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Training for a Climb

June 10, 2014
One step at a time. Photo by Karen Kilian.

One step at a time. Photo by Karen Kilian.

Climbing a mountain is not like climbing a hill in your neighborhood. It takes strength, endurance, as well as the mental ability to overcome stray thoughts going through your mind asking if you can truly do this (yes, you can!). Thus, one needs to train. And that means consistent exercise with backpacks and hiking boots. The more you train, the more you will enjoy your climb. A common phrase heard coming down from Mt Rainier from various climbers is “I wish I had trained more.”

I’m very lucky to live in the Pacific NW with Mt Rainier at my (sort of) doorstep. About 2.5 hours away from my home I have a fantastic training hike, going to Camp Muir. Camp Muir is a midpoint for summit hopefuls, around 10,000 feet elevation and 4.5 miles from the parking lot at Paradise on Mt Rainier. It is an excellent training ground with many folks hiking up to Camp Muir on sunny days.

Things to think about and do on your training hikes:

  1. What type of snacks will I want on my climb? This is THE time to try out all those snacks from your local outdoor shop or grocery store. You should aim for 300-400 calories with each break; carbohydrates are best for quick energy, some protein for lasting energy. Don’t worry about eating too many calories…you will balance that with your energy output.
  2. Practice the “Rest Step”.   On a recent training hike to Camp Muir, I passed folks who would take 2 steps then stop, 2 steps, then stop. Been there, done that, not fun. Learning and practicing the Rest Step will give you the endurance and stamina you need for climbing a mountain.
  3. Learn to pace yourself. The Sherpa staff on a trek once told me ‘never over walk your breathing.” Essentially, this means if you are out of breath while walking, you are walking too fast. Slow down, set a regular pace with comfortable breathing and you will find energy. Your breathing will be faster in general and perhaps with a bit more effort, but it should be comfortable.
  4. Learn and practice “pressure breathing.” This is a manner of breathing in which by pursing your lips, you create a sort of “back-pressure” into the lungs. This pressure actually forces what oxygen there is at altitude from your lungs into your bloodstream. The net effect raises the oxygen level in your blood, and you have more energy.

I have a goal of doing one hike every week before my climb in August. If you don’t have trails or mountains in your area, put on that backpack and hiking boots, and go find hills or stairs to climb. You can still practice all of the tips and not be in a forest or on the slopes of a mountain.

Then you won’t be saying: “I wish I had trained more”.

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