RMI Expeditions Blog
From RMI Guide Pete Van Deventer
This season brought about a different approach to training for me, as for so many of our guides and climbers. In a typical year, the summer guiding season counts for the vast majority of my “training” time. Multiple 12+ hour days a week in the mountains is a great way to build a deep aerobic base, and that leaves me free to fill in around workdays with activities that I enjoy (trail running, mountain biking, and ski touring top that list). While many of our climbers are training for a specific climb and many of our guides are counting those same climbs as training, the training principles between groups aren’t actually that different. Our climbers are trying to be at peak fitness for their climb to give themselves the best chance of reaching the summit, for guides the same training gives us the durability to do 10, 20, even 30 climbs a season without our bodies falling apart.
The cancellation of the climbing season this year necessitated a different approach for me. I count myself extremely lucky to live amongst Colorado’s Elk Mountains, with miles of trail running, mountain biking, ski touring, and peaks immediately accessible. With local trails one of the few outlets left to us this spring, I happily was putting in miles, finding new trails, and generally filling the aerobic base hole that the loss of the season brought. Just like everyone, I have my preferred activities, things that I count as training, but bring me personal joy as well. Ripping through swoopy single track on a mountain bike makes me grin, even if my heart is jumping out of my chest. Other activities aren’t so enjoyable, and they feel like training. I do them out of a sense of duty to the training plan, but I’m not smiling. Weight rooms top this list. I found as spring bled into summer, that I was putting a lot of time into the training activities that I liked, while totally dropping the ones I didn’t, and that was leaving a big hole in my fitness. I needed some structure.
Exercise is doing activities that stress the body and make our body work, while training is the programmed and strategic arrangement of patterns of exercise to increase performance and achieve a predetermined goal. It is difficult to put together a training plan if you do not have a goal. My goal became to build a base of specific strength and endurance to give me durability through the ski season, and I turned to our partners at Uphill Athlete for a 12-week Ski Mountaineering plan. Much of the plan involves activities that I enjoy: lots of trail running and some mountain biking for recovery workouts. There are also some twists that I usually don’t incorporate, but are fun: level 3 long interval workouts, and very short, all out hill sprints. There is also a strong focus on strength work, and though I struggle to be engaged by gyms, a different take on strength has actually been pretty fun and interesting. I’ve been doing a mixture of max strength, very low rep lifting work, as well as very high rep, very low weight muscular endurance work. Both are interesting in how the workout doesn’t necessarily feel taxing during, but for days after I find myself feeling the aftereffects. A bit sore, a bit depleted, but also seeing pretty quick improvements and results.
In Colorado, we got our first snow early, the last week of October. This kicks off the few weeks every year that feel awkward as an athlete. There is too much snow and mud on the trails to ride a mountain bike, but there isn’t enough snow to skin yet (my bar for this is pretty low, as skiing on grass still feels like skiing, but there isn’t enough even for me!). I went for a run up one of my favorite local mountain bike trails, and though the details of getting out the door were complicated (do I wear shorts because it’s in the 60s, or pants because I’ll be running through 4 or 5 inches of snow) I found a simple joy in picking my way through snow and mud and moving fast on foot on a trail that no one else seemed to be interested in taking.
I came back with renewed energy to train, running my local snowy, muddy trails until enough snow lands to allow me to ski. It has been a strange year to train, with gyms alternately open, closed, then open again, restrictions on our ability to get out and travel to our favorite places. I’d encourage everyone to set a training goal (or multiple), lean into what you can do, and blend the activities that leave you smiling with the others that are necessary to reach your goal.
Thank you for the insight and your schedule for training is inspiring. For me training begins with not only the physical endurance aspect, but really the mental. Learning that the best physical in shape climber doesn’t summit in many cases just because of their mental training isn’t in the right place.
I just love Ed Viesturs quote “Reaching the summit is optional - getting back down is mandatory.” That is mental conditioning and smart climbing at it’s finest! He is my role model.
