Have you ever packed a backpack with food and water, donned some walking shoes and spent the day walking along a trail, taking in the beauty of the natural environment? In that case, you already know what hiking is. But what about trekking? What’s the difference between hiking and trekking? And where do mountain climbing and rock climbing come in? Let’s find out.
Mountain climbing, as the term implies, means to climb a mountain. The aim is to reach the top of the mountain. On the way to the summit, climbers will do some serious hiking and rock climbing, or they might have to cross snow and ice or jump down into deep rock pools to cross to the next side.
As you can see, mountain climbing is challenging and it can be very risky depending on the terrain and the altitude. Some mountain peaks can be reached by simply hiking up the mountain, like Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Others like Mount Everest in Nepal and the Matterhorn in the Alps, are very risky to climb. Very high mountains like these pose special dangers like thin air, frostbite, snow blindness and hypothermia.
To overcome these challenges, you need to be proficient in rock climbing, ice climbing, and survival skills. And importantly, you have to be able to assess the physical terrain and the weather, so you can decide whether it’s safe to continue.
Depending on the terrain, you need to know how to use the following gear: ropes, a harness, an ice axe, crampons, a belay device, carabiners, and ice screws. Crampons are attached to footwear to ease ice climbing. A belay device is a mechanical piece of climbing equipment used to control a rope during belaying.
Rock climbing is an aspect of mountain climbing. Rock climbing involves scaling sheer rocks that can be found in mountainous areas. It can be an activity on its own or it can be part of the challenges that you face when you attempt to climb a mountain.
With rock climbing you attempt to scale a rock face. With mountain climbing you attempt to climb the entire mountain so you can reach the summit. Along the way to the top, you might have to do some rock climbing.
Rock climbing has always been part and parcel of mountaineering. Mountain climbers have always needed rock climbing skills to reach the summit of a mountain. It is only in the 1880s that, at least in Europe, rock climbing became an activity of interest independent from mountain climbing. There are many styles of rock climbing.
As a sport, rock climbing also involves artificial climbing walls. For climbing an artificial wall or a natural cliff, you need a helmet, safety harness, climbing ropes and other special equipment, depending on the difficulty of the climb.
It’s a sport that requires you to be physically fit and agile like a gymnast. You must be able to spot a possible route, bend and twist your body to reach impossible holds, and then use the strength of your fingers, hands and arms to pull yourself to the next position. And throughout all of this, you have to be able to keep calm. What this sport demands is mental fortitude as, make no mistake, scaling a sheer cliff can be both scary and dangerous.
Both rock climbing and mountain climbing require special gear, physical fitness and mental fortitude. Mountain climbing is an attempt to reach the summit of a mountain; rock climbing is an attempt to scale a rock face.
Hiking is the easiest of these four outdoor sports. It doesn’t require any specific gear or skills, except a certain level of fitness if you are contemplating a hike of a few days or weeks like the Camino de Santiago. This popular walk attracts 200,000 enthusiasts of all levels of fitness each year.
Hiking is simply a walk with a backpack following an established trail. A hike can be as short as a few hours or as long as 30 km. The Camino de Santiago walk comprises multiple days of hiking. For such an undertaking you would need to prepare and you’ll need special trainers to protect your feet.
Hiking can take place anywhere across any terrain in mountainous areas, along the coast, in a forest. There are even city hikes. Hikes vary in difficulty from easy to moderate, with some on level terrain and others featuring steep inclines.
Even level terrain can be taxing. For instance, an 18 km hike along a sandy beach is pleasant, but it’s exhausting and hard on the feet and leg muscles. Although you don’t need any special skills for hiking, a long hike can be very taxing on the body. Don’t attempt a hike of 20km if you’re out of shape.
If you know you’re in for a long hike, the most important item to pack is water. You don’t want to run out of water halfway through your hike.
Also, keep in mind that the elevation gain of the terrain will determine how difficult the hike is. After all, it’s much easier to hike 10 miles (16km) on level terrain than doing the same distance walking up and down valleys and hills.
There are thousands of hiking trails scattered across the world, many of them going through areas of great natural beauty. Hiking is one of the easiest outdoor activities. Anyone can enjoy it. Google some nature trails in your area or read about eight epic hikes in the world to inspire you.
The most famous trek in the world is the one to the Everest Base Camp in Nepal. This strenuous trek cutting across many valleys and through mountain villages tells you all about the difference between hiking and trekking: trekking is similar to hiking but it is much more challenging.
Trekking also involves walking, but it’s over rougher, undeveloped terrain that challenges you physically and mentally. The terrain is often of such a nature that normal transport cannot be used there. The trek often goes through high mountains and deep valleys that are difficult to cross.
Trekking isn’t only done as an outdoor adventure activity – in some isolated places in the world trekking is a case of necessity because there is no transport of any kind available.
A trek through difficult and challenging terrain can last for several days and can turn into an intense experience. You need a lot of physical and mental strength for such a journey. In a way, going on a trekking trip is like going back to the times when there was no modern transport and people had to walk to their destination, taking with them everything they need to survive the trip.
Trekkers usually walk with more than just a backpack packed with the basic necessities for the day, like hikers do. Trekkers usually carry with them tents, sleeping bags, cooking equipment, camping gear, and a survival kit.
However, not all trekking experiences require you to carry all your gear. People who do the trek to the Everest Base Camp in Nepal can hire the services of a Sherpa to guide them and carry their equipment up the mountain. You can sign up for a trek that employs people to carry gear and equipment, cook meals, and set up tents.
Whereas hiking is a popular pastime throughout the world, there are only a few places where you can go on a trekking adventure: the Himalayan foothills in Nepal, India, Bhutan and the Andes in South America. There is also the 50-mile Overland Track in Tasmania and the Baltoro Glacier & K2 Track in Pakistan.
To summarize, both trekking and hiking involve walking. Hiking is relatively easy and doesn’t require special skills or equipment. Hiking follows predetermined nature trails. Trekking, on the other hand, is a more challenging experience that goes through undeveloped wilderness and tests your physical and mental endurance.