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Mt. Everest Expedition: Sara McGahan on Climbing and her Studies

Hi, my name is Sara for those of you that are reading this that don't know me, I am 16 years old, and a sophomore at The Westminster Schools in Atlanta, Georgia. I started climbing when I was 12 years old, and since then I have climbed Kilimanjaro, Elbrus, Aconcagua, Rainier, Denali (Mt. McKinley), and a bunch of other mountains. I like climbing for a number of reasons. I like training for climbing because I know that when I am doing it its with a goal in mind. I love the people I meet when I am climbing, and hearing all their stories and experiences. I have also been able to travel to a lot of different places like Tanzania, Argentina, Russia, Australia, Nepal, and the states of Washington, Alaska, and Colorado. Its really interesting and fun to go to all these places, and to see different people and cultures. While on this climb I am working on two different projects for classes at my school: 1. For science, I am measuring heart rate and blood oxygen levels at different altitudes of 4 people (including myself) to study the effects of high altitude. I am taking readings using a small finger device and doing it twice a day. As we move up to higher and higher altitudes its interesting to see how peoples bodies react to the altitude, and how they change as the body starts to acclimatize. 2. Right now I am in the Northern part of Nepal and Tibet is just over the border in China. The Dali Lama is openly held in very high regard here in Nepal, but pictures of the Dali Lama are forbidden in Tibet. For English I will be talking to people about the current situation of the Dali Lama in Tibet, their views on this situation, and any impact its had on climbing near this border and on the villages close to the border. As I write this I am sitting in an internet cafe in Namche, Nepal. Namche is the center for trekking and climbing in Sagarmatha National Park. Today we took a hike from Namche, which is at about 11,200 feet, up to the villages of Khumjung, Khunde, and Syangbouche. The views from these villages are truly breath taking. Some of the men in the villages work as porters and sherpas (guides for climbers and trekkers), and the rest of the people are farmers. Our group stopped half way at the Everest Hotel to have a coke, and we sat on the terrace with clear views of Everest, Lotse, Ama Dablam, and lots of other huge mountains. Really, it is one of the most beautiful places in the world. Sara McGahan
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I have a 5th grade student that is very interested in Everest. His goal is to climb Everest. I would like to have someone that has climbed Everest to come to talk to my class about their experience. Please contact me at 828-507-0899 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). My school is located off Holcombe Bridge Road in Roswell.

Teresa Bayne

Posted by: Teresa Bayne on 10/28/2016 at 6:34 am

Good Luck Sara!!!!
Our Thoughts and Prayers are with you.
You go girl!!!!!!
Tripp, Mary Zack, Karen and Peter H’Doubler

