Chicks Training: Long Alpine Days

Carolyn Parker on a long alpine day on the SW Buttress of Makalu. ©Brendan Cusick.

Carolyn Parker on a long alpine day on the SW Buttress of Makalu. ©Brendan Cusick.

Do you have your sights set on an alpine trip?

Would you like to go to Mt Baker, take a trip to the Alps or do something in South America?

Alpine climbing is a mix of rock climbing, ice climbing, and endurance—12hr days, 20hr days, multiple 12hr days AND it always means carrying a pack!

Most people don’t live with the mountains in their back yard. For many the mountains are not easily accessible.

So how do you train for alpine days? How do you build an alpine-fitness base with what you have at your disposal?

Before you go on a trip you should have a good understanding of how long the days will be. This is where your preparation begins.

Tracking progress and including rest is key to motivation

Keep a log or a journal. Track what you do and when. This way you can see your improvement in writing.

Training is never as glamorous as we would like it to be

Follow three hard weeks of training with a fourth week of fun and active recovery. This will keep your mind sharp and body ready for three more weeks of hard work.

Climb with Weight

Start with 10 – 15lbs in a pack. Try to stay on the wall for 10 – 12 min at a time. Switch off with a partner so that your rest is their climbing time. Complete 3 – 5 rounds depending on your fitness.

Down Climb

Often we have to down climb in the mountains. Practice down climbing in the gym, or at the crag. Then try down climbing with your pack. This can be incorporated into idea #1.

Climb in your approach shoes or boots

Start to get comfortable trusting your feet with more bulky, less sensitive shoes on.

Wear a pack on a stepmill, treadmill or stairs

If you don’t have good hiking trails close by and you can only get out periodically, take your pack to the gym and walk on a stepmill or a treadmill at an 8 – 15% incline with weight in your pack. Start with 8 – 10 # and increase over time. No! You don’t look weird. You look committed.

There are stairs in most buildings. Walk up and take the elevator down, repeat.

Add more weight to your pack.

If you walk back down, take into account that this is harder on the knees, as is any downhill. Prepare for downhill. Just don’t do lots of extra down.

Build Your Endurance Base

12hrs is a long day and your body will shut down if it doesn’t have some kind of preparation. However, training for 12 hrs doesn’t make sense in our busy lives.

The following assumes you already do 2 – 3 hour hikes:

Week 1

Saturday – 4 hrs hike with weight

Sunday – 2 hrs of recovery riding, swimming or jogging

Week 2

Saturday – 5 hrs hike with same pack

Sunday – 2 hrs of recovery riding, swimming or jogging

Week 3

Saturday – 6 hrs hike with pack,

Sunday – 2hrs of recovery riding, swimming or jogging

Week 4

Have fun. Don’t worry about training!

Week 5

Saturday – 7 hrs hike with pack

Sunday – 3 hrs of recovery riding, swimming or jogging

Week 6

Saturday – 8 hrs hike with pack,

Sunday – 3 hrs of recovery riding, swimming or jogging

Week 7

Decrease the time and increase the load in the pack.

Week 8

Active recovery. Fun week.

During the week

Try to get 2 – 3 60 – 90 min endurance sessions with a pack on step mill, treadmill, or stairs.

*Consider combining swimming, running and cycling in the same day. Getting used to logging long hours and learning how to fuel and hydrate are critical elements to success.

**Plan in some fun adventures that use your increasing fitness to keep yourself motivated.


Voila! You’re all set

The combination of the two days is nearly 12 hrs. Back to back days brings an athlete into their adventure with a healthy body and a motivated mind.

If you train for the gruelling nature of alpine climbing by flogging yourself with long days in an unpleasant environment you will burn out and get injured.

Prepare your body intelligently. Stay motivated and injury free.

Break up training. Make training fun and achievable.

Back-to-back days work and work well!

If you need information for a specific climb or trip of any nature, training support, or programming for climbing you can contact me at:

Carolyn Parker

Founder Ripple Effect Training

Gym Jones, Fully Certified Instructor

AMGA Certified Rock Guide