Fitness

What are the physical requirements to climb the peaks of the Pacific Northwest?

Previous mountaineering experience is not needed on most Northwest climbs. Our guides will teach you the basic snow and glacier travel skills necessary to make a safe and successful climb. Although excellent physical conditioning is required for most glaciated mountain climbs in the Cascades range. Prior hiking, backpacking or climbing experience is beneficial.

Most trips in the Pacific Northwest are rated as strenuous and we cannot over emphasize the importance of conditioning. By getting your heart, lungs, and legs in top physical condition, you can focus on learning, while being able to enjoy the high mountain environment. It is recommended that you have some hiking and backpacking (camping) experience prior to this trip. All participants are required to carry a share of the group food and equipment which includes tents, ropes, stoves, pickets, etc. Be prepared to carry a 40 to 60 lbs backpack to high camp depending on the climb or course you choose.

  • Excellent physical fitness is required.
  • You should be able to hike/climb for 1-2 hours at a stretch, taking 10 minute breaks, for up to 12 hours.
  • You should be able to ascend 5000′ per day carrying 30 lbs on your back, and 3000′ per day carrying 50+lbs on your back.
  • Physical conditioning should not be underestimated – mountaineering is a strenuous activity.

Fitness Suggestions

The mountains of the Cascades Range are physically demanding and your ability to enjoy this adventure depends on your overall health and fitness.

It is often stated. The best training for mountain climbing is hiking, backpacking or climbing with considerable elevation gain (2000 vertical feet or more). Few other fitness activities truly replicate the physical demands of climbing steep mountains with a backpack.

We suggest you begin your training program at least four months prior to departure depending on your current conditioning. Walking up steep hills and stair climbing are both excellent ways to condition your lower body. Begin slowly, without the weight of a pack, eventually adding weight as you increase your training pace. In order to condition yourself to carry the weight, it will be important to take long hikes (4-6 hours) with a weighted pack at least one or two times a week. The best training for mountaineering is to carry a loaded pack up and down hills or small mountains. Hike uphill without breaks for at least an hour at a time when possible. Then break 10-15 minutes at the most and then continue hiking uphill for at least another hour. Do this as much and as often as you can. This is certainly not the only way to train but is probably one of the best ways to train for climbing big mountains. Don’t worry about your pace, this will increase over time, instead hike uphill slower if needed without taking as many breaks. Work at maintaining an even respiratory rate.

Unfortunately, many of you don’t live near good hills or mountains so then you will need to find another activity that will help increase your endurance. Supplement this with running, cycling, swimming, cross-fit sports, weight training, etc. for additional aerobic conditioning your heart and lungs. Any time spent at altitude will also prove beneficial. Remember mountain climbing (unlike running) is an activity where you slowly climb uphill over long periods of time while carrying heavy to a moderate amount of weight.

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