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Hugh Barrington often finds himself on top of the world. “When I’m sitting on a cliff thousands of feet up, the view can be incredible,” says the 35-year-old Seattle-based marketing consultant. You see, Barrington’s after-hours hobby is mountain climbing. He’s been climbing for six years, scaling mountainsides about two to three times a month.
“For me, it’s a way to relax. I can sit on the side of a mountain and be content,” says Barrington, who finds climbing a benefit to his business life as well. “You have to be very organized and detail oriented when you’re preparing for a climb. You have to plan a route, be up to the challenge and be very focused.” Team work is also essential to climbing. “When you’re climbing with others, your safety depends on how well you can work with and trust one another,” he notes.
Barrington’s love of mountain climbing evolved from hiking. To get started, Barrington took a three-month course with Boeing Alpine Society. “There’s a lot to learn, so it’s best to take a course,” says Barrington. As a precursor to climbing, consider hiking first.
Courses run from two days to up to a month or more. “It depends on what sort of climbing you are doing,” says James Healy, president of MountainFIT Inc. (800-926-5700; www.mountainfit.com), a Bozeman, Montana-based hiking/adventure tour company. “Climbers have spent years gaining experience before attacking monsters like Everest.”
Beyond learning the basics of this outdoor activity, beginners need to invest in equipment. You can start for as little as $400, says Barrington, who confesses to spending considerably more. “I’m a ‘gear junkie’ so I’m always buying the latest equipment.” Climbers can also rent equipment from outdoor sports stores.
While Barrington is always looking for higher peaks to climb, he has no desire to summit the ultimate challenge-Mount Everest. “The odds are against you before you start,” says Barrington. “The statistics show that many people die each year trying to reach the summit. Right now, I have no desire to try.” On the other hand, Barrington’s next climb-the 14,410-foot Mount Rainier-is no small feat either.
- Take a course. Many outdoor stores offer them. Try the National Outdoor Leadership School (307-332-5300; www.nols.edu). They’ve taught climbing for more than three decades at various sites across the country.
- Get a partner. Always climb with seasoned mountaineers. “Know your climbing partners well,” advises James Healy, president of the MountainFIT tour company. “Know the extent of their training and experience. Your life could depend on them. Conversely, their life could depend on you, so don’t get in over your head.”
- Join a club. The Colorado Mountain Club (303-279-3080) and the Appalachian Mountain Club (www.outdoors.org) are options, but there are others. Check on the Internet to find one in your area. These clubs organize outings and networking opportunities. Companies like MountainFIT also offer hiking vacations.