Posted by: J Osborn on 11/29/2020 at 7:47 pm
Posted by: Kendra Madrid on 11/8/2020 at 8:13 pm
Those of you that have traveled to Tanzania and were greeted and assisted by the smiling faces, helpful hands and strong backs from the Barking Zebra Tours Team, it is now our turn to show our kindness and generosity.
Due to the pandemic and lack of tourism in Tanzania, Barking Zebra Tours launched a Go Fund Me campaign in May with a goal to directly provide beans, rice, maze flour and cooking oil to their Tanzanian team and their families. To distribute food to 150 people for six months they set their goal at $14,000, slightly more than $15 per person per month. Thanks to the generosity of many that goal was reached in mid-October. We know that some of you were already aware of this campaign and we very much appreciate your kindness toward our friends and team members in Tanzania.
As the worldwide pandemic continues, Barking Zebra Tours has increased its goal with the hopes of providing these provisions for an additional six months. With the launching of the new goal we have been contacted by some of our previous climbers with an offer to match funds. A group of RMI Climbers from the August 2019 Kilimanjaro Climb & Safari led by RMI Guide Dave Hahn has offered to match funds donated by RMI Climbers up to $2,500.
If you are interested in donating, please click this link: Go Fund Me
We appreciate any donation you can make.
We can’t wait to get back in the mountains with you.
September 1, 2020
The Expedition Skills Seminar - Muir led by RMI Guides Brent Okita, Hannah Smith and Avery Parrinello reached the summit of Mt. Rainier today. Brent reported a beautiful day with windy conditions and challenges. The group has spent the last several days training at Camp Muir. Tonight will be their final night at the 10,000' camp and they will descend to Paradise tomorrow. We hope the team enjoyed their time on the mountain. Congratulations on reaching the summit!
August 1, 2020
The Expedition Skills Seminar - Muir teams led by RMI Guides Pete Van Deventer, Dustin Wittmier, Hannah Smith and Kiira Antenucci reached the summit of Mt. Rainier today under clear skies and moderate winds. The teams were descending from the crater rim around 7:30 am PT.
The group gathered at Rainier BaseCamp on Monday for a full day orientation to prepare for their program. On Tuesday morning the group left for Paradise where they donned packs and made the ascent to Camp Muir. The teams spent the next few days training near Camp Muir, honing their mountaineering skills and preparing to make their summit today. Today is their final day on the mountain and once they return to Camp Muir, they will repack their gear and continue their descent to Paradise.
Congratulations to today's teams on capping off a great week of training by standing on the summit of Mt. Rainier!
June 17, 2020
Categories: Responsible Climbing
Black Lives Matter. This isn’t a belief or personal opinion; it is a fact. And here at RMI we feel it is time for us to speak up about it. The last few weeks have been incredibly painful and emotional, but for the Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color (BIPOC) communities in our nation, the last few weeks are representative of daily life – this is just one of the times the rest of us decide to tune in. The murders of George Floyd, Brianna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless others are not isolated events. They are the painful and violent windows into the systemic racism that underlies nearly every part of our lives. It is especially noticeable in the outdoors.
We have always seen nature, and specifically the mountains, as the ultimate equalizers. The mountains do not care about your race, ethnicity, gender, economic background, sexuality, or disability. If the mountains do not want you to summit, no amount of wealth or privilege will get you to the top. But the mountains, and their equalizing power, come at the end of the approach, and what we often forget is that the approach is much longer for some of us than for others. So many of us take our privilege for granted, the privilege that allows us to simply put on our boots and start climbing. But for millions of Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color, there are countless barriers between them and the mountains. Economic restraints, white-washed media, a lack of outdoor education, subtle racism on trails and in parks, and a plethora of other issues conspire to keep BIPOC out of the outdoors. According to a 2014 national park study, 91% of all national park visitors in the Pacific Northwest are white. This needs to change.