Posted by: The H'Doubler's on 5/16/2011 at 5:32 pm

Mountaineering Training | Moving Air: Breathing For Performance

To prepare for your next climb, you have spent hours upon hours training your muscular strength, your muscular endurance, and your cardiovascular fitness. How about your breathing? Your respiratory system gets benefit from all of your other training and doesn’t need specific focus, right? Studies of endurance athletes and performance indicate exactly the opposite! Your diaphragm is a group of muscles that do the work of inflating your lungs, bringing in oxygen and removing carbon dioxide, and just like any other muscle group in your body, they can be trained and toned to work more efficiently. Belly Breathing The key to more efficient breathing for performance is belly breathing. There is far more volume within the lower portions of the lungs (the belly) than there is in the upper portions (located in the chest), yet most people primarily use their chest to breath. When an athlete breathes mainly in their chest, they take in less oxygen with each breath, but as importantly, they also remove less carbon dioxide from their system. Carbon dioxide dissolves in the blood, and causes the pH of the blood to drop (acidification). Acidification of the blood is a major cause of muscle fatigue, thus removing carbon dioxide from your system is just as important as taking in oxygen to fuel your muscles. By belly breathing, more of the lungs’ volume is utilized both to take in oxygen, and to remove carbon dioxide, and an athlete’s performance increases to match. One study done by at the University of Arizona had 20 road cyclists do computer controlled deep breathing exercises for 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week, for 4 weeks, to develop their diaphragm and intercostal muscles. At the end of the period, they did a simulated 40 km race. The control groups all showed no improvement in performance, while the test group road 5% faster. Imagine if your next climb felt 5% easier! Practice To train yourself to belly breath during exercise, start by doing some simple belly breathing practice while at rest. Try lying down and placing your hands, one on top of the other, on your stomach, just above your belly button. Inhale, trying to push your hands as high towards the ceiling as you can. Hold for a moment, then exhale fully, feeling your hands sink as far to the floor as you can. Feel as though your belly button is moving towards your spine, but don’t push with your hands; let the muscles of your diaphragm do the work. Inhale again pushing your hands as high as you can once more, and continue to repeat the process. With practice, this type of breathing will become more natural, and will begin to move into your exercise as well. You can practice the technique the next time you are sitting at your desk, or while sitting in the car on your next commute as well. With practice and training, the muscles of your lungs will tone just like the muscles in your legs and core do! The Pressure Breath If you are not familiar with the pressure breath, it is one of the most important efficiency techniques that we teach new climbers. Pressure breathing is a technique nearly all mountaineers use on high altitude mountains around the world, and is really just a derivative of the belly breath. Inhaling as fully as possible, the climber exhales with force, generally pursing their lips slightly so as to create a smaller aperture, as if they were trying to blow out a series of birthday candles. Essentially belly breathing with a forceful exhale, the pressure breath helps to improve gas exchange across the alveoli by increasing the pressure in the lungs. The pressure breath helps to combat the effects caused by decreasing atmospheric pressure as climbers gain altitude. The pressure breath is one of the most important techniques for climbing at altitude efficiently, but it requires a lot of work from the muscles of your lungs. By beginning to tone and train those muscles now, you will be better prepared to pressure breath your way up your next climb in style! Check out these few articles from the running and cycling world for more information and techniques to develop your belly breathing: Chris Burnham of Burnham coaching, Breathing for endurance athletes. And lastly, Endurance Training: surviving the tour. Questions? Comments? Share your thoughts here on the RMI Blog!
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I first learned pressure breathing when I took “How to Climb Mt. Rainier” from Pierce College in 1982. The instructors, Jeff Sharp and Ron Servine, attributed this technique correctly to the Whittakers when they taught it.
From then on I used it myself, subsequently taught it myself to my own students there, and always found it to be a great help. As we would say, ‘If your legs hurt , pressure breathe’. I still use it to this day in my continuing fitness activities. Thanks for the article!

Posted by: Pete on 3/22/2024 at 2:19 pm

Thanks for wonderful content. I got informative blog. Keep sharing.

