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Mt. Everest Expedition: Dave Hahn Recaps the Summit Climb

Posted by: Dave Hahn | May 30, 2012
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Everest
Elevation: 4,383'

Before sunup on the 24th of May, the RMI Everest climbing team left Camp III at 24,000 ft on the Lhotse Face, bound for a shot at the top of Mount Everest.  The only trouble was that everybody else on the mountain had the same idea at the very same time.  We were shocked to see how many climbers were already on the fixed lines.  Estimates ran to as many as two hundred, although it was later figured that a fair proportion were simply doing carries to the upper camps and weren’t intent on staying at Camp IV or climbing for the summit.  Suffice to say that we couldn’t set our own pace for climbing, but eventually, by keeping going when other teams elected to take breaks, we made it into the open above the difficult Yellow Band at 25,000 ft.  The Geneva Spur didn’t present a significant barrier to our reaching 26,000 ft by late morning.  There we found a steady wind and our Sherpa team building tents on the South Col.  It was easy enough for our team to get in and start re-hydrating and resting for a summit climb, but it was tougher trying to get a read on the conditions that climb would be undertaken in.  A quick count revealed about fifty other tents pitched on the Col, and a few impromptu meetings with other climb leaders decided us that perhaps in excess of a hundred climbers would be going for the summit that night.  The winds continued and the latest forecasts confirmed that a ribbon of 50 mile-per-hour air would still be menacing the mountain for a further 24 hours.  We looked at the steep triangular face and saw that its middle third would entail loose rock with a good chance for some of that getting kicked loose onto teams below.  So there were three things that didn’t work well for us… rock, crowds and wind.  We made preparations for a climb, but we also began to explore the possibility of delaying 24 hours and shooting for May 26th as a summit day.  We each knew that we’d be putting all our eggs in one final basket by doing such a thing.  We had resources for such a delay, but we didn’t have unlimited resources.  If we skipped the 25th, with its known problems, we’d have to take the 26th with its unknown problems… or go home without a summit.  We tried to hedge our bets, telling our Sherpa team that we’d still prepare to get up in the night unless the winds were still blowing.  At 10 PM, long after the other teams had left for the top and were to be seen as a Christmas parade all up and down the Triangular Face, the winds were still strong.  We committed to the next night.
It was a slightly surreal day, as always, hanging out at 8000 meters on May 25th.  We wondered whether we’d missed our shot as the neighboring teams came down with a summit under their belts and not too many bad stories to tell, after all.  Yes it had been windy and cold and crowded, but most seemed to have done ok and there certainly weren’t new tragedies to report.  Finally, in the late afternoon of the 25th, the winds began to die down.  That was encouraging, but our headcount for the coming summit day was less encouraging.  We’d assumed we’d be up the hill with perhaps fifty climbers, but as we prepared dinner and turned in, we’d become aware of about 80 or 90.  And nearly all of these climbers were leaving quite early for the top (as in about 7 or 8 PM).  There was no way to beat them out the door without simply aiming to summit in the middle of the night (a bitterly cold and slightly unrewarding proposition).  We’d set out afterward and take our chances on being able to pass people when we needed to.  Our alarms rang at 10 PM and we ate, drank and geared up for two hours in delightful stillness.  The South Col was dead calm and quiet with the wind absent and the vast majority of the climbers already well up toward the balcony.  Lam Babu Sherpa would stay at the South Col, just in case, while Tsherring, Kadji and Passang accompanied the four person climbing team.  