Alpinism and Rock climbing


Original Post
C Brooks · · Fresno, CA · Joined Feb 2015 · Points: 461

Is it possible to balance a training program that improves cardiovascular endurance for alpinism and at the same time continue to improve and train rock climbing?

Steve House's book would seem to say no. I am curious about other people's experience. I am not looking to train for Himalayan giants.

I am interested in getting better at climbing (i.e. moving solidly into 5.11) while training simultaneously for a Peruvian mountain this summer (Alpamyo).
Is this impossibly difficult?

Patrick Shyvers · · Fort Collins, CO · Joined Jul 2013 · Points: 0

Obviously you can train for both at the same time.

Also obviously (I hope) you cannot train both maximally at the same time.

It's impossible for anyone to say if you can train up to both of your goals by summer, without knowing where you are today.

If strength is not your limiter climbing- the House book allows for plenty of time practicing climbing technique, which is easier to combine with endurance...

C Brooks · · Fresno, CA · Joined Feb 2015 · Points: 461

With House's training program, you are up to about 12 hours a week of non-climbing exercise. That's a heavy load to be also trying to push grades at the crag.
I would be interested in hearing specifically what people do.

-Reduce the cardio/strength training load to like 70% of what House suggests?
-Substituent workouts with gym climbing at keep to the 12 hours?

Last year I tried to follow House's program, and was so burnt out I was unable to improve much on the rock.

Rui Ferreira · · Longmont, CO · Joined Jul 2003 · Points: 784

Some things to consider, research indicates that training the forearm flexor muscles corresponds to higher levels of sport climbing performance. I do not know what are your current limitations in reaching 5.11 level, but for climbing specific strength this is one area to target (but not the only one). You can train both the forearm flexors with climbing specific protocols and at the same time train your cardiovascular endurance for alpinism, but might not reach maximum levels of each as if you were to only train for one of these.

Succeeding on Alpamayo with require far more than cardiovascular endurance and general physical conditioning.

You might have to sequence your training to succeed in both objectives, with the alpine goal requiring far more to succeed than just physical fitness. Once you are done with Alpamayo then focus your attention on reaching 5.11

Good luck.

Alexander K · · The road · Joined Oct 2014 · Points: 45

Mountaineering/cardiovascular endurance training may not mesh perfectly with improving climbing grade, but to become solid on 11s you probably need to improve your grip/crimp strength and technique more than anything else.

I see no reason why hangboard stuff and upper body in general would in any way interfere with the mountaineering training. The biggest conflict in my experience will be that your legs will probably get heavier, thereby requiring a bit more core and upper body to offset those gains.

Your body doesn't really differentiate between being in base, endurance or strength training mode, rather a particular system (say a muscle) will respond (grow stronger, improve neuro recruitment etc...) specific to how you train it. So mixing strength training for your arms with cardio and endurance for your legs shouldn't really be a conflict at all. Just don't over do it.

Long Ranger · · Boulder, Colorado · Joined Jan 2014 · Points: 20

You would need to keep a good baseline of fitness in all of your disciplines, then do specific training for your objective once it comes near - depends on how large of a training cycle you would like to make - 6-8 weeks?

I primarily do ultra endurance events and... uh, boulder. I'm a pretty terrible boulderer, but probably the only one in the gym that could run 50 miles tomorrow, if needed. When I started training for EPC, I only did maintenance work for my cardio, and upped my time sport climbing.

It's a lot of time weekly. > 20 hours, for sure.

Jason Antin · · Golden, CO · Joined May 2009 · Points: 695
C Brooks wrote:With House's training program, you are up to about 12 hours a week of non-climbing exercise. That's a heavy load to be also trying to push grades at the crag. I would be interested in hearing specifically what people do. -Reduce the cardio/strength training load to like 70% of what House suggests? -Substituent workouts with gym climbing at keep to the 12 hours? Last year I tried to follow House's program, and was so burnt out I was unable to improve much on the rock.

What was your objective?

Much of what is laid out in TFNA is objective based for big mountain routes. For many of these big objectives, it's implied that you are more than ready to tackle the technical sections of the route with your current fitness skill-set and can focus on the aerobic and endurance training needed to tackle the objective.
Brandon MacMullin · · Calgary, Alberta · Joined May 2016 · Points: 0

I'm having the same dilemma with TFNA. The thing that holds me back the most with alpine objectives is my rock/ice climbing grade (I'm not a strong climber).

I found the 2x strength training (as prescribed in the book) and pushing my climbing grade too much to manage. The lifting made me too tired for the climbing.

This year my plan is:
- Strength train only 1x per week,
- Climb 3x per week,
- Cardio 3x per week, more if recovery allows.

