Article History: Created on December 12, 2014, Updated on December 30, 2014
Created by: Ramon Q. Gayas Jr. (SerMontaineer)
Note and Disclaimer: This article aims to provide compressed notes of Basic Mountaineering and Outdoor Ethics (BMOE) which can be use in local context; these are based on blogger’s experience and research. To compress the BMOE, he adopted the “alphabetize format” which commonly used in different field (ex: ABCs of Human Rights, ABCs of Nursing etc). On the other hand, take note that many topics in Basic Mountaineering Course (BMC) has necessity to execute through actual activity, these are the hands-on training for; basic backpacking, tent pitching, hammock camping, water treatment, first aid, proper handling of equipment/gears, orienteering/land navigation, basic ropemanship, fitness training and climbing itself. Also, the blogger did not guarantee that the alphabetized thoughts below are absolute and will tackle all the content of BMOE, but looking forward that these will serve as helpful guidelines in doing mountaineering. However, readers/climbers are encouraged to comment and contribute for the improvements of this article.
A – Advance Planning and Preparation: Poor planning and lack of preparation are often reasons of climb mismanagement which brings inconvenience, negative impact to nature and risk to climbers (ex: poor travel plan may cause delay which results mistimed trekking, camping etc, failure to limit participants could create damages to the trail and results to excessive use of camp site which trample mountain’s vegetation, negligence to check the condition of rope to be use for river crossing will put climbers in danger etc). Always plan ahead and prepare; attend the pre-climb meeting to know the details of the climb (see the pre-climb details below) and conduct physical preparation (ex: well-balanced diet, regular exercise and medical consultation).
Pre-Climb Details: Selection of Participant
- Background of the climb (ex: general profile, physical features etc)
- Rules and regulations at the jump-off area (ex: showing permit and requirements prior climbing, registration, securing guide if required etc)
- Updates (ex: weather forecast, trails condition etc)
- Itinerary (ex: assembly and travel arrangement, trekking time, rest stop area, possible plan B and anticipated challenges)
- Availability of water source (in jump-off and in trails)
- Campsite’s condition and capacity (if overnight)
- Meal planning (consider nutrition)
- Things to bring (see the letter B – “Basic”)
- Expenses and contributions (ex: transportation, group’s foods and drinks, guide fee etc)
- Tasking (ex: cooking task, first aid task, scribing etc)
- Trail formation (ex: advance, middle, sweep)
- Climb protocols (ex: time management for rest stop and photo opt, waste management etc)
- Emergency/Safety plan (ex: having contact number of local official in the jump-off for emergency assistance purpose, positioning of medic per partition of trail formation etc)
B – Basic: “Study the basic” - Study the basic backpacking (for proper arrangement and light packing principle), first aid (for accident preparedness) and basic ropemanship (for emergency purpose and technical ways of mountaineering) etc. “Bring the basic” – The basic things can be bring individually and in grouping manner, being a “self-contained” or having the complete set of it makes you able to sustain your needs throughout the climb (check the list of basic things below). However, bring your basic things with consideration to: needs for adventure (do not bring unnecessary things), length of adventure (overnight or day hike), weather trends/season (weather forecast, summer season, rainy season, and climate at the mountain), and trail difficulty (ex: bringing warmer and duct tape if nettles are present on the trail, bringing rope to use for river crossing etc). Also, equipment/gears must bring in good and safe condition.