We set out at midnight and four hours later topped the balcony in perfect conditions.  A half hour later we experienced an incredibly colorful sunrise and things got slightly easier, even as we took on the steep slopes below the South Summit.  At the South Summit around 7 AM we crested to see an amazing and at first, frightening, phenomenon.  There were at least a hundred climbers lined up waiting to descend the summit ridge.  At any given point there seemed to be about 8 climbers simultaneously on the Hillary Step and dozens upon dozens on the tricky rock features between us and the step.  We decided we had no choice but to sit and wait patiently in the small dip past the South Summit.  There was no practical way that we could pass so many climbers on such awkward terrain.  The wait turned into an hour-and-a-half, which made each of us quite nervous… since such a thing is very much the definition of not being in control of one’s climb… but then we each had to remind ourselves that conditions were benign.  There was zero wind, the sun was shining and there was plenty of time left in the day.  Also, we salivated at the prospect of having the mountain to ourselves after the long conga line of climbers passed on their way down.  Finally we stood up, shouldered our packs and shook off the cold.  It didn’t take long then to scramble across the ridge, up the Hillary Step and onto the summit.  It turned out that three or four climbers were on the summit from the Tibet side, but that didn’t stop us from thoroughly enjoying about 55 minutes on top.  We had unlimited views and a very happy team as we connected with Lam back at the South Col, Yuberaj at Camp II and Mark Tucker down at Basecamp.
The descent took just a matter of hours, since there was virtually no traffic left high on the mountain.  We came back into the South Col feeling satisfied, but also knowing that the big work of the day was yet-to-come.  We needed to pack up camp and descend a mile to ABC in the Western Cwm.  With heavy packs and hot down suits we slid down the ropes for hours and hours.  Past the Geneva Spur, past the Yellow Band, past Lhotse Camp IV and Everest Camp III… down to the part of the face that suddenly seemed to be melting under our very crampons.  In the space of two days, spring had turned to summer and it seemed the climbing season was supposed to be over.  We were greatly relieved to hit the bottom of the wall in safety and to trudge into ABC just after sunset.
Morning still held a little anxiety for us as we each knew we’d have to successfully wend our way through the Khumbu Icefall one more time.  The word was that it was crumbling and collapsing and heating up.  And that turned out to be true, but we saw that the Icefall Doctors were doing a magnificent job keeping a route cobbled together through the mess.  We took our time and placed our feet carefully and eventually hit all of the comfort and safety of base camp by mid-afternoon on the 27th of May.
The 28th was shower-and-pack-and-keep-fingers-crossed-day for the climbing team.  Showering and packing for the obvious reasons, but keeping fingers crossed because the Sherpa team still had a final day of working in the Icefall to get all the gear down.  Their strength and skill and our finger-crossing worked because they emerged victorious and unscathed by mid-day.  The climb was over.  By the morning of the 29th, we’d heard that there were long delays for those attempting to get fixed-wing flights from Lukla.  The monsoon had worked its way into the lower valleys already and the weather was sloppy with cloud and rain.  Instead we arranged a series of memorable helicopter rides from base camp to Kathmandu.  There was plenty of hurry-up and wait… there was awe at the beauty of mountains and gorges seen from the air, there was sheer terror at the power of thunderstorms on small aircraft, there was gratitude for the skill of the pilots we’d watched performing miraculous rescues all season long… and at the end of the day yesterday, there was an easy dinner in a Kathmandu restaurant and a comfy hotel bed.  Soon there will be home.
Thank You Very Much for keeping track of our expedition.

