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  1. #1
    Senior Member Seattle Forrest's Avatar
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    Off topic: How do I train for this?

    I'm going to take a mountaineering class this spring, I think starting in February. They have a fitness test to make sure they people they admit are up to the task, and it sounds brutal. So I'm hoping people will have some good advice on what I should be doing over the next few months to make this easier on myself, and to make sure I pass the test.

    I'll have two hours to climb Mount Si - 3,700 feet over 4 miles, for an average grade of 17.5 % ( that can't be right? ). And I'll be doing it with all my gear on my back.



    On the bike, if you want to get better at climbing hills, you climb lots of hills. But I can't make it out to Si every day. And, frankly, there are nicer trails I'd rather do on weekends. Is this anything the stair master and elliptical machine at the gym can help me with? How much will climbing steep hills on the bike transfer over? Two or three miles from my house, Dravus Street is a 19 % grade for about half a mile; will coming here with a backpack full of water and doing laps on foot help me more than any of the other options I've got?

    Other than hitting the trail with a stopwatch, how do I gauge how much training I need to do?
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    Senior Member Keith99's Avatar
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    It sound like you have the gear and can make it to the mountian. I'd suggest giving it a try now, perhaps not all out push, but real effort.

    First it owuld be decent training, second it will let you need how much yuo need to improve (if any) and finally scouting the course can make all the difference, you will know where to make time and where to just survive.
    Perish any man who suspects that these men either did or suffered anything unseemly.

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    I Ride, Therefore I Am BigUgly's Avatar
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    Being that I run and hike along with cycling, I believe any type of aerobic activity would help you in this case. Certainly getting out and climbing that hill you mentioned would help as but do it a couple times(Up and down) in the same training session. I would choose the stairmaster over the elliptical or even the treadmill to increase your aerobic activity.
    Don't worry, relax, ride and have fun.

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    Senior Member Seattle Forrest's Avatar
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    I can make it to the mountain - it's only about 35 miles from my apartment. The days are very short, though, and rush hour traffic is bad, so I won't be doing it more often than one day per week. And ideally, less than that. But timing myself up the slope over the Thanksgiving break is probably a good start.

    My cardio health is pretty good from all the cycling - I've done about 4,200 miles so far this year, and probably climbed 135,000 feet on the bike. Saturday I rode 50 miles; yesterday I hiked 6 through deep snow, up toward Hemlock Pass. I do get winded and need to slow down on long, steep hikes, though - 10 % on foot feels like 18 % on the bike to me.

    For a normal hike, I bring a heavy SLR camera and tripod, food and water, and some extra layers, so not terribly heavy. My back will get sore from carrying the pack after 7 or 8 miles. Is there anything I can do about that? What kind of exercises can I do to strengthen my back muscles?
    Don't believe everything you think.

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    If your apartment, or some other building you have access to, has staircases, you can train by using a loaded pack and climb the stairs repeatedly. While you'll still need some training on actual rough terrain, the stairs can go a long way toward working on the fitness aspect of the training you need.

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    If your apartment, or some other building you have access to, has staircases, you can train by using a loaded pack and climb the stairs repeatedly. While you'll still need some training on actual rough terrain, the stairs can go a long way toward working on the fitness aspect of the training you need.
    +1. Load your pack heavier than what you will need, then haul it up and down those steps until you can't move your legs.

    Also, some things you can do to strengthen your back (and chest, shoulders, and arms...): push-ups, pull-ups and dips. Also, preparing for VERY steep grades: do lunges until if feels like your butt cheeks are going to fall off. It will help those mega-climbs.

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    Gears? CliftonGK1's Avatar
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    Your closest bet for training is just over in Issaquah. Hop 90-E to exit 20 and make a 180-degree right off the ramp onto that frontage road. Follow it back to the Tiger Mtn #3 parking lot. Take the TM#3 trail to the first intersection of the Cable Line Trail, and take the CLT to the top.
    TM#3 and the CLT both crest at the TM#3 summit, but the CLT is a kilometer shorter because it goes straight up. Emergency Response teams use it for their training run wearing full fire-jumper kits, and the Rainier hikers use it (and Si) as a full gear testing/training site. It's common to see people in giant packs and hardshell boots hiking those trails in the mid summer.
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    Senior Member Seattle Forrest's Avatar
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    Will stairs be more helpful than just walking up a very steep sidewalk? Or is it "six of one, half a dozen of the other?"

    They have a stair machine at the gym. I can make a routine of doing that for an hour and then jump in the pool to relax, if that's a good use of the time I've got. That would be pretty easy to fit into my week days after work. So would climbing Dravus with a heavy pack.
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    Senior Member snowman40's Avatar
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    Go do it with what you will carry, if you pass don't change what you are doing.