Posted by: divorcio sin culpa nueva jersey on 5/19/2023 at 3:18 am

Mountaineering Training | Fit To Climb: Week 3

Now the real work begins! This is the beginning of Phase 2: Foundation / Build. You’ll be adding strength work and cross training to your daily training routine. Fit to Climb: Week 3 Schedule
1 Rainier Dozen (*see below) / Easy Hiking ( 30 min) 42 min. Medium
2 Rainier Dozen / Stair Interval Training (40 min) 52 min. Hard
3 Rainier Dozen / Rest 12 min. Recovery
4 Strength Circuit Training x 2 (*see below) 38 min. Hard
5 Rainier Dozen / Rest 12 min. Recovery
6 Rainier Dozen / Cross Training (1 hr) 72 min. Medium
7 Rainier Dozen / Hike (2 hrs) 132 min. Medium
Total 6 hrs
THE RAINIER DOZEN You’ve been doing the Daily Dozen for two weeks, going forward the new Daily Workout will be the Rainier Dozen. The Rainier Dozen is based upon the Daily Dozen and it’s a more advanced workout. Here are a list of the exercises. You may be familiar with all or some. A description is added below for each exercise. Following the Rainier Dozen, you’ll find a description of the Day 4 Strength Circuit.
1. Steam engine 2. Three quarter squats 3. Turkish Get Up 4. Lunge 5. Arm extender 6. Triceps Dip 7. Deep squat 8. Steam engine laying down 9. Mountain climber 10. Push up 11. Ranger crawl 12. 8 Point Body Builder
If you have any concerns about performing these exercises, consider hiring a coach or fitness trainer to help you learn how to get the most from each movement. 1. Steam Engine How to do it: Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and your hands clasped behind your head. Lift your left knee, simultaneously twisting your body to the right, while keeping the muscles of your core engaged. Alternate the movement, using your right knee and left elbow. 2. Three Quarter Squats How to do it: Stand with legs shoulder width apart and arms at your sides. Swing your arms forward and up, raising them above your head, palms facing forward. At the same time, bend your knees as if you were sitting in a chair. Hold the Squat briefly, then stand up by pushing through your heels, until you are in a full upright standing position. 3. Turkish Get Up How to do it: Step 1: Starting in a laying down position, with the right hand vertically toward the sky, bring the right knee into a bended position, while rolling towards your left. Placing the left hand on the ground, bring the right foot over the body and placing it on the floor. From here, keeping the right arm vertical, bring your body into the lunge position. From this position, push down on the right leg to bring your entire body into the standing-upright position. Step 2: Drop back to the lunge position, with your left foot back. Place your left arm on the ground. Simultaneously rotate your body towards the right, while extending the right leg. Place your bottom on the ground, proceeding to lay flat while the right arm remains vertical throughout. 4. Lunge How to do it: Stand upright, feet and legs together, hands on hips, elbows out to sides. Step your right leg backward. Bend your left knee until the kneecap is directly above your foot, causing the leg to form a 90-degree angle. Simultaneously lower your right leg until the knee almost rests on the ground, forming another 90-degree angle. Step back to starting position, and repeat, stepping backward with the left leg. Continue to alternate legs. 5. Arm Extender How to do it: Standing upright, start with the hands and elbows at shoulder level. Simultaneously extend elbows outwards three times, and on the fourth time, completely extend the arm to finish with arms completely straight out to the side. Pause, and repeat. 6. Triceps Dip How to do it: Find a solid object, such as a wall, stairs, or a bench. Facing outwards, place the hands behind your body on the edge of the object. Your legs can be straight, or to reduce the resistance, they can bent at the knees. With the core muscles engaged, simply lower your body until the angle behind your forearm and upper arm is approximately 100 degrees. Be careful to not lower yourself more than this, because to do so will place undue strain on the shoulders. Reverse movement to start position. 7. Deep Squat How to do it: Stand with your feet a little wider than hip distance apart, toes pointing out at 45-degree angles. Put your hands on your hips and bend your knees out to the sides, making sure to keep them in line with the toes. Lower your body in a Squat until your thighs are parallel to the ground, and then push up through your heels to a standing position. Repeat. 8. Steam Engine (on ground) How to do it: Lie on your back with your hands behind your head, head slightly raised, taking care not to pull on your neck. Extend your legs fully, holding them an inch or so off the ground. Bend the left knee in toward your body as you extend your right elbow to touch the left knee. Alternate the movement, touching your right knee to your left elbow as you extend the left leg fully. 9. Mountain Climber How could the mountain climber not be good for mountain climbing! Seriously though, the mountain climber is a great exercise for core strength, hip flexor extension, agility in the calves and strength in the feet and ankles. How this benefits the climber is through the improved flexibility, coordination, strength and endurance required during the stepping-up motion. How to do it: Starting in the plank position, bring the right foot forward as if you were in the starting blocks of a 100 meter sprint. From here, simply alternate your left and right legs between this position with a small hop or jump, as if running or bounding. The length of the movement can be shorter or longer depending on your level of ability. 10. Push Up How to do it: Start with palms and toes on the ground, body in the air, as straight and strong as possible. Your arms should be directly underneath your shoulders, and you can spread your fingers wide for stability. (If this is more of a challenge than you’d like right now, do a modified Push-up with your knees on the ground.) Keeping the back and neck straight, inhale, bend your elbows and lower yourself until you are about 2 inches off the ground. Exhale as you push back up into the starting position. Repeat. 11. Ranger Crawl How to do it: Starting in the plank position, bring the right knee towards the right elbow. Pause, then return to the start position. Then, switch feet and bring the left knee towards the left elbow, again, pausing, before returning to the start position. Repeat. What’s important with this exercise is to engage the core muscles and the arm and shoulder muscles prior to beginning the movements. Keep the hips low to maintain the plank position. 12. 8 Point Bodybuilder How to do it: Starting in the standing position, drop to the ground and then thrust both legs back to the plank position. Perform a push up. Then, perform a scissor, spreading the legs wide, then returning them to the start position. From here, bring the feet forward into a position to be able to perform a power jump. Finally, perform the power jump, finishing with a hand clap before returning to the start position (see this video for an explanation). STRENGTH CIRCUIT TRAINING A. (Rainier Dozen to warm up) - 12 minutes B. The 8 exercises for this circuit (40 seconds on, 20 seconds rest) x 2 - 16 minutes, based on the Rainier Dozen, are:
1. Stem Engine 2. Push Up 3. Squat 4. Lunge 5. Plank 6. Jump rope / Jumping Jack 7. Mountain Climber 8. Side Lunge
C. (10 Minute Cool Down) - 10 minutes. See the Home Stretch for exercises. - 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.
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Hi Mark,

Rick had a similar question several years ago. We couldn’t find a video of the Arm Extender but here is an alternative description from Colver’s Book Fit By Nature:

“This is a 4-count exercise to warm up the arms and upper/middle back. Bend your elbows and move them as far behind your back as you can, looking for a squeezing sensation in your shoulder blades. Do this three times. On the fourth count, perform the same movement but with arms fully extended.”