Best Regards,
RMI Guide Dave Hahn

Mt. Everest.  Photo: RMI Collection

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Mountaineering Training | Getting Motivated After The Holidays

Posted by: | November 26, 2012
Categories: *Mountaineering Fitness & Training

On an expedition someone once announced to our group, “It’s not the altitude that’s hard, it’s the lassitude”! I’ve also heard it called Lazy-tude and I’ll admit to suffering from this once in a while ... even at sea-level and especially after holidays! 
At high altitude, lassitude is a real factor. The work is hard and on a rest-day it’s easy to dig down a little into a minus-20 sleeping bag and remain as motionless as possible, conserving energy and restoring ourselves. And yet, after a while it’s easy to get into a funk, start feeling restless and then begin over-thinking the rest of the climb. At least this is my experience and there’s only one solution; find socks, boots, gloves, hats and any other required gear before suiting up and going for a walk. It’s great because it activates the body, stretches the legs and boosts your overall energy. 
The same is true for training. It’s easy to sit inside in during the Holidays and, in much of the country, look outside at the rain or snow. At that moment in time the positive feelings of imagining climbing, being out in beautiful surroundings and experiencing new heights, can all seem distant. 
At times like this I find that the simplest workout is all that is needed to feel great and most importantly, to move in the direction of our training goals. In my case, I find that mood follows action - rarely the other way around. So, I have a few ‘go-to’ work outs that are so simple or enjoyable that it only takes me a small effort to start:

1. 10-minute walk, 20-minute run, 10-minute walk. 
2. 30 minutes of stairs, elliptical or stair-master machine.
3. The Daily Dozen with a 100-yard run between each exercise. 

If you have eaten a few small feasts over the Holidays, it’s raining outside and the couch looks awfully inviting but you know you want to do something because the expedition date is coming up, just do a short and simple workout! Enjoy the feeling of activity, maybe even leave your watch or heart rate monitor behind and listen to some good music as you go. 
It doesn’t take much and you will feel great! 
It also doesn’t hurt to have a reminder what spectacular views await on the mountain! 

- 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? Leave a comment to share your thoughts with John and other readers!

Climbing at sunrise above Disappointment Cleaver, Mt. Rainier.


RMI Guide Seth Waterfall Receives Valuable Avy 3 Training

Posted by: Seth Waterfall | January 27, 2012
Categories: *Guide News

I’ve just returned to Washington after taking part in a six day Avalanche Level 3 course in Jackson, WY.  ‘Avy 3’ is the highest level of formal avalanche training in the US.  It is a professional level course designed for Guides, Ski Patrollers and other avalanche forecasters.  One of the best parts of the course was interacting with the other participants who all came with a high level of experience.  The instructors were top-notch as well, but the best learning opportunity came from the weather.  Our course began with a huge winter storm dumping several feet of snow on top of a very weak base.  This was a perfect recipe for avalanches and over the remainder of the course we were able to study the cycle as it progressed.  It was fascinating to say the least and we were able to sharpen our skills while closely examining the highly unstable snowpack.  The ability to take weather reports and our own observations, then build a hypothesis of how the snowpack should behave, followed by then going out into the field and testing our predictions was invaluable.  It was a very productive week to say the least!  I’m also very thankful for the professionalism of the instructors and the participants.  We were able to keep the course very safe while also being able to get the most out of the time we spent in the field.

RMI Guide Seth Waterfall


Mountaineering Training | The Home Stretch

Posted by: | December 24, 2012
Categories: *Mountaineering Fitness & Training

We are coming in to the home stretch of 2012. If you’ve been practicing workouts and exercises you’ve accomplished a lot already. Lets use the last week of the year to work on flexibility with The Home Stretch.

The Home Stretch is exactly what it sounds like: the last bit of your workout, the brief but essential stretching routine that will keep your muscles limber and strong. The routine starts at your toes and stretches to the top of your head and as far as your fingertips can reach.

Starting position: Begin this stretch in the Downward Dog yoga posture: hands and feet flat on the ground, torso arched with rear up in the air, legs straight. If the Downward Dog position is uncomfortable, perform this stretch by leaning forward against a wall or another source of support, such as a tree or building, with arms straight and hands flat against the surface with legs straight and heels on the ground.
Movement: Place your left ankle above and behind the right ankle, just off the ground, so that you can feel an isolated stretch in your right calf. Keep your knee straight so as to isolate the gastrocnemius —one of two major muscles that comprise the calf. Hold this stretch for 20 seconds. Switch sides.

Starting position: Same as the Upper Calf Stretch — Downward Dog or the variation leaning against a wall.
Movement: Move your left ankle above and behind your right ankle as in the Upper Calf Stretch, with one difference: bend your right knee to isolate the soleus muscle in the lower part of your calf. Hold the stretch for 20 seconds. Switch sides.

