12 Week Elbrus Climbing Preparation Plan for the Average Full-Time Working Individual;

High Altitude Mountaineering Training + Nutrition

Exclusively Prepared by Chris Draper, RD, LDN, CSCS from dt+n for RMH guests ONLY.

Mountaineering Training | Mt. Elbrus Climb

Congratulations! You decided to embark on a Mt. Elbrus climbing expedition with RMH. Now what? It is time to ensure you do not come up short of reaching your summit. We will do our part. You owe it to yourself and your team to be the best you upon starting your expedition. Training does not start once you get to Base Camp, but months prior.

 

What do I do it? Count 12-weeks back from your anticipated arrival at Elbrus or other RMH expedition and follow along with the recommended strength and conditioning plan. We understand time is limited, juggling a personal and professional life, that is why we have provided gym and outdoor options to meet your unique constraints.

 

You may be asking yourself, “Why do I need to do strength training?” Strength provides a foundation of ability to:

 

  • reduce your chances of injury and overuse prior to your climb.
  • help you maintain proper form and technique under states of fatigue and duress which altitude can and will provide.
  • carry loads on acclimatization days where you will bring your gear to high camp and most importantly enable you to return after a successful summit.

 

To help you understand what you are in for let’s take a look at the physical ability necessary to summit Elbrus from the North or the South side:

SOUTH ROUTE CLIMB:

 

Starting Elevation: 3850 m. (or if using a Snowcat on the Summit Day – 4800 m./ or 5100 m.).
West Summit Elevation: 5642 m.
South Route Total Gain: 1792 m. (5871 ft.)/542 m. (1778 ft.) if using a Snowcat up to 5100 m.
Hourly Range: Under 10 hours depending on the fitness of the team. Remember, more loss than gain on South route due to ski lift taking you to your High Camp; RMH Lodge and snowcat taking you to the starting point from high camp if you choose. You will not have snowcat ability on return to camp. Therefore, ensure adequate downhill preparation in training to get back down to 3850 m from 5642 m. Summit days can be longer than anticipated if weather rolls in. Be prepared.

NORTH ROUTE CLIMB:

 

Two Half Loaded Pack Gear Transfer Days:
Base Camp to High Camp: 2500 m to 3800 m.
Gain: 1300+m (4265 ft.); ability needed back-to-back 1300 m (4000+ft.) days.

Total Gain/Loss: 2600 m (8000+ft).

 

High Camp Acclimatization Day:
High Camp to Lenz Rocks: 3800 m to 4800 m.

Total Gain/Loss: 1000+m (3280 ft).

 

Summit Day:
High Camp to West Summit: 3800 m to 5642 m.

Total Gain/Loss: 1842+m (6043 ft).

 

Return High Camp to Base Camp Day: 3800 m to 2500 m with all gear (porters available for a small fee if needed).

Total Loss: 1300 m (4265 ft).

Summary:

 

You will have to be conditioned enough to handle multiple back-to-back acclimatization hikes with gear hauling. As well as, a high camp acclimatization hike on the glacier with all your sharps and cold gear followed by a long summit day which will likely be in the 12-14 hours of total time I.e., 9 hours up / 4 hours down depending upon you and your group’s overall fitness coming in. That being said, let’s get moving. Time is wasting.

Ideal Week

 

To ensure optimal absorption of your training a sample week is listed below. We understand you may not be able to adhere to this regimen 100% of the time. But, please try to follow the organization as closely as possible for optimal results.

 

 

MONDAY:   Strength

TUESDAY:   Aerobic

WEDNESDAY:   Strength

THURSDAY:   Aerobic

FRIDAY:   Strength or OFF

SATURDAY:   OFF or Aerobic

SUNDAY:   Aerobic

PHASES:

PHASE I

Alpine Preparation

 

GOALS:

 

Single Leg Focus; rule out imbalances.

