I am looking for a few good ideas for training to climb Mount Rainier.


By: Gym Jones

I am an aspiring mountaineer. I am planning my first climb of Rainier in May. I am an avid reader of your site and have found a lot of valuable training information. I am beginning to put together my training program for Rainier, and I just wanted to know if you would be willing to give me a few exercise/workout recommendations. I am not looking for an individualized program. I am just looking for a few good ideas for training to climb Rainier. Any information you would be willing to take the time and give me would be much appreciated. Thank you.


In the gym start by tying things together because a strong, stable center will help with carrying the pack: deadlift, overhead squat, and a lot of carrying.

Don't neglect the single-leg work because that's what general mountaineering is, one-leg movement over and over: one-leg deadlift, step-up, split squat, lunge, sled drag, etc.

You'll be breathing against resistance when carrying the pack so strengthening the diaphragm and improving its endurance is also helpful: high rep/light load squatting type movements where the diaphragm is stretched and compressed via external means works well if done in long enough intervals/sets to cause a high O2 demand. Also strengthen the supporting musculature (shoulders, arms, thoracic girdle, etc) so the lungs don't have to work against them when they tire and collapse early on.

Adding some power-endurance type work is also helpful, which in this case could mean getting some kettlebells and doing varied sessions of non-stop work for 20 minutes, or 2x 10 minutes with a break, and/or checking out the breathing ladders. The goal being to establish a good reserve in your capacity to intermittently produce low to mid-range power over a long period of time.

Finally, endurance and fat metabolism training cannot be avoided. Dreadfully boring work, of course, but long-slow-distance is what climbing Rainier is all about so training for it is helpful. No reason to get stuck on it, and it's tough to say how much, how long, how often. Just get on the bike, or in your running shoes, or on a rowing machine or stair machine and get to work for longer than 60 minutes once or twice a week (in conjunction with the gym work). Keep the HR low, i.e. the intensity and sharpening training can come later but in the beginning the base must be built. Consistency is likely the most important aspect up front so do whatever it takes to keep motivated to do the work that doesn't seem like it's "doing anything."

And make it fun or you won't keep doing it.

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