Get Fit for the Alps
By Martin Chester
On a typical Alpine day you will make something in the order of 1000m of ascent. You may get up in the small hours of the morning, and work hard until well into the afternoon. Over twelve hours of steady smouldering exercise. Twelve hours of walking, scrambling, leading, rope hauling, clearing, kicking, pulling, sweating, shaking, sliding, wading endeavour. Not exactly twenty minutes on the local treadmill is it?
Here are a few ideas on getting yourself fit enough to climb in the Alps:
Timing is really important, as most people leave it too late to make a significant difference. The aim is to get your heart and lungs fit a couple of months before you go. Get all your training in early, and then take a rest before you get to the Alps. Arriving exhausted already is hardly better than being unfit. See our training plan for a more structured approach.
Some Training is Better Than Others
If you run, then go running on hills. Cycling works a lot of the right muscle groups. Walking can be made even more beneficial by carrying extra loads. In the good old days, climbers used to carry rocks up hills. Better still is to fill water bottles before you go, then empty them before the descent - all the extra exercise, without wrecking your knees!
It's not all bad news - because every little helps!
The first thing to do is consider any opportunities in your lifestyle for slow, steady exercise over a longer period. Cycling or walking to work for example. Go ski touring rather than piste skiing through the winter.
You can tweak your days out to include as many Alpine ingredients as possible. Climbing on mountain crags every weekend rather than bouldering. Go to Stanage and try to climb twenty pitches in a day. Try to set a target - go to the Idwal Slabs and aim for 600m of ascent in a day. These are all great ways to work towards the scale and pace of the summer.
Bulls-eye training aims to re-create the stresses and strains of an Alpine day as closely as possible (and you would be amazed how easily you can do it in the British Isles). Here are a few gems in an Alpine style:
* An ascent of Agag's groove, and back down curved ridge
* Up a classic Ben Nevis ridge, and down ledge route to finish.
* Main Wall on Gyrn Las, followed by the Parson's nose, Clogwyn y Person Arete, and a traverse of Crib Goch to finish.
* A tour of the Langdale crags. Aim for a route on as many crags as you can get to in a day.
These are such good training for the real thing and, which is more, they're really good days out in their own right.
Work for Each Other
Just remember, your Alpine partner needs to put the same amount of time in to getting fit, or it can lead to great disappointment!
What are you waiting for?