Training & Conditioning

If you've never climbed to the top of a glaciated mountain you will soon be introduced to a part of the world unlike any other. It is a place of sheer exhilaration as you realize what you have just accomplished. As the air thins, you'll wonder how you can continue to put one foot in front of the other. Proper physical conditioning will keep you taking it one step at a time, as you journey your way through a successful and enjoyable climb. Dedication is a key element in conditioning for climbing any high-altitude peak. To be fully prepared for our summit attempts, you must be committed to a personal training regimen. You should put together a workout schedule that will enable you to be in top form before we begin our first climb. General rule of thumb is a minimum of 3 months of committed continual conditioning, and, of course, more is better.

Your foundation should be built through regular cardiovascular training and hiking (Nothing prepares you better for hiking and climbing than hiking and climbing!). Also, try running, walking, swimming or biking, or any combination of these. The activity chosen should be sustained for a minimum of 45-60 minutes. Walking or running stairs with a pack is a great way to train because it's highly effective. There are many easily accessible outdoor stairs in Seattle (see suggestion list at the end of this page). Keep in mind that this conditioning will make your body more efficient in using oxygen. The higher you climb towards the summit, the lower the air pressure and less oxygen with each breath you'll take. Also, get used to doing what most of climbing involves: carrying a weighted pack at altitudes above sea level. During your conditioning, you should train with a pack as much as possible.

Using free weights or machines at the gym will build up your strength. When it comes to summit day, the stronger you are, the better your body will be able to handle the incredible physical demands it will face. One of these demands involves carrying a 35 to 45 pound pack. Challenging? Yes. Impossible? No! With proper conditioning and preparation, hauling a pack of that weight will be quite manageable.

To build endurance in the months leading up to your climb, you'll want to slowly increase your pack load and length of training sessions. When you start out you might have a 5 lb pack, but by the time we are 2 weeks from the scheduled climb date you should be able to ascend 3,500 ft carrying 40 lbs in a 3-4 hour period. Plan to add about 2-3 lbs of weight to your pack each week. At this rate, you will hardly notice the increase in weight on your back as you become stronger and more used to carrying a heavy pack.

Rest days are important. Train hard but allow your body to recover. That includes a couple days of rest every week during training, and before our climb. Rest is an important aspect of mountain climbing. You want to be fully rested and ready for summit day. Rule of thumb is to work up to peak fitness 2 weeks prior to the climb and then gradually reduce your physical effort and rest more.

TIGER MOUNTAIN - Exit 20 off of I-90 beyond Issaquah; hiking time 2-4 hours; 5.2 miles round-trip; elevation gain 2,000 ft; highpoint 2,522 ft (easiest).
WALLACE FALLS - Off Hwy 2; a good 3-4 hour beginner hike; 5-6 miles round-trip; elevation gain 800 ft; highpoint 1,120 ft (easiest).
MOUNT SI - Exit 32 off of I-90 near North Bend; hiking time 5-7 hours; 8 miles round-trip; elevation gain 3,100 ft; highpoint 3,600 ft (moderate).
MOUNT PILCHUCK - Call Darrington Ranger Station for directions (360-436-1155); hiking time 4-5 hours; 6 miles round-trip; elevation gain 2,400 ft; highpoint 5,340 ft (moderate).
LAKE SERENE - Off Hwy 2; hiking time 5 hours; 8 miles round-trip; elevation gain 2,000 ft., highpoint 2,550 ft (moderate).
MOUNT ELLINOR - Great glissade route in the spring, so bring your ice axe. (moderate)
MOUNT HIGGINS - Route finding can be difficult from upper trailhead. (moderate)
McCLELLAN BUTTE - Exit 42 off I-90; hiking time 8 hours; 6.8 miles round-trip; elevation gain 3,700 ft; highpoint 5,162 ft (strenuous).
BANDERA MOUNTAIN - Exit 45 off I-90, take road 9031 to trailhead; hiking time 4-6 hours; 7 miles round-trip; elevation gain 2,800 ft; highpoint 5,240 ft (strenuous).
GRANITE MOUNTAIN - Exit 47 off I-90; hiking time 8 hours; 8 miles round-trip; elevation gain 3,800 ft; highpoint 5,629 ft (strenuous).
MOUNT SAINT HELENS - If you climb before May 15th, you do not need a permit. Easier to hike on snow, option to ski or snowboard down. (strenuous)
THE BROTHERS - This is a basic climb, but not on a glacier. There is potential rock fall so wear a helmet. (strenuous)
MOUNT TOWNSEND - Beautiful hike on the Olympic Peninsula, offers great views; near Quilcene; 11 miles round-trip; elevation gain 3,350 ft; summit 6,280 ft. (strenuous)
CAMP MUIR (do not attempt Camp Muir unless you are with an experienced climber who has done this hike and knows the area) - Located in the Mount Rainier National Park, Camp Muir is the mid-point of the Disappointment Cleaver route up the mountain. No permits required below 10,000 ft. Starting point is at Paradise; 8 hours; 9 miles round-trip; elevation gain 4,600 ft; highpoint 10,000 ft. (most difficult - experience on snow needed)

CAPITOL HILL - Two sets: East Howe Street OR East Blaine Street; both begin off Lake View Boulevard East (adjacent to Interstate 5) and spill out on to 10th Avenue East.
QUEEN ANNE - Two groups: East Queen Anne at 4th Avenue North and Galer Street (the stairs lead down, crossing Taylor Avenue, and dead end at Aurora Avenue); AND West Queen Anne at Kerry Park at 1st, 2nd or 3rd Avenues West and Highland Drive (take any one of three staircases down).
GOLDEN GARDENS - Park at the north end Golden Gardens, walk through tunnel under the train tracks and up the stairs. The stairs end at 32nd Avenue NW at NW 85th Street.
WEST SEATTLE - Lincoln Park stairs and paths.
MAGNOLIA - Discovery Park stairs and paths.
UNIVERSITY DISTRICT - Stairs from the Montlake parking lot up to campus.