Mountains have always thrown a challenge to the spirit of man and he always accepted it. The loftier a mountain, the greater is his desire to conquer it, to climb the highest peak and to enjoy the thrill of victory. Nearly all the mountains of the world have now been conquered by the persistence and perseverance of man. Even Mount Everest cannot now claim to be invulnerable, having already been scaled several times, the first time by Hillary, and an English man. Several expeditions were organized to negotiate this highest mountain-peak in the world and at least four of them have been successful-British, Swiss, American and Indian. The Chinese too claim to have conquered Mount Everest from the other side but their claim has not been accepted by many.
Life offers challenge to man and some people are fascinated by it. Danger to them is the very essence of life and they feed on the delight which they experience in overcoming it. Mountaineering appeals to them as it makes the heaviest demands upon their courage, perseverance and powers of endurance. It is a dangerous adventure. As one climbs higher and higher, the air becomes more and more rarified and breathing becomes more and more difficult. To obviate this some climbers now carry a heavy apparatus from which they can inhale oxygen. The climber finds it really hazardous because at any moment he may stumble or slip and go crashing downwards. The unbearable cold is another difficulty which climbers face. Then there are storms and blizzards. It is an ordeal to walk through snow in which one sinks to the knees. It is still more dangerous to climb upwards on ice where foothold is impossible and steps have to be cut in the ice with axes in order to make progress. The cold is so severe that the climbers’ feet, toes and fingers suffer frostbite and become useless. Blizzard loosens huge masses of stone and ice which come crashing from above and may engulf all the climbers. Many lives have been lost on account of these avalanches in the past few years. It is, indeed, wonderful that despite all these stumbling blocks, so many mountain peaks and summits have been conquered by various climbing expeditions.
No doubt, climbing requires special knowledge, skills and equipment. Mountain climbers must be in good physical condition and have good judgment. Even many skilled climbers have lost their lives trying to conquer challenging peaks. Mountaineers must know how to use maps and compasses, because they often must find their way where there are trails. They must travel through dense woods as they approach a mountain and cross steep slopes and rock slides above the tree line on the mountain. Near the summit of a high peak, the climbers may have to scale steep rock faces and plod over snow fields and glaciers filled with crevasses.
In dangerous areas, climbers rope themselves together in groups of two, three or more persons. Only one climber may move at a time. The others brace themselves to pull the rope and keep the climber from falling if he should slip. Climbers carry packsacks loaded with first aid kit, foot and extra clothing for sudden changes in weather. Most climbers used to wear hobnailed boots before World War-II, but today they often wear rubber-soled boots. Some climbers prefer flat or ropesoled shoes, which do not slip on wet rocks. Climbers may also strap crampass on their boots for climbing on ice or hard snow. In addition, a climber may carry an ice axe to aid, in keeping his balance to cut steps in snow and ice, and to stop himself from falling. They may also carry snow-glasses.