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Wilderness Sports > Mountaineering & Scrambing > Mountaineering: Representative Goals and Suitable Training Baselines

Crevasse navigation on Mt Rainier

Mountaineering: Representative Goals and Suitable Training Baselines

Wherever your destination may be, you can find training information specific to your goal. Below are sample destinations, trip reports, and client success stories that can motivate, inform, and help you prepare for your similar trip. As a starting resource, our book, The Outdoor Athlete contains sample programs for goals including a beginner-level scramble, an intermediate-level 3-day mountaineering trip up Mt. Rainier, and an advanced 3-week expedition up Mt. McKinley in Alaska. Baseline weekly training for mountaineering conditioning starts with 2 strength workouts for at least 30 minutes; 2 or more cardiovascular workouts, one of which is at least 45 minutes at 65-75% MHR, and one shorter, higher intensity 30-minute session at 75-85% MHR; and one mountaineering-specific hike of 5 or more miles with at least 2,000 feet of elevation gain with a 13-15 pound pack. Cardiovascular modes specific to traveling over steep, uneven terrain include walking hills and stairs; using a stair-climber, StepMill, high-ramp treadmill, VersaClimber, or high-ramp elliptical trainer, participating in step aerobics; trail running; and hiking.

Sample Beginner Destinations 1-day goals below are typically climbed in mountaineering boots rather than sticky-soled rock shoes (for climbs needing rock shoes visit climbmain.asp). Include unilateral balance exercises and walks on variable terrain to increase stability for the ankles. Progress your hikes from moderate to ever-steeper and more challenging terrain by adding about 500 feet of elevation per outing and gradually increasing pack weight by 3-5 pounds each outing until you can carry your targeted trip pack weight for at least 1-2 hikes a few weeks before your target adventure. Allow 2+ months to train.

Alpine Rock Climbing Low 5th class up to 5.4
Longs Peak - North Face (CO)
Ingalls (WA)
Kangaroo Temple (WA)
S. Early Winter Spire (WA) August, 2003
S. Early Winter Spire (WA) 2001
S. Early Winter Spire, SW Arete (WA) June, 2003
Tooth (WA)
Cutthroat (WA)
Guye Peak (WA)

Roped Glacier Travel
Success Story from a client: Hood (OR)
Silverstar (WA)
Sahale (WA)

Snow Scramble
Mt. St. Helens (WA)
Mt. St. Helens 2003

Sample Beginner Multi-Day For a multi-day trip, start with the baseline training needed for single-day trips (suggested above), and include at least a few back-to-back pack-carrying outings several weeks before your multi-day trip. Focus on building adequate strength endurance in the entire body to enable you to carry heavier overnight gear and be able to exert yourself several days in a row without recovery time between effort.
Eldorado 2003 (WA)
Glacier Peak (WA): Kennedy Ridge 2002
Olympus (WA)
Mt. Shuksan (WA)
Dragontail Colchuck (WA)
Mt. Daniel (WA)
Dome Peak (WA)
Eldorado 2004 (WA)
Gardner (WA)
Glacier Peak (WA): Sitkum Glacier 2001

Intermediate Multi-day High Altitude Trip Allow at least 3-4 months to train for something as demanding as a trip to the summit of Mt. Rainier or as remote as a mountaineering trip up Mt. Goode. If your goal pack weight will be considerably heavier than 35 to 40 pounds, add 1 to 2 more months for such baseline building. Novice mountaineers attempting such trips as once-in-a-lifetime experiences may end up carrying packs as heavy as 50 to 60 pounds; plan accordingly on your conditioners so that you are ready to handle a heavier pack than the one suggested here if you go with a guide service that requires more or heavier gear. High-altitude glaciated mountains in the Pacific Northwest such as Mt. Hood (OR), Mt. Baker (WA), Mt. Rainier (WA), and Mt. Shasta (CA), all generate their own weather. Use a guide for safe crevasse navigation unless you have the skill set, knowledge, and experience to travel safely on your own. Late in the season, when you have to navigate around crevasses that have opened up, your trip may last longer and involve a significantly greater amount of elevation gain and loss en route to the summit.
Emmons Glacier Climb, Mt. Rainier (WA) 2007
Disappointment Cleaver Climb, Mt. Rainier (WA) 2007
Remote Mt. Goode (WA) 2003
Mt. Rainier (WA) Emmons Glacier Climb Photos: 2002
Mt. Rainier (WA) Disappointment Cleaver Climb Photos: 2003
Mt. Rainier (WA) Emmons Glacier Climb Photos: 2003

5-Day to Multi-week High Altitude An advanced program suitable for a goal such as a 3-week high-altitude expedition up Denali (McKinley, AK) with a 50- to 80-pound pack and a 40- to 60-pound sled differs from other programs in its heavy carries and sled dragging, extreme altitude, frigid temperatures, and unpredictable weather. Alaskan alpine expeditions do not include porters, pack animals, or Sherpas. A mountaineer will carry 3 weeks of food and cold weather gear totaling at least 60 pounds in a pack and 50 pounds in a sled for the first 2 days. After that, the trip involves multiple heavy carries as you ascend the mountain. The program should include several overnight trips, at altitude and in snow if possible, to test the logistics of attaching and toting sleds and dealing with cold conditions. Drag tires or sleds on dirt, sand, or grass for interval training (1-2 minutes of dragging followed by recovery time to get the heart rate back below 65% MHR) on flat or slightly elevated terrain; the sled dragging will be on level to slightly inclined terrain on the approach to camp one on Mount McKinley.
Denali (McKinley, AK): Success Story from a client



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