Basic Things to Bring:
- Budget (with pocket money)
- Backpack with scaffolding and water proofing (ex: rain cover, using plastic or dry bag is recommended, use earth pad for scaffolding)
- Identification card
- Foods (ex: trail food, meal, emergency food)
- Water (ex: self trail water, for group consumption)
- Trekking gear (ex: trekking shoes, light weight trekking pants and shirt, trekking pole, utility rope for ascend support and river crossing)
- Clothing (ex: for cold protection; jacket, fleece, bonnet, gloves, socks), (for sunlight and skin protection; long sleeves, warmer, bush hat, cap, sun glass, gloves, trekking pants, leggings) and extra shirts
- Rain gear (ex: poncho, rain coat, rain jacket, rain pants)
- Illumination (ex: head lamp, flash light)
- Device for communication, navigation and documentation (ex: cellular phone, radio, compass, gps, altimeter watch, camera, extra batteries, charger or power bank)
- Camping materials (ex: tent, ground sheet, fly sheet, pegs, sleeping bag, earth pad, slippers or sandals, hammock for hammock camping)
- Cooking materials and eating utensils (ex: stove, cook set, lighter, matches, spoon and pork, packable plate)
- Cleaning materials (ex: water, alcohol, tissue, wet tissue)
- Toiletries and Hygiene Kit (ex: to be use in mountain; trowel, alcohol, tissue, wet tissue, sanitary napkin for women etc), (ex: recommended to use in jump-off; tooth brush, tooth paste, soap, shampoo)
- Repair kit (ex: duct tape, knife, sewing needle, sewing thread etc)
- First aid and Survival kit (ex: basic set of first aid, whistle, mirror, candies etc)
- Personal medication (it depends on your doctor’s prescription)
C – Camping: Camping is a great way to connect with nature and witness its beauty at night; however, we have to find ways to do it safe, comfortable and with consideration to environment and other campers. Check out some guidelines in doing camping (ex: bring enough and appropriate camping materials, camp on a durable surfaces and concentrate on existing campsite, plan the camping arrangement with consideration to the strengths of tent brought by co-camper, choose the site with sufficient water drainage to avoid flooding on tent in case of downpour, do not trample vegetation, save space for (level ground) cooking area and clear flammable object, camp on the place with natural wind breaker; cushioning and nearby water sources (avoid polluting), avoid camping beneath overhangs; places with insect’s nest, poisonous plants and dangerous animals, do not camp on accident prone and places with natural hazards, choose to camp at places with panoramic views if possible, manage your camp food and water, allot place for “socials” or gathering, be considerate to other campers; give way, avoid loud music and conversation, leave the camp cleaned as you found). Study the different type of tents, proper pitching and hammock camping principles (try to check out in youtube.com).
D – Disposal: Dispose waste properly; pack all trash - leftover food and litter, apply waste segregation, sealed the trash bag and keep it away from wild life, deposit human waste properly to prevent spread of disease (ex: it is usually burry in 6-8 inches deep dig for faster decomposition) and of course, bring down the garbage and don’t leave it in the jump-off area as much as possible, so the mountain and community will not suffer from waste.
E – Etiquette: Applying etiquette when doing climbing leave good impacts to people, lessen the impacts to environment and prevent accident (ex: greetings or saying “take care” to local folks and fellow climbers will give positive atmosphere among everyone on the trail, by keeping silent in trail and in camp we can prevail nature’s sounds which could enjoy by our co-and other climbers, through following the rules such us; no littering or do singe file trekking we can maintain the natural beauty of trails and in avoiding overtaking and horse playing on trail may keep us safe on our journey. Also, the etiquette should be observed in doing photography (ex: take and pose with respect to folks, culture, consideration to itinerary plan and safety). To learn more about etiquette related to mountaineering read the essay of Gideon Lasco “Etiquette of joining climbs” and “The etiquette of hiking photography” as well as different account on internet regarding “travel etiquette” (ex: being on time to ensure time management, or saying “excuse me” or “pasensya napo kung nakasikip ang malalaki naming bag” to other passengers when riding through public transportation, helping our co-climber to place the backpacks on jeepney or bus’ compartment etc).
F – Familiarity on Equipment/Gear’s usage: Basically, equipment/gears are useless if you do not know how to use it. Familiarity about the usage of mountaineering equipment/gear is really important; some of it has vital role to ensures safety in exploring the wilderness (ex: you have a rope and you need to use it for a certain activity but you didn’t know how to tie a knot, remember that improper “tied knot” or wrong use of rope could cause danger to someone, also, take note that every kind of knot attends to a different needs).
G – Go Beyond: “Go beyond the leave no trace” - Give involvement by conserving and restoring the places we visit, educate ourselves and others about environmental friendly practices. Do initiative for mountains and communities like tree planting of native trees, community integration, erasing of vandals on rock or cave and mountain clean-up. “Go beyond the climbing” - Acquire the positive outcomes of mountaineering; the benefits of it are not just being in a tough sport or we conquered many summits. In fact, there are a lot of rewards from it; it will enhance our skills like geographical skills, leadership, inter-personal skills etc. Furthermore, climbing is also a healthy activity which makes us fit and in the long run, it will make us socially, culturally and environmentally aware and sensitive.
H – Handling Equipment/Gear: Mountaineering materials are expensive and prone to damages when using it in the wilderness that’s why proper care should regularly practice to prolong its uses (ex: handle it with care preventive measures is better than repairing or buying new one, inspect gears after using, proactively repair the minor damages, avoid using of strong chemicals to maintain water proofing of tent or backpack, keep the gears clean when not in use to avoid attraction from destructive pests, applying lubricant to the zipper of tent to keep it sliding freely etc). Check out “outdoor gear reviews” on internet to become familiar in quality and maintenance.
