31. Travel Methods

Here we discuss travel methods for alpine climbing and mountaineering.

Across the arenas of alpinism and mountaineering, there are several travel methods which include:

– Skis
– Snowshoes
– Crampons
– Boot Pack
– Splitboards or Snowboards

The decision of how to travel in the mountains is mostly determined by the terrain and conditions, as well as the technical nature of the route or objective.

If travel is below the snow line, or if the route involves minimal snow travel, then approach shoes or alpine boots are often the best choice.

If the majority of the travel is on snow, then the decision becomes a little more challenging.

If the terrain is mostly moderate snow but deep, then snowshoes may be the ticket for those who do not have the skills to ski or board in the backcountry. Snowshoeing is often slower, requires more effort, and is way less fun on the way down, but it is a mode of travel that is often used in mountaineering because it is the easiest way to approach in your mountaineering boots.

There are times when skiers and boarders may still choose snowshoes, and leave the skis or board at home. This might include shorter approaches, steeper approaches through thick trees, or to the base of ice climbs in deep powder snow, where you may want to wear your ice boots and not climb in ski boots.

If the snow is well consolidated, or if there is a boot pack, then simply walking in boots may be the way to go.

The decision to put on crampons, versus simply kicking steps with boots, depends on the firmness of the snow. If you can kick your feet into the snow and create a step, then boots are the most appropriate choice. If the snow is firm and will not take a boot kick then crampons tend to be the best.

The danger of wearing crampons in soft snow is that the crampons often collect snow or “ball up” under foot. That said you may choose to keep crampons on if you are on variable terrain that includes steep and firm snow. In these cases it is better to leave your crampons on, rather than trying to put them on while in a precarious position when you actually do need them.

Try to avoid taking crampons off when crossing a short section of rocks. Learning to walk in crampons over rock helps save time by avoiding extra transitions.

Please see our CTT videos on walking in snow, kicking steps, and the use of crampons!

We hope you found this video helpful. Feel free to comment below with questions or thoughts!


Please remember, climbing is inherently dangerous. Climb at your own risk.