BIG EXPEDITIONS INVOLVE JETLAG, dirty bus rides, long treks, and a grueling schedule played out over many weeks. The air will be thin and you’ll be lugging packs, post-holing, and sleeping in cramped spaces. You’ll be too hot and too cold, dehydrated and hypoxic. Arriving at the mountain, just starting actual climbing demands a six-hour approach through steep talus and deep snow, lugging a monstrous load. How to prepare?
Climbing mountains is unique in the world of outdoor activities. It combines the athleticism of a triathlete and the dedication of a warrior in the most dangerous terrain on the planet. It’s an uphill pursuit demanding strong legs, cardiovascular fitness, and the technical ability to climb fast and safe over rock, ice, and snow. Mountaineering is more than a sport, transcending mere athletics into an unpredictable competition where “losing” might prove fatal. It’s a tall order to train for all the above, especially when you have to work full-time and have family and life responsibilities. However, dedicated, consisted training can get you where you want to be, no matter what else you have on your plate. Inclement weather, avalanches, collapsing seracs, and thin air can’t be controlled, but you can control how much preparation you do in the form of hard work and smart training.
Gym – Work on basic strength for the genre of climbing you anticipate. Indoors is also a good place to practice rope skills, find clinics, and seek professional guidance.
Rock/Ice Climbing – If you live near crags, make climbing a regular part of your week. Do long approaches (or run/bike to the crag) to mimic longer days. Enchain routes for more technical climbing. Practice relevant rope systems.
Travel – Visit best-in-class venues to stay motivated and keep your skills fresh. A nice trip is a reward for your hard work, but keep on the program by interspersing the climbing with a few runs.
Mimic what you intend to climb. If your objective involves technical ice, then by all means put your time in winter climbing. If you plan to climb Trango Tower, then a trip up El Cap is a good idea. If you are looking at Everest, then become proficient in the snow and ascending fixed ropes.