You are essentially raising your hands to chest level and holding your elbows parallel with the ground, then holding that position and squeezing your shoulder blades together three times - bringing your elbows out and backwards, on the fourth time you extend your arms while still squeezing your shoulders together.

- The RMI Team

Posted by: RMI Expeditions on 11/1/2019 at 11:38 am

Please explain arm extender more precisely or send a video link. Thanks

Posted by: Mark wilde on 10/31/2019 at 5:52 pm

In Memory of RMI Guide Luke Wilhelm

It is with heavy hearts that we share with you that our fellow RMI Guide, colleague, and friend Luke Wilhelm died on Sunday, March 6th. Luke was climbing with a friend and fellow RMI Guide in the North Cascades when he fell. His climbing partner was able to safely descend. A search and rescue flight was able to locate and recover Luke the following day.   

Luke began his guiding career with RMI in 2018 and quickly impressed all those he met with his passion, skill, love of life, and contagious enthusiasm. He will be missed.  Our hearts and thoughts are with Luke’s family and with all of you. 

Luke – Your smile lights up every room you enter. You have impacted all of us at RMI. May your smile, compassion, and zest for life continue on in each of us.

RMI Guide Luke Wilhelm

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Luke was one of our guides in August 2018 on Rainier, he was awesome, just such an amazing energy and positive outlook.  I got really bad cramps in my calves at Ingram flats and knowing the toughest part was still ahead a decided to turn around with another climber that was having troubles with the altitude, Luke guided us back down and then a few hours , when the sun was out took us up to Muir peak to see some great views.  I was very impressed with Luke and our lead guide Brian, I just climbed Mount Shasta this week, via Avalanche gulch and thought of the lessons I learned on Rainier with Brian and Luke , Rest steps, breathing techniques, packing up gear, all those things that help make you more efficient as a climber.  I am so very saddened to hear of his passing, he will be deeply missed, and though I only knew in for a few days, he is that special kind of person that leaves and ever lasting impression on people. God Bless Luke and his family,  Moose.

Posted by: Matt Mellenthin on 6/3/2023 at 5:17 pm

Luke was one of my guides in 7/18, we got 1000 ft from the summit before having to turn back. He was so positive!!  He and I hiked down the entire way from Camp Muir, just the two of us with the group behind…. He and I chatted about life and Philosophy. He could have been my child and we kept in touch for a couple of years. I just flew to WA from CO for a business trip and found his email while deleting things. Then thought of him and others on my drive to Yakima. I emailed him and it bounced back, no recent activity on social media…. And my heart sunk & I googled and just got the news. I’m so saddened, but know he lived life to the fullest and was doing what he loved!!!! Keep on keepin’ on Luke….. hope to run into you again someday!!!!

Posted by: Julie Frisbey on 4/18/2023 at 6:40 pm

Mt. Everest Expedition: Dave Hahn Details the Days Events as the Team Arrives Base Camp

