Posts for Mountaineering Fitness & Training

Mountaineering Training | Focus on Footwork

Posted by: Lindsay Mann | August 05, 2013
Categories: *Mountaineering Fitness & Training

Footwork and the ability to “read the terrain” to find the best footing is an important element of being able to climb safely and efficiently. During our Mountaineering Day School, our guides focus their efforts on teaching the “rest step”. The rest step is an important efficiency technique where climbers take small steps, pausing between steps with their weight on their back leg. This is a technique that enables climbers to get a “rest” with each step since their bodyweight is resting on their skeletal system instead of their muscles, effectively giving the legs a quick break. 

An important aspect to the rest step is paying attention to your footwork and deciding on your foot placement: finding the right place to set your foot so that you have full control while still benefiting from the small, efficient movements of the rest step. We commonly ask people to “climb with their eyes” by scanning the terrain and other climbers foot placements ahead to spot the best places to set their feet. Instead of getting fixated on only the next step, it is important to anticipate future terrain and foot placement. Thinking a few steps ahead allows you to see all of your options in front of you.

This is something that can be practiced before coming to climb Mt. Rainier or taking part in any of our climbs and expeditions. When going out on your training hikes, whether long or short, take the time to focus on your footwork. Ask yourself, “How big are my steps? Can I take a smaller step? Is there a better flat place for me to put my foot?” Constantly challenge yourself to find the easiest and most efficient foot placement with each step. Combining your focus on footwork with improvements to your balance and body awareness will give you an added measure of comfort, stability, and efficiency in the mountains, especially when you begin to tire. Remember that flexibility is an important part of footwork since you need to be comfortable in your foot placements even when the terrain is not perfectly flat or level. 

The more comfortable you can become with foot placement, reading terrain and climbing in balance, the less energy you will exert on longer hikes and climbs. Often times we get fixated on the immediate step in front of us. Instead, look ahead and challenge yourself to take small quick steps. By being aware of these footwork techniques on your training hikes will enable you to dance your way up the mountain on your climb!
Lindsay Mann is a Senior Guide at RMI Expeditions and a NCAA D1 Skiing Champion. She has climbed and guided around the world, from Peru to Alaska. Read about her recent sailing and ski mountaineering trip to Norway’s Lofoten Islands on the here.

Questions? Comments? Share your thoughts here on the RMI Blog!

RMI Climber Frank M. focuses on his footwork, Mt. McKinley, Alaska. Photo: Kel Rossiter.

Mountaineering Training | Anaerobic Threshold & Interval Training

Posted by: | July 29, 2013
Categories: *Mountaineering Fitness & Training

Mountaineering is thought of as a “slow and steady” sport. Indeed, the climbing pace when nearing the summit is amazingly slow given the effort required by the high altitude, especially in comparison to moving at the same speed at lower elevations. As a result, climbers often overlook the necessity of incorporating speed and intensity into their training routine and instead focus on long, slow aerobic-oriented workouts. This is a mistake. Interval training is an important component of conditioning for mountaineering as it raises your anaerobic threshold, effectively giving you “more gears” when climbing at altitude. 
Aerobic vs. Anaerobic
Generally speaking, aerobic activity is the zone of physical activity where the body is able to provide adequate oxygen to the cells to keep them fueled, reducing the rate of fatigue. Anaerobic exercise is when the physical effort is high enough that the body cannot provide enough oxygen to the cells, causing them to use other energy stores to make up the difference and causing a much higher rate of fatigue. Think of taking a casual walk through the park (aerobic) vs. sprinting up multiple flights of stairs (anaerobic) - which can you sustain for longer? 
As athletes and climbers, our goal is to raise our anaerobic threshold - the level of effort where our bodies transition between aerobic and anaerobic activity. A higher anaerobic threshold allows us to climb at increased effort levels (like climbing at altitude) without entering an anaerobic zone and tiring quickly. Some sources say that climbing in your anaerobic zone will deplete your energy stores as much as 16x more quickly than staying within your aerobic zone! Raising your anaerobic threshold provides huge gains to your fitness when you head into the mountains. 
Interval Training: Raising Your Anaerobic Threshold
Interval Training is one of the most effective way to raise your anaerobic threshold. Interval training consists of short, intense bursts of physical effort. Learn more about general interval training here. The best types of intervals for improving your anaerobic threshold are extended efforts at just below your maximal effort level (or maximum heart rate if you train with a heart rate monitor) repeated several times with an equal amount of rest between intervals. The exact intervals you complete depends on your fitness level and chosen activity. Discuss an appropriate interval plan with a trainer or fitness specialist. General intervals targeting your anaerobic threshold include:

