Climbing vs Hiking

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Climbing vs Hiking

Post by Chairforce26 » December 28th, 2019, 9:54 pm

Hi I'm new to this forum. As a side note, yes I am a firearms enthusiast but that's probably the last time I will ever mention that on this forum. I want to get more into hiking but more specifically climbing and mountaineering.

Quick question for you guys: at what point does a "hike" become a "climb?"

I like to do a lot of day hikes, like Mount Hamilton or Dog Mountain in the Gorge. Occasionally I'll do some coastal trails like Cape Lookout. I wouldn't really consider any of those Gorge hikes "climbs" except maybe Mount Defiance.
The only thing I've done that might qualify as an actual "climb" recently is Mount Saint Helens which I've done about every other year since 2010. In my opinion it is probably one of the toughest non-technical climbs that can be done in a single morning/afternoon around here. I have this personal goal I made since first submitting Mount Saint Helens where I'd like to climb Mount Adams, Mount Hood, and ultimately Mount Rainier. Adams I've heard is similar to Mount Saint Helens but taller and longer, typically a two day climb but some people do it in one. Mount Hood is a pretty technical climb more involved than Saint Helens or Adams. Rainier is a whole 'nother animal all together. A coworker of mine once climbed Rainier and he said he trained for over a year to be able to climb that mountain and it was probably the most physically demanding thing he said he'd ever done up until that point.

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Re: Climbing vs Hiking

Post by Bosterson » December 28th, 2019, 10:13 pm

Welcome! To answer your question, one could say that on a basic level, a "climb" requires you to use your hands at least somewhat. (And obviously when you get into the higher levels of alpinism, things are very steep and there is very little walking.) By that definition, the 3 big walk up snow hill volcanoes around here (St Helens, Adams, and South Sister) would be "hikes" rather than "climbs," but conventionally one uses the word "climb" to talk about ascending mountains. It's not really an important difference when it comes to things you just walk up, though I'd say there's no trail destination in the Gorge than you'd use "climb" for in a semantic way (not even Defiance, it's a hike). The bigger thing is understanding the difference in seriousness between different mountain climbs: South Sister is a hill with a conga line going up it; Helens is quick, especially in summer when it's mostly or all bare, but is more challenging (though still a walk up) with full snow; Adams isn't tricky, just big (I would recommend doing it in a single day rather than carry heavy gear up to camp at the Lunch Counter); Hood is deceptive because it starts at a resort and most of it is a walk up, but the final bit can be steep, icy, tricky, etc depending on conditions, and is a more serious and dangerous endeavor; Rainier has glacier travel and is much higher, so crevasses and altitude become issues.

If you don't have climbing/mountain experience, you might look into taking classes from the Mazamas, like their beginner climbing (BCEP) program, to learn the necessary safety skills.
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Re: Climbing vs Hiking

Post by adamschneider » December 28th, 2019, 10:16 pm

When people hike up a major peak, they often call it climbing even if it was Class 1 all the way up. (I disagree with Bosterson: you don't need to use your hands to call it a climb. That just makes part of it "scrambling.") But I don't think anyone knows exactly where the line is that changes the verb. It'd be weird to say you "climbed" Dog Mountain, but totally understandable to say you "climbed" South Sister, even though both mountains involve exactly the same skills (at least in the summer). One is just bigger.

But if people say they're "going climbing," they usually mean rock climbing, which means there will be ropes. Or maybe they mean mountaineering, which involves ice axes and often ropes too.

By the way, your intel about the local volcanoes is accurate: Mt. Adams is mostly just a walk-up, similar to Mt. St. Helens but MUCH longer. Mt. Hood requires technical gear (and either a guide or mountaineering experience), but it can be done in a day. Some of the routes on Mt. Rainier aren't especially "technical" (depending on the season), but they're all VERY physically demanding.

Oh, and don't forget Mt. Shasta: difficulty-wise, a couple of the routes are similar to Adams. And it involves much less red tape than Rainier.

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Re: Climbing vs Hiking

Post by retired jerry » December 29th, 2019, 6:42 am

to add, above 10,000 feet elevation I get a headache which is typical. South Sister (another good climb) is just barely. St Helens is under so not a problem. Hood and Adams give me a bad headache. Rainier was terrible. Sometimes people have serious injury on Rainier, or even death. Quickly get back down below 10,000 and I'm fine again.

I did the Mazamas basic climbing school a long time ago, good idea.

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Re: Climbing vs Hiking

Post by BigBear » December 30th, 2019, 12:55 pm

The simple definition of a "climb" is when your hands touch the surface to gain footage to the next level. Yes, this includes Angels Rest and Ruckel Ridge - they are hikes with sections of the route which are class 3 scrambles (as defined below). Whereas South Sister in the late summer would be a class 2 steep incline.

A second definition of a climb exists when a peak is glaciated. Even though a route may not require glacial travel, glaciated peaks are separate from non-glaciated peaks. This definition leaves out rock climbs which are technical.

The third definition of "climbing" is noted below in specific classifications:

Initially developed to describe a full range of backcountry travel, the YDS rates technical rock climbs from 5.0 through 5.15.

Route Classifications

Class 1 Walking an established flat, easy trail
Class 2 Hiking a steep incline, scrambling, maybe using your hands.
Class 3 Climbing a steep hillside, moderate exposure, a rope may be carried but not used,
and hands are used in climbing. A short fall could be possible.
Class 4 It is steeper yet, exposed and most people use a rope due to the potential of long falls.
Class 5 Climbing is technical and belayed roping with protection is required. It is not for a novice.
Any fall from a Class 5 could be fatal.

Class 5 sub-categories
5.1-5.4 Easy. A steep section that has large handholds and footholds. Suitable for beginners.
5.5-5.8 Intermediate. Small footholds and handholds. Low-angle to vertical terrain. Beginner to intermediate rock climbing skills required.
5.9-5.10 Hard. Technical and/or vertical, and may have overhangs. These hard climbs require specific climbing skills that most weekend climbers can attain.
5.11-5.12 Hard to Difficult. Technical and vertical, and may have overhangs with small holds. Dedicated climbers may reach this level with lots of practice.
5.13-5.15 Very Difficult. Strenuous climbing that’s technical and vertical, and may have overhangs with small holds. These routes are for expert climbers who train regularly and have lots of natural ability.
6.0 Can’t be free climbed. Devoid of hand- and footholds, the route can only be aid-climbed. An added rating of A1 through A5 further designates difficulty level.

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