At Camp One, we were up before dawn, boiling cups of instant coffee and hurriedly packing. It wasn't going to be an ideal scenario, by any means... Being "rescued" from 20,000 ft on Mount Everest, along with perhaps 180 of our closest friends... But we weren't likely to get any better offers... The Icefall Route that should have been a two hour descent to Basecamp was decidedly out of order and couldn't be fixed while the earth was still shaking. We got out in the cold shadows in our down suits and thankfully saw clear and calm conditions. Perhaps we all did have a chance to escape the Western Cwm. It seemed unlikely that ninety plus landings and take offs -at what was a record breaking rescue altitude for helicopters only twenty years ago- could be accomplished without chaos or catastrophe... or at least unworkable delay, but sure enough, the first B3 powered on in at 6 AM and the great Everest Air Show began. A fear of the team leaders was a helicopter mob scene ala Saigon '75, but we'd arrayed our helipads in a way that didn't allow for mobbing and everybody seemed to understand the need for superior social skills on this day. There was one way out and nobody wanted to get put on the "no fly" list. Eventually there were four or five birds in the air at any time, flying a dramatic loop from BC to Camp One to BC. A line of climbers with packs formed at each pad and a stream of climbers from Camp 2 made their way into what was left of Camp 1 and then joined the queues. It took four laps in Kiwi pilot Jason's B3 to get our team down. Although it seemed already like a full day, it was only about 9:30 AM when Chhering and I got off the final RMI chopper. There was no back-slapping. No cheering. No high fives. We'd put down at the epicenter of a disaster and we could barely believe our eyes. Whatever relief each of us felt at being off the mountain was quickly replaced with sadness and awe at the destructive power on evidence all around us. Hearing on the radio about the quake triggered Avalanche that blasted BC did nothing to prepare us for experiencing the aftermath first hand. It was as if an enormous bomb had detonated. We each walked slowly through the obliterated camps, stopping to understand how much force had bent this or that bit of steel. We finally understood the enormous death toll and the nature of the numerous injuries to the survivors. When we reached our own greatly altered camp and heard a few stories from neighbors, we finally understood Mark Tucker's heroism of the last few days, helping to stabilize and transport dozens upon dozens of seriously injured, bloody and broken people. He and our Sherpa team had gone immediately to help others, even though their own camp was largely destroyed. By now, we are not even mildly surprised to learn that they somehow found time and energy to rebuild camp for our arrival. Our "ordeal" seems trivial by comparison... we had to stay a bit longer in a beautiful and legendary hanging valley and deal with a bit of uncertainty. Now back down to earth... we understand just how lucky we've been and we are sad beyond words to learn how unlucky others have been. Best Regards, RMI Guide Dave Hahn
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It is beyond words the devastation, and yet I am so glad to hear you are safely down off the mountain and pray for a continued safe journey to you and the many others involved.  Thanks for communicating.

Posted by: michele on 4/29/2015 at 11:39 am

As Hemingway once said in defining a “hero”, it is one who shows Grace Under Pressure. You guys are all Heroes in my book. Have a safe trip home.

Posted by: John Hawkins on 4/28/2015 at 6:26 pm

Mountaineering Training | Training Zones


A major component of a successful training plan and regimen is varying the intensity of workouts in an organized way to create an increase in overall fitness and performance. Some workouts are hard, some are short bursts of maximum effort, and many are long and slow endurance sessions. As we consider the goals of different training periods and the types of training that they entail, workouts tend to be defined by their intended HR or intensity zone.

Training zones have traditionally been distilled into five categories, based on their physiological effect and the corresponding effort they require. While it’s not a particularly exciting way to label them, the categories are named Zone 1, Zone 2, Zone 3…you get the idea. For those that train with a heart rate monitor, percentage of max heart rate (MaxHR) is a common way to help identify your training zones. The most common method to determine your MaxHR is to subtract your age from 220. This can provide somewhere to start, but MaxHR shows a high degree of variability between people, mostly due to genetics. It does decrease with age, and level of fitness actually has very little effect on one’s MaxHR. As you get further into your training plan and have some HARD workouts, you’ll get a sense for where your MaxHR more realistically lies. If you see a higher MaxHR show up on your workout than the formula says you should, go with that. If you can’t get anywhere near your calculated MaxHR despite the hardest workouts, go with the highest value you’ve seen.

While MaxHR is one of the most common ways to determine an individual’s training zones from common software platforms such as Strava, TrainingPeaks, etc, there are other methods that can offer a bit more refinement. These include the HRR or Heart Rate Reserve method, or completing an Aerobic Threshold Test and Anaerobic Threshold Test.

Heart rate monitors are great training tools, but are not necessary to train properly. Another method of setting the zones is to use perceived effort. The zones are described as follows:

Zone 1: Zone 1 is described as the aerobic recovery zone, and is between 50—60% of MaxHR. At this intensity, the body burns fat for energy and allows muscles to replenish their glycogen stores. On a perceived effort scale, this workout almost feels like a non-workout. At the end you should feel that you didn’t go hard enough to accomplish anything perhaps. In reality, this is a great intensity for building your aerobic base and to aid muscle recovery.

Zone 2: 60—70% of MaxHR is where the body is most efficient at building endurance. This is still a purely aerobic effort, and for those without a heart rate monitor, it is a pace that you can carry on a conversation while exercising. Since this is the best physiological zone for building your aerobic capacity, a lot of your long workouts will take place at this intensity.