4 x 4 mins with 4 mins rest
• 5 x 3 mins with 3 mins rest
• 4 x 800m with 3 mins rest

You can do intervals while running, hiking, biking, on a rowing machine, or any sort of aerobic exercise equipment. Be sure to properly warm up and cool down before and after every session. Like all training activities, anaerobic interval training is best incorporated into a broader training routine, be sure to continue to include aerobic, strength and core, flexibility, and balance and agility training. It is best to begin your interval training in the early stages of your training plan so that your body is familiar with the exercises, you have the time to recover and improve, and are not exhausting yourself with intense interval training immediately before your climb. 
In order to truly go “slow and steady” in the mountains, we need to first go short and fast!

Questions? Comments? Share your thoughts here on the RMI Blog!

Ed Viesturs descends from the Khumbu Icefall, Mt. Everest. Photo: Jake Norton / First Ascent

Mountaineering Training | Body Awareness: Balance & Agility

Posted by: | July 23, 2013
Categories: *Mountaineering Fitness & Training

Body awareness is the combination of balance and agility that allows you to move comfortably and confidently through difficult and challenging terrain. 

Balance in mountaineering allows you to climb through challenging conditions - such as uneven and firm snow, steep slopes, or rocky terrain - while keeping your equilibrium and avoiding using excess energy or concentration to stay centered. Simply put, it’s being comfortable on your feet even when you’re traveling through uncomfortable terrain. 

Agility is being able to move quickly and easily - to be nimble and reactive. Agility is the ability to react to the unexpected when in the mountains, catching your own stumble or slip or that of a fellow rope team member, navigating through loose rocks, or stepping over a crevasse. 

The good news is that both balance and agility are motor skills and can be improved over time. 

BALANCE: Practice a combination of static (stationary) and dynamic (moving) balance exercises to develop your balance skills. 

Static exercises can be as simple as standing on one leg. Try it at the gym between strength routines, at home while doing the dishes, or while waiting for the bus or elevator. Too easy? Close your eyes, rock onto your toes or onto your heel and try and hold it. Once you’ve mastered that, try standing on one leg on a small rubber balance disk, then balancing on a your knees on a balance ball. If that is going well, have a friend toss you a tennis ball and catch it without falling off the ball. As you improve, remember that you can always find new ways to challenge and improve your balance. 

Dynamic exercises incorporate a bit of movement. Try to walk heel-to-toe along a straight marked line, such as crease in the carpet or sidewalk crack. Once you’ve mastered that, try it again but with your eyes closed. You can incorporate dynamic balance exercises into everyday life by constantly finding little balance challenges throughout the day: walk along the edge of the curb when strolling through town or pause to balance along a fallen tree or rail when out for a run. 

AGILITY: Agility exercises help you focus and boost your coordination, speed, and power. Examples of agility exercises include skipping rope, high knee skips, plyometric jumps, or laying a rope ladder flat on the ground to run or hop through (much like hopscotch). Many of the drills practiced in team field sports are examples of agility exercises. 

Many avid climbers are also talented at “slacklining”, the feat of walking along a taut piece of webbing strung several inches to feet above the ground (like tightrope walking). This is one of the ultimate challenges of body awareness, requiring a delicate combination of balance, agility, core strength, and composure. Yoga is another great activity to incorporate into your training to develop balance and agility in addition to flexibility, core strength, and focus.

