Alpine Climbing Fitness – Training For Alpine Climbing

Carolyn Parker, training for alpine climbing by wearing a pack on an inclined treadmill

Carolyn Parker, building alpine climbing fitness wearing a pack on an inclined treadmill.

Alpine climbing fitness will help you expand your alpine climbing knowledge and journey further into the backcountry.

Alpine climbing asks many things of climbers, not least of which is fitness.

Fitness for alpine climbing involves three factors:

  1. A good aerobic base
  2. An ability to tolerate the load of a heavier-than-usual pack
  3. A body that is trained for long days – maybe even a few in a row!

However, training for alpine climbing can look very different depending on the style of the climb, its technical nature, the altitude, and your experience level,

Let’s say you’re planning on climbing Mt Baker this summer.

Mt Baker is a fantastic alpine endeavor.

For those who want to do more mountaineering in their life, Mount Baker is a perfect place to learn steep snow climbing and glacier travel skills.

Your guides can help you learn all the skills necessary for your climb. But your guides can’t help you arrive with a good base of fitness.

Often, fitness is the most difficult piece for those who want to be prepared for alpine climbing. The fitter you are the better for the long approaches, big summit days, and carrying heavy loads. Not to mention enjoying the experience!

How to train for long, back-to-back days?

Weekends are usually the best time for gals to get out and train for more than an hour. But, if you have time during the week for more than an additional hour in the morning, then excellent!

Week One:

Week days

2-3 x a week (indoors or outdoors) shoot for 60 min on a treadmill at 10 – 15% grade, or go for a hike with as many hills as you can find. Carry a pack with the weight of your normal, day hiking pack.

Weekend – Start by increasing time from weekday hikes. Try 90min on Saturday and Sunday, again, with a standard day pack. Try and find as much uphill terrain as you can, if you live where it’s flat, consider doing one more day indoors on a treadmill (10-15% grade) or step mill—not exciting but it will begin to condition your legs to the uphill.

Week Two:

Week days

2-3 x hour-long hikes. If all went well on week one, add five more pounds to your pack from last week—carrying extra water is a great way to do this weight addition.


Stick with your standard daypack, but increase the time you are out to two hours both Saturday and Sunday

Week Three:


Increase load in pack by 5 # for 2-3 x 60 min treadmill sessions or outdoor hikes.


Increase load by 5 #, keep time the same 2:00 hours each day.

Week Four: 


Increase load in pack by 5 # for 2-3 x 60 min treadmill session


Keep load the same as last week, however increase the hike time to 2.5 hours both Saturday and Sunday.

Long-Term Alpine Climbing Fitness Goals:

Shoot for the weight you’ll be hiking in to base camp with. 40-45# is a good target weight. Increase load slowly and consistently over time.

And, increase weekend hikes to 8-9 hours over combined days. You can do one longer day (say 6 hours) and one shorter day (3 hours) if that is easier with your life schedule.

The key is to begin. Then slowly increase weight. Avoid injury by not over doing it too quickly.

There are so many specifics to alpine climbing: day-long adventures, two-week trips, high altitude, trekking in, back packing, using huts. The idea is to understand your body’s needs. Be prepared for the longer days and the energy spent.

If you need more information for a specific climb or trip of any nature you can contact me at:

Carolyn Parker

Founder Ripple Effect Training

Gym Jones, Fully Certified Instructor

AMGA Certified Rock Guide