Zone 3: Zone 3 is between 70 and 80% of your Max HR, and generally is the zone when you stop being able to talk in full sentences, but can still get out short bursts of words at a time. Physiologically, Zone 3 is the space between your Aerobic Threshold and your Anaerobic Threshold. It can bring powerful training improvements to both aerobic capacity and anaerobic threshold, but the benefits quickly plateau over the course of a training program, so use it sparingly. It is useful for some tempo workouts and interval training, but is probably the zone to spend the least amount of your training time.

Zone 4: Here, we are talking about speed, discomfort, and shorter efforts. Zone 4 is the anaerobic threshold zone. At 80 to 90% of MaxHR, your body burns significantly less fat, using the glycogen stored in the muscles instead. This form of energy transfer is less efficient (lack of oxygen!) so lactic acid is a byproduct. Above your anaerobic threshold, your body’s ability to remove and process lactic acid is overwhelmed, and it begins to build up. This intensity becomes unsustainable over the course of an hour or less. This translates to your race pace, and feels like an effort that you won’t be able to keep up for very long, and what you’d like most to do is slow down or stop.

Zone 5: 90 to 100% of MaxHR. This is for pure speed and all out effort. It typically involves intervals, or short bursts of max effort, and is useful for increasing your anaerobic threshold and increasing your body’s ability to cycle lactic acid and recover from hard efforts. It is difficult to measure Zone 5 with a heart rate monitor because the body’s ability to maintain zone 5 is on the order of several seconds, and there tends to be a lag in the HR response to the effort. Needless to say, these efforts are all out and explosive, 10 to 15 seconds long.

Training zones are a great way to set the goal for a workout and ensure that you are getting maximum benefit from your training sessions. Identify which zones you’ll be working out in before hand to design the day’s workout goals, and afterward assess yourself to see how you did - were you able to maintain your effort in your planned zone(s) throughout the workout?

The description of the zones is not set in stone. If your heart rate monitor says that you are in Zone 2 but you are having trouble carrying on a conversation, then you should scale back what you consider Zone 2 to bring it in to line. If you are going as fast as you possibly can but can’t make it to Zone 5, then your MaxHR estimation might be a little high, and you can scale it down. Once the levels are dialed in, they are a great way both to design and track your workouts going forward.


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

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very useful inputs, for someone like me who aspires to scale denali/ kilimanjaro and many more with rmiguides !  and thinking how to get started

Posted by: kiran balijepalli on 11/28/2022 at 7:41 pm

Does heart rate change with altitude? Should my first push up the hill to Panorama Point match my last push prior to Muir?

Posted by: Rob on 5/16/2021 at 8:02 am

Mountaineering Training | Fit To Climb: Week 1

This is officially the first training week Fit To Climb and of your Mount Rainier adventure. Much like fastening up a coat, it’s really important to get the first button in the right hole, or no amount of effort at the other end is going to make the process successful! In physical training, a core foundational principle is to develop correct movement patterns, this so we can use our bodies efficiently while avoiding injury. The method we’ll use to practice this week is the Daily Dozen. (Download a description of the Daily Dozen here). During this first week of training, measure your success by performing the exercises with the greatest amount of skill possible. Consider how you’ll want to move on the mountain during your climb, moving over rocks covered in ice, wearing crampons and a heavy backpack, potentially in a snowstorm. At that point, you’ll want your foot to end up exactly where you want it, and you’ll want to have the strength and coordination to efficiently move your body upwards. The very first step toward getting there is to figure out how to move your body right. Therefore, do not worry about how many exercises you can do or how intensely you can do them; simply focus on the quality of movement and make a strong commitment to quality training during this week and for the weeks to follow. Fit to Climb: Week 1 Schedule
1 Daily Dozen (Crux Workout) 12 min. Recovery
2 30 Minute Hike 30 min. Medium
3 Daily Dozen / Rest 12 min. Recovery
4 30 Minute Hike 30 min. Medium
5 Daily Dozen / Rest 12 min. Recovery
6 1 Hour Hike 60 min. Medium
7 Rest - Recovery
  Total 2 hrs 36 mins  
- 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.
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This is so helpful, I am planning to go visit after this outbreak is control. Really missing trekking. These should be so helpful.

Posted by: Alice R. Birch on 9/6/2020 at 7:51 pm


The link to the Daily Dozen is the last word “here” of paragraph 2 at the top.

Busted not reading the introduction.


Posted by: Barry Reese on 12/17/2016 at 11:25 am

Mountaineering Training | Reorienting Training in 2020

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.