You can begin improving your body awareness at any point in your training process. No matter if your climb is days or months away, every little improvement helps. There is no finish line with these skills. You can always find ways to challenge and increase your balance and agility, regardless of your fitness level or age.  The rewards of good body awareness in mountaineering are subtle yet profound: you are more at ease in challenging terrain or difficult climbing conditions, have confidence in your movements in intimidating situations, move more efficiently, and maintain your energy and focus throughout the day.

Questions? Comments? Share your thoughts here on the RMI Blog!

Descending into the Khumbu Icefall, Mt. Everest (Linden Mallory).

Mountaineering Training | Climber’s Perspective on Balancing Work and Training for Mt. Rainier

Posted by: | July 15, 2013
Categories: *Mountaineering Fitness & Training

Mt. Rainier, everyday, when it’s not cloudy … I get to see Mt. Rainier. Ever since I moved to the Seattle area 10 years ago, I’ve been looking at that mountain, knowing that I would summit it someday.  This September, with RMI Expeditions, I will be able to attempt the climb and hope that the mountain allows me to summit.   Every day for the past 8 months I have been waking up and heading to the gym at 4 AM to work out.  I have been part of a fitness program getting back into shape, and now, down 80lbs, I have been inspired to make my summit a reality this fall.  The great thing about living in the Pacific Northwest is that I get to look at the mountain almost daily and it serves as a constant reminder of what I am training for.  That training has to be incorporated into a very busy life, balancing my work and family schedules, but as many I have talked with, every bit of training you do is more ‘fuel’ in your tank for when you summit - that is what drives me to get up every morning. As someone who works in marketing for a major software company in Redmond, my days are kept very busy, and 9 - 10hr work days on top of training is at times challenging to keep up with.  The way I keep life balanced is by starting my days early as it helps me get in what I need to at the gym and allows for some quiet time in the office to catch up on email before the busyness of the day begins. My days look like the following:

4 AM: Alarm goes off and I drag myself out of bed.
5 AM: At the gym to get in a 60 - 90 minute workout doing either circuit training, or a mountain conditioning class at the Pro Sports Club.
• Around 7 AM I am into work for a full day.
4 PM: I either head home for the day to relax or I head to Tiger Mountain’s cable line trail for training on Tuesdays & Thursdays.
• Eat dinner when I get home.
8:30-9 PM: Head to bed to rest for another busy day.

Right now I’m doing a combination of circuit training and a mountain conditioning course Monday - Thursday at the gym and on Fridays I workout my bigger muscle groups and do a short 30 min on cardio.  On Monday and Wednesday after work I head to the driving range to mix it up a bit and have some fun.  Tuesday and Thursdays are my big days where I have both mountain conditioning and I head up and do the Tiger Mountain Cable Line Trail (1000 vertical feet in a little over a mile).  I use Fridays to recover and I do major hikes for training over the weekends, and try to include my wife on some of these more “fun” hikes.  

Balancing the heavy training schedule with work and a family is very tricky, but I also remember this is only for a short period of life, and I am constantly reminded of the goal ahead when I catch a glimpse of Mt. Rainier peeking out from the clouds.

- Jeff Marcoux

Jeff Marcoux is an avid hiker & lover of micro brews who lives with his wife in Seattle, WA.

Mt. Rainier standing above the Seattle skyline. RMI Collection.

