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Shasta Fitness plan with rock climbing and hiking?

Original Post
Ben LC · · San Francisco · Joined Apr 2016 · Points: 70


Projecting to summit Shasta in late May, this would be my first real mountain summit. I'm a regular rock climber and hiker/backpacker and want to work my way up to Shasta in the next 3 months through hiking up a few shorter mountains until then. From the research I've done, physical conditioning is a big plus. However, Freedom of the hills and other's suggested workout/fitness plan is centered around running/biking/swimming and a bunch of reps, which I'm not particularly interested in doing. Long hikes with packs seem like a good option for weekends, but looking for an alternative during the week that could maybe improve my climbing while we're at it. Is there a more balanced option that involves indoor climbing (toproping / bouldering)?


Nik Benko · · Salt Lake City · Joined Jan 2014 · Points: 0

Can you get better at tennis by playing golf? Maybe! But it's certainly not the most efficient way to go about it. The hardest part about a tall peak like Shasta is the lung busting altitude (if you're a beach bum like me) and the leg cramping elevation gain (about 6000 ft for the AG route). Climbing a bunch might help improve your cardio depending on your current baseline and could help a little with core strength bit will do nothing for your legs and lower back which are what you want to build up.

2 years ago I had a knee injury that totally wiped out my fitness in the process. Part of the rehab was doing 1-3 days of light-medium weight strength exercises in the gym to regain muscle mass and improve stability and by the time I started hiking again I was amazed at how much better I felt on long hikes and runs than before the injury. I started out similar to you, wanting to avoid the non-climbing gym, but now it's part of my weekly routine to spend 45ish minutes doing a handful of exercise that make my weekends a lot more enjoyable.

Also anything you can do that sustains you at 60 to 70 percent of your max heart rate for over 30 minutes is good practice. The authors of FOTH know a thingood or two and you wouldn't disregard their advice on how to setup a proper climbing anchor, so don't ignore their fitness advice either!

Goodluck and have fun.

Ben LC · · San Francisco · Joined Apr 2016 · Points: 70

Thanks Nik, appreciate the advice

kenr · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 11,832

Top-Roping or Bouldering has almost nothing to do with summiting Shasta.

Swimming truly has nothing to do with it.
Bicycling helps some, better if it includes intense high-resistance workouts.

Running up and down very steep hills (or stairs) helps. Running on the flat not so much. Long hikes on gentle terrain not so much.
Running up + down steep hills or stairs carrying weights in a backpack or fannypack or vest helps more (if worked into incrementally progressively).

Using a stairclimb-simulation machine likely does not help, unless you have a special machine and a special way of using it.

Two things not to overlook:

  • altitude acclimatization: Some people handle it way better than others. Find out early (on some Sierra peaks?) how it is for you. If it's a problem, then there are big gains to be had from learning lots about the complicated non-intuitive chemistry of altitude with human physiology.
  • impact on knees and ankles getting back down. You can get long-term injuries from this if you don't train for it carefully progressively specifically. Lots of people guess that going down is the "easy" part. Not if you haven't tried for it carefully.
(Hint: swimming and bicycling do not help at all, and weightlifting or leg-strength machines are debatable).
(Hint: Hiking poles likely help reduce impact going down).

John Vanek · · Gardnerville, NV · Joined May 2013 · Points: 0

What the others have said! X2 on Ken's comment regarding stress on the knees going down. I do a lot of squats, including sumo squats, to strengthen / stabilize the inner quad. There's not enough time to use the system, but if you want to learn how to train for alpine climbing you can't beat Training for the New Alpinism. There is a huge thread about the book here on MP. Search the book title.

Enjoy Shasta!

Chris C. · · Seattle, WA · Joined Mar 2016 · Points: 321

To take a new person up on Baker or Rainier, I always tell them to stress on cardio. If you can do 1hr of honest-to-god cardio every day for a week straight and feel totally up for another cardio session on the 8th day, you will be fine. Obviously getting to that point will not be easy. Good exercises are stair running, sprint running, and sprint cycling. There are a lot of specific muscles to hone in on and exercises to be done if you want to get really hardcore, but 99% of new people struggle with cardo.

It will take most people a few months to build up to, some people even the better part of a year. All in all, good cardio is pretty much what it takes to do a big snow slog. The pack makes it more difficult, but if your body is ready for the cardio, you will find the strength to make it happen.

Ben LC · · San Francisco · Joined Apr 2016 · Points: 70

Thanks a lot everyone! This is really useful getting a better sense of what to prepare

John John · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2017 · Points: 0

Do it like the Russians. T-shirt jeans and running shoes.

C Brooks · · Fresno, CA · Joined Feb 2015 · Points: 551

Do a lot of uphill hiking. If you are going to do it in 2 days, do uphill hiking with a pack. 

Do aerobic, uphill at least 3 times a week, start with ~ 30-40 min per session, work up to longer ones. 

Running, cycling, swimming etc. are  good for building a base, but will not get you with the correct fitness for an uphill slog like Shasta. Depending on your time frame, spend some time bulding a base with lots of those 3 activities.

Then 2 months prior, switch to uphill. 

That being said, Shasta is not very hard, a reasonably fit person can do it. I recommended doing it in a day, and going on one of the North Side routes rather than the conga line up the Avalanche Gulch. 

Justin Roy · · georgetown ohio · Joined May 2015 · Points: 25

I tend to focus on cardio and hiking with a pack trying to integrate as much elevation gain as I can, something that's hard to do in Ohio lol. I tend to start training with a pack weight of around 40 lbs increasing to around 10 - 15 lbs heavier than my planned pack weight for the climb. I have used this method numerous times to prepare for climbs over 14000 feet including the hotlum-bolum route on Shasta with success but with that being said everyone is different and I've seen people who regularly run marathons struggle, mainly with carrying the pack weight required for a multi day trip. 

splitclimber · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2007 · Points: 5

Go to Carson pass several times and hike something  steep with a heavy pack.

wisam · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2012 · Points: 60

Hiking up and down hill with a pack is probably the best thing.  Stairs work too if there is a lot of them.  I travel a lot for work and running laps up and down the stairs on a 20 floor hotel is a great workout!

Biking is decent.  I've actually found cross-country skiing at an intense pace (skate skiing) to be great preparation for some reason.  I found that I was consistently in better climbing shape early in the season after doing a lot of cross-country skiing than I would be later in the season, despite doing a ton of summer biking.  Picked up a pair of roller skiis so I could get the same training in the summer and found that it was a huge help to my climbing performance. 

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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