Starting position: Lie on your back with your legs extended straight out in front of you. Rest your head on the ground.
Movement: Raise your right leg, with a slightly bent knee if needed. Grasp the back of your upper leg (hamstrings) with both of your hands and gently pull toward the center of your body until you feel a stretch in the hamstring. Hold for 20 seconds. Switch sides.

Starting position: Lie flat on your stomach, chin on the ground and arms at your sides.
Movement: Raise your right ankle by bending your right knee. Grasp it behind your back with your right hand and then gently pull toward the center of your body until you feel a gentle stretch in the quadriceps muscles (the front of the thigh). Hold for 20 seconds. Switch sides.
Variation: If lying down on your stomach is uncomfortable, do this stretch standing up. Hold on to a tree or other support with your free hand, if necessary, as you grasp your ankle and gently pull it toward your body.

Starting position: Sit in a kneeling position with your left leg forward. Your right knee and left foot will be on the ground, with both knees bent at 90-degree angles.
Movement: Imagine that your pelvis is a bowl of water on a table. Now, think of gently tipping the water out of the bowl from the back as you gently press the bottom part of your pelvis forward and the top part of your pelvis slightly back so that you feel a stretch in the muscles that connect the front of your hip to your right leg. That subtle tipping will activate the hip flexor in the front of your right leg. Hold for 20 seconds. Switch sides.

Starting position: Stand upright near a tree, wall, or other surface for balance. Cross your right leg over your left leg.
Movement: Extend your left arm to the surface for balance. Bend your body to the left with your right arm extended overhead, as though you’re doing a variation on the Side Bender from the Daily Dozen. Your goal is to feel a deep stretch in your right hip extending down to the outer part of your right leg.
Variation: Try the Pigeon Stretch if you’re particularly flexible. Sit on the ground and bend your left leg so that the heel is near the right hip. Extend the right leg straight behind you.

Starting position: Sit upright with legs bent and heels placed together in front of you.
Movement: Gently press your knees toward the ground to feel a stretch in the adductors (inner thighs). Hold for 20 seconds.

Starting position: Lie down on your back with knees bent and feet on the ground.
Movement: Gently move your knees to the left, placing them on the ground, making sure to also keep your shoulders on the ground. You should feel a stretch in your middle and lower back. Extend your arms to either side, and move your head so that you are looking to the right (away from your bent knees). Hold for 20 seconds. Switch sides.

Starting position: Lie on your stomach, palms placed on the ground on either side of your chest, directly below your shoulders.
Movement: Look up toward the sky, gently curving your back while supporting your weight, hands on the ground. This is popularly known as the Cobra pose in yoga. Hold for 20 seconds.

Starting position: Stand upright or sit on your knees with your upper body strong and straight. Lift your left arm above your head and bend the left elbow to stretch the left triceps muscles.
Movement: Place your right hand on your left elbow to support the stretch, gently pressing the elbow back until you feel the muscle stretching. Hold for 20 seconds. Switch sides.

Starting position: Stand near a tree or another support. Place your left hand on the support, with your left arm fully extended.
Movement: Without moving your feet, rotate your body to the right until you feel a stretch in your left shoulder and the left side of your chest. Hold for 20 seconds. Switch sides.

To finish the Home Stretch, take five full breaths. First, exhale and deeply Squat to the ground, arms downward. Inhale by pushing up on your heels, extending your legs, and reaching your arms to the sky. Take these breaths very slowly and deliberately — you’re bringing relaxation into all areas of your body at the end of your workout, setting the tone for the next stage peacefully and with a great workout behind you.

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

Questions? Comments? Share your thoughts with John and other readers on the RMI Blog!