Mountaineering Training | Tips for Strong Knees in the Mountains

Posted by: | July 08, 2013
Categories: *Mountaineering Fitness & Training

Traveling through the mountains and climbing up and down rough and uneven terrain can take a toll on our knees. Knee pain can be debilitating in the mountains and the best strategy to avoid knee pain is to actively prevent it. Prevention begins early in your training process and continues throughout the climb. 
During Training
• Remember that getting up the mountain is only half the climb: you still face the entire descent back to the bottom. Keep this mind during your training and include downhill travel in your training routine in order to prepare your muscles and joints to the stress encountered in a climb. 
• Build general knee strength. See this article for an example of different knee strengthening exercises and discuss the specific areas that you need to improve your knee strength with a physical therapist or trainer.
• Take care of your knees during training: don’t beat them up too much and let small irritations turn into major injuries!  
On the Climb  
Be Prepared: 
• Be aware of the weight you are shouldering and avoid carrying extra or unneeded gear. 
• Be strategic when pack your backpack: keep the heavy items towards the back of your pack (close to your body) and centered so that the heaviest weight is closest to your center of gravity and your pack sits comfortably and squarely on your frame, not pulling to one side and throwing you off balance (see more packing tips…). 
• Bring trekking poles: poles are a great tool in taking a few pounds of weight off of your knees with each step and can help you protect a knee if it is feeling tired (learn more about using trekking poles…). 
Climb Smart: 
• Take small steps on the climb up whenever possible to avoid straining the major muscles around the knees. 
• Don’t fight the descent! Take smaller consistent steps coming down and try to avoid the big jarring steps that jolt your body.
• When coming down on moderate snowy terrain and no longer wearing crampons, try keeping the sole of your foot parallel with the slope and sliding a few inches with each step downwards. These little distances add up over the course of a long descent and make the downhill feel just that much easier. 
Questions? Comments? Share your thoughts here on the RMI Blog!

Peter Whittaker leads a team up Mt. Rainier's Muir Snowfield. Photo: Jon Mancuso.

Mountaineering Training | Climber’s Perspective on Training for Rainier

Posted by: | June 24, 2013
Categories: *Mountaineering Fitness & Training

I climbed Mt. Rainier just before my 57th birthday. I am from Boston and live at sea level, so the idea of climbing to 14,411’ was a bit daunting. Since I was climbing with my daughter, an RMI Guide, the pressure was on for me to bring my A game, if you can have such game at my age.
For me, the only way to prepare for Rainier was to go hiking. As I am a 9-to-5-office worker, my options were a bit limited, but in general this was my plan. Eight weeks before my climb, I started my program. I did my best to go hiking at least one day per week. Most of my training was done in the White Mountains since it is a two-hour drive from where I live. I started by hiking Mt. Osceola, a five-mile, 2,100 vertical foot climb while carrying a light pack. From there I quickly moved up to Mt. Moosilauke, a seven and a half mile, 2,600 vertical foot climb. 
In between my weekend trips to the White Mountains, I would try and bike between fifteen and twenty miles a few times a week after work. In addition, three times per week I included a core workout. So that you do not get the wrong impression about my interests, I am also an avid sailboat racer. In the weeks leading up to my climb, I was trying to balance my sailing schedule and my work schedule with my training for the Mt. Rainier climb. 
After the first few hikes, I started hiking Mt. Lafayette, a beautiful hike located in Franconia Notch, New Hampshire. It is an eight-mile hike that climbs 3,600 feet. The first time I hiked Lafayatte I carried a light pack. The following week, I climbed Lafayette again. This time I filled old orange juice bottles with water and added them to my pack for additional weight.
My next move was to add Little Haystack and Mt. Lincoln to my trip. This now created a loop where I could climb 4,400 feet while walking only nine miles. Coincidently, this is comparable to the climb up to Camp Muir. My next step was to add weight to my back and to do this loop two days in a row. Having successfully completed this I felt like I was ready to fly out west to make my final preparations.
A few notes on my final preparations. Most of my hikes were in warm weather and having plenty of water was critical. In addition, occasional cramping in my legs and other muscles were an issue for me. In part the cramping was a fatigue issue, however, it was also a hydration and dietary issue. As I ate more salty snacks and drank sports drinks on my hikes, cramping became less of a problem. 
My last concern was the altitude. One of the challenges of climbing Mt. Rainier is the inability to acclimate. In my ideal world, I would have spent time doing some light hiking at altitude before my climb; however, that was not an option. Instead I was able to fly to Seattle a few days before my climb. I spent a day at Crystal Mountain, rode the gondola to the top of the mountain at 7,000 feet and did a light hike. The following day I went for great hike in the Tatoosh Range in Mt. Rainier National Park. The goal of these hikes was to get some light exercise, while keeping my legs fresh for the following day.
As for my climb up Rainier; it was just Lindsay and me. We left Paradise around nine in the morning and motored up the snowfield, or at least in my mind we did.  Then we ate, hydrated and went to “sleep” in the early evening. We woke up in the dark and started climbing. The weather was perfect and we reached the summit just in time to watch the sunrise. By late afternoon we were back at Paradise. 
In the end, I felt like my legs were ready for the challenge of the climb. However, I found the altitude to be the biggest challenge. For me, on summit day it was all about finding the rythmn between my climbing and breathing, being mentally tough, and enjoying the climb with my daughter. 
- Robert Mann

Robert Mann is an avid skier, hiker, and sailor who lives with his wife and family near Boston, MA. 

