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Thread: conditioning for Rainier

  1. #1
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    conditioning for Rainier

    I was beginning to prepare for hiking Rainier in summer (~6 mo away) and wanted to get some opinions on required fitness from more experienced climbers who have been there (and some many many times).

    What hikes should one be able to do in the Whites in summer (right before you leave) to be reasonably secure about their fitness for Rainier? What did your last month look like before the climb?

    Looking at older posts, I see Paradox mentioned that being able to do a Presi Traverse and not be wiped would be considered good fitness.

    Other opinions?

    as always, appreciate the input!
    Last edited by SidS; 01-14-2011 at 10:01 AM.

  2. #2
    Banned Kevin Rooney's Avatar
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    Paradox's guideline seems reasonable - important that you do lots of hiking up to a week or two before the trip - then ease off so your body can rest and heal. Are you going with RMI? If so, you won't have to slepp as much stuff up to Camp Muir. If you go with another outfit, you may need to carry a heavier pack - maybe 60lbs depending upon food and group gear - from about 4K to 10K, so factor that in.

    Something you can't prepare for in the East is the effects of altitude. Have you been to altitude before, i.e., 10K or greater? The effects of altitude are a much discussed issue on the BB's in the West, and the merits of taking Diamox is a frequent topic. If that's a concern to you, I can provide links to at least one thread that will serve as a good baseline on that topic.

  3. #3
    Senior Member nartreb's Avatar
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    Keep in mind that fitness is no guarantee of immunity to altitude. Plan a slow climb.

    My planned Rainier trip last spring was diverted to Mt Hood due to bad avalanche conditions. I drove from my airport hotel to the mt hood parking lot, tried to get a couple hours rest in the car, and took an alpine start (11PM I think). I didn't last long - my partners told me to turn around not far above the top of the ski area. I think it was mostly jetlag and general lack of sleep rather than the altitude - I've gone from sea level to 10K+ before without problems.

    I've done a couple of one-day presi traverses, a one-day Great Range traverse, a one-day Pemi Loop attempt, and a few other long hikes without making any special training effort (I like to jog once or twice a week when I'm not hiking, that's about it), but for Rainier I'd been doing hill runs with a thirty-pound pack during my lunch breaks. I think getting used to carrying weight is very useful, but I dont' think the short up-and-down runs translated well to the constant trudge of the mountain. I'd have done long hikes instead if my schedule allowed. I definitely wasn't in as good shape as my partners, one of whom did Shasta as a warm-up a few days before our Hood climb, but I sure had no trouble hiking up Mt St Helens after a good night's sleep.

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    Thank you for the quick note! Answers to your questions below:

    Are you going with RMI?
    Yes going with RMI.

    Have you been to altitude before, i.e., 10K or greater?
    No, have never been to altitudes above 8K. I did notice the questions about Diamox and acclimatization. For now, I am only concentrating on setting a reasonable goal for my fitness regime because that seems like the most frequent cause of not summiting (and enjoying the hike)

  5. #5
    Banned Kevin Rooney's Avatar
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    Going with RMI is definitely the easiest way to do Mt Rainier. Not that Rainier is easy, by any stretch. IIRC, it's about 11K' of gain between Paradise and the summit. It's just that RMI has been there so long (had a monopoly for many years) that they have their own hut at Muir, and that means you don't need gear like tents, extra snow stakes, etc so it's less of a grunt.

    When you're ready to consider acclimatization issues, just post the questions. As nartreb points out, fitness is no guarantee against problems. In fact, there's evidence that the increased fitness increases the incidence, but don't let that diminish your conditioning efforts.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Chip's Avatar
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    I've only been once, at the beginning of June, so it was winter conditions from Paradise up. Later in the season, I'd imagine some people have issues managing the relative warmth lower and cold higher. I'd get out as much as you can this winter, even locally, more often the better, with a 35 to 45lb pack and small snowshoes or crampons, the boots you plan to use, as much gear as possible that you'll be using. Train hiking up AND down steep hills/mountains, but don't over-do it. I pulled a crotch muscle in the Carters in January and got a hernia doing Katahdin in February before my trip and lost some good training time to their rehab and repair.

    Being from CT, I couldn't get to the Whites every weekend. The thing I know helped me the most was hiking up and down a short but steep hill in town, really a large slope behind our highschool, maybe everyother day/night for about an hour at a time with a pack that started light and I built up to about 50lbs. Locals thought I was nuts, but it's no weirder than jogging a 1/4 mile oval 20 times. Good luck. Don't under prepare. There are variables that could keep you from summiting. One of them shouldn't be your fitness.
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    Senior Member Chip's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Rooney View Post
    Going with RMI is definitely the easiest way to do Mt Rainier. Not that Rainier is easy, by any stretch. IIRC, it's about 11K' of gain between Paradise and the summit. It's just that RMI has been there so long (had a monopoly for many years) that they have their own hut at Muir, and that means you don't need gear like tents, extra snow stakes, etc so it's less of a grunt.
    Just to be fair, Paradox and me went with IMG. We were in their permanent structure hut (they have the other one) and dining tent (very nice) at Muir. We were fed like kings (snow peas, potatos, milk, butter, fresh meat, real food, better than I cook) while (this is my understanding) RMI boils water for their client's dehydrated food. IMG had their tents set up at Ingraham, where we stayed the second night, so we didn't carry much more than our own gear, just shared food supplies. The guides were shlepping most of the food and group gear.
    Dead Last > Did Not Finish > Did Not Start

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  8. #8
    Senior Member kaseri's Avatar
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    Check out Mountain Athlete. They have a "Big Mountain" training program which will make you more than ready for Rainier.

