Friday’s Five Fitness Tips: Mountaineering for Beginners
Colorado’s mountains already boast a light dusting of snow. The area’s highest mountain, Longs Peak (14,259 ft), stands tall, like a white sentinel watching over the plains of the Front Range. I love and climb in the Rocky Mountains all year round, but it’s the winter months that offer the real solitude and silence (and extra hard workouts). The busy days with hundreds of climbers topping out on Longs Peak are over, and I often see just one or two other people, if any, when I’m wandering about in the late fall and winter. If you’re interested in trying out a new adventure this winter, why not try a bit of mountaineering? It’s a fantastic way to stay fit and to give yourself an opportunity to get out of the gym during the coldest time of year. Here are five fitness tips to get you started. I’ve included some helpful links in some of the tips so you can explore the plethora of information available on the subject.
- Make sure you boots fit! I made this mistake too many times because I always tried to find the cheapest option (and usually got free, oversized boots from my guy friends). Mountaineering boots that are too big will just cause you pain and trouble. Ill-fitting boots hurt and can even be dangerous. Do you really want your foot slipping and sliding around in your boot when you’re on that knife-edge ridge 2,000 feet off the ground? Right, probably not. So, drop the cash and either rent or buy a great pair of boots. And then wear those boots numerous times before you go on your big adventure. This will not only help get you acclimated to the boot (and avoid that quarter-sized blister), but it will also help you get and stay in shape for your big adventure. Learn more about fitting your mountaineering boots on this great SummitPost.org forum post.
- Start on small, more local mountains, and then work your way to climbing the bigger, higher, and often-scarier mountains. This way, not only will you become acclimated to the altitude (if they are high peaks), but you will also gradually gain fitness for steeper mountain terrain and you can span out your strengths and weaknesses. Remember, experience is the best teacher.
- Hire a guide and learn the basic climbing and mountaineering techniques, such as tying helpful climbing knots, belaying, rappelling, rope management, and self arresting. Check out America’s premier organization serving guides and guided clients, the American Mountain Guide Association.
- Always drink lots of water. Because there is lower air pressure at higher altitudes, there is less available oxygen. Subsequently, we breathe faster and end up releasing too much carbon dioxide (thus changing the pH of our blood). Our kidneys then work overtime to offset this, and you end up peeing more. To avoid dehydration, which could totally shut you down, you must drink 3 to 5 quarts a day.
- Pace yourself at higher altitudes. Often beginner climbers assume that because they are physically fit enough to climb, they should just keep going higher and higher without thinking about it. But this isn’t always true. As you climb, your body makes short-term adaptations gaining oxygen. And compensations are limited. As you progress and the altitude increases, your chances of getting altitude sickness increase. Learn the signs and symptoms and practice being in tune with your body so that you can recognize the onset of altitude sickness. Finally, don’t push it if you don’t feel good. Altitude sickness can result in death. Check out this interesting PubMed Health article to find out more about altitude sickness.
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