"If you've never climbed a mountain but want to start, start small," says Dave Kelly, climbing school manager for the Eastern Mountain Sports Climbing School. "There are lots of great mountains for beginners in the U.S.," he says. "The main thing is to go prepared." Kelly's six-step prescription for beginner mountain climbers
1. Learn how to read a trail map and use a compass.
2. Get good hiking boots, appropriate to the climate and condition you will be climbing in. Break them in before climbing.
3. Be prepared for the duration. Bring enough food and water for your climb.
4. Leave a plan of where you will go with someone who can call for help if you don't arrive on time at your destination.
5. Don't attempt a climb alone. Go with a climbing buddy who is as well prepared as you are.
6. Take a climbing lesson beforehand and be in shape when you go out on your first mountain climb.
Some of Kelly's recommendations for U.S. mountains for beginner climbers:
- Chimney Tops Trail,Great Smoky Mountains, GA
- Precipice Mountain, Acadia National Park, ME
- Pleasant Mountain, Denmark, ME
- Big Equinox Mountain, Manchester, VT
- Mount Mansfield, Stowe, VT
- Mount Monadnock, Jaffrey, NH
- Black Cap, North Conway, NH
- Mt. Chocorua, Chocorua, NH
- Catoctin Mountain, Blue Ridge Summit, MD
Internationally, many small mountains appropriate for new climbers can be found in the United Kingdom and Ireland.
Croagh Patrick is the most prominent mountain overlooking Clew Bay on the Atlantic coast of County Mayo, Ireland. Every year on the last Sunday in July, Christian pilgrims climb the mountain in honor of its namesake, Saint Patrick. The rigor of the walk to the top is tough but invigorating, achievable normally in under three hours, and rewarded in good weather with one of the finest maritime panoramas in the West of Ireland. It is one of Europe's truly ancient pilgrimages.
Mount Snowdon is the highest mountain in Wales and has the distinction of being the mountain that Sir Edmund Hillary trained on before his quest for Everest. Questing is another theme familiar to fans of Snowdon. It is rumored that King Arthur and his knights are buried under the mountain, awaiting the call for their return. First climbers on their own quest can study an intricate web of paths up to the cloud-covered summit that vary in difficulty.
Cairngorm Mountain in Scotland's Cairngorms National Park offers an abundance of first-class mountaineering terrain with impressive 360-degree views of Scotland. The park also has the largest area of arctic mountain landscape in the U.K. A funicular railway runs up Cairngorm Mountain. Britain's highest restaurant - the Ptarmigan Restaurant - is located at the top, serving local produce from the Highlands of Scotland. The Cairngorm Mountain Railway is the highest railway in Britain, and takes diners, tourists and skiers up to Ptarmigan Station, just 122 meters (400 feet) below the summit of Cairngorm's peak. www.visitbritain.com