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New to this climbing world, Started out with trail hiking the Grand canyon. Trying my first Mountain at the Grand Tetons in June of 2024. I have a friend that introduced me to kettle-bell work outs. An E.M.O.M. routine 6 days a week with one day of just step ups.
This has been a game changer for my fitness levels, Would highly recommend his program {Adventure fit by Derek Toshner} I adapted the workouts to fit my age and fitness one day kettlebell next day body weight routines. My age is 59, yesterday’s workout was a mile walk with a 44lb bell over head swing to switch arms every 100 steps, Seems easy right, not so much; back, forearms, legs, core, all engaged, an exercise that would help in pulling that 60 pound sled and increase cardio.

Posted by: Richard Hulbert on 2/19/2023 at 4:22 am

I too followed Uphill Athlete’s 12-week program and then some.  Never trained harder in my life.  Still unable to summit Rainier after a second attempt.  The fitness requirements to summit that mountain truly elude me.  I had a great time being up there, but when you put in the months of hard work and dedication and still come up short, it is monumentally frustrating.  Bottom line mountaineering is no joke, and it demands a level of fitness that despite targeted training and motivated commitment, I still have not achieved.  I have immense respect for those who seem to have cracked the code and have made their goals a reality.  I only wish I knew where I am going wrong.

Posted by: Jordan Cook on 7/6/2021 at 7:34 pm

Mountaineering Training | Planning Your Training: F.I.T.T.

As we start the training process we want to decide how often to train, how hard to work, what type of activity to do, and for how long.  A useful acronym is F.I.T.T. and it stands for Frequency, Intensity, Type and Time. We can use the F.I.T.T. principles to ensure our training provides the results we expect.    Frequency.  The frequency of training is simply how often you train.  For example, how often you complete your long hike or your strength training.   My experience working with climbers and athletes is that in order to decide how often to train, it is best to look practically at our lifestyle and build the training in around work, family, and other important commitments.  Most people can spend an hour or so on exercise most days of the week, with a larger amount of time on the weekends.  The good news is that for most people this is enough.  Training five days a week provides plenty of opportunity to build the fitness required for mountain climbing.   Intensity.  Intensity can range from very easy to extremely hard.  This can also be expressed as aerobic intensity and anaerobic intensity.  In mountain climbing, the vast amount of activity is aerobic punctuated with shorter bursts of anaerobic activity.  This can be reflected in the training plan.  For example, longer hiking sessions will be performed at a lower intensity whereas shorter weekday sessions will be a chance to push hard and get the heart rate into the anaerobic range.   Type.  A general theory of training is one of specificity.  This means that the more closely aligned the type of training is to the actual activity, the more you will benefit. This is important for many climbers, especially if you live in areas with few hills to climb. Most of us will use alternate methods of training and we should make sure that we consider how closely the type of training mimics the actual climb. Hiking, of course, is perfect.  A stairmaster or elliptical machines is good.  Cycling uses similar muscles and energy systems.  Although swimming, yoga, and basketball yield great conditioning benefits, these sports do not translate to climbing in the way that more similar activities do.     Time.  Mountain climbing involves long days.  It is common to climb for five to eight hours; summit days, such as on Mt. Rainier, often involve 14 to 18 hours of climbing.  On these long climbs we generally break the day into segments of about an hour of climbing at a time.  During your training a long day of hiking will progressively mimic a day on the mountain.  Shorter mid-week training sessions of about an hour develop the habit of putting on a pack and being ready for any rigors the next hour of climbing presents.   Applying the F.I.T.T. principles is a good way of building out a training plan that covers all of our bases.  A rough example of a well-balanced training week (in the building phase) could therefore look like this:   • Monday:  Rest and Recovery • Tuesday:  Stairs • Wednesday:  Strength training • Thursday:  Short hike • Friday:  Rest and Recovery • Saturday:  2 hour aerobic activity ie. cycling, hiking, or running • Sunday: Half-day hike   This example is simply a guideline; everyone will have a slightly different approach to how they map out their training plan.  Just as there are many routes to the summit of the mountain, there are many ways to develop a training plan.  The important things are that your training plan contains the right balance of activities that develop the fitness and strength to be successful on the mountain.  At the same time, the best training plans are ones that fit our lifestyle, are enjoyable, and therefore sustainable.   - 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.
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Posted by: Jethro mark Baturi Agmilao on 3/21/2023 at 8:04 am

what is this…....fazool h

Posted by: dddddddds on 1/22/2022 at 1:15 am

With a heavy heart the RMI family announces the passing of our founder, Lou Whittaker

Lou Whittaker, the founder of RMI Expeditions, passed away peacefully on March 24th at his home in Ashford, Washington, surrounded by family and loved ones. Lou was born on February 10th, 1929, in Seattle, Washington. 

