Dear coaches, Scott and Dave. I’ll give you a rundown of the trip. But first…..

You guys have been a Godsend. No one would ever expect some 48-year-old ex semi-truck driver, climbing newbie from the Adirondacks to start from scratch and do so much in less than two years. That’s all because of the fitness program you guys have put together for me. I champion you guys everywhere I go. I’m proud as hell that I have the privilege of training under you guys, so please feel free to use anything you like as a testimonial. You deserve it.

We started with one big alpine climb with a very long walk-off on Lodder Peak, Coire Dubh Integrale,  I had four more days of climbing to go and a trip to Chamonix in a few weeks so I took the next day off. That day off was completely unnecessary. I jumped out of bed fresh and ready to go with no pain at 6:00 a.m. feeling kind of dumb for wasting a day. But oh well.

From an aerobic standpoint, the trip was never challenging. We had a lot of big, steep approaches to ice climbs and we did that long alpine climb, Coire Dubh Integrale, which included a section of steep snow for probably 800 ft that we just marched up like it was nothing. I know when I’m at my aerobic threshold very well at this point so I just keep marching at the pace I need to go. I never slowed down or got tired, and I always arrived where we were going feeling fantastic. I can go all day, every day.

I can also go all day without eating and I never lose energy or feel hungry. Coire Dubh Integrale was a 12.5 hour day, and I had 500 calories total. I had more with me, but didn’t want it. Even when I got back to the hotel, I felt strong and energetic and I wasn’t feeling hungry at all, until they put the burger in front of me, of course! But my energy stays consistently high throughout even the longest, hardest days.

My guides often scarf down huge sandwiches, energy bars, cheese, sausage, trail mix, and all kinds of stuff. They marvel at how little I eat.

The day after Coire Dubh Integrale my guide admitted he was feeling very rough. When I told him I’ll be training for a few weeks before going to Chamonix he said, “You’ll be in better shape than the guides you climb with!” I told him that was the goal. I will never have the experience these guys have because they have a 20-year jump on me, but I know I can be fit enough to go all day, every day, and that means a lot on big climbs. They know they can count on me to keep going no matter what.

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From a strength and ME perspective, especially the arms, I felt very strong and happy with my performance. Thanks Dave!  We did a ton of steep ice and mixed climbing, and as always I was concerned with how well my arms would handle it. This trip I felt like I could get plenty of rest and my arms would recover well even on steep, sustained ice. Sometimes on the steep mixed stuff I would obsess about my arms when things got real hard and they would pump out. That was a matter of poor technique more than anything. Went I put the focus back on my feet, my arms were up to the task.

So I’m very pleased with my fitness at this point. My aerobic engine and especially my durability has been very strong. My arm strength and endurance have clearly improved, without question. I was very pleased with that. I can jump on a sustained 500 ft WI5+ without any concern now. Thanks again Dave. I know if I pace myself and manage the pump I’ll have no trouble getting up it cleanly.

I’m anxious to keep making progress toward the next level with everything – strength, ME, and aerobic. The two trips I have coming to Chamonix will be massive tests of my technical climbing skills and my fitness. Well, I keep thinking each trip will test my fitness, but they never do. I’ve never needed a day off on any trip, and I’ve never even had the thought that I was getting so tired I was struggling to keep moving. I don’t move quite as fast as I would like, but I relentlessly march forward like a robot.

I’m considering trips to Alaska and Peru as my next adventures. I don’t have a time frame, I just know they’re the next level from where I’m at now. Rob Smith has guided both places, so we’ll be talking a lot about that soon.

You guys are doing an amazing job with my fitness. It’s truly an honor to have this opportunity to work with you. Dave: I want to push my rock climbing this year from the 5.10’s hopefully up near 5.11. And I’m aiming for bigger winter alpine objectives beyond the Alps to Alaska and Peru. So everything with my training needs to go to the next level and I’m psyched about it in a big way!

Thanks so much for everything you guys are doing. It’s almost unimaginable that I’ll have 3 trips to the Canadian Rockies, two to Red Rock, one to Mazama, and 3 trips to Chamonix all within my first two years of climbing. May will be two years, in fact. Year three will be another big step up to a new level and I’m totally psyched!


Brett A.

You may also be interested in reading:

Ice Climbing Training: Grip Strength

Ice Climbing Training: The Lock-off

Training for Ice and Mixed Climbing

Debriefing a Climb (or Ski)

How to Locate a Belay when Ice Climbing

The Future of Alpinism

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