We have been asked, rightly so, why we have not released a statement clarifying our position sooner. We did not feel it was right to say something without first educating ourselves and understanding the barriers faced by BIPOC in the outdoors. The need for this education can be seen as an indictment of our own complacency over the years. A few weeks is not enough time to call ourselves fully educated on the topic, but we are trying. Here at RMI Expeditions, Whittaker Mountaineering, and Bight Gear we are now in the process of gaining that education with the goal of taking significant actions to reduce barriers and increase representation of BIPOC in the outdoors.
We want to use our voice and our capital in a more meaningful way than a one-time donation or post, because this issue is endemic. To design and implement the kind of long-term, high impact program we have in mind, we need time. We will be releasing an action plan in the coming weeks and look forward to your suggestions and ideas, as we still have a lot to learn about our privilege and the ways we can best help our BIPOC outdoor community. And once our action plan is released, we ask that you check in on us and hold us accountable, whether that is in two months, two years, or two decades.
The mountains have the potential to provide adventure, fulfilment, growth, and wonder to people of all races, ethnicities, genders, and sexualities. It is high time we help BIPOC communities grasp that potential.
Owner of Bight Gear, RMI Expeditions, and Whittaker Mountaineering
RMI Guide Adam Knoff originally wrote this for the training blog a few years ago. As we have all been more or less stuck in our homes, with life looming front and center for many, Adam's message again seemed apropos.
Today I was surprisingly asked a question that, as far as I can tell, is as old as human curiosity, parental affection and plain ol’ sibling rivalry. This may seem strange because I only have one child, and my somewhat unhinged three wingnut dogs can’t speak and honestly don’t care about the answer as long as they are fed and played with. As you may have guessed, the question so abruptly put on me this morning was: “daddy, who’s your favorite?” Harder to guess was, who asked it?
Things started normally enough; I made breakfast for my kiddo before packing him up and carting him off to preschool. I fed my dogs and chickens, cleaned the kitchen, and prepared for a day of light recreating before my afternoon duties began. It was when I entered the garage, home to my all important man cave and location of all my beloved fly fishing and climbing gear that things took a bizarre turn. Standing in front of me (I kid you not!) side by side, with puppy dog eyes looking up, stood my 12’6” Echo spey rod and my carbon fiber, oh so beautiful, Cobra ice tools. These sorts of things don’t just happen so I double checked my reality button. Dreaming? No I don’t think so. I have been up for three hours, had my coffee, and still felt the throb in my left big toe where I slammed it into the chest at the side of my bed. Ok, I’m awake. Drugged? No, I quit taking hallucinogens in high school and my wife, I think, genuinely cares about me. Then what? My two favorite activities in life, swinging flies for big trout with my spey rod and ice climbing, which is now doable in Bozeman, Montana, have come to a head. With a few free hours, my fishing rod and ice tools came alive and wanted me to pick favorites. Sheeesh! What’s a guy to do?
As time stood still, I began to reflect on the week long steelhead fishing trip I took just two weeks prior to the Grand Rhond, Clearwater, and Snake rivers. Ohhh, the joy of that trip made me quiver. It made me want to reach out, grab my spey rod child and declare my love for him. 28 inch ocean run rainbows on the swing, the thrill of the next hook up, not wearing a heavy pack; the reasons almost overwhelmed me. Yes, yes, you will always be my favorite!!! Then I saw my ice tools. Hyalite Canyon is in! I can’t wait for the thrill of running it out on newly formed thin ice over a stubby ice screw, waking up before the sun, and realizing this day was bound to hold everything but the predictable. Ohh, ice tools, you are my favorite, “let’s go climb something!” I think you understand my dilemma.
Parenting has taught me much in the five years that I’ve been at it. Love, patience and compassion are always at the forefront of dealing with children. Frustrations always arise. Liam spills my wine on the new rug, my spey rod whips bullets at the back of my head leaving welts the size of cheese curds on my scalp, ice tools rip out unexpectedly and send waves of sudden panic through me that make me want to puke. All part of the landscape I guess. So how did I answer the question, “who is your favorite”? Here I leaned on the invaluable lessons gleaned from seven years of blissful marriage. I compromised.
