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The Differences Between Hiking, Trekking And Mountaineering

As long as you are prepared, there are no right or wrong seasons to start climbing, although each season can provide its own challenges depending on the peak you are attempting to climb, and it is essential to be prepared for what the season can bring.

The most important consideration when looking into trail routes is your level of experience and making sure you are ready to face the level of challenge nature has to throw at you.

A lot of terms for mountain climbing, especially hiking, trekking and mountaineering are used interchangeably, but there are subtle differences in the level of challenge implied.

For example, anyone with a good pair of shoes can enjoy a summer hike. Whereas whilst winter mountaineering more substantial skills and preparations are needed to make sure that you do not get hurt whilst scaling higher peaks.

Here are the differences between three disciplines that are so often conflated.


A lot of people have taken up hiking in their local area over the past year and it is easy to see why. It requires only a good pair of shoes and some basic equipment, most hiking trails are completed in just a few hours and often involve loops around beautiful countryside and hills.

The main requirements, besides some decent cardio, is three layers of clothing that you can put on and take off as needed, a water bottle, a backpack with a source of energy and a first aid kit just in case.


Depending on how you think about it, trekking is either trekking over multiple days and harder terrain, or mountaineering without the extreme challenges associated with it.

It can be exceptionally physically demanding, and for most treks, you will be expected to set up a camp for yourself, as they often take place over multiple days.

Some longer treks can take up to a fortnight to complete and involve you travelling hundreds of miles across some remote and truly beautiful scenery.

The main skill to bear in mind is to be prepared. Make sure you have more than enough food for your journey, as well as snacks to provide high sources of energy.

Hiking poles are a good option as well, purely because of the number of days you will be travelling.


The ultimate challenge for explorers, mountaineering is about scaling some of the fiercest terrains on earth, travelling thousands of metres above sea level.

It requires the use of specialist equipment and dedicated survival skills tailored around the fierce terrain. You are unlikely to need to use an ice axe or crampons when trekking, but with mountaineering, it is all but a requirement.

You also need to know how to manage the different types of ice you are likely to face, from solid slippery glaciers to more unstable slush.

Not only are you camping, but you need to know the right locations for campsites and how to safely set up a camp to give you the best chance of reaching the summit.

Finally, there is the elevation to consider, which not only is hard to climb but due to the thinner air and lower amounts of oxygen get more difficult to climb, making it the ultimate challenge of cardio and endurance.

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