When I tell people about what I am trying to accomplish in climbing the 7 summits, one of the first questions is usually “You’re a nutcase, what kind of training are you doing for that?”
So here I have put a brief post together going over what I’m currently doing and what I’m aiming to do leading up to the Mt Elbrus climb.
The first thing I did when I got back from Kilimanjaro was sit down with a personal trainer and work out a plan of attack (Get onto www.emmettjohnpugh.com if you’re in Perth, he knows his shit). I like to have everything set out in advance so it saves me having to think about it too much. I have enough thinking to do concerning the fundraising side of this project so I didn’t want any extra hassle.
We broke the schedule down into 4 week blocks, switching up part of the program after each one. For me the predominant focus was on building a strength and fitness base, then building climb specific endurance. Adding body-weight, particularly muscle, would help with the latter stages of the program and it’s not a bad idea to kick off any climbing expedition a few kg’s heavier. You will likely strip it off in the first few days anyway.
This means a lot of gym work to start off with and slowly adding more and more longer duration endurance workouts. I was initially in the gym 4 days a week doing 2 upper and 2 lower body sessions a week. Over the first 6 weeks I managed to add about 3kg while losing bodyfat, see pic (excuse the mirror selfie..).
As of now I’m doing on a weekly basis..
That routine will stay fairly similar right the way through. The specifics will change, e.g higher rep, endurance focused weight training as the climb gets closer but the days and number will be pretty well consistent.
All the stair climbing is done on Perths iconic Jacobs Ladder.
For the endurance training, I am slowly building up the time spent on there every session, with the grand aim to complete a 12 hour, 140 lap challenge in early June. This is supposed to imitate the 12-14 hour summit day on Mt Elbrus and should provide the necessary mental training aspect. Thats something I am NOT looking forward to..
Perth’s 243 step, 43 meter high set of stairs at the picturesque Kings Park. It has turned into a very popular training tool for those with everest aspirations to those chasing a tighter ass.
The roof of Africa, the highest freestanding mountain in the world and most importantly for me, a member of the Seven Summits. Enough has been written about Mount Kilimanjaro that there is not a whole lot more for me to add. Ever since the first ascent in 1889, it has become a popular addition to bucket lists the world over, including a gallivanting leopard that took a one-way trip to the summit ridge immortalised in Hemingway’s Snows of Kilimanjaro.
Without doubt the most popular and probably the easiest of the Seven Summits – bar Australia’s own Mount Kosciuszko – it was a great way for me to kick off this project and get acquainted with the effects of high altitude.
The 13-hour summit day was a physical test, particularly above 5,000 metres where the pace was reduced to that of a drunken sloth.
Otherwise, it was a fairly relaxed journey up the six-day Rongai Route, one I’d highly recommend if you want to avoid crowds. Our party had that entire side of the mountain to ourselves.
Despite being an incredible experience and what many label as “life-changing”, it honestly doesn’t make for the most exciting read.
Days consist predominantly of hour after hour slowly ascending the dormant beast, eating, followed by a long sleep. The environment and the scenery are what make the journey and words won’t allow me to adequately convey what really has to he experienced in person.
The mountains rise straight out of the surrounding plains, containing no other noticable protusions in sight. It truly is a natural wonder how it came to form the way it did.
As you start the climb, you are surrounded by lush green forest, perhaps making the acquaintance of a blue monkey, buffalo or baboon.
Whilst ascending, you pass through three more climatic zones before reaching “Arctic” at the summit crater.
If you are thinking of tackling “Kili” I think there are three key areas that will determine whether you succeed in summiting or not.
Without question the most important is your mental state. As the guides will tell you, believe you will have what it takes to reach the summit and don’t stop until you do. No matter how you are feeling, keep putting one foot in front of the other and you will get there.
Secondly is pre-climb preparation, particularly physical training. If you don’t have the time to cycle the length of Vietnam prior to your trip like I did, you’ll need to train.
Focus on leg strength and high intensity interval training to improve lung efficiency. Ensure you have the adequate gear and equipment, extra energy bars/snacks, water storage and essentials such as sunscreen and headlamp. Your guide service should go through all this with you prior to commencing the climb.
Finally is your self-preservation on the mountain. Walk slowly (“pole, pole”), eat and drink as much as possible (at least four litres of water a day) and ensure you take care of your body. Use plenty of sunscreen in the thinner atmosphere, get as much sleep as possible (take earplugs) and look after your feet.