Chicks Alpine Training Tips

Chicks! This isn’t our first installment discussing the demands of the world of Alpine Climbing, so it’s worth going back and reviewing some of this information and adding to it as we move forward into our new summer season for alpine climbing. I’ve copied some of the information from previous newsletters in the content below and added new information for you.Past alpine issues:

General Alpine Training 

Let’s talk training: fundamentally the basis of all athlete training is to begin with strength. This is an often overlooked fact. Let me give you an example of why we need to be strong first.Let’s take a 5’4” woman who weighs 125#. She really wants to alpine climb, her goal is a Mt Baker trip. This will require a minimum of one but usually more nights out. Carrying a pack into a base came that weights 50 – 60#, with food for her climb, tent, stove, climbing equipment, extra layers. You get the picture. That pack weight is 1/3 to 1/2 of her body weight. She has to walk miles, uphill, with that pack to get to base camp. Every step she takes she is moving 175-185#. If we haven’t developed adequate leg and core strength to manage this load, our climber with be exhausted to the degree that climbing to the summit of Mt Baker, even with a light summit pack might not happen.Wow! Now this seems intimidating doesn’t it. It doesn’t need to be, we just need to be prepared.So gals, first we get strong! Then we start training for the long days out.

STRONG: Spend 6 – 8 weeks completing one or two strength workouts a week. However, keep in mind you are also wanting to work your long endurance. As you add hours to your training (see below) decrease your strength training. Begin your strength phase 4 -6 weeks before you start ramping up your endurance. As your training days get longer you’ll be done with strength building and you may only do one maintenance day in the gym depending on time and energy.

Let’s get those legs and core of the body strong!

A few of my favorite two leg or “close” chain movements for the mountains are the standard deadlift, romanian deadlift and front squat.Front Squats develop combined leg and core strength for managing the weight of a pack on our back.
The Romanian Deadlift targets Low back, Glutes and Hamstrings.
Training for climbing romanian deadlift
The standard Deadlift works grip strength back strength leg strength and core strength.
climbing training deadlift
Then: single leg movements for glute strength, balance and hip stability, Single Leg Straight Leg Deadlift (SLSLDL), weighted walking lunge, and weighted step ups.I’ve included videos of all of the remaining movements in the following workouts in previous newsletters.Here are a few sample WO to give you guidance of how to begin working these movements in to your routine in a productive manner for your alpine training.WO#1

warm up 10:00

3 x 5 wall squat
3 x 6 goblet squat
30m walking lunge forward and backwardThen:

Work up to something that’s heavy for 3 reps (3RM) for your Front Squat.Then:

8 x 3 Front Squats@ ______# rest 1 – 2 minutes between sets.Then:
10x weighted split squats (5 per leg)
10x ball slam
10x split jump
x 5
Cool down 20 min recovery endurance and stretchingWO#2

warm up 10:00
3 x 5 wall squat
3 x 6 goblet squat
5 x 3 SLSLDLThen:

Work up to a heavy-ish DeadliftThen:

5 x 5 Deadlift
Rest 2:00 between sets:
During rest complete 8x Ring Push up or standard push upsThen:

1-10 Squat Ladder with a partner.
Partners begin holding in a quads parallel position at the bottom of the squat movement. Person 1: does 1 rep while P2 holds. P2 does 1 rep while P1 holds.
P1 does 2 reps while P2 holds, P2 does 2 reps while P1 holds.
Continue until you complete the ladder to 10. No cheating.Finish with:

60secs mtn climbers/60 secs Deck Squats/30 ses rest
x 3 – 4 rounds
Cool down 20 min recovery endurance and stretchingWO#3

warm up 10:00
3 x 5 wall squat
3 x 6 goblet squat
30m walking lunge
3 x 10 RDLThen:

Work up to a weight that is heavy for a step up. Ideally use a bar bell on your back or two Kbs held in front rack position.Then:

5 x 5 Step up in 16 – 20” box depending on height
complete 5 step ups per leg with weight that makes the movement challenging, slow grinding movements.
In between sets compete 8x Pull upThen:

