Mountaineering Training | Fit To Climb: Week 12

Posted by: | April 22, 2013
Categories: *Mountaineering Fitness & Training

Fit to Climb: Week 12 Schedule

1 Rainier Dozen / Easy Hiking ( 30 min) 42 min. Medium
2 1-2-3 Stair Workout x 5 90 min. Very Hard
3 Rainier Dozen / Rest 12 min. Recovery
4 Rainier Dozen / Fartlek Training Hike (2 hrs) 120 min. Very Hard
5 Rainier Dozen / Rest 12 min. Recovery
6 Rainier Dozen / Hike (3 hrs) 192 min. Medium
7 Rainier Dozen / Hike (7 hrs, 15 pounds of pack weight) 432 min. Medium
Total 15 hrs.


At this point in the 16 week training program, you are all in and the end is not far off! This week adds a second hike to your weekend, the Day 2 stair session becomes a little more challenging, and you’ll be adding a new kind of workout in for a bit of variety: a fartlek hike on 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
Warm up with some moderate paced stair climbing. Then, make three efforts: one moderately hard, one very hard, and one close to maximal effort, with rest periods in between. This may look like:

• 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

Repeat this sequence five times.

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 /  Fartlek Training Hike (2 hrs)
‘Fartlek’ training is another version of interval training. The word originated in Sweden and means ‘Speed Play’. Fartlek training is popular with cyclists, runners and cross-country skiers. During your workout, you simply chose random ‘targets‘ like the top of a hill, a loop of a track, a tree or trail marker and then get after it with gusto! Increase your effort level as much as you feel like and mix up the length of the intervals for variety. I like this type of training because it replicates the unpredictable nature of mountain terrain: you can never be certain of the terrain or length of challenging portions of the climb. It’s fun too; it helps to pass the time while training alone, or adds a competitive challenge with friends. If you lack stairs, you can use any uphill grade and no matter the terrain, you can always increase intensity by adding weight to your pack.

Warm up with the Rainier Dozen, and then hike for two hours. Depending on how you are feeling, pick a spot on the trail that feels an appropriate distance away, and sprint to it. Alternate these high speed sections with walking at your regular pace. If you are doing the workout with friends, you can take turns picking the target.

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 / 3 Hour Hike
The back-to-back hikes this weekend mimic the actual Mount Rainier climb where you complete two days of climbing in a row. The conditioning benefit is to get used to doing these long practice sessions close together. By this point, you’re getting so used to hiking so that this won’t seem like a significant challenge as it would be before the program.

Warm up with the Rainier Dozen and then hike for 3 hours. You may choose to include some pack weight if you’re looking for a little extra challenge.

Day 7: 7 Hour Hike (15 pounds of weight)
Warm up with the Rainier Dozen, and then hike for 7 hours, or about 12 - 14 miles. Be sure to hike at an even pace and bring all of the clothing, food, and equipment you need to be on the trail all day.


This week is capped off with your first back-to-back hike. You may be tired when you start the second hike, or even have some muscle fatigue, but try and persevere. There are great benefits to be gained from introducing your body to the stress of multiple days of extended effort as it prepares you for the same challenges of climbing. We are headed into the final push of preparation over the coming weeks with several of these back-to-back days. When the climb comes you’ll know what to expect and how to take care of yourself over several days of climbing!

- 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.



I’ve been down since labor day. My inner thigh started cramping at the end of a hike, cramped through the night, then stiffened up. The following day the skin was very bruised like I had bumped it but I had not. It’s still sore. Before and during the hike I was hydrating with clear water and occasional electrolytes because I seem to have cramping issues, but I don’t remember sweating very much. It was a cool, dry, sunny day and I was often in a tee shirt. Maybe I was evaporating off more than I realized? Truthfully, I had cheated on the training a little. I thought I was ready for a fun 13,600’ spring climb of Mt Dade in the Sierra Nevada, spring snow fields, and an overnight pack. It was only a 4 mile 1000’ ft elevation approach to an 11,000’ base camp, which is where I started cramping and turned back from the next day. It was a bear descending. I’ve been doing nothing since as far as training, but I’m going to start up again. Any advice on recovery training, and preventing this kind of injury on the the next big hike?

Posted by: Robert on 6/8/2014 at 11:19 am

Thanks, Melissa. I’ve packed my pack and I can get it down to 32/33 lbs., so 45 sounds high. Also, I’m thinking of buying a pair of lighter weight poles.  Which ones would you recommend for Rainier - the Black Diamond Alpine Cork Caron trekking poles @ $159.95 in Whittaker catalogue, or the Black Diamond Contour Elliptic/compact trekking poles in same catalogue. Also, I’ve heard the Z poles are good. Also, last year I bought pair of double plastic boots for this climb, but on July 29th, will these be ok for day 1? That is, will there be enough snow to walk comfortably in them? Tks.

Posted by: Linda McMillan on 5/8/2013 at 8:45 am

The pack weight does increase beginning this week (the new post should be up now).  The pack weigh suggestions are general guidelines and you should feel comfortable adding weight as you see fit.  Unlike climbing in the Alaska Range or on long Himalaya Expeditions, the pack weights on Rainier are not as extreme so while you you should build yourself up to be able to carry ~45lbs comfortably, you do not need to focus solely on preparing for extremely large loads.  Adding pack weight on the shorter weekend hike is a great idea as long as you can do so without overly taxing yourself by carrying more weight.

Posted by: Melissa on 4/29/2013 at 9:32 am

On the “easy hike” days, should we be carrying a weighted pack? I have been.

Posted by: Linda on 4/26/2013 at 10:23 am

I"m surprised that you are recommending only 15 lbs. of pack weight in week 12. A person I met at the gym who is doing Rainier this summer has been carrying 32 lbs for many weeks on the recommendation of her guide.Are you going to increase the pack weight quickly in the coming weeks?

Posted by: Linda on 4/26/2013 at 10:22 am

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