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Training Info

How to prepare for your climbing expedition with Aventuras Patagonicas.

The following resources will be useful in preparing yourself physically for a high-altitude expedition. They emphasize both strength and cardiovascular conditioning to give you the best chance of reaching the summit.

Training Resources

  1. Training for the New Alpinism: A Manual for the Climber as Athlete - Steve House & Scott Johnston

  2. Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills - The Mountaineers

  3. Fit To Climb: A 16-Week Mount Rainier Fitness Training -  John Colver & Rohit Eipe

  4. The Outdoor Athlete - Courtenay Schurman & Doug Schurman

It is imperative that everyone joining a mountaineering expedition be in a high standard of physical fitness when the expedition begins. The amount of time needed for training is completely dependent on the general level of fitness a person is in prior to the expedition.

For the person that has spent the last ten years behind a desk with no emphasis on keeping in shape, it may take two years to regain top physical ability. The person that has always prioritized conditioning and a rigorous workout as a part of their daily routine, may only take a few months to fine tune for the demands of mountaineering.

Consider, when setting up your program, that you will need to develop the endurance to carry a 50 lb. pack, wearing climbing boots, for 6-8 hours per day. Though it is impossible to train for altitude you can put yourself on a conditioning program that will best prepare you for this type of physical stress. How to do this? It is impossible to be specific and say if you do this and that you will be ready for a physically demanding expedition. Each person is different and everyone has different terrain and time at their disposal. After many years of observing climbers there are some reoccurring training schemes that seem to help some people be better prepared than others.

Train with your climb in Mind

When training for any routes on Aconcagua consider going on hikes and progressively increasing your backpack weight up to 35-40 pounds for Normal/Ameghino Valley route or 45-50 pounds for the Polish Glacier route. Adjust these numbers if you're planning on using porters. If you're in a flat area, simulate inclines using stairs or an inclined treadmill. Train on varied terrains and aim to climb 3,500 feet in two to three hours with a 40-pound pack. For adaptable weight training, use water-filled containers that you can empty at the end of your effort to lighten your load as needed.

Start early in the season with lighter hikes, gradually building up the weight you carry. Begin with 20 pounds on a 5–7 mile hike, adding weight until you're comfortable with 50 pounds. Increase both elevation gain and mileage gradually. As your climb approaches, focus on reducing rest periods and increasing the pace of your hikes.

Train to develop your stamina. Run, bike, ski, fast walk. Vary your routine to prevent overuse injuries and push yourself without injuring yourself. Do warm up and cool down stretches.

For altitude trekking, incorporate interval training on steep inclines and back-to-back training days to build endurance. Start with 20-45 minute sessions, adding pack weight gradually. Engage in as many high-altitude and winter condition hikes as possible to adapt to extreme environments.

Be Consistent

Train as often as possible by skiing or hiking for all day, weekend or longer trips. Train for what you are going to do! If you want to be good at climbing big mountains with a big pack on, start on little mountains with a small pack on and work your way up.

Conditioning by climbing is the best thing you can do. Get comfortable moving in mountainous terrain all day long!! Heavy packs tend to tire climbers the most. Be prepared by training ahead of time and you will do fine. Don't expect to get used to wearing a pack while you are on the expedition.

This type of training can easily take two hours per day, 5 days a week. Be committed to it and be consistent. It will pay off many times over!

Build Your Strength

Incorporate free weights, resistance bands, bodyweight exercises, and gym machines into your routine to enhance overall strength, focusing on the core, upper back, shoulders, and legs. These exercises are crucial for effectively carrying backpacks and using trekking poles, and for navigating steep, icy slopes.

Begin your regimen with two full-body sessions weekly, each lasting 45 to 60 minutes, and include compound exercises such as squats, lunges, and pull-ups. Start with lighter weights to master proper form, performing two sets of 8–10 reps. Progressively increase the weight and decrease reps to build muscle strength. In the final 4–6 weeks before your climb, switch to high-rep sets with lighter weights to boost endurance. Also consider, wearing 2 lb. ankle weights to help condition for the extra weight of climbing boots, soft snow and loose scree. (Don't wear these while running!).

Always adjust your workout variables—like weight, sets, reps, and rest periods—to prevent plateauing and ensure safety by maintaining proper exercise form throughout your training.

Embrace Cardio Training

Engage in aerobic training that involves spinal-loading activities four to six times a week to prepare for your trip. Effective exercises include trail running, incline treadmill walking, stair-stepping, jogging, using an elliptical machine, and hill walking. You can also join step-aerobics classes. While cycling, rowing, and swimming are beneficial in the initial stages of training, focus on the aforementioned spine-loading exercises as your trip approaches to simulate the demands of hiking.

Start your cardiovascular regimen with three sessions per week, each lasting 30–45 minutes at a moderate intensity. Gradually increase to four to five weekly sessions of 45–60 minutes of sustained effort. Always begin with a 5–10 minute warm-up and conclude with a cool-down period that includes stretches for the lower back, calves, hamstrings, hips, and quadriceps. Aim to maintain an effort level during your main workout where you can speak a few words at a time, feeling comfortably tired by the end. For detailed guidance on aerobic training and understanding your training zones, consider consulting additional resources such as fitness blogs.

Focus on your Flexibility

To build and maintain flexibility for mountaineering, it’s crucial to incorporate a consistent stretching routine into your training. Dedicate at least 5–10 minutes to stretch after every workout, focusing on key muscle groups such as the hamstrings, glutes, hips, calves, forearms, lower back, and quadriceps. If you notice limited mobility in any joints early in the season, prioritize stretches that enhance the range of motion in these areas, especially as you gradually increase the weight and distance of your conditioning workouts.

Additionally, consider incorporating yoga or Pilates into your weekly routine. These practices not only improve flexibility but also strengthen the core and stabilizer muscles, which are vital for mountaineering. Dynamic stretching, involving active movements where muscles go through their full range of motion, can be particularly beneficial before workouts to prepare the body for physical activity.

Using foam rollers and massage balls for self-myofascial release can also aid in muscle recovery and improve flexibility. These tools help release muscle knots and increase blood flow, contributing to better mobility.

Incorporating a variety of stretching techniques and tools into your training can enhance your overall flexibility, reduce the risk of injury, and improve your performance in mountaineering.

Build Mental Fortitude

Be mentally prepared for the expedition. Know before you start the climb and accept the fact that at times you will be uncomfortable and that your body is going to be uncooperative. You are going to have to push yourself (unless you are superhuman!). If you don t have the ability to do this you won't be successful. You may be in a cramped tent for many storm days. You are leaving the comforts of home in order to experience a unique challenge and a remarkable mountain. It is worth it!

Know Yourself

You must also be well enough in tune with yourself to know the difference between pushing yourself and acute mountain sickness, pulmonary or cerebral edema. These are all serious altitude related problems which must be acknowledged. It is possible to push yourself too far. For the safety of the team, the lead guide will make a final decision on who needs a rest day, who continues to ascend or who descends.

Eat Well, Eat Smart

A good diet cannot be underestimated. Do your research and adopt a diet that will help develop stamina and strength and that you can live with. There are lots of books and articles that will get you started. Or consult professional nutritionist that has worked with athletes.

We hope this gives you ideas on which to base your training schedule. We recommend talking to a professional exercise physiologist and setting up a conditioning program that you can incorporate into your daily routine which will meet these goals. Start today with your training and keep it up!

Good luck and please contact us you have any questions.

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