Mountain Environments: Know Your Playground – STO 014

Howdy folks – sorry this post is a few days late. Got behind schedule… Anyway, back to the show!

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K2 stands tall

Renan Ozturk. If you haven’t seen the film Meru or heard his story, you should at least check him out (for those interested). The short version: in preparing for a climb up a remote mountain in Tibet, Renan took quite a tumble in the Grand Teton range near Jackson, Wyoming. He suffered multiple broken bones, but worst of all broke one of his vertebrae in such a way that half of his brain was dying as he was on his way to surgery. Through sheer willpower and grit, he recovered – not only to survive, but to be in physically capable shape to tackle the route he was training for!

Renan got injured and almost lost his life. Imagine you were in his situation. Would you know all the bells and whistles of the playground you were in to maximize your chances of survival in case something went awry? I can guarantee you Renan did – and this should be a solid takeaway. Therefore, I felt we could talk about general mountain ecosystems and some things to know before you go out there to play.

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The Matterhorn

Mountain Basics:

Mountains are pretty cool – although there isn’t a universally accepted definition, they are typically defined as a standout feature or peak based upon the surrounding landscape. Their peaks are typically formed through volcanic or tectonic forces, which cause local rises in terrain. In some cases, mountains are eroded and formed through glacial melt, river-flow, and environmental conditions. The basic types of mountain formations are; Volcanoes, Fold Mountains, Block Mountains, and Eroded Mountains.

Covering nearly 24% of the Earth’s surface, the mountain environment clearly plays a large role in our day to day life from providing vast living spaces to providing nearly 80% of the world’s drinking water. But, it also houses a vast array of flora and fauna. Deer, bears, ferns, trees, you name it. Due to this and their high altitudes, sometimes with peaks rising upwards of 5000ft from the base, mountain ecosystems are typically delicate and in a continuous state of change.

Mountain Climates:

As everyone knows, as you get higher in altitude the temperature drops. The reasons behind this are pretty complex, but the two biggest factors are radiation/convection and air pressure. I don’t want to get too in depth with the science behind it, but as a piece of air heats it rises and falls in equilibrium with the air molecules around it. The greater the density, the lower the air will sit compared to the surround air. As you make your way up a mountain, the temperature drop is known as the lapse rate. The average temp change per 1000 ft is 5.3F. If you plan on tackling big summits or plan on going into high alpine environments, be sure to pack warm gear cause it will more thank likely get nice and cool.

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Torres del Paine

Mountains can also create their own climates, meaning you may be in for a rough day of pop-up storms. This is why it’s always a good idea – even if you plan on just hiking some easy trails – to pack a little bit more gear than you think you’ll need.

How does all this affect you?

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Sir Winston Churchill

The reason it’s important to know this stuff is that it’s YOUR playground. Because the mountains are rarely forgiving, it’s a good idea to know what you’re going into before you go. So, check your maps, check the weather, pack season appropriate gear, and always let someone know where you plan on going and when you plan on being back. Many adventures start of super fun, only to be crushed by some ill-begotten planning – don’t let that be you!

If you’d like to learn more on the mountains or how to get into the sport of mountain climbing, check out the book: Freedom of the hills

Hey  – you’ve reached the end of the article! Congrats! You slogged through my content and hopefully gained a piece or two of solid knowledge, otherwise were hopefully entertained!

If you found this content useful and would like more in the future please head over to my Patreon page. Every donation helps produce more outdoor content, so even if you only donate once a month please consider me!

If you’re like me, you enjoy utilizing the national parks every chance you can. I run an ecommerce store which provides apparel that takes 1% of every sale and donates it to the parks.

Until the next one, get out there and enjoy YOUR adventure!!!


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