One question we often get is: How fit do I need to be to climb/run/ski Everest or Denali or Rainier…or…? Our collective 100-plus-year history of endurance training and mountaineering clearly points to the conclusion that you can never have too much aerobic fitness. And when I prepare for an expedition to an 8,000-meter peak, I know my training is going to require a lot of the following three things: duration, consistency, and elevation. Beyond the training for my own (many) expeditions, Uphill Athlete has now coached dozens of successful 8,000-meter-peak climbers. We feel that we can confidently predict an athlete’s physical preparedness using those same three metrics.
By duration I mean weekly training time intelligently distributed by a good training plan or coach. For the sake of this post, I’ll speak in terms of generalities, and below you can see a chart that calculates an athlete’s average weekly training time for the six months leading up to an Everest climb. This climber averaged 8.5 hours per week over six months. (Note that there are a few weeks where nothing was recorded because she went to Aconcagua.)
To climb Denali you want to have a CTL of 75 for two months. For Everest at least 100 for three months. For Everest without supplemental oxygen, we suggest a CTL of 125+ for three months. These are rough guides we’ve worked out over the last five years and they do seem to be pretty good indicators of physical preparedness.
Getting Fit to Climb Everest
- Start training ASAP. Note that it takes most professional endurance athletes 10 years of structured training to approach their genetic limits of aerobic fitness.
- Plan to ramp up from around 7 hours of training time a week to over 20 hours per week.
- Plan to put in a lot of vertical.
-by Steve House, Uphill Athlete co-founder