Mountaineering Training | First Steps: Thinking About Your Training Plan

Posted by: | October 01, 2012
Categories: *Mountaineering Fitness & Training

I’ll never forget the day I decided to be a mountain climber. I was sixteen years old, sitting in a lecture hall at Edinburgh University - captivated by the slideshow being presented by the famous British Expedition Leader, Sir Chris Bonnington and his climbing partner Doug Scott. After it ended I got myself to the front and spoke to the man himself asking, “How do you begin to start to plan an expedition?”
 
“Just get your boots on, Lad”, was the reply, accompanied by a larger-than-life grin and a firm handshake. 
 
I had no response. However, that one comment led to many climbs the Scottish Highlands - and ultimately - onto years of expeditions, mountain climbing including a long stint as a guide. It’s been a long and satisfying adventure so far! 
 
I think that after the decision to climb Mt. Rainier or any other major mountain, there ought be a celebratory moment: a pause to mark the start of the preparation and to consider what the months ahead will look like. The climb may be a long way out, but the adventure starts now.
 
What are some considerations at this point? I recommend taking an inventory of the following:  
 
- Time
- Equipment
- Fitness & Health
- Location & available resources
 
Time: What time do I have to train? Be realistic about how many hours per week and also consider any vacation time in the months ahead. Is there a day (or half day) each week you can devote to training? What can you do on a daily basis? Can you combine training and a commute? Walk to work with a pack? Ride a bike? 
 
Equipment: Will you be renting or will you likely need some gear of your own? To begin your training, all you’ll need now are shoes, boots, a backpack and workout/hiking clothes. And going forward, there’ll be good time to experiment with socks, layering and other clothing. Depending where you live (anyone reading this from Chicago or the northern states?), you might get some good use of cold-weather gear this winter during your training. 
 
Fitness & Health: In next week’s blog post we’ll discuss how to set a baseline. Now is a good time to think about your strengths and any areas you want to improve. In terms of health, this might be a good time to schedule an annual physical examination, to visit the dentist, to take a look at your overall diet, and to generally consider what your athletic lifestyle will look like going forwards.
 
Location and Available Resources: A climber can train for mountaineering anywhere. However, if you are living in Florida, stationed on a military base halfway around the world, or getting ready for a northern winter, some creativity and imagination will make things more successful. In terms of resources at hand, do you have access to hiking trails? Are there hills? Can you get to a gym or have access to a stair-master or elliptical machine? Do you have a place at home, work, or school where you can workout? Is there a local yoga class, training facility, spin class, or swimming pool? Do you even like any of these activities? Do you have a workout partner, a fitness coach, or a personal trainer? 
 
We’ll discuss program design over the next few weeks. For now, a little time considering all of the options available will spark your imagination as to what is going to work for you. I’ve always thought that the best fitness program is the one you actually do. Personally, I like to enjoy my training and I like there to be variety and somewhat of a social aspect to it all. You’ll be putting in some hours and days of preparation over the months ahead and making it as fun and interesting as possible will boost results. 
 
Your climb is months away, yet the adventure has already begun. Congratulations on getting started!
 
- John Colver
 
John Colver is a longtime climber, former mountain guide, and certified personal trainer with the American Council of Exercise. Colver introduced outdoor fitness classes to athletic clubs throughout the greater Puget Sound region before creating his adventX brand. Currently, adventX leads training programs in Seattle and Colver presents clinics on outdoor fitness at companies such as Microsoft, Boeing, the American Lung Association, and REI. Colver lives in Seattle.

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Comments

I have some big mountaineering goals. I’m not sure how much training and fitness is necessary. I’m trading for Ironman Lake Tahoe as a way to get fit for mountaineering. Is doing this enough fitness? 

I have asked this question here before. I still have not heard from anyone. I would hate to find out I don’t have enough fitness on the mountain.

Posted by: Will Beaubien on 2/9/2014 at 6:05 pm

Any opinions on CrossFit? I’m somewhat short on time and do this about four times a week. It’s fun. I also do a long endurance hike with weight 4+ hours once a week. I fight forest fires during the summer for the Forest Service and this is my off season training regime. I’m aiming to climb Rainier via the Kautz glacier or another similar route. Any suggestions for adding to or changing my training plan? Thanks!

Posted by: Tim on 10/13/2013 at 6:32 pm

Love this new series of articles.  I may not climb any mountains any time soon…but your suggestions on how to prepare for a climb can be applied to many other commitments in my life.  I’m almost half-way through the Fit By Nature 12-week challenge and enjoy reading anything that helps stay committed.  I look forward to the next installment.

Posted by: Kimberly Ylitalo on 10/3/2012 at 11:47 am

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