Robert Mann standing on the summit of Mt. Rainier. Photo Courtesy Robert Mann.

Mountaineering Training | Managing Varying Temperatures

Posted by: | June 17, 2013
Categories: *Mountaineering Fitness & Training

Climbers commonly joke that it’s either “freeze or fry” in the mountains. Some moments of a climb can feel like a winter ascent of Denali while others are more like the afternoon heat of a safari in Tanzania. Rarely do the temperatures in the mountains stay at a comfortable level. Even though we are often traveling on glaciers and permanent snowfields in the summer, the days can be hot - especially on the approaches to climbs. Yet, at higher elevations and in the dark hours of the night when we begin our ascents the temperature drops. Throw in a light breeze at 13,000’ and it’s downright cold.

While the temperature does indeed vary between bone chilling cold and bewildering heat, our goal as climbers is to manage those swings in temperature to keep ourselves at a comfortable, even level. Our bodies are pretty good at managing heat and most of us know how to do so well. Protecting ourselves from the intense sun of higher elevations and staying hydrated and replacing lost fluids is critical. It can be a challenge to carry enough water for an all-day climb and a good trick many climbers and guides use is to “pre-hydrate” beforehand by drinking lots of water while it is readily available and then rationing the water you have at your disposal throughout the day so that it will last. For example, climbing to Camp Muir on Mt. Rainier typically takes about 5 hours with 4 breaks on the way. If you’re carrying 2 litres of water then aim to drink a ½ litre at each stop so that you are still hydrated on your last stretch of the day. Afterwards, re-fill your bottle and drink plenty of water to rehydrate and recover for the climb the next day. 

The cold temperatures can have a negative effect on our performance as well by diverting the energy we have for the climb to keeping our bodies warm. Careful, conscious clothing choice is the best strategy to keeping your body at an even temperature level. It’s not uncommon to feel chilly around camp and add an extra layer when you begin climbing only to find yourself overheated in minutes. Then, when you stop for a water break all that perspiration cools and you find yourself shivering. Be strategic in your clothing choices when climbing, wearing the right amount of layers that you need to stay comfortable while climbing and adding layers at breaks to preserve that heat. A hat is great temperature regulator as it is easy to take on and off as needed without having to stop to take off your pack. The cold, dry air of high altitude also dehydrates you, making the need to stay hydrated all the more important.

As you head into the mountains, whether climbing or training, keep these strategies in mind. Begin hydrating before you hit the trail and keep an eye on how much water you have so that it will last throughout the day. Also, try to use the gear you plan to climb with in your training to experiment with different clothing layers and get a feel for the layers that work for you to maintain an even body temperature despite the changes in environment.

Questions? Comments? Share your thoughts here on the RMI Blog!

RMI Climbers approach High Camp on the Vinson Massif, Antarctica.

Mountaineering Training | How to Make your Backpack “Feel” Lighter

Posted by: | June 10, 2013
Categories: *Mountaineering Fitness & Training

A “fun” and challenging training session experienced in military training was the “heavy bag”. It took the form of a duffle bag full of rocks, gravel, and sand and the goal was to pick up this bag and carry it over a specified distance. The problem was, it weighed about 120 lbs. Just getting it over a shoulder was a challenge sometimes requiring help. I used to think that the purpose of the training was to cause discomfort for the entertainment for instruction staff, but that training was very effective in helping to reframe the concept of what “heavy” actually means. This can be very useful in preparing yourself to carry a pack while mountaineering.