That day I took the ice tools out for their first climb of the season. I packed them up with the rest of my climbing gear all the while psyched I had just promised my fishing rod we would get out tomorrow. It’s a difficult web we weave, balancing work and play. I honestly felt troubled that I had to recreate two days in a row, climbing then fishing, but then again parenting is also about sacrifice.
As readers of the RMI Blog, most of you are probably cracking a smile but are also curious how this story is relevant to the mission of mountain climbing, training, and/or preparing for an upcoming goal. Here is how I connect the dots: Fishing for me is the yin to my climbing yang. It is a glorious mental escape which allows me to shelve my daily stresses and exist purely in the moment. Everyone needs this periodic meditation to reset and clear the mind. For many, exercise accomplishes the same release but regular exercise does not necessarily constitute “training”. The expectations I put on myself when climbing on my own are very high and the specific training schedule I follow can at times be demanding, painful, and sometimes unpleasant. Here is where we tie in sacrifice. Everyone’s life is managed by time. Somewhere on that big round clock is time you can utilize for yourself. If you have a goal of climbing a mountain, running a marathon, or bench pressing a Ford truck, you need to prioritize and then commit! Finding enjoyment and purpose in life comes when these commitments are made. Being a husband and father keep me grounded. Being a passionate climber and guide keep me psyched and motivated, and the hunt for big fish calms me down. In the big picture I think I have found some balance. Remember it takes the black and the white, the yin and the yang, to complete the circle. The web you weave and balance you seek are your own, but seek it with conviction and purpose and you will be just fine.
Comments? Questions? Share your thoughts here on the RMI Blog!
April 13, 2020
Categories: Mountaineering Fitness & Training
These strange times have many of us off balance and out of rhythm, and our training routines have felt the toll as well. Stay at home policies across the country have closed fitness centers and kept us at home without our usual tools. Body weight core exercises are a great way to continue to improve your strength and functional mobility, and taking your strength workout outside is a great way to break your routine and inject some new energy to training. The Dartmouth cross-country ski team uses this type of workout (and it’s where many of the example exercises come from) as part of a base and strength building cycle each fall.
Choose a jogging loop that has areas that you will be comfortable getting down to the ground on (a park, forest loop, or city parkway).
- Set out for a good warm-up, 10-15 min at a gentle pace that is still conversational.
- Find a comfortable spot (grass or a forest floor are much nicer than concrete!) and complete a set each of two different core exercises (pushups and crunches for instance). This style of workout will build more endurance strength since they use just body weight, so try to pick a number of repetitions that you can do several sets of, but still push you hard in the individual set. 60 full crunches and 40 pushups is a great example.
- Jog easily for 200 meters. The active recovery of jogging easily will still allow you to recover, but will train your body to recover while maintaining at least some level of effort.
- A set each of two more exercises (dips on a park bench and side planks).
- 200 meter jogging recovery.
- Complete a third set of exercises. 6 exercises is a great number to start from for your total workout.
- Continue until you have done 3 sets of each exercise (9 total strength stops).
- Cool down and head home!
As you progress, you can vary the workout in the number of repetitions you do during each set, or by varying the total number of sets. Try to mix up the exercises that you use, so that you get a complete core workout, without stressing one group of muscles unduly. This a great workout to do with partners at a safe social distance. You can spice it up by having different partners choose the exercises for a given set, which can add variety and show you some new exercises to add to your routine. If you don’t have a loop that is suitable, try a couple of laps of a small park. While it may take some imagination to get going, getting outside and breaking up your strength routine is a great way to keep the upward progress of your training going!
These three resources have a number of good core exercises for inspiration:
Comments? Questions? Share your thoughts here on the RMI blog!
April 6, 2020
Categories: Mountaineering Fitness & Training
RMI Expeditions is excited to be partnering with Uphill Athlete to provide our clientele what we believe to be the best training information and coaching available. We invited Steve House to introduce Uphill Athlete to our blog readers, which is what follows. RMI does not receive any financial compensation from Uphill Athlete, nor vice versa. We simply believe wholeheartedly in the effectiveness of the coaching and information that Uphill Athlete provides.
