8-Week Training Program to Summit a 5,000er
by: Anna SzlaviCategory: Mountaineering
How can I get ready to climb a 5000er?
So you are interested to hear the recipe to bag peaks above 4,000m? Perhaps you already tried Mont Blanc, but you didn’t make it, and you want to do that summit-shot next time. Or perhaps you want to climb higher, maybe a 5,000er, and you want to maximize your success… We hear you, man! 🙂
Let me tell you a story then. It’s about Ben, another mountain dude like you who made a climbing plan. He made up his mind to go to the Caucasus and climb Kazbek (5,047m). He is the planner type; he likes to keep things under control and prepare for every little detail possible.
Mountain climbing was no different for him. He wanted to make sure he does everything for his success, so he turned to us and asked for a training program to prepare for his climb.
Some background info: Ben was not a rookie when he reached out to us. He had already bagged a number of alpine peaks in the Alps, like Grossglockner, and in the Tatras, like Chopok. Nevertheless, he was not specifically sporty – persistent, hell that he was.
The training program he got from us was 8 weeks long and it was general enough that he could adjust it to his schedule. As a matter of fact, anybody could try and do it. You don’t need to be a mountaineer, nor a top scorer terminator to be able to complete it. Actually, you just need one thing: to complete it.
Download your 8-week training program from here:
In the following we will explain this training program to you in some details, but don’t expect a bunch of scientific data. It is not really necessary for now.
What is necessary is that you are hard on yourself because you are doing it for yourself. Nobody will check you, and exactly because of this it will be damn hard.
TRAINING PROGRAM FOR KAZBEK
Phase 1 – Weeks 1-3
- Start the week with a light workout and increase your performance gradually. On the first day train at least for 60 mins but don’t over-exert yourself. If you can, try to last till 90-120 mins but if it is too much for you at this point, don’t force it. Run, bike, or swim, whichever you like.
- On Wednesday or Thursday, you can do a functional workout. The intensity should be high, but the volume moderate. Your workout should be no longer that 60-75 mins, including warmup and stretching. The goal is to get tired. Don’t bother if you have some muscle fever the next day.
- Friday should be lighter but still take it seriously. Swimming is ideal because it will help your muscles to regenerate.
- It is important that you schedule at least 4 workouts these weeks and dedicate one day (typically at the weekend) when you do a longer workout. It can be biking or hiking, for about 3-6 hours.
- Once you completed a weekly cycle, you need to take a rest day so your muscles can regenerate. At the end of the third week, schedule 3 rest days and chill.
The truth is, you can climb Kazbek in 3 days if you really want to, but it is much better to give your body enough time to acclimatize.
- It is essential you pay attention to warming up and stretching properly, as much as to nutrition and hydration. Generally drink at least 2.5L. When you work out, it is more like 3-4L.
- At the end of Week 3, you might want to get a massage. But remember not to schedule it right before or after the intense functional training.
- If possible, try to introduce some elevation into your running workout. It doesn’t have to be a lot; rather, if it is mild but constant, that’s the best.
Phase 2 – Weeks 4-6
- In the second phase your routine should be the same as before but you should increase duration or distance (or actually, both). For example, first run for 60 mins at 7-8 km/h, then try to speed up to 10 km/h.
- As for the functional training, introduce more weight. You can try and run up the stairs with a bag of 6-8 kg (to imitate what you’ll be doing when climbing). No need for more weights; you won’t have more in your backpack. The point is to push yourself to your limits. Your body is already used to the training, so exhaust yourself and go one step further.
- The Friday swim should be light and refreshing so you relax.
- At the end of week, do as before: schedule a longer workout. This time it should be even more extensive: 5-8 hours. Week 6 should be as tough as you can imagine. It will hurt but you'll thank yourself for it later.
Phase 3 – Weeks 7-9
- Start the week light as always, but note that you need to reach maximum intensity on Week 7. Watch out for injuries; push your limits but don’t hurt yourself.
- Week 8 should be about regeneration. You should do some workout but only moderately because your mountain is close. Don’t over-exert yourself. You will feel strength in your body but keep it for Week 9, for the trip. If you do an acclimatization climb, go for it. Don’t worry, you will have enough time before the Big Peak.
The last part will be the toughest but the most memorable as well. The mountain will dictate the rhythm.
Ben completed the 8-week training program and it worked for him: he bagged the 5047m peak of Kazbek! You can adjust the above program to your specific schedule, that is, you don’t need to stick to it word by word.
Also, you might want to go out in the backcountry a couple of times. If you cannot climb a high-mountain in your training period, then hike or trek somewhere nearby. The essence is to get used to elevation gain.
Obviously, it would be great if you could prepare yourself to high-mountain oxygen levels too but if it’s out of reach, don’t worry about it. Hike 35-50 km a day and gain 1200-1400m on your trip, that’s going to be a good start. If you feel like going out for another round the next day, you are on the good track.
Note, however, that this training program cannot guarantee that you will summit Kazbek or Mont Blanc, or any other 4-5000er. It will definitely increase your chances though.
The truth is, summiting has other factors too:
- your mind – earlier we wrote about this and explained how success starts (or fails) in your head. Whether you make it to the top or not depends mostly on how much you believe in yourself.
- your motivation – secondly, it is your motivation that matters. How badly do you want this peak? How far are you willing to go? How determined and persistent are you? Our experiences show, this can be a freakishly decisive factor.
- your circumstances – thirdly, there are the external factors. Your training – and hence your physique – is one very important part, together with acclimatization. Like we said before, try to schedule acclimatization climbs in your workout.
Let’s not forget about weather conditions either, because they have a lot of say in whether you can summit or not. Of course there’s not much to do with blizzards and thunder storms, but if you know what proper gear is, you increase your chances to summit a great deal.
If you want to climb a mountain, you have three things to do:
- Find a challenging but realistic mountain for yourself and set your mind to it - if you are reading this post, most probably you have set yourself to climbing the Caucasus or some 4000ers in the Alps
- Prepare your body to build stamina and stick to your training program - in this blogpost we are offering you an 8-week training program that you can easily adjust to your schedule
- Do it. Bag that peak.
Start your preparation and download your 8-week training program now.
One last note on gear - because we can't talk about it enough and it's hard to fit in here. An important and very overlooked piece of the 5000-er equipment kit is the socks you wear. What's the best recipe for cold feet that make you turn back? Sweating on the climb and soaking your feet, and not having socks that transport moisture away from your skin. This alone can make or break a climb. So make sure you get good socks - here is a guide for high mountain climbing and hiking socks.