To fit this into your training for climbing, try picking a mid-week stair session and carry a pack which is significantly heavier than your mountain pack for an hour during the session. Exactly how much heavier you choose to make your pack is up to you. Remember to be careful not to overdo it and run the risk of hurting yourself (and be careful to not damage your pack when filling it with extra weight). As a suggestion, if your Mt. Rainier pack will weigh 35 - 40 lbs, try a session carrying 50 - 60 lbs.

Remember that the goal is not to see how much you can carry but to train with a weight that will make your regular pack lighter in comparison.

Try it out! I’d bet that the next time you shoulder your “normal” weight pack, it won’t feel so heavy and you’ll notice a spring in your step!

- 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.

Questions? Comments? Share your thoughts here on the RMI Blog!

RMI Guide Linden Mallory's backpack sitting at the foot of Mt. Elbrus after a climb.

Mountaineering Training | High Altitude Physiology and Climbing

Posted by: Walter Hailes | June 03, 2013
Categories: *Mountaineering Fitness & Training

Adjusting to the low oxygen of high altitude environments is a natural process that we will all experience if we travel or live at high altitudes.  Like all things in life, some people are better at adjusting to high altitude than others.  Fortunately, there are ways that each of us can prepare at home and in the early stages of mountain travel before going to the big peaks.

We all experience the low oxygen of high altitude a little differently, but the most prominent symptoms of going to high altitude are categorized as the condition Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS).  AMS is composed of a group of symptoms that can present themselves after spending some time at high altitude.  Symptoms of AMS include headache, fatigue, anorexia, nausea and insomnia.  While the severity of these symptoms can vary, AMS does not have to end your climb but should be used as an indication that your body is struggling to acclimatize.
The most important aspect of performing well and staying healthy in the mountains under the stress of low oxygen is by being physically fit.  If you have been following a rigorous training program then you are well on your way to being physically fit for your climb.  Fitness cannot prevent the symptoms of AMS but if the daily physical tasks of climbing are easier due to your high fitness level, then you have more energy reserves to battle the stress of the low oxygen environment.

Proper nutrition and hydration are also important variables leading up to and during your climb.  While you may avoid simple carbohydrates during daily life, at altitude simple carbohydrates are the most efficient and most preferred form of energy for your acclimatizing body.  Don’t be afraid to eat those high glycemic foods while working hard at altitude! Dehydration can certainly be detrimental to your performance and health at high altitude, but you do not need to constantly consume water.  Listen to your body, specifically you thirst, it has been finely tuned over many generations to keep you hydrated. 

The prescription medication acetazolamide (Diamox) can help with acclimatization to high altitude, but it is not a magic pill that will solve all your high altitude problems. Diamox has repeatedly reduced AMS symptoms and hastened acclimatization during multi-day clinical and laboratory studies. It can work and is a great tool to use if you are not acclimatizing during an expedition even though you are using a standard acclimatization schedule, but its efficacy is less known for a quick overnight summit attempt such as Mt. Rainier. Remember: all medications have side effects that you need to understand before using and Diamox will not make up for a lack of fitness when headed into the mountains. 

The bottom line is make sure that your body is fit enough to handle the stress of a high altitude mountain trip, and listen to your body while you are at altitude.  If you pay attention, your body will tell you what fuel you need to keep going and how well you are adjusting to the high altitude environment.  Have fun and climb safe!

Walter Hailes is a senior guide at RMI and has guided extensively in North and South America.  He also works as an exercise physiologist at the University of Montana, primarily studying the human capacity to endure/excel in difficult environments including high altitude, extreme heat and cold.

Questions? Comments? Share your thoughts on the RMI Blog!

