Tech Tips: Mountain Training

Lacing up for pre-trip training in anticipation of  the Yosemite Grand Traverse Backpacking Trip
Lacing up for pre-trip training in anticipation of the Yosemite Grand Traverse Backpack

Just like everything in life, the best way to get better at something is to keep practicing it. While most of us don’t have the luxury of practicing hiking up mountain passes on a daily or weekly basis, we can try to simulate the rigors of our endeavors through training. With many of SYMG’s longer high-mountain trips, the issue most people have physically isn’t whether they can climb the pass, but instead is one of repeat performances. That is, can they hike with a full pack day after day over high passes? With that goal in mind, it is the concept of recovery and rebound that we will focus on here, particularly geared towards our longer backpacking trips such as the Trans-Sierra Trail, Yosemite Grand Traverse, or the Yosemite High Passes Loop.

A slow, steady ramp-up of activity leading to the date of a trip is the ideal, starting with general cardiovascular fitness and endurance about 3 times a week, eventually growing to being able to do it everyday of the week with little or no soreness at any point in the week. Strength training can then be added in, ultimately giving you an edge for uneven trails while wearing a backpack. This schedule is by no means prescriptive, just a suggestion of what could be done. As always, consult your doctor before starting any training program or embarking on any trip.

  • Screen shot 2013-03-19 at 11.19.08 AMOn “Cardio” days, go for a run, a hike with loaded pack, or a bike ride. For an additional challenge in later weeks, train onhilly terrain.
  • On days when the schedule says, “Do something Fun!” do exactly that. Do something you enjoy outside like go to the beach, play frisbee, hike in your local park; whatever you like to do that’s active and fun. Keep it fresh!
  • On strength training days, be sure to warm up for at least 10 minutes by doing light cardiovascular exercise, ideally including stretching and range of motion exercises.
  • Lower body strength work would be things like squats, lunges, and step-ups.
  • Core strength includes sit-ups, planks, and mountain climbers.
  • Upper body strength exercises includes push ups, pull ups, and upright rows.
Graham Ottley
Born and raised in the Midwest (Iowa & Illinois), I always held a fascination for the outdoors and mountain landscapes as some “distant place” on maps. That fascination continues today but I am fortunate to have now lived and worked in the mountains for 15+ years. My first job as a guide was leading sea-kayak trips in coastal Ketchikan Alaska. After that season, I attended undergrad in the Southeast (Montreat College) studying Outdoor Education and Environmental Studies and went on to pursue my MBA. I first visited the Yosemite area during a spring break climbing trip with some buddies. I can vividly recall driving in and being completely awestruck by the beauty of The Valley, well as all the great climbing : ) After college I worked as a Guide with Summit Adventure in Yosemite as well as internationally in the Ecuadorian Andes and mountains of Mexico. I enjoyed teaching outdoor education in Santa Cruz and Yosemite Valley during my off-seasons. I also worked with Outward Bound California leading youth trips and eventually worked as Program Director at their Midpines and Joshua Tree locations. In 2016, I transitioned to SYMG and appreciated the thoughtful approach to the work of guiding. I enjoy spending time with the great crew of guides that come here to work, live and play. Beyond work in the outdoors, I am a proud father of two children, Owen & Eleanor. I enjoy adventures with them and my wife Sarah not quite as far afield. While we still return regularly to visit family in the midwest, we are happy to call Southern Yosemite home.