I – Itinerary: Itinerary is a planned program of activities which includes allotted time per activity and approximations of travel and trekking time and distance of a journey. This is a guide for climbers to maximize efficient use of time and to determine the amount of mountaineering materials, provisions and level of preparation needed for adventure. Aside from that, it also has purpose for safety (ex: leave a copy of itinerary to your family, friends and local official of jump-off area, so in case of emergency situation they will be able to locate you). However, keep in mind that there is no perfect itinerary so be flexible enough in cases which adjustment of plan is needed and if the adventure is exploratory which has a lot of unconfirmed matters.
J – Joint Responsibility and Compliance: Always remember that all climbing participants have responsibility in ensuring safety; it should be “common to all” members of the climb. In terms of tasking, on the other hand, compliance of assigned person is significant to ensure efficient tramping management (ex: your team assigned for breakfast preparation and you didn’t participate, the food preparation will slow down and it will directly affect the time management, or you are asked to place trail sign on every fork of trail and you didn’t comply, climbers on your back may lost or put on risk).
K – Kill Nothing: Don’t kill wildlife, and do not patronize selling of foods or souvenirs extracted from mountain’s endangered species, so the seller will stop collecting and killing. Avoid bringing introduced species on the mountain it will threaten our biodiversity, many researches proved that alien species are invaders and can cause death to our native flora and fauna.
L – Leave what you found: Don’t bring home rocks, plants, wild life and artifacts from the mountain; permitted collections of those and climb with research purpose makes sense of discoveries, so leave it to them and for others to see it and enjoy. Respect the natural settings of outdoors, leave it as you found; do not build any structure on trail and campsite, clean up the man-made facilities like multiple fire rings, constructed seats, improvised shelter etc.
M – Minimize Impacts: Always plan and do necessary ways to minimize impacts (ex: visit the mountain in small group and apply trail etiquette to avoid soil degradation, use light weight camping stove instead of camp fires), however camp firing is useful in emergency situation but do this on well-placed like existing fire ring or use a fire fan. Preservation is good way also to avoid harmful impacts to nature (ex: not vandalize on rock, cave or tree, not leaving foreign things to wilderness, not dispersing chemicals or litter in water environment etc).
N – Navigation: This is referring to wilderness navigation; in mountaineering this is a core skill that climbers should have. Navigational competencies reduce chances of lost when exploring the outdoors; so study the trail sign principles (ex: types of trail signs, proper placing of trail sign etc), learn how to use map, compass and gadgets with navigational use. Also, practicing climb command or signal when exploring is essential (ex: using of whistle or voice signal to search the right path passed by your co-climbers, through their response you’ll be able to follow their whereabouts).
O – Online and Gadgetry: Having the internet and modern gadget like smart phone or tablet while doing outdoors will keep us connected with our family and friends; either for normal facebook use like chatting and sharing photos, text or call just to give updates about our present location and condition. But not just that of course, connectivity and gadget may give faster chance to disseminate the call for rescue when emergency comes. Aside from that, these can be use for navigation too; through the help of internet, we are able to use our downloaded global positioning system (gps) and digital compass applications which help us to get coordinates and record the trail we tracked. Though, these are not in the same accuracy as dedicated gps and compass device; even so, it might be improve in the future. However, bear in mind that we have to use our gadget reasonably considering its power will eventually lose. We must still prepare for situations where we can’t access signal and electricity and in circumstances where we need to use our basic knowledge and skills in safety and wilderness navigation. To learn more about the essence of “online and gadgetry” in outdoors see the essay of Gideon Lasco “Going outdoors and staying online”.
P – Post-Climb Meeting: Climb assessment is one of the essential parts of mountaineering, which usually do within 5 days after and sometimes right after the climb, it depends on group’s preference. This is where the members or participants shares feedback (strengths and weaknesses) and reconcile dispute from previous climb, then further followed with recommendations for improvements of next expedition. On the other hand, post-climb meet-up is also an additional bonding time.
Q – Quick response: Quick response from the group’s first aider or any member of the climb who knows to deal with accident or emergency is strongly advised, however no need to panic and safety procedure must surely do.
R – Respect the people, culture, religion, tradition, gender, race: In doing outdoor, there are possibilities to encounter different people, culture, religion, tradition, gender, race etc. We should recognize and act sensitively to give respect to that diversity (ex: Being courteous to local folks when passing through their area; do not damage any property or attempt to use it without permission of the owner. Respecting the religious symbols on trail/summit like cross, or ethnic object; do not vandalize, do not climb it, keep silent, pose with respect if you want to have a photo with it. Considering the religion of participants when doing meal planning; remember that there are religions prohibited their members to eat pork meat or beef. Preserving the sacred site of indigenous/local people like burial cave and sacred springs; respect the rules, belief, rituals, traditions involves to their place. Respecting different gender preference; do not bully and do not discriminate the climb participant who is member of Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT). Being respectful to the indigenous people; when socializing avoids any “tripping” or acts which may offend them).
