When you climb a big mountian
I knew how to train for some specific activities, but climbing a big mountain wasn’t one of them. Thanks to the twitter community I’ve found myself in, I was able to compile a list of training tips from friends who understand what it takes to climb Rainier. I owe them a lot! The actual day-to-day training plan I used came from a DVD called, fittingly enough.
Make Sport-Specific Training a Priority
The piece of training advice I heard most frequently was to train with a heavy pack as much as possible.When you’re climbing a big mountain, you’ll spend most of your waking hours with weight strapped to your back and your body needs time to adapt to what that feels like. I heard stories of marathoners stopping short of summits because, despite their cardiovascular conditioning, their bodies weren’t prepared for the long uphill weighted battle. My training plan called for a gradual increase in elevation gain and hiking time over the course of six months. In the beginning, I’d hit one of my favorite local hiking spots with 20 pounds on my back and hike for two or three hours. By the end of the plan, I was supposed to gain 4,000-5,000’ of elevation over eight hours with 40 pounds or more at least once or twice a week, coupled with interval training.I’d do some of my favorite local hikes, like Glen Onoko Falls, multiple times in one day. If I couldn’t make it outside, I’d hit the Stairmaster or treadmill and try to gain the same elevation. It’s exhausting and time consuming, but it pays off. So, get a heavy pack on and start hiking!
Train Your Brain
“Mountaineering /n./ slow walking uphill while not feeling very well.”
Mentally pushing through the physical suffering and fear that makes mountaineering what it is can be the difference between summiting and not. On summit day, we climbed up Rainier for 16 hours on lessthan four hours of sleep. I was exhausted, my muscles were screaming, and I had an altitude-induced migraine. I spent a good bit of summit day absolutely terrified, glancing at gaping holes in Rainier’s beautiful glaciers that could swallow me whole. But I trusted my training, my guides, my team and myself. I had a mantra I recited with each step. Rock climbing had exposed me to primal fear, and I’d found ways to cope. The fear, the risk and the suffering are all part of what makes mountaineering special. You’re pushing yourself physically and mentally beyond boundaries you thought were impossibly fixed. It’s exhilarating.Though looping the Mount Tammany hike three times on a 95º summer Pennsylvania day was monotonous and downright awful at times, it helped me prepare mentally for what was to come. Acompletely rained out backpacking trip in the Catskills did too. So get out there, try some things that scare you and push you mentally!
If You’ve Never Been at Altitude, Get There
Prior to my trip to Rainier, I’d never climbed above 6,000’. I had no idea how my body was going to react to the lack of oxygen at altitude. At 14,411’, Rainier is high enough to cause issues for climbers who have trouble coping and those who ascend too quickly. I took a short trip to Boulder, Colorado the month before the climb and hiked Quandary Peak (14,265’) to better understand how my body dealt with going from sea level to 14,000’ in two days. It wasn’t pretty, nor did it feel good, but I’m glad I was prepared going into the Rainier trip.