Fitness and Training
Mountaineering, Rock Climbing and Ski Mountaineering are demanding activities and are very serious undertakings. The more prepared you are, the more enjoyable your trip will be. Physical fitness is one aspect of preparation that takes time and commitment. It is an important component of risk management, because the more fit we are as a team, the more capacity we have to deal with challenging situations.
Most mountaineering challenges involve long duration and medium to low intensity. All of our mountaineering climbs require very good physical fitness. To participate in any of our mountaineering climbs, you should be able to hike or climb for 5 to 6 hours with a 20 to 40 pound pack and ascend 4,000 feet of vertical gain per day.
In order to prepare for such a feat, you should be exercising 3 to 4 times per week for at least one hour per session. We recommend doing long hikes on your days off that are at least 6-8 hours long and involve up to 5,000 vertical feet – at least 3,000 vertical feet – of ascent and descent.
The guide will make a decision to turn back if they feel that the group is being placed in jeopardy. We are not in a position to evaluate your fitness level. Our guides can only make decisions based on the speed of the team relative to current conditions and forecasted weather. If you are overweight or are in poor health, please consult your doctor before signing up for any trip.
On some trips you will be carrying heavy loads, climbing technical terrain with an overnight pack, climbing at high altitude, and climbing on little or restless sleep. These conditions require that you be in excellent fitness. If these activities are at your absolute physical limit, there will be little room to handle additional challenges like inclement weather, adverse conditions or discomfort. Please be in the best fitness you can be, before arriving to climb Mount Hood.
First and foremost, it is imperative that you inform your guide of all your medical history and current physical condition. This information helps your guide to make informed decisions about your program, and in the event of an emergency, potentially life-saving decisions. Our programs operate in remote locations where advanced medical care and evacuation may not be available for hours or days.
If you have any long-term side-effects from past injuries or illness please include these in your medical history. Any current injuries or conditions – even those that seem irrelevant – should be disclosed, as well as a list of all medications that you are taking. Any asthma or allergies to food, animals or the environment must be included in your form.
The key to this is to try to be well hydrated, and well fed before your trip begins. Another helpful tactic is to spend some time at 6000’ at Timberline Lodge before your trip. If you aren’t staying at Timberline, consider coming a couple days earlier and taking some day hikes above the lodge to gradually expose your body to the increased demands of exertion at altitude.
Our programs operate between 7,000 and 15,000 feet in the United States, and up to 19,000 feet internationally. If you are traveling from sea-level we recommend that you arrive early to give yourself time to acclimate to the altitude before you exert yourself on the climb. If you are going to elevations above 15,000 feet, we recommend speaking with your doctor about obtaining a prescription of Diamox. If you have a history of altitude illness, you may want to talk to your doctor about using Diamox at even lower elevations, as well as obtaining a prescription for emergency dexamethasone.
On some trips you will be carrying heavy loads. Sleeping and eating conditions on overnight trips are not always ideal. Weather is often unpredictable and may disrupt climbing. The mountain environment is constantly changing, so you must be prepared for any weather.
No one can control the weather and route conditions. We cannot control your fitness, but you can. Sometimes conditions make the climbing more tiring, for example in the cold and the wind. Sometimes conditions dictate that we move fast to catch a weather window, or else we’ll be forced to turn around. The more physically prepared you are, the better opportunity your team will have to reach the summit in the variety of conditions that we find in the mountain that we guide. We will make every effort to help you get to the summit. However, our priority is always to descend safely, even if that is because we can’t move fast enough to complete the objective. Please do your best to prepare adequately for the physical demands of mountaineering.