Mountaineering Training | Fit To Climb: Week 15

Posted by: | May 13, 2013
Categories: *Mountaineering Fitness & Training

EXPEDITION PHASE: PULSE CHECK

As we discussed in the summary of the last week, you really can’t build any more fitness between now and the climb. The other side of that point is there really is the potential to squander the benefits you’ve worked for by doing too much in the coming weeks and arriving to the climb thoroughly exhausted. You’ll note that there is no crux workout this week. For some people, the crux of the week is managing the reduced amount of effort and intensity. In a very similar way to being stuck on a mountain waiting for a storm to pass, this week may test your patience, but you have to recognize that to overdo it now would be akin to stepping out into the storm. There is just no point.

Roughly speaking, the training intensity and volume are reduced by 50%. Some ways to manage the additional downtime can be reviewing your gear, reading about the climb, watching a movie or catching up with friends and family. The last few weeks have been busy and your climb is coming up at the end of next week. It’s time to relax.

Given that your climb is coming up very soon, this week’s and next week’s preparation really blend into each other. As you look ahead at your schedule for the next ten days, bear in mind that it’s perfectly fine to juggle around the days to suit your needs. Another important thing to bear in mind is that it’s certainly okay to skip training days. The goal from now onwards is rest and preparation.

Week 16 is the week all the training has been leading up to. Most people are going to be a little nervous. If your nerves are getting the best of you, now is a good time to start actively practicing relaxation and anxiety management skills. My frank observation is that no matter what concerns or doubts come up between the start and the end of this week, the right thing to do in almost every case is to relax and focus on the next hour. You will need all of your energy to climb this mountain and you should feel confident that the training you have will afford you the opportunity to reach the summit of Mount Rainier.

There are, however, many things that cannot be controlled, weather and snow conditions being the biggest factors. It is easy to worry about both of these things, but I can promise you as a guide I learned not to worry about those things until the time is actually right. The determination of whether to continue or turn back is always a calculated decision made in the moment, and this is one of the fascinations of the challenge. A climbing team can have a hundred percent perfect weather forecast and if there’s a slight air pressure change two hours from the summit, this can result in white-out conditions and winds so high that turning around is the only reasonable option. It is also true that many successful climbs start out in poor visibility and inclement weather which dissipates as the team climbs higher. No one knows what the conditions will be like on your summit day and this is why the gear list contains clothing and equipment for all conditions. What you can count on is the knowledge that no matter how many times your guide has walked out of Camp Muir in the middle of the night, she or he does not forget what it was it is like the first time. Try and suspend thinking about what is happening above the clouds; I say this with absolute assurance, you will be supported by a world-class guide team.

On this note, many people report that the experience of being part of a team is one of the most memorable aspects of the climb. Being connected by carabiners and a thin nylon rope is certainly a bonding experience. The famous French guide and writer Gaston Rébuffat often spoke of the “Brotherhood of the Rope” to symbolize the connectedness of everyone on the team. It’s an amazing experience to share the mountains with like-minded climbers!

If at the end of next week, you stand on the summit of Mount Rainier, it will be because you put one foot in front of the other, over and over again, and met the challenge of climbing 9,000’ from the alpine meadows of Rainier’s foot to the glacier capped summit. Along the way, you will find synchronicity with your teammates. You will boost them when they are tired and they will do the same for you.

Fit to Climb: Week 15 Schedule

DAY WORKOUT TOTAL TIME DIFFICULTY
1 Rainier Dozen / Easy Hiking ( 30 min) 42 min. Medium
2 Rainier Dozen / Stair Interval Training (60 min) 72 min.   Hard
3 Rainier Dozen / Rest 12 min. Recovery
4 Rainier Dozen / Stair Interval Training (60 min) 72 min. Hard
5 Rainier Dozen / Rest 12 min. Recovery
6 Equipment and Food Preparation Day - -
7 Hike (4 hrs) 240 min. Medium
Total 7 hrs 30 mins.

BRIEFING

This week you scale back the volume all of your training sessions and switch back to the easier stair training at a consistent pace. You’ll still do a hike this week, but it will be only 4 hours. After the last week, this should be a walk in the park! Take an extra day of rest from physical exertion on Day 6, but you spend that time in the valuable activity of checking all your gear and making a list of all the food you’ll need for next the climb at the end of the next week.

DESCRIPTIONS OF WORKOUTS

Day 1: Rainier Dozen + Easy Hiking (30 Minutes)
Today’s hike is a recovery workout and you can always substitute it with a different activity, such as running, biking or swimming. The important thing is to move at a moderate pace for 30 to 45 minutes. The pace can be conversational and you do not need to be dripping with sweat at the end of the workout.

Day 2: Rainier Dozen +  Stair Interval Training (60 Minutes)
Warm up for about 10 minutes, and then climb up and down a set of stairs at a consistent pace for about 50 to 60 minutes. Cool down with some stretching.

Day 3: Rainier Dozen / Rest
Begin your day with the Rainier Dozen. Feel free to take another 30 to 60 minutes of light exercise if you feel like it (a brisk walk is a great option). If you feel tired, today is a good opportunity be good to take a complete rest day instead. Listen to your body.

Day 4: Rainier Dozen +  Stair Interval Training (60 Minutes)
Warm up for about 10 minutes, and then climb up and down a set of stairs at a consistent pace for about 50 to 60 minutes. Cool down with some stretching..

Day 5: Rainier Dozen / Rest
Begin your day with the Rainier Dozen. Feel free to take another 30 to 60 minutes of light exercise if you feel like it (a brisk walk is a great option). If you feel tired, today is a good opportunity be good to take a complete rest day instead. Listen to your body.

Day 6: Equipment and Food Preparation Day
If you already have all your gear ready, just use this as a rest day. Otherwise, using the lists provided by your guiding service, make sure to go through all your gear and to ensure that you have everything that you need and that everything is in clean and proper functional condition. Make sure to practice packing all this gear into your backpack so that you know how to easily get everything to fit correctly.

Day 7: Hike (4 Hours)
This is your last substantive hike before heading up the mountain. All you’re aiming to do with this hike is to maintain the level of fitness you’ve worked so hard for over the last sixteen weeks. As always, after warming up, hike at an even pace for six to eight miles, or four hours, and bring the proper amount of gear and food to keep you safe and comfortable.

SUMMARY

By this time a week from now, you’ll be at Camp Muir, just one day shy of your summit climb. For now, get plenty of rest, pay attention to nutrition, and know that you are ready.

- John Colver

Have a question? See the Fit To Climb FAQ for explanations of specific exercises and general pointers to help you through the Fit To Climb Program.

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, and is working on his second book, Fit to Climb - a 16 week Mount Rainier Fitness Program.

Mt. Rainier's Ingraham Glacier at sunrise. Photo: RMI Collection

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