Respect the Wildlife: Wildlife encounter in mountaineering is basically possible considering that mountain is the wildlife’s habitat. However, the acts which create negative impacts to wildlife should be avoided. (ex: avoid closer interaction, observe them from distance or leave them alone so they will not be stressed, scared, forced to evacuate from their natural home, or become defensive/aggressive against you, do not feed them and ensure your food are properly kept so they will not be attract to it; foreign foods may damage their health, alter behaviour and they eventually become curious to nibble things in the camp site, don’t be noisy too so the wildlife’s communication and reproduction process will not be disrupt).
S – Safety first: Safety is one of the primary concern in mountaineering or in any outdoor activity, treat this as highly prioritize matter, (ex: aborting the climb if there is expected extreme weather disturbance, being prepared and not underestimating the mountain or refraining from climbing beyond our ability, in that way we can lessen the chance of accident). On the other hand, weather in the mountain is unpredictable; always prepare for any unexpected changes in nature’s mood, and if weather abnormality happened we must decide aligned with safety (ex: during or after the heavy rain; do not attempt to cross the river without proper assessment on it or if you suspected that flash flood will come, better to check the water’s colour, observe the sounds of rolling stone, or see if there are floating trees and debris, and if the river is not passable try to look for alternative route or wait the water to subside before you proceed). In case “Emergency Camping” (e-camp) is needed, do it in a safe place and with justice to nature as much as possible. However, consider prayer as a powerful tool for our safety. To learn more, study the different safety tips in doing outdoors (ex: first aid, buddy system, having the rescue contacts 117, refraining from wearing military attire to avoid confrontation from rebel groups or government forces etc), and survival tips when you lost in the wilderness (ex: visual signalling through using fires or mirror and audio signalling through using whistle to call the attention of rescuer etc).
T – Trailing: Execute preferred trail formation of your group, comply with trail protocols, apply the trail etiquette---as mentioned in letter “E – Etiquette”--- it will leave good impacts to people, lessen the impacts to environment and prevent accident. Do the safe trailing techniques (ex: using stick or trekking pole to ensure balance in doing river crossing or use rope and safety harness if water is turbulent, checking if there are thorns on vines or bushes prior holding etc), communicate and maintain enough distance to your team, be mindful on trail signs when doing trekking to prevent lost in the wilderness.
U – Updates Checking and Sharing: Checking updates is a climber’s responsibility; do this before proceeding to the mountain to avoid surprising scenario which cause mismanagement and risk (ex: checking of weather forecasts, mountain status, safety concerns, trail condition especially after typhoon, changes in expenses and transportation system etc). However, sharing updates is a generous act which may build synchronization to the mountaineering community or groups where you belong, so share updates to our fellow climbers.
V – Vigilance: Apply vigilance for your safety and for others, be watchful and inform your co- and other climber about dangers and difficulties on trail. Also, if you notice concerns like landslide or illegal logging do not hesitate to relay it to the local authority. However, vigilance can be show also through internet, in a manner of monitoring, communicating and dissemination of information pertaining to events like natural hazards, accident or lost in the wilderness. In that way, we can help to give warnings to other climbers.
W – Water treatment: Waters in the wilderness are often contains harmful microorganisms (bacteria and parasites) which can cause variety of ailments, that’s why we need to learn ways of purifying water from wild to make it safe for consumption (ex: boiling water – this is the easiest way to purify water from wild; look for running water comes from somewhere without people or signs of pollution, filter the water to remove objects, boil it until you have rolling bubbles and let it roll out for at least 5 minutes, then let it cool down before drinking). Study the different procedure of purifying water from wilderness (ex: using purifying drops or tablets), techniques on how to find water in the wild, as well as modern water filters designated for outdoors.
Water Proofing: Use water resistant gear when doing outdoor to keep your things dry, this will also help to keep your body warm, comfortable and protected from deadly hypothermia.
X – Xperience: “Experience” – As quotes mentioned: “The best exercise for mountaineering is mountaineering”, so expand your experience in mountaineering for you to learn more about mountaineering, upgrade your climb to gain skills and confidence but stay humble and responsible.
Y – Yield: Give way to other user of trails, places for rest stop, campsites, water sources and viewing spots.
Z – “ZzzzZzzzZzzzZzzz”: “Rest” - Let the mountain rest, give them a break to give chance for recovery from mountaineering impacts. As much as possible avoid climbing popular mountains on peak season or holidays. Also, hikers should rest too in order to maintain well-balanced and healthy outdoor recreation.