Preparing to Climb Mount Rainier: Tips from the Pros

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Ever since I signed up for the Summit for Someone Mount Rainier Women's climb, it's occupied a significant portion of my free-time thoughts. So I decided to include others in my obsession with preparing for the trip. I've asked a handful of people who've climbed Rainier and others like it for the number one pointer they'd give to a first time climber. This was mostly for my own good, but I collected quite an arsenal of tips and figured all of you might find them valuable.

Train like an animal. (Ben)
Show up in shape (cardio!) and keep a positive outlook. Having strong lungs & legs are important, but being strong willed is key. (Colin)
Go up stairs with a heavy pound backpack...Work on lower back, shoulders and neck to be able to carry the pack. (David)
And other tips involve the basic skills you need to climb, which I take as necessary whether I'm going with a guide or not. I want to be as self-sufficient and aware of what to expect beforehand as possible.
Mt Rainier is a heavily glaciated mountain and anyone attempting to climb it should have some basic skills....[including] ice axe use (arrest, self belay, etc), belaying techniques on snow and ice (boot axe, sitting hip, ice screw, etc), use of crampons, roped travel...hazard recognition..." (Excitibleboy on SumitPost)
My mission the past week or so was to start what resembles an exercise routine, one that I'll adjust and add to as the climb gets closer. Even though the climb is still 196 days away, (but who's counting), I figure I can't go wrong getting my head in the game early. The types of exercise I started with last week included:

  • spinning classes, 60-90 minutes long
  • uphill work on a treadmill for 45 minutes
  • plyometric exercises, thanks to a free personal training session at my gym
Initially, thinking about how I was going to tackle the cardiovascular fitness I'll need on top of getting my back and core strong enough was pretty overwhelming. And it still is. I'm not into a routine yet, and it's a little scary thinking about how I'm going to do that. I keep finding reasons not to go to the gym, whether work related or not, and have booked weekends I should have free to go on long hikes. But on the bright side, I've made a little progress, resulting in my being pretty sore last week, and the climb's still a ways away. Upcoming things I'm doing to prepare this month include:

I've even toyed with the idea of flying out to Colorado to climb a 14er, just to see how I do with altitude. I'm happy that my excitement about the climb is so consuming, and apologize in advance if you all get tired of hearing about it!


If you've been up a big mountain, what other tips do you have to share? I can use all the help I can get!

3 comments :

Courtney said...

Katie,

Hiking 14ers in Colorado is a blast, and I've heard a good prep for Mt. Rainer. I'm happy to host ya and climb with you, though I'm strictly a spring/summer climber when most of the snow has melted.

Laurel said...

One tip that nobody seems to mention. You're going to be waking up around midnight or 1 AM to start your day. Most people have never done that before, so I would recommend trying it, maybe on one of your training hikes, see if it;s easy for you or if you need some caffeinated help.. I like to bring chocolate covered espresso beans.

Also, unfortunately (or not), you won't have to do anything like what you did on your ice climbing trip -- summer glacier ice isn't that pretty. I've done a WI2-ish route on Rainier, but you're probably doing one of the more horizontal routes.

For the "easy" routes on Rainier, the crux might be:
- walking up hill for a very long time with an annoying pack (the first day up to Muir) while conserving energy for summit day
- the altitude (on the 2-day guide trips you may not have time to acclimate (on the other hand, you don't have time to get seriously sick))
- really long summit day (see the 1 am thing above) with possibly annoying weather (ie. wind), walking for a long time in the dark
- class 3 scrambling on loose rock (if you are lucky it will be cold enough to stay frozen together)

Courtney said...

Katie,

Hiking 14ers in Colorado is a blast, and I've heard a good prep for Mt. Rainer. I'm happy to host ya and climb with you, though I'm strictly a spring/summer climber when most of the snow has melted.