1800 metres (6000 ft.). It is a bit higher in the interior and lower on Vancouver Island. Allow approximately an hour for every kilometre when back country travelling and about the same for every 150 metres (500 ft.) of elevation. Always be aware of the surroundings and look back, as features and landmark look different when approached from another direction. Rely on your map and compass when in the wilderness.


Weather in mountainous terrain is very unpredictable, always be prepared. In winter storms are frequent and whiteouts are common year round near glacial sheets. Mountain tops or summits because they attract clouds can be stormy, while the rest of the area is warm and sunny. No matter what the weather, take rain gear. If camping, take a tent, sleeping bag and camp stove. Check the local long range weather forecast before going out on any climb.

The Hazards of Mountain Climbing (Mountaineering):

Crossing Creeks and Rivers:

Water flow in any creek or river can vary greatly from one day to the next. A rain storm or melting snows can quickly cause a small, shallow stream to become a torrent of water. When crossing any stream, loosen the straps on your pack and be ready to throw if off. Learn the art of log walking, as it will be necessary. When crossing water on a log, walk or crawl forward and do not look down.

Falling Rocks and Avalanches:

Rockfall happens when loosened by melting or climbers. When a group is climbing, do so in a diagonal pattern to avoid rocks hitting members of the party. Travel early in the morning before the ground starts melting. Avalanches are different and are more command in winter and spring, but do occur anytime of the year. All mountaineers should learn to recognize the signs of a possible avalanche. They are more likely to happen during and after heavy snowfalls accompanied by strong winds. During the spring and summer, avalanches are triggered when the warm sun and melting conditions weaken the snowpack. Snow that is hanging over a ledge or cliff is always a hazard and can cause slides. Watching for avalanches and rockfall is essential, no matter when or where you are climbing.


Approach all glaciers with caution. Glaciers are hazardous because of hidden crevasses, ice avalanches and how to stop from sliding without the help of an ice-axe. Never venture over a glacier or a steep snow slope unless properly equipment and experienced.

Mountain Climbing (Mountaineering) Ethics:

Mountain climbers have a set of fixed rules that all who enjoy this sport respect. Never use unnecessary equipment that could damage the rocks. Do not litter. Damage to the environment is unacceptable. Ethics is respecting the great outdoors and other climbers who will follow.

Winter Mountain Climbing (Mountaineering):

Cooler temperatures, snowfall and shorter days, make winter climbing a challenge. Although snow and cool temperatures happen in the spring and fall, the most demanding conditions happen in winter. It is during the months between December and March that climbers must face the mountain on its terms.


This is the Yosemite Decimal System of rating:

Class 1 - Hiking.
Class 2 - Struggled hiking.
Class 3 - Rope not needed, but some handholds are needed for balance.
Class 4 - Roping up required and climbers travel together or put in belays are
used at each pitch start.
Class 5.0 to 5.4 - Easy roped climbing with occasional use of chocks.
Class 5.5 to 5.7 - Moderate roped climbing, need good technical skills.
Class 5.8 - Difficult climbing.
Class 5.9 and up - Difficult and strenuous roped climbing. Good technical skills
and climbing experience needed.

Take lessons from a qualified instructor before trying any mountain climbing. If you are a novice climber, always go out with someone who is experienced and knows the mountains and surrounding area. Never go out alone and always leave word with someone where you are going and when you plan to be back.

There are many items to consider before climbing any mountain. Such as, are you mentally and physically fit to make the climb? Is your equipment in top notch condition? Have you checked weather conditions? No two mountains are the same. Each climbing experience is different. Be safe, have fun!


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Mountain Climbing in BC