    If you don't make it, schedule a trip every other week to keep track of how you are doing. Climbing actual stairs would be better than a stair master if you have access to 5+ floors worth of stairs. The best would be on sidewalks, other trails as you'll build up other muscles, tendons and things that will cause you pain on the actual trail.
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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Seattle Forrest View Post
    They have a stair machine at the gym. I can make a routine of doing that for an hour and then jump in the pool to relax, if that's a good use of the time I've got. That would be pretty easy to fit into my week days after work. So would climbing Dravus with a heavy pack.
    I think the stair machine only works if you're going to wear your pack and hiking boots... Are you?

    It appears to me as if the hike up Mount Si is mostly about strength and endurance. Given that the route is four miles over 2 hours, you only need to average 2mph. That's a pretty reasonable pace with a backpack... except for the fact that you'll also be gaining 2000ft of elevation per hour. I would probably focus on weight-training during the week and then longer sessions hiking with your backpack on the weekend (or as often as possible). I would suggest at least a couple of visits to the actual hike before the day of the test. Knowing the route and being able to pace yourself appropriately is often half the battle...

    I would also suggest you put your gear together as soon as possible and practice hiking with the actual load you plan to carry, if you haven't already. One of the things I remember from hiking with a heavy pack is that it takes some time to get used to the weight and awkwardness of the pack. You may need to refine the way the pack is loaded to prevent the pack from being unmanageable. Better to find that out as soon as possible, rather than when you're under a deadline. Make sure that everything is comfortable with your expected load; there's nothing worse than having fit problems when you don't have time to stop and adjust things.

    Good luck!

  11. #11
    Senior Member Homeyba's Avatar
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    I think you need a benchmark to see where you are now. I'd take my gear and go give it a shot. You'll have a much better idea what you need to do. You may be fine right now. 3,700 ft over 4 miles would be difficult on a bike but hiking on a trail with a pack might not be so bad. Two hours is probably reasonable. How much weight are you carrying? Does it include climbing gear? Sounds like a fun adventure for you. What is the goal of your mountaineering class, Rainier?
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  12. #12
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    Bicycling will give you a great aerobic base, but definately try to fit in some stair climbing. And by stairclimbing I mean up-and-down stairs; hiking and mountain climbing, especially over a few days, will subject your legs/joints to up-and-downhill pounding that is not replicated on either a bicycle or stairmaster machine, making them extremely sore. See if you can find some stairs in your area (small stadium, parking garage, stairwell in a building), and try going up and down repetitively 1-2x per week, maybe 20 min-30 min. If the stairs are too short, skip every other one so you'll be getting a workout, or run up them (and walk down them a a good pace too). arrying a pack isn't necessary, but may help you just get used to carrying it help you adjusting its fit. Maybe go to Mt. Si every 2nd or 3rd weekend (?) to gauge your fitness level; it diesn't look that (4100 ft), so it should be fairly easy to get in shape to do it.

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    A tip (you probably know this, but as a reminder): The heaviest items in your pack should be located as close to your hips as possible. Not just at the bottom of the pack, but also against your back. This helps keep the center-of-gravity low, and makes your legs do more of the work than your back/shoulders/arms.
    If your pack doesn't have a sternum strap, make one. It will help keep the straps from "walking" to the ends of your shoulders, and make your core muscles do more of the work. It'll help prevent upper-body fatigue.


    Also, give yourself 3 or 4 days off from training before the test. Eat carbs to build up your glycogen stores. I find that bananas, prunes, and sweet potatoes are great foods during this time.

  14. #14
    Senior Member Seattle Forrest's Avatar
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    I covered 2.7 miles in 30 minutes on the stair machine at the gym last night, "rested" briefly doing the weight circuit (all upper body stuff, probably irrelevant for this) and then did 2.5 more miles in another 30 minutes on the elliptical. But this was with no gear, and no snow.

    Quote Originally Posted by Homeyba View Post
    Two hours is probably reasonable. How much weight are you carrying? Does it include climbing gear? Sounds like a fun adventure for you. What is the goal of your mountaineering class, Rainier?
    It will be 35 to 40 pounds. I'll have climbing gear, rope, crampons, and the whole nine yards. And I've got a friend who offered to lend me all the gear in advance, so I can get used to not just the weight, but how it's distributed.

    Two hours to cover four miles sounds like nothing. But there will be several feet of snow at the top. It's amazing how much more work that demands.

    This class is going to cover glacier safety, and how to climb. They have a field trip to the Nisqually glacier on Mt Rainier, where each student is going to "fall" into a crevasse, and be rescued; and each student will rescue someone. But mostly it's how to cross glaciers without falling in. I think it finishes with a climb up Mt Baker.