10x KB Swing+
8x Push Press
5x Push Plank Row
x 5
Cool down 20 min recovery endurance and stretchingLONG DAY TRAINING:

Most people have busy lives, with careers, homes, children, spouses, so much so that they don’t have a lot of time to train. We’ve got to be smart and efficient with our training time.So, let’s assume you’ve had some practice at rock and ice climbing and some basic snow travel its now time to build a fitness base for the long days ahead.Truthfully this can’t be done in a gym setting. No matter how hard the workout is what you need now is stamina. That’s not to say that gym work isn’t important or valuable it is, we’ve just covered the topic of being STRONG and why that’s important.

Climbing in the Alpine world can mean 12hr days, 20hr days, multiple 14hr days, carrying a pack the entire time.  Before you go on a trip either on your own or with a guide you should have a good basic understanding of how long the day or days will be, that is where your preparation will begin.

Now how to you go about training:

For a climb like the Grand Teton, or other alpine routes with rock that must be climbed with a pack.
  1. Top rope easy routes with your pack on 15 – 20# of weight to get a feeling for how it feels.
  2. Often we have to down climb in the mountains, practice this in the gym, climb up and down routes, or outside if that is easier. Then try it with your pack on.
  3. Climb moderate rock routes in your approach shoes or boots before hand so you begin to get comfortable trusting your feet with more bulky less sensitive shoes on.

Additionally, for climbs like Mt. Baker where you are mostly concerned with glacier travel and moderate alpine ice as well as The Grand, the days are LONG:

FIRST: Begin hiking with a slightly heavier pack than you normally would, this is key. Find time to walk with weight, even if you don’t have good hiking trails close and you can only get out periodically take your pack to the gym and walk on a step mill with weight on your back, no you don’t look weird you look committed. No Step Mill at your gym and you can’t stand the idea of the gym; there are stairs in most buildings you can walk up and take an elevator down, repeat, yes with a pack on your back. You can walk back down the stairs take in to account that this is hard on the knees as is any downhill. We want to prepare for down hill just don’t do lots of extra down.

LONG Endurance: 12hr days….that is a long day and your body will shut down if it doesn’t have some kind of preparation. however going out for 12 hrs doesn’t make sense in your busy life and is hard to fit in.

Here’s what we do:

Begin to build your endurance base, let’s assume you already do 2 – 3 hour hikes or rides:

  • Week One: on the weekend, 4 hrs Saturday hiking with weight or a combo of things, follow that with 2hrs of recovery riding or swimming or jogging on Sunday.
  • Week Two: on the weekend, 5 hrs Saturday, follow that with 2hrs of recovery riding or swimming or jogging on Sunday.
  • Week Three: on the weekend, 6 hrs Saturday, follow that with 2hrs of recovery riding or swimming or jogging on Sunday.
  • Week Four: have fun don’t worry about training so you don’t burn out!
  • Week Five: on the weekend, 7 hrs Saturday, follow that with 3hrs of recovery riding or swimming or jogging on Sunday.
  • Week Six: on the weekend, 8 hrs Saturday, follow that with 3hrs of recovery riding or swimming or jogging on Sunday.
And Voila you are all set. The combination of the two days is nearly 12 hrs. And yes this works.Other Ideas for long days: you can combine running and cycling in the same day to break up the long days, yes that counts. Break it up and make it fun. Always try and get time in with that pack on your back. Remember for most of us it hard to fit it all in with family, work, friends, fun so let’s make this achievable. Back to back days with cumulative time works and works well.It doesn’t make sense to train for the grueling nature of alpine climbing by flogging yourself with long days via headlamp in an unpleasant environment before you go to the mtns. Yes you need to prepare your body, but do it intelligently so you still have motivation, you can rest appropriately, and you don’t get injured before your trip.

There are so many specifics to alpine climbing that we just scratched the surface, one day adventure, two week trips, high altitude, trekking in, back packing, using huts. The idea is to understand your body needs to be prepared for the longer days and energy spent. If you need information for a specific climb or trip of any nature you can contact me via email.

Carolyn Parker