Climbing effect on big mountain plan

  • Creator
  • #8452

    I just started the 16-week Big Mountain training program for a mountaineering expedition in mid July on a 24k mountain. I’ve only been to 20k previously. I’m wondering about the effect of rock/ ice climbing consistently on the effectiveness of the plan. Essentially would I be setting myself up to be overtraining?

    I chose this plan because the expedition is purely mountaineering, but I’m wondering about my recreational ice and rock climbing while simultaneously completing this program. I have about a month left of ice season and average 2 days outside & 2 shorter days gym climbing. In rock season for the rest of the training program, I average minimum 3 days outside climbing & 1 shorter day in the climbing gym. I’m wondering if doing that in addition to the mountaineering training program will diminish the effectiveness of the program because it amounts to overtraining? In my mind, it seems like it should be an ok mix because the muscle groups aren’t necessarily the same. I’m pretty good about scheduling my time, so I don’t think that will be an issue with this plan–I’m just concerned about the physical mix. If the answer to these questions is “yes” to overtraining, what is an acceptable balance? I want to set myself up for success on this expedition, but I’d be pretty upset to give up on my climbing goals. Is there a period before the expedition (ie. maybe 1 month prior?) when I should switch to single focus and taper the rock climbing?

    also: the expedition is 18 weeks away — I debated buying the 24 week program and just cutting it short, but figured it would be better to do a complete program instead. Do you have an opinion on 18 of the 24-week plan vs. full 16-week plan?

Posted In: Mountaineering

  • Participant
    jones.sej on #8459

    Sorry – forgot to mention that I did see the other question by someone who mentioned replacing a “rest day” or a “strength day” with a climbing/ bouldering session because they also wanted to increase climbing output. Personally, I’m really just talking about maintaining an existing climbing program while only increasing aerobic capacity.

    I saw that your response was this: “Keep the climbing low intensity belayed or short bouldering session. It is really challenging to increase the your climbing level and your aerobic capacity at the same time. We never do that with any of our clients, even the pro climbers. The demands of each are too dissimilar and not at all complementary. Figure out what your goal is and what you need to succeed at it.”

    My response to this is: For an average day at the crag that I would expect during this process, lets say leading trad a grade or two below any “max” sport level averaging 6-10 pitches/day, I can wake up the next day feeling zero or very limited soreness. Does a day like that really impact aerobic training when it feels relatively easy/low energy during the process?

    Anonymous on #8532

    Training for multiple goals at one time poses significant challenges and you are wise to consider how you can balance the competing demands of these to rather distinct goals. By competing demands I mean the following:

    1) Being strong on a high altitude mountaineering expedition is going to be almost exclusively reliant upon basic aerobic fitness. The ability to hike steeply and slowly uphill with a pack for hours on end. Pretty basic and easy to comprehend.

    2) Being strong on short hard technical climb demands an entirely different set of physiological qualities, whichI am not going to detail here.

    I don’t know your training or climbing history and maybe you waltzed to the top of the 20k climb you did and set a speed record while doing it. If so then the following comments should be disregarded. If not then pay attention.

    Training to enhance #1 above, especially in light of the fact that this is new altitude for you and you do not have much time before you leave, will or at least should, consume a bunch of hours of low to moderate intensity running of hiking up hill. The best stimulus for aerobic adaptations is the duration the training. Volume is king here. More is better.

    Can you manage to up your aerobic training volume significantly while still going ice and rock climbing 2 days a week? Again I don’t know what you’ve been doing and maybe you are already capable of going car to car on the Grand Teton in 6 hours. If so disregard pretty much everything I am saying here. This is why there is no blanket prescription that fits all cases.

    It comes down to these 2 factors:
    1) How fit are you currently and how much do you need to move the aerobic needle in these 18 weeks? How much can you handle work wise? Only you can answer.
    2) How important is this 24k mountain goal? If it is very important, what are you willing to sacrifice to achieve it? I mean the ice and rock you are talking about will be there but will you get another shot at this peak?

    I can tell you that when Steve was training hard for his big goals, his climbing buddies stopped calling him to go climbing. He’d typically answer: “Sorry but I have to train”. This long term view paid off for him. Most climbers are not willing to sacrifice the short term gratification for longer term goals. There is nothing wrong with short term approach if its what you want. But it’s probably almost impossible to have your cake and eat it too.

    The 24 week plan follow exactly the periodization program laid out in our book. The shorter plans all involve some compromises due to their reduced lengths.


    jones.sej on #8548

    Thanks for the response Scott! I appreciate it. Definitely worth listening to

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