Training with a goal in mind is the easiest way to perpetuate motivation and to maximize potential. In the case of training towards an expedition, creating a goal is not a challenge and a time scale is easy to design based on the departure date of the trip.
The foundations of this schedule will be based on the nature of the trip. Here I will lay out my training schedule for a post monsoon expedition to the Nepali Himalaya. The expedition will involved technical ice and mixed climbing at altitude over 3 months in wintertime.
Graham on the FA of "The Slash", Los Gemelos, Chile (Photo - Ian Nicholson)
May – Return from last expedition (Ruth Gorge Alaska)
Coming off of an expedition it I find it very important to recover correctly, this is not only in a physical sense but also in a mental one as well. After coming back from a big trip I will take a couple of weeks to do anything but climb. I will eat good food, stretch, sleep and rest my muscles. If I do go climbing it will be low commitment, sport climbing or easy alpine cimbing. The goal of this time is to allow my mind and body to recover.
Not taking time to recover from big trips will eventually lead to burning out your body or your mind. This is not what you want take your rest seriously.
Graham Taking his Rest seriously (Photo-Becky Selling)
June-July – Climbing long hard and fast
Depending on how the last expedition went I could find myself at any number of levels of fitness at this point. When I came back from Alaska I was quite physically broken down from too many days on route without food and too many days in the tent. Whereas when I came back from Patagonia a few months before I was feeling strong from days of sport climbing in town and fast sprints into the mountains trying to make the most of small weather windows.
Regardless, during this time I focus on gaining strength and climbing hard, if there is more time between trips this time should be lengthened considerably.
My training is generally a combination of heavy core circuits, hyper gravity pull-ups and finger training (hyper gravity = training with added weight) along with rock climbing both strenuous cragging and big mountain days. During this time I was based in Boulder Colorado and was taking many trips to the Rocky Mountain National Park so I could be climbing long technical routes at altitude.
August-September – Cardio Lockdown
Ten to eight weeks out it is time to make sure that the cardio systems are full loaded and ready to crush. When on an expedition much more time is often times spent walking, approaching and slogging. In these situations climbing 5.13 will do you no good, rather you need to be able to walk and walk hard.
This last season I set myself an intermediate training goal, running the Imogene Pass Race, a 17.1 mile/5000ft race between Ouray and Telluride Colorado that tops out above 13,000ft. My reckoning was that if I could do well in that race (I set myself the goal of a sub 4 hour time) my cardio would be good enough for the expedition. My training for the run involved, more hyper-gravity training now while running up steep hills and link ups of long moderate routes in the San Juans and Front Range (involving altitude). When I did run the race I completed it in 3.5 hours placing 4th in my age category.
After this I turned to more mountains. This corresponded well with traveling back to the Pacific Northwest, I climbed more in Rock Mountain N.P., on the Grand Teton and in the North Cascades. Gaining further strength and confidence in my bodies ability to handle back-to-back hard days in the mountains. Climbing high this late in the season also allowed me to acclimatize my body to the cold.
I was physically strong for climbing vertical terrain quickly, cardio strong in as thin of air as was available, partially acclimatized to climbing in the cold and mentally psyched to suffer on the cold tall mountains of Nepal.
October - REST
Departure date is on the 15th; I will rest for these two weeks and eat well. For an expedition at altitude it is important to have a strong source of internal energy. Your body doesn’t convert energy as efficiently at altitude, you will not be able to eat enough food in order to sustain yourself while on route. In other words, don’t show up skinny. You want to show up strong, well rested and mentally psyched, especially for a trip during the winter.
REMEMBER: This is a specific plan for a specific trip for a specific person. While the fundamentals can be similar each training plan should be designed specifically for the trip at hand considering the different challenges of the trip (Altitude, technical level of climbing, type of climbing, length of routes, length of trip…).
Click Here! to find a series of training programs.
Graham climbing at Smith Rock State Park, OR. (Photo-Andrew Rennie)