Logistics: Be prepared
But first, get serious about a conditioning program. The value of conditioning cannot be underestimated. A strong body frees you to concentrate on climbing techniques and your surroundings, the two cornerstones of a successful climb. Running, cycling, weights, and stair machines will soon whip your body into shape. Obviously, vigorous hiking and climbing will also help.
As the body is made ready, begin acquiring gear. The most important items are very good boots (which can be rented with crampons for about $25 for a weekend) and a reliable Gore-Tex or equivalent outer shell. Discount suppliers offer a decent parka and pants starting around $200.
From this point, begin searching for the best price on thermal layers including very good socks and sock liners. For the rest of your body, buy a CoolMax first layer and a toasty PolarGuard fleece layer, all for less than $100.
After these key items, begin your search for gloves, gaiters, and a hat. And find a good rental option for your cold-weather sleeping bag, tent, ice ax, and crampons.
All that remains is selection of a peak to test your mettle and metal. In most regions, suitable summits can be found with a little research and a tank of gas, including the White Mountains of New England, along the Rocky Mountains, from Humphreys Peak in Arizona, Mount Shasta in California, and the Cascades of the Northwest.