Dem Himmel so nah - Bergsteigen in den Alpen
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The history of mountaineering
Today the nature-loving adventurer is most likely to climb to a summit because they are looking for the physical challenge, but it used to be primarily about exploring regions in far-flung places. The focus was on the spirit of discovery and pioneering.
Even though they would have been considered dangerous obstacles to many in the past, mountains have always fascinated people and the urge to explore them started a very long time ago with Hannibal crossing the Alps as early as 218 to 201 BC.
In general, the following three first ascents are considered to represent the “birth of mountaineering“:
- 1136 - The Italian poet Francesco Petrarca climbed the 1912 m high Mont Ventoux in Provence.
- 1358 - The Roman Bonifacio Rotario d'Asti managed to cross the 3538 m high Rocciamelone in Piedmont, Italy.
- 1492 - Charles VIII ordered a mercenary troop to climb the 2085 m high Mont Aiguille in the French Alps for the first time.
Famous summiteers and their first ascents
Whoever reaches the summit of a mountain first is guaranteed a place in the history books. Part of a successful first ascent is to properly document it, meaning that it can often takes years to prepare for a mountaineering expedition.
- Jacques Balmat was a mountaineer from Savoy. Together with Michel-Gabriel Paccard, he was the first to reach the summit of the highest mountain in the Alps in 1786: the 4810 meter high Mont Blanc.
- The Briton Edward Whymper is considered to be the first person to successfully climb the Matterhorn in 1865.
- In 1909 Luigi di Savoia led an Italian expedition to K2 in the Himalayas and on to the 7,668 meter high Chogolisa. The first successful ascent of K2 was achieved by an Italian expedition group led by Achille Compagnoni and Lino Lacedelli.
- In July 1938, mountaineers Heinrich Harrer, Fritz Kasparek, Ludwig Vörg and Anderl Heckmeier climbed the North Face of the Eiger. Harrer was also the first to climb the 4,884 meter high Puncak Jaya, the highest mountain in Oceania. He is the author of the book "Seven Years in Tibet".
- On May 29, 1953, New Zealander Edmund Hillary and his Nepalese climbing companion Tensing Norgay reached the summit of Mount Everest, the highest mountain on earth.
- The Italian Reinhold Messner has conquered all eight-thousanders and can look back on over 100 first ascents. The trademark of Messner was to mountaineer without oxygen equipment. Together with Hans Kammerlander he managed to cross two eight-thousanders in 1984.
- Junko Tabei, from Japan, is the first woman to climb Mount Everest in 1975. She is also the first female mountaineer to conquer all of the Seven Summits.
The first mountaineers to summit Mount Everest, the highest mountain on earth Photo: Jamling Tenzin, CC BY-SA, via Wikimedia Commons
A sport at the limit - the dangers of mountaineering
One thing is clear from the start: Reaching a summit is no easy feat! Especially at higher altitudes, mountain sports involve all sorts of dangers, which is why a distinction should be made between the two sets of risks:
These mean that the climber is responsible for his or her own actions. Subjective dangers include: a lack of stamina, inadequate climbing techniques, poor navigation skills, overconfidence, inadequate food, a fear of heights, a general lack of experience, incorrect assessment of difficulties, dangers and weather, poor group dynamics.
These risks cannot be directly influenced by the climber. These include snowfall, the cold, rain, solar radiation, falling or brittle rocks, mudslides, avalanches, thunderstorms, crevasses.
What should mountaineering equipment include?
Photo: Outdooractive Editors
Training for mountaineering
Photo: Outdooractive Editors
If you want to climb a mountain, you should never go physically unprepared. The main reason? The air can get pretty thin up there, especially upwards of 3000 meters where oxygen levels start to get significantly low and the heart and lungs have to work harder to compensate. For alpine routes, it is important to train on the terrain of increasing elevation.
Many see the challenge of mountaineering as only the ascent. This requires a considerable amount of strength, endurance, flexibility and concentration, but there needs to be enough of these things left over for the descent, meaning that good physical conditioning is essential for mountaineers.
Beginners should train regularly, but not too ambitiously. Endurance training at least twice a week for 45-60 minutes is recommended. The heartbeat should be a maximum of 60% for beginners and 80% of the value of the maximum heart rate formula "200 minus age" for those more experienced. If you are planning a long and strenuous multi-stage trip, you should start regular training three months before the start of your challenge.
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