Mon - Recovery day
Tues - Zone 1 in the AM, climbing gym in the PM
Wed - Strength train
Thurs - Zone 1 in the AM, climbing gym in the PM
Fri - Recovery day
Sat - Long Zone 1 (Hike/Ski tour).
Sun - Climb outside, (Rock/ice).

I will let you know how it goes.

jaredj · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2013 · Points: 0

Don't be tryna get on sh*t that's close to or above your limit way out in the middle of nowhere if you're a weekend warrior.

A quote I've heard attributed to an 80s Pacific Northwest Hardman goes "... do 5.12 in the gym so you can do 5.10 at the crag so you can do 5.8 in the mountains...". Those grades are stretched, but you get the idea.

I realize that's not Baller style, and know people who are the exception (5.11 crack climbers who can't pull 5.12 plastic), but the spirit of the quote I think is sage advice.

Something almost any coach would say to OP or others is ".. you can't get good at everything at once unless you are literally starting off the couch..".

Sorry OP to be a parade-rainier.

Brandon MacMullin · · Calgary, Alberta · Joined May 2016 · Points: 0
jaredj wrote:Don't be tryna get on sh*t that's close to or above your limit way out in the middle of nowhere if you're a weekend warrior. A quote I've heard attributed to an 80s Pacific Northwest Hardman goes "... do 5.12 in the gym so you can do 5.10 at the crag so you can do 5.8 in the mountains...". Those grades are stretched, but you get the idea. I realize that's not Baller style, and know people who are the exception (5.11 crack climbers who can't pull 5.12 plastic), but the spirit of the quote I think is sage advice. Something almost any coach would say to OP or others is ".. you can't get good at everything at once unless you are literally starting off the couch..". Sorry OP to be a parade-rainier.
Yeah the rule of thumb (gym grade minus one = outdoor sport grade, outdoor sport grade minus one = trad grade, trad grade minus one = alpine grade) is the reason improving your rock climbing grade in the gym/sports routes is the best bang for your buck to become a better alpinist. Next up would be cardio (think Kilan Jornet). Weight training only if you have the time.

For example all the biggest achievements in the alpine lately have been done by the best rock climbers like Alex Honnald and Tommy Caldwell.

However "walking up hill slowly" then cardio and strength training come before improving your climbing grade.
a.blair · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2016 · Points: 15

Check out Mountain Tactical Institute. They design workout programs specifically what you are asking for and combine general mountain endurance with climbing.

Eli · · Lives in a truck · Joined Nov 2010 · Points: 2,486

My friend and I have a joke saying that the first step to training for rock climbing is to stop reading training for the new alpinism.

I think you can work your way to both goals, but if you're most stoked on the mountain then make that your primary goal.

Nick Drake · · Newcastle, WA · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 438
Eli wrote:My friend and I have a joke saying that the first step to training for rock climbing is to stop reading training for the new alpinism. I think you can work your way to both goals, but if you're most stoked on the mountain then make that your primary goal.
I followed a plan based on TFTNA in the winter the last two years and would completely agree with this. You've only got so much energy to expend in a week and a limited ability to recover.

Late last spring I decided to quit the training plan and just climb, about 50/50 cragging and alpine. Still did max strength workout for 2 reps every 2 weeks throughout the summer. By fall my sport climbing lead went from a one move wonder 10b to 11b and I could work out all the moves on a couple 12a (never sent clean). Also still got some decent alpine in mid summer with c2c climbs of the CNR of Stuart and east to west ridge traverse of forbidden.
jaredj · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2013 · Points: 0

When I was younger and first learning about being an athlete in the context of bicycle racing, an aphorism I heard was "train your weaknesses, race your strengths."

I argue that for people with alpine rock ambitions, you have to make a relative assessment of your cardiovascular endurance, technical climbing proficiency, and durability. Then train accordingly.

I think TFNTA's program is pretty good off-the-shelf for people who are satisfied with their cragging level and looking to do big mountain routes and recovery quickly.

If you're a mature adult with a background in endurance sports but haven't been progressing your technical climbing for at least a few years, then a relatively greater focus on cragging is probably the better use of time.

JohnnyG · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 0

Why not try to do both? I bet you can do it.

It does depend on your starting point, and how long you've been climbing. If you are leading 5.8 outside, it's unlikely that you'll be solidly leading 5.11 outside by this summer. Unless you quit your job and do a sick road trip.

Eli · · Lives in a truck · Joined Nov 2010 · Points: 2,486

I disagree with the above grade assessments, there is no specific formula for what grades you can climb. Yes I agree that you climb easier grades on the mountains, but everything else is kind of moot.
I've sent 12a trad, and been totally booted off 5.12 sport routes, and have never touched that grade cleanly in the gym.
These things are totally style dependent, I'd stick with the number grade that you consistently onsight on gear and then just climb that for your multipitch alpine journeys.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

Post a Reply

Log In to Reply