RMI Guide Alex Van Steen climbing at sunrise on Mt. Rainier



Aconcagua Expedition: Team Returns to Mendoza

Posted by: Jake Beren | December 31, 2011
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Aconcagua

Feliz Ano Nuevo from Mendoza!  Our last dispatch was from Aconcagua’s base camp and we have certainly covered many miles since then. A big day of walking from Plaza Argentina to Pampa de Llenas put us in camp just in time for a big Asado prepared by our herreros, the mule drivers who transport our gear off the mountain. An early morning walk brought us to Penitentes where we showered and had lunch before heading to Mendoza. Now back in civilization our celebratory meal felt great and is a far cry from mountain food and the thin air of the Andes, but the significance of the last few weeks that put us on top of the highest mountain outside of the Himalaya is still sinking in. Everyone has done a great job and I am thankful for the time spend with a great team. Nice work all!

RMI Guide Jake Beren

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Mt. Rainier: Expedition Skill Seminar- Muir Climb for Five Recap

Posted by: Linden Mallory | September 27, 2011
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount Rainier
Elevation: 14,410'

Like most good climbing plans, I was told that the idea for the Climb for Five was hatched in a pub a while back. Already involved in the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, a volunteer charity that raises money for childhood cancer research, the three climbers came up with the idea of tackling serious mountaineering objectives in an effort to raise money and awareness for St. Baldrick’s by using the metaphor of climbing to illustrate the challenges and trials children go through while battling cancer.  Hence, on Sunday September 18th, Patrick, Eric, Jon and I gathered under a thick layer of grey and drizzly clouds hanging over Rainier BaseCamp to tackle Mt. Rainier over the course of a 5 day Expedition Skills Seminar - Camp Muir.

The days of near fifty degree temperatures and rain, coming down in sheets at times, did not do much to instill confidence in the conditions above. Yet within a half an hour of leaving the trail head at Paradise the clouds thinned and by the time we reached 7,600’ on the Muir Snowfield we were standing in the sun above the low-lying maritime clouds. Above us Mt. Rainier stood proudly with a fresh layer of snow from the recent storm blanketing its’ slopes. During the rest of the climb to Muir, Patrick further explained the concept for Climb for Five to me: St. Baldrick’s chooses five Ambassador Kids every year, representing that for every 5 children that get childhood cancer only 4 survive. The Climb for Five honors those Ambassadors; each day of the climb is chosen to honor one of the kids and the climbers carried keepsakes from each of the kids with them throughout the climb.

After a full day of training, learning the fundamentals of safe climbing and glacier travel techniques, exploring the Cowlitz Glacier outside of Camp Muir, and preparing ourselves for the climbing above, we set off on our summit bid under a beautifully starry sky early Wednesday morning. The new snow on the mountain smoothed over the rocky sections of the mountain and we made good progress across Cowlitz and Ingraham Glaciers and onto Disappointment Cleaver. Just before sunrise, breathing hard from the exertion at those altitudes, we reached the top of the Cleaver and added more clothes to fight the biting predawn winds. Continuing above the Cleaver the sun finally began to break above the horizon of eastern Washington and gave way to one of the most beautiful sunrises I have ever seen on the mountain. The unsettled layers of clouds filtered the light such that shades of pink, red, yellow, orange, green, and blue were simultaneously covering the mountain’s glaciers and the surrounding landscape below. The array of colors around us contrasted sharply with the traditional monotones of high alpine environments of rock, ice, and snow. Unfortunately, those same unsettled clouds soon overtook the sun and by 13,500’ we were enveloped in a cloud cap, covering us in a thick layer of rime ice and blowing just enough to add to the challenge of making the final 900’ of climbing to the summit.

Standing on top, buffeted by the wind and precipitation, Eric and Patrick unfurled the St. Baldrick’s Banner and then pulled out a few keepsakes in memory of Arden, the Ambassador Kid for whom we were climbing that day. We then turned back and set our sights on descending. Like children battling cancer, reaching the summit is only half of the battle - the road to recovery once defeating the cancer is as long and as challenging as retracing one’s route back down the mountain. We carefully picked our way back down Mt. Rainier’s flanks, weaving our way amongst the seracs and around the gaping late-season crevasses that cover the mountain back to camp.