Dave Hahn climbs through Mt. Everest's Khumbu Icefall. Photo: Linden Mallory

Mountaineering Training | Fit To Climb Debrief

Posted by: | May 27, 2013
Categories: *Mountaineering Fitness & Training

As the climbing season on Mt. Rainier gets underway, I want to acknowledge the hard training that has been logged. For climbers attempting mid or late season expeditions, I also want to offer encouragement for the remaining weeks and months ahead. 
The Fit To Climb training program is rigorous and to complete it in its entirety requires a substantial commitment of time and effort. Do people follow it to-the-letter? Sometimes yes, often no - people become ill, work or family situations come up and the best plans work on the basis of flexibility. 
A quote I find useful is, “My current circumstances do not determine the outcome, merely the point from where I begin.” No matter where my fitness is today, my job is to make the best of the remaining time between now and my climb. Practically, I’ll assess things in order of importance and re-evaluate strengths. For example, I have a Mt. Rainier climb on July 11th. I’ll be a little short on training time during the next month so I need to improvise and adapt. I feel that I have the muscular strength I need now and I’d like to be better prepared to ‘go long’ and to improve hiking efficiency. So, in order of importance, long hikes, back-to-back long hikes, and stair intervals will go in my calendar as priorities. I’ll also pay close attention to rest and nutrition to ensure that I can recover well.  
I’ll also make sure that I focus my attention during training to ensure that I’m doing each session in a way that ensures quality results. For me, that means attention to detail; everything from gear to food - and a full effort, especially on interval training
A paradox of training for a major climb is that we want to set the bar high in training in order to replicate the demands we’ll have during the expedition, however, we also want to maintain confidence if we fall short of a training session or goal. It’s rarely a linear process; sometimes we feel awful just when we expected to be strong, sometimes our perfect plan goes sideways, and sometimes we feel doubt when everything has been completed perfectly. 
As you start the final push, think of the key elements of success: Maintain momentum, rest when you need to, push hard when you feel strong, and constantly think about how you can recover well. And most importantly, be confident that your efforts will pay off; many people have climbed and succeeded in their goals while having not completed all of the training or while feeling sub-par. I remind myself that one can miss a few classes and still graduate. It’s progress, not perfection, that counts.

- 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.

RMI Climbers on the Emmons Shoulder, Mt. Rainier. Photo: Linden Mallory

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Recent Images From Mountaineering Fitness & Training

  • Lindsay Mann climbing in Peru's Cordillera Blanca (Lindsay Mann).
  • RMI rope teams at the top of Mt. Rainier's Disappointment Cleaver (Robby Young).
  • An RMI rope team climbs the summit ridge of Denali (Zeb Blais).
  • Headlights climb the road to the Paradise Trailhead beneath stars and climbers' headlamps on Mt. Rainier (RMI Collection).
  • RMI Guide Geoff Schellens leads a team of climbers on Mt. Rainier's Kautz Route (Eric Frank).
  • Caroline George prepares a snack at Vinson Base Camp (Jake Norton / FA).
  • RMI Guide Ed Viesturs leads a team of climbers along the rim of Mt. Rainier's Summit Crater (Jon Mancuso).
  • An RMI Team takes a break at Ingraham Flats (11,200') while descending Mt. Rainier (Jon Mancuso).
  • Ed Viesturs crossing a ladder in Mt. Everest's Khumbu Glacier (Jake Norton / FA).
  • (RMI Collection)
  • An RMI Team climbs Mt. Shuksan's Sulphide Glacier (Courtesy Chris Villar).
  • An RMI Team climbs Mexico's Pico de Orizaba (18,701') at sunrise (Linden Mallory).
  • An RMI Team descending toward Denali Pass after reaching the summit of Mt. McKinley (Linden Mallory).
  • An RMI Team ascends Mt. Rainier's Muir Snowfield (Jon Mancuso).
  • RMI Climbers on the summit of Antarctica's Vinson Massif (Peter Whittaker).
  • Clouds billow over Little Tahoma below an RMI Climbing Team (Katrina Bloemsma).
  • RMI Guide Casey Grom coils his rope on the summit of Antisana, Ecuador (Adam Knoff)
  • An RMI Team climbing Ecuador's Cotopaxi (Mike Walter).
  • RMI Guide Lindsay Mann leads a team up Mt. McKinley's Kahiltna Glacier (Brent Okita).
  • Views of Mt. McKinley from the plane on the way to Kahiltna Base Camp (Linden Mallory).