  9. #9
    Banned Kevin Rooney's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chip View Post
    Just to be fair, Paradox and me went with IMG. We were in their permanent structure hut (they have the other one) and dining tent (very nice) at Muir...
    Chip - when I was there last, RMI had their hut on the left and there was a small USPS hut as well. On the right was the "public" hut, and it was pretty rickety/drafty and filled with exhaust fumes (and other gases...) and the door didn't fit right. But, that was 5 or 6 years ago, and I heard that public one got rebuilt.

    Did that happen? Did IMG have exclusive use of that other building, or was it still on a first come/first serve basis?

  10. #10
    Senior Member Chip's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Rooney View Post
    Did that happen? Did IMG have exclusive use of that other building, or was it still on a first come/first serve basis?
    IMG has exclusive use of their half of the other building, next to RMI's, which are bunks 3 high that would probably accomodate 20 to 30 people. I'm sure their half has been rebuilt as it was in good shape. This and the RMI building are two separate buildings over under the ranger's A-frame - not the old stone building to the right. I'm not sure who has access to the other half of the IMG building. Also, piles of sleeping pads were available from IMG at Muir and Ingraham, so we didn't even need to carry those (though I did carry my 3" thick inflatable one ).

    That's how it was 2 years ago. I can't guarantee nothing has changed, but we did talk to RMI clients at Muir and they were jealous of our digs and meals. And I believe I'm remembering the building configuration right. There's a chance that was only 1 building and RMI had the other half. I'll need to look at my pics.
    Last edited by Chip; 01-14-2011 at 01:31 PM.
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  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Rooney View Post
    Something you can't prepare for in the East is the effects of altitude.
    The easiest and cheapest way I can think of to simulate not being able to get enough air is to buy an older M17 protective mask. Put it on, make sure it fits properly and then start running. Preferably with a pack and weapon at port arms. OK, forget the weapon. Its is like trying to suck air through a wet sponge. When I was in the Army we called it training, later, I heard the congress called it water-boarding. Congressional weenies.

    Anyway, I guarantee you it will strengthen and tax your cardiovascular system like nothing you have ever tried. After training like that for several weeks I promise you when you get to 15K feet you'll be saying to yourself, damn it's so easy to breath without that sopping wet towel around my face to bad these other fellows didn't try my training regimen.

    Caveat:
    Take everything I say right now with a grain of salt, I have been near delusional with fever and chills. Oh, except for the mask stuff. Did that, never had trouble breathing, ever again, even a couple of times when I had pneumonia.

    Keith
    "The real work of men was hunting meat. The invention of agriculture was a giant step in the wrong direction, leading to serfdom, cities, and empire. From a race of hunters, artists, warriors, and tamers of horses, we degraded ourselves to what we are now: clerks, functionaries, laborers, entertainers, processors of information."- Ed Abbey

  12. #12
    Senior Member weatherman's Avatar
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    I don't know, from what I read (and now experience), the thing that creates most of the symptoms of altitude sickness at medium-high altitudes (say, under 18,000 feet) is blowing off too much CO2 as you breathe deeper and harder to get more O2. Your kidneys help you adjust, but this takes a few days. That's where Diamox comes in. Bottom line, I'm not sure if there's any way to adjust for this except by being at altitude (or getting one of those weird and super-expensive bags that you pump air out of and sleep in).

    Anyway, from 6 months of living here and playing in the mountains, I think it's roughly 70% conditioning and 30% just getting used to the dang elevation, though some of it just depends on the individual. If there's any way you can spend a few days over 5,000 feet in the days leading up to your trip, do it. In any case, you'll likely have plenty of non-acclimatized company with whom to lose your lunch, if it comes to that.
    Enjoy- I can't wait for a Rainier opportunity.

    Weatherman
    --would rather be hiking than typing.

  13. #13
    Moderator Peakbagr's Avatar
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    Check our RMI's multiday course. Instead of hustling up to Camp Muir and then out for the summit the next day.
    Take a training course and the side benefit of spending more time at altitude and having more options for a summit day.
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  14. #14
    Senior Member J.Dub's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chip View Post
    I pulled a crotch muscle in the Carters
    Must...resist...urge...to...make...joke...

    (family site and all)

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  15. #15
    Senior Member Puma concolor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SidS View Post
    No, have never been to altitudes above 8K. I did notice the questions about Diamox and acclimatization. For now, I am only concentrating on setting a reasonable goal for my fitness regime because that seems like the most frequent cause of not summiting (and enjoying the hike)
    Keep in mind that not being properly acclimated feels an awful lot like not being fit. This is why sometimes people get the two issues confused. In my experience, general malaise is the first sign of not being properly acclimated. My first time on a big western mountain resulted in a turn-around somewhere between 12K and the 13K-plus summit. No headaches, no major breathing problems ... I was just whooped. A couple of days in town above 7K and I practically sprinted to the summit.

    At this point, I don't go out west without Diamox and even so, sometimes I still feel sluggish ... it's hard to predict. Everyone is different, but keep in mind that you could bag all 48 NH 4K in a month and still get your butt handed to you on a big western peak.

    Good luck!

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