The winds from higher on the mountain descended not long behind us and continued to blow for the next several days while we finished the rest of the Seminar: building snow anchors, practicing the rigging systems needed for crevasse rescue, and ice climbing on the Cowlitz Glacier before descending back to Ashford on Friday. Taking part in the Climb for Five was a special experience for me and I feel fortunate to be involved. Having lost a sister to cancer as a kid,  I share the same with the climbers of the Climb for Five and the entire climb struck a chord with me and I look forward to future climbs with this team. Thanks to Patrick, Eric, Jon, and St. Baldrick’s for pursuing this endeavor, RMI is proud to be a part of it.

RMI Guide Linden Mallory

The St. Baldrick's Team ascends Mt. Rainier.  Photo: Linden Mallory Eric and Patrick on the summit of Mt. Rainier with the St. Baldrick's banner.  Photo: Linden Mallory



Kilimanjaro: Team Enjoys Final Sunset Together

Posted by: Seth Waterfall | September 23, 2011
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Kilimanjaro


The Safari Team is back at the Dik Dik!  We’ve had a great couple of weeks but our trip is just about over.  Last night we stayed at Kikoti Camp, an amazing safari camp that has tons of wildlife literally right in the middle of it. We went on a great little hike to a rock outcropping where we had drinks delivered while we enjoyed the sunset. It made for a great finish to an outstanding trip.  Now everyone is busy getting ready for their respective flights home.

Thanks for a great trip guys!

RMI Guide Seth Waterfall

Team enjoys final sunset together Photo: Seth Waterfall

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Mountaineering Training | Cross Training

Posted by: | January 21, 2013
Categories: *Mountaineering Fitness & Training

As we focus forward on the training for this year’s climbing adventures, we know we’ll be hiking, climbing, probably doing some stair interval training with heavy packs, and developing strength training routines.

The training adventures need not be boring though, cross-training keeps us both balanced and motivated.

I like to categorize my cross training by asking, “Is this a direct benefit to mountain climbing or is this activity more general conditioning focused?” Sports like cycling, cross-country skiing or skating have a very direct benefit in building endurance for the mountains, in fact a bike ride can be a perfect substitute for a hike.

Other sports like soccer, kickboxing, or activities like dancing and yoga, while perhaps not as directly related to mountain climbing, can have wonderful benefits for overall conditioning.

Thinking out of the box completely, I met a person last week who did remarkably well on a training hike despite not having ‘trained’ very much. I asked him where he thought his fitness came from and he said, “I’m a UPS driver, I use a pedometer to track my steps and generally do 15,000 steps each day - most of them carrying boxes.” 15,000 steps equals about 5 miles walking! I think he’s going to have a big head-start on his 16 week training program!

Cross training is an important part of your training program, keeping you mentally engaged and physically healthy. Beyond the cornerstones of your regular training program that includes long hikes, short intense sessions, and strength training, what fun things do you enjoy to do to which add to your fitness? Are you lucky enough to have one of those jobs which gets you walking during the day? How can you plan your days to add an activity or sneak in a few extra miles from place to place? 

Get outside and be creative with your cross training!

- 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.

Questions? Comments? Share your thoughts with John and other readers on the RMI Blog!

An RMI Team climbing the Ingraham Direct at sunrise, Mt. Rainier.



Mt. Everest Expedition: First Summits

Posted by: Dave Hahn | May 18, 2012
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Everest
Elevation: 17,575'

Another day of waiting and hiking for those of us at Mt. Everest Base Camp, but an important day none-the-less.  The “fixing team” made it to the summit today, taking advantage of stable weather in the morning.  We heard that things weren’t quite so stable in the afternoon, with wind and snow working over the upper mountain, but climbers pushed on to the mountaintop anyway and then descended safely.  The word was that several hundred climbers moved up the Lhotse Face today to be in position for summit bids tomorrow.  We wish them all fine conditions for those bids, but we are keeping focused on our own window, which the forecasts still predict to be a good one, several days out.