Mountaineering Training and Uphill Athlete
By Steve House
“Man discovers himself when he measures himself against an obstacle.” – Antoine de St. Exupery
Mountains are, metaphorically and physically, the obstacles by which we measure ourselves. When you get to the base of the mountain you want to be ready. You want to be safe. You also may want to emerge as a changed person. If you agree with these statements, you are the reason my long-time coach, Scott Johnston, and I write books and a blog dedicated to how to train for mountain climbing.
The gist of what we wanted people to know is this: There is no magic to endurance training. Instead, there are 100 years of history and a well understood intellectual framework behind the theory and application that applies to the full spectrum of endurance sport.
In 2002 as a professional climber I began training under Scott Johnston. Scott is an accomplished endurance coach with an extensive background as both an alpinist and high-level endurance athlete, During the ensuing years I, alone and with partners, achieved many landmark ascents. The training process transformed me from being merely good, to becoming one of the best in the world.
In 2010 a serious climbing accident cut short my high-level climbing career. Soon thereafter Scott and I decided to undertake a project to educate the climbing public about training for mountain climbing. Three years of work culminated with the 2014 publication of our best-selling book Training for the New Alpinism followed by the 2015 publication of The New Alpinism Training Log, and the 2019 publication of Training for the Uphill Athlete, our book aimed at mountain runners and skiers.
All training is exercise but not all exercise is training
One important thing to understand is the difference between training and random exercise. Every effective training plan must adhere to these cardinal principles:
- It must be gradually progressive in loading the athlete.
- It must be individualized to the athlete.
- It must modulate the athlete’s training load.
- It must be applied consistently to the athlete.
Training is the structured and systematic application of specific amounts, types, and durations of exercise aimed toward achieving a performance result. It does this by increasing your capacity for physical work in the several realms that make up your event, whatever that is for you. When the time is right you will be able to utilize your hard earned exercise-capacity to its fullest extent and achieve your big mountain goals.
There are a lot of people selling exercise programs as training programs. The hallmark of an exercise plan is random physical activity. There is nothing wrong with an exercise program but don’t be fooled into thinking you are training by using that approach. Which one you choose determines not only your path but also your destination.
Today, our books and our website are the continuation of our mission of openly sharing proven training knowledge for the outdoor sports we love.
If you are ready to have your training transform you and explore your own boundaries, myself, Scott and the coaches at Uphill Athlete will be honored to share our knowledge and help you do the most effective training to meet your big-mountain goals.
You might also be interested in the following articles:
Comments? Questions? Share your thoughts here on the RMI Blog!
March 30, 2020
Categories: Mountaineering Fitness & Training
We at RMI hope that this email finds you well. As many across the country shelter at home due to COVID, it can be difficult to keep a regular training regime and maintain your fitness. While many of us are restricting our movements and trying to maintain distance socially, those necessary actions can be challenging both mentally and physically as the weeks go by.
We might be removed from the gyms, clubs, and training groups that we have come to rely on, but our friends at Uphill Athlete have put up a free set of Home Strength Routines on their webpage that can help to fill the void. There are three levels of difficulty, though the exercises are quite similar, so there is a logical progression that you can use to continue to build strength. The routines are very attainable, but plenty difficult to challenge yourself (or a group of your workout partners via web chat to push each other!).
Check them out and best wishes from all of us at RMI. For those that are finding ways to get outside, please remember that first responder resources are already stretched thin. Stay close to home, take few risks, and enjoy the fresh air while maintaining social distancing guidelines.
Stay healthy, stay safe, and stay sane. We're looking forward to getting back to the mountains once it is safe and right to do so.
Comments? Questions? Share your thoughts here on the RMI Blog!
March 7, 2020
Posted by: Dustin Wittmier
RMI Guide Dustin Wittmier and the Mexico Volcanoes team reached the summit of Pico de Orizaba, 18,491', early this morning. The team will return to Tlachichuca to spend the night and celebrate their great week of climbing.
Congratulations to the team!