Training Philosophies

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Training for climbing/mountaineering/alpinism is a topic everyone has an opinion on. Some would say, train for climbing by climbing, while some insist on specific training routines. We here collect several viewpoints across the spectrum of training methodologies. For instance, some climbers abhor weight training (so common a phrase: "I hate the gym") while some recent popular training methodologies are centered around weight-training.

In this page, our attempt is not to debate and decide as to what are the best and worst training techniques. Rather, we collect material here for your perusal(and encourage you to add as well), and leave it for you to decide what might suit you best.

Training more inclined towards rock climbing/cragging

Web based jnana

  • Eric Horst's webpage is a wonderful resource aimed at cragging (not very good for general alpinism - for instance, (sic) since leg muscles are never the weakest link while climbing, you should limit or eliminate any training practices that might increase the size of your legs.)

Advice from club members

  • Jack Ziegler's Climbing Wisdom Jack's userpage has useful guidance drawn from his years of experience - for sport climbers, boulderers as well as alpine climbers. Most notably, he suggests yoga for climbing.

Training more inclined towards mountaineering

  • Gym Jones, CrossFit, Mountain Athlete are several new-age training program with a rather common theme - high intensity interval training. Proponents from the alpine community of such workouts include Steve House and Mark Twight.
  • Carrying heavy packs up local mountains is something everyone agrees to in usefulness. Carry water so that you can dump it at the top and save your knees on the descent. Some nutheads are known to have carried hammers, dumbells and wrenches too.
    • Steve House's training blog has many useful tips and interesting ideas. Central is the notion that a person's response to intensity training is a proportional to the 'base' he or she has built up from sustained exercise.

Can one train for high altitudes?

  • Check out our altitude sickness page. A collection of good links that also include the question "can one train for altitude?" The answer is not clear.

Running: probably the easiest way to build up endurance

The Caltech area is home to some of the best distance running conditions in the US. Running, especially trail running with hill climbing, is excellent training for mountaineering. Popular running routes and trails include: Lacey Park, Huntington Drive, The Arroyo Seco park, The Rose Bowl, Brown Mountain Trail, Echo Mountain Trail, and Arroyo drive above JPL.

  • Letsrun is a popular running news and training website and forum geared toward NCAA running.

Advice from club members

  • We have a good collection of advice from club members who attended previous years' winter mountaineering trips.

Training more inclined towards ice climbing

Will Gadd, one of the top ice climbers in the last decade, has an ice climbing book (available in our library) that is heavy on training exercises. Gadd has a few tips on his website, and occasionally writes pieces for the climbing magazines. He has a blog and youtube channel -- not too much training techniques on their, but some ice climbing suggestions, such as how-to grip an ice tool.

Training for Skiing and Snowboarding

Climbing Nutrition

There is a good book, Sports Nutrition Guide: Minerals, Vitamins & Antioxidants for Athletes, by Michael Colgan, a nutritionist, which goes over various aspects of sports nutrition. Although he mostly talks about how little is known on the fundamental level about human metabolism as it relates to athletic activities, which means that the book is not much of a definitive guide to nutrition, it is useful to read in order to recognize and not fall victim to fallacious statements about sports nutrition.

For detailed information and criticisms, check out our Climbing Nutrition page.

Injury Prevention and Treatment

This is a decent website for injury prevention and recovery. This is the website of the guy who writes the "Ask Dr. J" columns in Rock and Ice. On the website, you can find general injury-related articles and the "Ask Dr. J" columns from various Rock and Ice issues.


  • Alex Lowe, (now deceased) premier American mountaineer was famous for his training obsession. In December 1999, Outside Magazine commented of Lowe: "That sweetness and utter normality made the lore that went around about Lowe all the more enchanting. He lugged calculus texts on remote expeditions to amuse himself while tentbound. Pullups were a compulsion; he'd do 1,000 at an airport, or dig a snowpit in an Antarctic storm and start hoisting himself on a ski. He took coffee like a diabetic takes insulin. All true."

See Also