Tips for First-Time Mt. Rainier Climbers

I climbed Mt. Rainier in 2002 as part of a group guided by Rainier Mountaineering, Inc (RMI). I enjoyed the experience thoroughly, and loved the view from the top!

RMI provided our group with a list of general fitness training guidelines, but no specific exercises. I wish they'd done the latter, because I missed a few key areas in my training regimen. In addition, I don't believe I ate exactly the right foods during the climb, which sapped my energy.

I was able to summit the mountain, but not without a struggle. Particularly on the final push to the top, I was really hurting.

With that, I'd like to share a few tips with you novices, so you can avoid my experience and have a more enjoyable Rainier summit climb.

1. Work Those Glutes - Like me, I think a lot of climbers in training work the cardiovascular angle to the hilt but neglect some climbing-specific muscle groups. My glutes were the muscle group that took the most pounding on the mountain, particularly near the top, where the incline makes climbing like walking up a very long ladder.

Any good gym should have a glute machine. In addition, here are a few glute exercises I've used:

2. The Gym Isn't the Mountain - There's no preparation for mountain climbing quite like mountain climbing. Meaning that a good stairclimber routine (particularly with a loaded pack) at the gym is great, but it can't exactly replicate the mountain climbing experience. So try to get out to the mountains as many times as possible before your summit climb. For those of you with close access to Rainier, try to climb the Paradise to Camp Muir route frequently. This will work your climbing-specific muscles like the aforementioned glutes, as well as acclimate you to altitude. You can even get some self-arrest training in at the same time.

3. Eating On the Summit Climb - Don't overdo it on the power bars and energy gels. Certainly these are important (don't forget to drink plenty of water with them) but you might try to mix in other foods to give your palate a break. I got so tired of eating the bars and gels on my climb, that I probably didn't eat enough and I lost energy. A cheese sandwich or piece of fruit probably would have done the trick.

Hope this helps. Enjoy your climb and hope you make it to the top!

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Comment by Ali Alami on March 28, 2009 at 8:55am
Great article Keil,

I especially agree with number 2, there is no better way to train for mountaineering than by getting out on the mountain or trail.

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