Photo: Tobin Akehurst/Shutterstock

The 6 Best Starter Ranges for Mountaineering

National Parks Hiking
by David DeFranza Sep 10, 2009
All of these areas provide serious objectives for a novice mountaineer. However, when paired with a guide or experienced friend, they are ideal places to test and expand your mountain skills.
1. White Mountains of New Hampshire

Photo: <”>N.Smyth/Shutterstock

A premier destination for summer backpacking and autumn leaf peeping, the White Mountains of New Hampshire transform into an arena for serious mountaineering in the winter.

From the steep gullies of Huntington’s Ravine to the wind-ripped summit of Mount Washington, the White Mountains provide an excellent venue for learning and refining your mountaineering skills.

2. Rocky Mountains in Colorado

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Colorado’s Rocky Mountains are an ideal place to build experience at altitude and traveling over exposed terrain. Though it doesn’t require a rope or technical climbing, the Keyhole Route on Longs Peak is a serious objective with severe exposure. It is certainly a test for any budding alpinist.

3. Cascade Range in Washington State

Photo: Tobin Akehurst/Shutterstock

Mount Rainier is a classic destination for mountaineers for obvious reasons: It’s one of the best mountains in the US to climb for big adventure.

But Rainier is only one of hundreds of mountains in the Cascade range. Offering everything from glacier travel to alpine rock climbing, and serving as the home for several of the world’s best guiding companies, the range is an excellent classroom for the mountaineering student.

4. Volcanoes of Ecuador

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The Cordillera Occidental and Cordillera Oriental in Ecuador feature very high, but relatively accessible, summits.

The highest peaks, Chimborazo (20,561 feet) and Cotopaxi (19,347 feet), require only basic glacier travel and general mountain experience, making them ideal for novice mountaineers looking to experience extreme elevation.

5. Southern Alps of New Zealand

Photo: Dmitry Pichugin/Shutterstock

Though the altitude is relatively low, the Southern Alps of New Zealand provide an excellent opportunity to build confidence on more technical terrain.

Involving steep couloirs, heavily crevassed glaciers, and extreme coastal weather, the mountains of the Southern Alps allow beginners to stretch their abilities under the supervision of a guide.

6. French Alps

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The French Alps, and specifically Mont Blanc, have been an alpine proving ground since the birth of the sport. What better place to test your skills than on one of the classic routes up the original mountaineering objective?

Mont Blanc offers a whole range of routes, but even the easiest requires basic mountaineering skills and experience with glacier travel. The area, of course, is serviced by some of the best mountain guides in the world.

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More tips for the beginning mountaineer can be found in 7 Mountaineering Essentials and How to Get Started Mountaineering.

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