    The Basic Climbing Class offers a basic but comprehensive introduction to the technical mountaineering skills required to travel safely over snowfields, glaciers, and high-angle rock. The class size is small to preserve a high instructor to student ratio. Students in the course are exposed to the full range of climbing skills, first in a classroom setting, and then in the mountains.
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  15. #15
    Gears? CliftonGK1's Avatar
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    Also remember that the snow level has currently dropped to 1500' in North Bend, so if you're planning on hitting Si any time soon you're going to want something like Stabilicers or light crampons on the trail when you get above 2500'.
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  16. #16
    Senior Member Seattle Forrest's Avatar
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    That's a bummer. And this won't sound good for my chances, but I've never been on Mt Si. It's too crowded, and it's too close; all the hiking I've done along the I-90 corridor has been further out, on trails surrounded by mountains, instead of at the very edge of the range. So it'll be good to start going now, and learn the trail. But I don't have crampons (yet).

    I did the Denny Creek Trail on Sunday, up to Keekwulee Falls. It was a six mile round trip hike, because the road is closed a mile from the trailhead. Mostly I was able to walk on top of the snow other people have already beaten down ( "Cascade Concrete" ) but every now and then I'd break through. That's only ~3,200 feet.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Seattle Forrest View Post
    Will stairs be more helpful than just walking up a very steep sidewalk? Or is it "six of one, half a dozen of the other?"

    They have a stair machine at the gym. I can make a routine of doing that for an hour and then jump in the pool to relax, if that's a good use of the time I've got. That would be pretty easy to fit into my week days after work. So would climbing Dravus with a heavy pack.
    Depending upon the steepness (and length) of the sidewalk I would be surprised if the stairs aren't a better option. Mainly because there aren't many sidewalks that have the same incline level stairs do (which are typically between 30 and 45 degrees... YMMV.

    The stair machine may (or may not) be a reasonable alternative if you use it carrying the same gear and using the same footwear as you will on the climb...

    Do not trust the distance/climb data on such machines. My personal experience has been that the reported numbers seem overly optimistic...

  18. #18
    Senior Member Homeyba's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Seattle Forrest View Post
    I covered 2.7 miles in 30 minutes on the stair machine at the gym last night, "rested" briefly doing the weight circuit (all upper body stuff, probably irrelevant for this) and then did 2.5 more miles in another 30 minutes on the elliptical. But this was with no gear, and no snow.
    Snow can definitely slow you down, especially if you're post-holing on in an area of uncertain conditions. If you are on an established trail where you don't have to worry about falling in a crevasse you can usually travel pretty fast especially if you are using snowshoes or crampons.



    Quote Originally Posted by Seattle Forrest View Post
    It will be 35 to 40 pounds. I'll have climbing gear, rope, crampons, and the whole nine yards. And I've got a friend who offered to lend me all the gear in advance, so I can get used to not just the weight, but how it's distributed.
    That is nice of your friend. It'll certainly help to have that a known quantity ahead of time. That climbing gear weight adds up fast and it can get heavier on the mountain (wet rope)! It's probably not a bad idea to train with something closer to 50lbs


    Quote Originally Posted by Seattle Forrest View Post
    This class is going to cover glacier safety, and how to climb. They have a field trip to the Nisqually glacier on Mt Rainier, where each student is going to "fall" into a crevasse, and be rescued; and each student will rescue someone. But mostly it's how to cross glaciers without falling in. I think it finishes with a climb up Mt Baker.
    Sounds like a blast! I haven't done any real mountaineering since I took my son up Whitney when he was 9. He's 20 now! I've always wanted to climb Mt Rainier, just haven't been able to make it happen yet. One of these days...
    It doesn't get harder, you just go slower.

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    Senior Member Seattle Forrest's Avatar
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    It took 2 hours 15 minutes, and I worked hard. At the summit, there's a 200 foot tall pile of rocks; I made it about 1/4 way up before ferocious winds changed my mind.

    I had a backpack with about half the weight I'll need on the day of the test.
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  20. #20
    Uber Goober StephenH's Avatar
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    In a past life, I hiked a lot in the Colorado mountains.

    What I noticed then, as compared to bicycling now, is that I got huge calves from hiking up hills. I had bald spots on my shins where the hair got rubbed off by tight jeans legs. Effect on the thighs was similar. Bicycling, I've got strong legs, but not the big calves.