Best regards,
RMI Guide Dave Hahn

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June Training Tips

Posted by: | June 17, 2012
Categories: *Guide News

It’s June already. Do you have a Mount Rainier climb planned this summer? If so, you are probably at the peak of your training efforts and devoting a good amount of energy and time to preparing your body for the big climb. Many people ask, “What’s the most important thing for training right now?”

If you are less than a week away from your climb, you’ll want to rest. By all means, do some activity — but just enough to keep you moving — not so much that you arrive fatigued. You’ll want to maximize your sleep and relaxation this week. Also, be sure that you’re eating plenty of carbohydrates to ensure you start the climb with a full tank.

If your climb is still a few weeks or even months away, then you have a great opportunity to add to your endurance.

I like to keep things simple. My recommendation to people training for mountaineering is to include at least one long hike each week. How long? Well, your summit day will start in the middle of the night and you may well be climbing and descending for upwards of 14 hours. So, it’s important to condition yourself to be on your feet for that long.

Practically, if you live near Mt. Rainier you can train on any number of long steep hikes in the area, or even hike up to Camp Muir for practice. One big weekly hike is my minimum, but if you can you’ll benefit from back-to-back days of hiking, or maybe even sneak in a midweek hike as well. A man I know was out of shape with only two months to go before his Mt. Rainier climb. He realized he was behind on his training, took vacation time, and hiked Mt. Si, near Seattle, eighteen times in one month! I thought it was a bit extreme and advised him to pay attention to his knees and joints, but he did it — and he made it all the way to the summit and back.

If you live in a flat city you can still get in good training. I’ve done urban hikes before to get in condition for a climb. Once, when I was getting ready for a big climb while I lived in London, UK, I would put a metal weight and some water-bottles in a pack and walk all day, stopping at restaurants to eat and visiting the occasional museum. It’s fun and a great way to see a city. This winter in Seattle I set a goal of walking three miles each day. It’s great for the feet, legs, and back and it’s easy to plan to walk places instead of driving. Arrive at work or a friend’s house and tell them you walked — you’ll inspire them too! It might be tough to get elevation in flatter regions, but don’t let that stop you from building endurance.

If you can’t hike or walk anywhere then bicycling is about as close as you can get to hiking as an alternative. It works the same energy-systems and many of the same muscle groups. If you do a lot of cycling, also do jumping exercises, perhaps even get a jump-rope and use it for a few minutes every day. That will help with the coming-down part of the climb. Cycling builds strength and endurance but doesn’t replicate the impact of stepping down. The combination of both is very effective. 

Top three tips for June:

1. Make the main thing - the main thing: It’s a long endurance climb with a 35lb pack. Go long in training and wear a pack when possible.
2. Back up your long hikes with shorter sessions: 60 - 90 minute efforts at a higher intensity. Stairs, stair-master, elliptical machine, cycling or spin class are good options. 
3. Mix up your training: Some long and steady ‘conversational’ pace sessions; some hard and steady; some intervals of 1 minute of very hard effort followed by 1 minute of rest.

A parting thought: I used to get close to a climb and worry that I hadn’t done enough of this or of that. Right now you’ve done what you’ve done. Its best to take out a calendar, figure out how many long hikes you can fit in, block out those time and then use the other days for shorter sessions. Take a day or two of rest as well, you’ll benefit from doing so. As the guides will tell you on the mountain, don’t worry about tomorrow or next week, just focus on now. Focus on how you can complete — and enjoy — today’s workout. You’ve trained hard and what you do now will make a difference on the mountain.

Good luck.

John Colver
Author of Fit By Nature by Mountaineers Books.

For more information please see our resources for mountaineering fitness and training.

John Colver and friends on the Mt. Rainier Summit.



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