How to improve my mountain fitness before the next trip
Hopefully by reading through the fitness levels above you can get a bit of an idea about how to jump up to the next level. Here is some general advice about training for the mountains rather than a full blown training plan. There are some links to some excellent resources at the end of the article.
For an example, lets look at an ascent of the Matterhorn, taking just the last two days of a five day programme:
- A two hour walk to the Hornli hut with a medium weight rucksack (around ten kilos)
Four to five hours in ascent, featuring sustained scrambling with some sections of fixed rope where upper body and core strength is useful.
- From the hut to the summit its about 1200m of height gain, at altitude.
- Normally three – five hours in descent on the same route.
- Because of the terrain, everyone must have enough energy and reserves to scramble and climb safely. No wobbly legs allowed!
- Rucksack weight whilst on the climb is reasonably light, around 6 – 8 kilos.
- After a rest at the hut, one and a half hours to the lift station.
So you can see that if your only used to doing a couple of hours of flat walking/running/cycling a week, the Matterhorn is going to be a bit of a shock (and your not going to summit). Building a training programme that gradually gets your weekly volume up to a point where you can scramble for more than eight hours takes time.
Example number 2 – The Haute Route Ski Tour, a six day programme.
- Six days of ski touring at altitude, staying in huts.
- The need for solid legs after the uphill – the ski down can be pretty tough on tired legs!
- Each day involves 6 – 8 hours of ski mountaineering
- The ascents involve some technical skinning, climbing with skis on backpack and you need enough energy to do this safely.
So you can see from both of these examples (which both sit in the middle of what you can do in the alps, not easy but definitely not too hard), that mountaineering and ski mountaineering is much more serious than going down to the gym and running on the treadmill.
1. Regular visitor Sarah just below the summit of the Matterhorn in less than ideal conditions. Sarah’s running and crossfit training gave her enough reserve to allow us to push on a little, when other groups had turned around.
2. Niall and Lee making good use of their high levels of pre-trip fitness to make an ascent of Mont Blanc from the Italian side, a route with over 3000m of ascent from the valley.