Mountaineering Training | Fit To Climb: Week 10

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

Fit to Climb: Week 10 Schedule

1 Rainier Dozen / Easy Hiking ( 30 min) 42 min. Medium
2 1-2-3 Stair Workout x 3 90 min. Very Hard
3 Rainier Dozen / Rest 12 min. Recovery
4 Rainier Dozen / High Intensity Stair Interval Training (50 min) 62 min. Hard
5 Rainier Dozen / Rest 12 min. Recovery
6 Rainier Dozen / Cross Training 60 min. Medium
7 Hike (5 hrs, 15lbs of pack weight) 300 min. Medium
Total 9 hrs 38 mins


The weekend hike will be 5 hours and your Day 2 stair session will bump up from 60 to 90 minutes. Depending where you live, you may well be experiencing lighter evenings so this will be a chance to get outdoors, even at the end of the work day. In my estimation, nothing burns workday stress like a stair workout!

Speaking of stair workouts, this week will see the introduction of a new variant of interval training: the 1-2-3 Stair workout. This workout will push you beyond your anaerobic threshold and help increase both your aerobic and anaerobic capacity in the long term. A detailed explanation is included below. The consistent pace stair training that you’ve been doing for the past several weeks moves to Day 4.


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: Stair Interval Training: The 1-2-3 Workout
For your first stair workout of the week, you’ll take on a new challenge. First, warm up with some moderate paced stair climbing. Then, your challenge is to do one burst of effort moderately hard, followed by a rest; then a second burst of effort very hard, followed by another rest; and then the third burst of effort where you’ll make a close-to-maximal effort. In other words, you’ll go from the bottom to the top of the stairs as quickly as you’re able, or at least as fast as if you were being chased by a bear! This might end up looking like the following;

• 2 minutes at 50-65% intensity, followed by 3 minutes of rest (1 minute standing, 2 minutes descending)
• 2 minutes at 65-80% intensity, followed by 3 minutes of rest
• 2 minutes at 85-90% intensity, followed by 3 minutes of rest

For this week, repeat this cycle up to three times, depending on your level of fitness. If three times is too much too soon, fall back to some consistent pace stair climbing like you are used to, or stop at two sets and work your way up next week. This is a very demanding workout designed to mimic the physical stress that might be encountered on the mountain, so don’t be discouraged if takes a few weeks to work up to it!

An additional note on safety: after charging up the stairs at 90% intensity your legs might be a little wobbly, so be extra careful not to trip while coming down the stairs.

Most people will experience some discomfort at this intensity. Remember that all of these workouts are challenge-by-choice. Whenever training for mountaineering, I always try to bear in mind that I’m responsible for my own safety, and sometimes the safety of others. So even in training, I’m careful to not exert myself to the extent that I’ll overextend or injure my body. 

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 (50 Minutes)
After the Rainier Dozen, warm up for about 10 minutes, and then climb up and down a set of stairs, at a consistent pace, for about 40 to 50 minutes. Cool down with some stretching. You don’t need to carry a pack on your stair interval training, the focus in this workout is on speed and intensity.

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: Rainier Dozen / Cross Training (1 Hour)
Warm up with the Rainier Dozen and then spend an hour in some moderately vigorous activity as cross training (find out more about cross training here). Listen to your body, and have fun with it.

Day 7: 5 Hour Hike
Find a location to hike that is about 9 to 10 miles in distance and takes about 5 hours. Maintain the same weight for your pack as last week. If the weight of your pack has to increase a little bit to account for the additional time you’ll be on the trail, that’s ok too.


Perhaps the most noticeable thing you’ll feel after this week is that you are really used to these workouts. As aerobic endurance increases and strength builds, you’ll likely be finding that the workouts are more enjoyable and perhaps less taxing. Remember that at this point in training your goal is to perform well. You may not be as fatigued as in previous weeks but you are really moving forwards. Also, by now you’re probably getting highly organised with your equipment and clothing during your training hikes. Everything is falling into place!

- 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.



Difficult to find a long set of stairs that takes a full 2 minutes to climb.  Is the time of exertion the most important piece of this exercise, or the amount of exertion per session that is important?

Posted by: Jason Stiles on 5/6/2015 at 8:49 am

Hi Steve,
This plan sounds like a good way to get some distance and elevation into your training routine. Check out some of the later weeks of Fit To Climb to see how the series proposes a set of similar workouts (Week 12:, Week 13:, Week 14:
As always, bring the necessary gear to be outside in a variety of conditions and have fun!
- The RMI Team

Posted by: RMI Expeditions on 7/7/2014 at 7:50 am

Im taking the expedition skill seminar for RMI at Mt Rainier. For training Id like to do a 5 hour hike with about 40 lbs in backpack, about 2-3 days in a row, sometimes up 28% slopes in a nearby state park. Is this a good idea? any suggestions for success?

Posted by: steve wieckert on 7/3/2014 at 3:38 pm

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