    I would hike up Horsetooth Rock as fast as I could, or Greyrock Mountain. I think I made Horsetooth in about 39 minute from the parking lot, and seems like Greyrock in about 58 minutes, and that was traveling light, in sneakers (in summertime) and breathing as heavily as I could the whole way up...but not actually trying to jog. In the offseason, I'd go up anyway, went up at night, too (particularly Horsetooth). After a while, you know every rock and shadow on the trail. I knew exactly how much water to carry, too.

    Anyway, go find a good steep hill and hike up it every day. Change is good, rough rocks or trail are better than a uniform road slope. And one of the few times I tried running back down a trail, I sprained an ankle- so beware of that. Try to do this at a similar elevation to the test mountain, too (don't train at 1,000' if the test is at 9,000').

    One other thing I'll mention: As I went along on my mountaineering, I got more interested in this stuff, and started reading up on ice axes, self-arrest, and rock climbing. All of those require good upper body strength, totally unlike cycling, so I was ill-suited for them. And being any overweight at all works against you big time, too. So lose all the weight you can, work on arm, chest, grip strength. You may not need it for the fitness test, but will at some point down the way.
    Last edited by StephenH; 11-24-11 at 11:45 PM.
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    maybe if you can do an hour on the stairclimber (don't hold the sides) and then an hour on the treadmill at maximum slope and ~2.5 mph then that would be a good indicator of your ability to make the climb. of course, you gotta do it with the pack on.

    as far as stairs to climb outdoors, maybe a local stadium would be available.

    i hope you can do it. the trip/course sounds like a lot of fun.

  22. #22
    Senior Member Homeyba's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Seattle Forrest View Post
    It took 2 hours 15 minutes, and I worked hard. At the summit, there's a 200 foot tall pile of rocks; I made it about 1/4 way up before ferocious winds changed my mind.

    I had a backpack with about half the weight I'll need on the day of the test.
    Great, you're not to far off the mark from the beginning. Probably a smart move staying off the top in the high winds too. There are smart mountaineers and there are dead mountaineers. Too many people get caught out in bad weather. If you can find some stadium stairs to run you'll be pleased with the result. Sounds like your goal is easily within your reach.
    It doesn't get harder, you just go slower.

  23. #23
    Senior Member Seattle Forrest's Avatar
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    Sorry for the bump, but I got some fresh news yesterday afternoon. One of the people who teaches the class told me that, for the test, I'll only have to get to the summit of the mountain, and not scramble up the spire of rocks and boulders. So while I was slightly over the time limit on my first attempt, I also went above and beyond what I actually needed to do.

    So I'll continue doing the stair machine at the gym, hiking on weekends, etc, and do more of it with a loaded backpack. I probably won't go to Mount Si more than once a month before the test, though. It's not an especially pleasant trail. Also, I think speed comes mostly from cardio, and probably a bit from being used to the pack and boots, so I'll probably hike at a more comfortable pace until the test, and get my fitness exercise on the bike, climbing hills. And probably the gym to work my calves. Does this sound unreasonable?

    Quote Originally Posted by StephenH View Post
    One other thing I'll mention: As I went along on my mountaineering, I got more interested in this stuff, and started reading up on ice axes, self-arrest, and rock climbing. All of those require good upper body strength, totally unlike cycling, so I was ill-suited for them. And being any overweight at all works against you big time, too. So lose all the weight you can, work on arm, chest, grip strength. You may not need it for the fitness test, but will at some point down the way.
    I've been a little concerned about this. I lift weights at the gym, and I paddle a kayak, so I'm not dead in the water, but it's a little nerve wracking... The class teacher says it will be a challenge, but I'll be ok.

    Quote Originally Posted by Homeyba View Post
    Probably a smart move staying off the top in the high winds too. There are smart mountaineers and there are dead mountaineers. Too many people get caught out in bad weather.
    I don't even know how many pounds of wool I brought ( mostly cashmere, but some merino too ) with me, but that and goretex made up a lot of the weight in my pack last week. It was raining and snowing, and I'd never seen the trail before, so I wanted to bring enough to spend a night outdoors if I got lost. I had no trouble getting back to the trailhead, but it made me more comfortable having options. On that note, with a shell for the rain and wind, a $10 cashmere sweater from Value Village works better than a $200 fleece from REI.
    Don't believe everything you think.

  24. #24
    Senior Member Homeyba's Avatar
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    Sounds like you are closer than you though with your conditioning. You're right there now so the additional fitness you gain between now and then will just make the climbing easier. Sounds good to me.

    I'm not a big wool guy. It makes me itchy and it's bulky. Of course, polypropylene makes you stink so... I really like my North face jacket with it's fleece liner. I don't remember what it cost but it's light and really warm. I used that climbing Shasta in the middle of winter. It was actually too warm at times.
    It doesn't get harder, you just go slower.

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