Alaska Mountaineering School
" The trip was so much fun that reaching the summit was reduced to being the cherry on the pie. "
— Wim Smets, Denali West Buttress
" Everyone within AMS went out of their way to make sure we had a fun, safe, and successful expedition. I will definitely recommend them to others. "
— Matt Barbour, Denali West Buttress
Alaska Mountaineering School Fitness and Training Alaska Mountaineering School Fitness and Training Alaska Mountaineering School Fitness and Training Alaska Mountaineering School Fitness and Training

Fitness and Training for Expeditions

All expedition applicants must adopt a goal of being in excellent physical condition by the start of the climb. On any mountaineering expedition, some factors are completely out of the control of anyone, namely weather and individual acclimatization rates. By joining a professionally run expedition, you leave expedition logistics, food, equipment and leadership to us. You are responsible for and have control over your physical fitness and climbing ability. It is imperative that everyone joining our expeditions be physically fit when the expedition begins. The better condition you are in, the more you will enjoy the climb, the safer it will be for you, and the better chance for a successful summit day. The more climbing experience you have prior to the climb, the better prepared you will be for your climb.

The amount of time needed for training depends on the level of fitness at the start. Climbers make it a priority of being in good shape. Those that are able get out and climb. Climbers with less time exercise to stay in shape: lift weights, run, bike, swim, practice martial arts, and use a stair master. Athletes need only to adjust their training habits to include Denali-specific routines. Others may have to plan a year or more of serious training in advance to ensure success.

Focus on developing stamina over brute strength. Upper body strength is necessary for lifting your pack, shoveling snow, and building camp, but most strength should be aerobic for the long hard days breaking trail and moving camp.

Train on irregular terrain in poor conditions. Maintain a pulse rate 80% of maximum for a half hour during the workout. Vary your routine to prevent overuse injuries and push without injuring yourself. Think about how much stronger you will be in a blizzard with that 50 — 60 pound pack while attached to a 40 pound sled. Exposing yourself beforehand to similar activities will condition your body and your mind.

Climbing mountains, especially in winter on routes that require snow shoes for an approach and ice axe and crampons, is excellent preparation. Pushing yourself in uncomfortable environments while staying focused and alert is excellent mental training. Most climbs in the Alaska Range are marathons, not sprints. You cannot successfully prepare for this expedition in your office or solely by training indoors. The more familiar the environmental stress of arctic mountains is for you, the better you can pace, acclimate, and enjoy the climb.