He and his identical twin brother Jim began mountaineering at age 12, their first foray into the sport they would help shape. At 16, he summited Mount Rainier for the first time, the mountain that would become synonymous with his life, and earned him the nickname “Rainier Lou.” The record of his time in the mountains is bursting with achievements, from the first American-led expedition on the North Side of Everest to the first successful American expedition summit of Kanchenjunga and many others. On numerous rescues, he saved dozens of lives in the mountains; if people were in trouble, nothing could stop him. 

Anyone can be a mountaineer, but not everyone can be a guide. Lou was a teacher at heart, and in 1969, he founded Rainier Mountaineering, Inc. (RMI Expeditions). Mountains were the source of his health, the wellspring of his confidence, and the stage for his triumphs, and he was one of the first to make mountaineering and its benefits accessible to the broader public. Since its inception, RMI has emphasized teaching and leading over 100,000 aspiring climbers. His leadership made mountain guiding a true profession, with many of the world's premier mountaineers benefiting from Lou’s tutelage.

When he wasn’t pushing the boundaries of mountaineering or helping to define the standard of guiding excellence, Lou was a masterful carpenter, craftsman, and builder. Lou and his wife Ingrid built unique homes of natural black basalt and massive log beams. His projects were often made more challenging by his insistence on self-reliance but were all the more beautiful for it. His enthusiasm for hard work was infectious; he was a master at pulling together a team, and the stories from those projects are still shared among those lucky enough to be included.  

Lou once said, “There’s a certain amount of risk involved in life. When it comes down to dying, I want to know what it is like to have really lived.” And he certainly did. He was a pioneer, constantly pushing the frontier of the mountaineering world. He was a philosopher, always ready with a poem, limerick, or quote. He was an innovator who never encountered a problem he couldn’t solve. He was a philanthropist, who started and chaired multiple nonprofits. He was a patriarch who loved the family that orbited him. He had the vision for American Mountain Guiding, and helped to make the industry and sport what it is today.

Above all, he was a monumental man who commanded the room when he walked in and helped influence thousands of lives. He warmed both hands on the fire of life. With his size 13 shoes, he left one hell of a set of footsteps, footsteps we should all try to follow, no matter how challenging the climb.

Lou is survived by his wife Ingrid, his twin brother Jim (Dianne), his sons Peter (Kerry) and Win, his grandchildren Kristian, Gabriella, and Kalen (Ryan), his great-grandchildren Scotty and Sage, and many nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his daughter Kim. There will be a Celebration of Life at Rainier BaseCamp at the foot of his beloved Mount Rainier this summer. We’ll have more details soon, and ask you to come raise a glass to this iconic mountain man.

“I warm’d both hands before the fire of Life….” 

                                                                                    –Walter Savage Landor

Lou Whittaker at Camp Muir on Mt. Rainier


The Whittaker family has created a Tribute to Lou Whittaker page on Facebook for you to share stories, memories, and photos.

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Several friends and I climbed Mt. Rainier in 2010 with Whittaker.  One day before the climb, I was in line at the base camp to get some food.  I turned around and right behind me in line was a mountain of a man.  I immediately knew who Lou was, partly because I had just finished his biography.  Even though I’m sure he would have liked to gotten around to the important business of lunch, he was very gracious with me and my friends - taking time out of his day for pictures and some pre-climb advice for us.  It was a thrill for us to meet a living legend.  I’ll never forget the experience, and I have a group pic of Lou, my friends, and myself hanging in my office.  Many condolences to all those who loved Lou.

Posted by: Dean on 4/2/2024 at 7:21 am

I was fortunate to be on four JanSport Annual Dealer Climbs on Mt. Rainier, and met Lou on my very first climb. It was so amazing to meet a true American hero, a man about whom I had read in several mountaineering books. He and his RMI crew of guides left a permanent mark on my life. I still have a framed postcard in my home office, that I bought at the Whittaker Bunkhouse, with a Lou Whittaker quote on it: “If you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much space.” Words to live by, indeed! Thank you, Lou.

Posted by: Frank Henninger on 3/31/2024 at 3:37 pm

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