Sometimes climbers/mountaineers will say that they are getting an alpine start.

What does this mean and why would they want to do this?

  • For cavers: anything before about 5pm ;-) Commented Sep 1, 2017 at 13:25

1 Answer 1


An alpine start is when one starts a climb really early in the morning (well before sunrise). Usually the goal is to make it to the top and back down before the conditions deteriorate.

Getting too late of a start increases a number of risks including,

  • Thunderstorms
  • Rockfall
  • Weakened snow bridges
  • Crampons balling up

Other times its worth getting an alpine start just to see the sunrise from the top of a mountain.

  • 1
    An alpine start is also often done to beat the crowds and maximize hours of daylight during climbing.
    – shimizu
    Commented Aug 29, 2017 at 21:27
  • @shimizu I usually do it to minimize hours of daylight on tour: Every more hour increases temperature and radiation from sun, thus softens snow.
    – imsodin
    Commented Aug 29, 2017 at 21:48
  • To be clear - Most often you do an Alpine Start its because it is the the end of the day that matters.
    – user5330
    Commented Aug 30, 2017 at 23:26
  • @shimizu Plenty crowded climbing up a high mountain in the Alps at 04:00.
    – gerrit
    Commented Nov 15, 2017 at 12:46

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