What Is Hiking, Trekking And Mountaineering?
Updated: Jun 7, 2020
Although hiking, trekking and mountaineering sound the same or are used in the same context, they actually vary greatly in terms of duration, difficulty and terrain.
It is important to understand what activity you are partaking in because it will help you navigate through the Internet and the endless options that are available for each activity.
The Differences Between Hiking, Trekking And Mountaineering
Hiking is defined as “the activity of going for long walks, especially across country”. Hiking is normally done at low altitudes on specific, well marked, easy trails, all of which doesn’t really require any special equipment. Generally hiking is done on a half-day route or full day route and multi day hikes are then classified as multi-day hikes or multi-day backpacking because you’d need to carry a few supplies with you. Hiking tends to be the easiest activity between all three and can normally be done without any real training.
For example: The Reinebringen Route in Lofoten Islands in Norway. The route is about 5km. It takes two to three hours to complete and starts just outside the village of Reine. The highest altitude point is 448m.
Trekking is defined as “the activity of going on a long arduous journey”. Trekking is more challenging than hiking and if you are looking at a trekking route compared to a hiking route, you should expect the trekking route to be more physically demanding. Trekking is also done at higher altitudes and often on or around a mountain. Trekking does require you to have trained before hand. There is a seriousness that comes with trekking as it is often done over much more challenging terrain and does require planning and preparation, as well as some safety considerations.
For example: The Annapurna Circuit in Nepal. The route encircles the mountain known as Annapurna in the Himalayan Mountain Range. The trek is about 160km to 230km depending on the starting point. It generally takes about 18 days to complete. The highest altitude reached is 5,416m
FYI - The Annapurna Circuit is not the same as The Annapurna Base Camp Trek.
Mountaineering is defined as “the sport or activity of climbing mountains”. The biggest character of mountaineering is that you are climbing a mountain or trekking along a mountain route with the aim of reaching the summit. This tends to be much more challenging than a general trekking route. Mountaineering requires you to be even better trained than trekking and to have mentally prepared, as the conditions tend to be harsh and in some cases life threatening. Mountaineering preparation can and should take several months depending on the mountain. Mountaineering does require you to have some technical skills but there is a wide range of skills and levels.
Some people define mountaineering as the sport of climbing mountains and the use of technical mountain climbing skills for mountains like Ama Dablam, which is true but not always the case. For example, Aconcagua in Argentina. You are climbing to the summit of a peak but this specific mountain does not require a huge amount of technical skills apart from the use of crampons and an ice axe for self arresting.
Mountaineering is the activity of climbing a mountain with the purpose of reaching the Summit. The difference comes in terms of skill sets required.
An example of a non-technical mountain would be Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. It takes about six to 10 days to reach the summit depending on the route you’ve chosen. The Summit altitude is 5,895m.
An example of a technical mountain would be Lhotse, which lies just south of Mount Everest in the Himalaya’s. The summit altitude is 8,516m and it normally takes about 60 days to climb. Lhotse requires the climber to have a wide and very good skill set in terms of mountaineering.
Now that you understand all three activities, it will make deciding what you’d like to do more easily. Whatever you decide to do, just do it. I have never met anyone who ahs regretted being outdoors.