2 x’s per week/ 3x’s if time is available

1-2 Sets 15-20 repetitions; 2 weeks

2-3 Sets 12-15 repetitions; 2 weeks

: 30-second rest in between sets

 

  • increase to 2-3 sets and increased weights by week 3.
  • use perfect technique.
  • start to increase weight, but keep impeccable form.
  • remember, something is better than nothing… one set if can’t do two.

Strength Exercises:

3/4 SQUAT PRESS ON BOSU BALL WITH DUMBBELLS (DBS)

 

Notes: -Stand atop Bosu (if have one / floor if not) and do a 3/4 squat with DBs in a shoulder press position. As raise up press overhead.

Outdoor option: load pack up with desired weight and press overhead as squat. Repeat for desired repetitions.

STIFF LEGGED DEADLIFT; SINGLE LEGGED WITH DBS

 

Notes: -Hold DBs at waist level and flex over, standing on one leg, repeat to desired reps. Switch legs.

Outdoor option: do without weight or holding light pack.

STEP UP WITH HAMMER CURL ON BENCH WITH DBS

 

Notes: – Step Up with one leg on bench or step with DBs at sides, curl as step up. Repeat till repetitions completed. Switch legs.

Outdoor option: wear pack with desired weight. Can use filled Nalgene bottles for curls.

LUNGE WITH DBS (WALK OR ALTERNATE RIGHT / LEFT IN PLACE)

 

Notes: – Lunge forward in a walking manner; alternating steps or do in place; alternating steps.

Outdoor option: pack on back with desired weight to ensure form.

ABDUCTION W/ BODY BAR OR BAND

 

Notes: – Lie on your side with a band; around your knees, or body-bar atop the side of foot and raise leg from hip focusing on your abductor muscle; outer hip.

Outdoor option: lie on your side using isometric contraction; your own resistance, up on three count then down on two focusing specifically on your hip; abductor muscle.

CALF RAISE 3-D (INNER / OUTER / CENTER)

 

Notes: – Use a calf raise machine, leg press or the like and complete a calf raise in three different positions. The goal is ten repetitions for each position. Add weight as needed.

Outdoor option: add pack to back and complete on a step.

MEDICINE BALL ROLL PUSHUP (REGULAR OR MODIFIED)

 

Notes: – Start in a pushup position with one hand over a medicine ball, do a push- up (regular or modified; knees down) and roll ball to other hand. Repeat till repetitions completed.

Outdoor option: use pack and simply do one side at a time.

FLYES ON STABILITY BALL W/ DBS

 

Notes: – Lying on your back on top of a Stability Ball complete flyes; think of a hug.

Outdoor option: in standing position move your arms in a hugging fashion to the front isometrically contracting your chest muscles and releasing.

FRONT SIDE & REAR DELTOID RAISE

 

Notes: – Raise DBs to eye level in front then sides and lastly flex over at waist and complete a reverse hug for rear deltoids.

Complete ten of each movement with a fairly light weight.

Outdoor option: use Nalgenes filled with water for DBs.

PULLOVER W/ DB ON STABILITY BALL

 

Notes: – Lie on your back with DB in hands/reach over head; and return DB to over chest height.

Outdoor option: lie on flat surface and substitute DBs for pack with desired weight.

KICKBACKS

 

Notes: – Try to stand on one leg with arms at sides and extend them back both at the same time.

Outdoor option: sub DBs with Nalgenes.

PLANKS

 

Notes: – hold low plank; forearm position, for a 1:00 goal. :30 seconds to start. Add pack for an addition challenge as reach 1:00 easily.

ROTATIONS ON BOSU W/ MED BALL OR DB

 

Notes: -Seated on a Bosu Ball or mat rotate right and left with a medicine ball or DB. Can do for 1:00 per set.

Outdoor option: sub pack with desired weight.

LOWER LEG LIFTS OR PIKES ON STAB BALL

 

Notes: -Lean back 45 degrees on mat and raise legs slightly while focusing on lower abdominals.

Pikes: hold self in a push up position with shins on ball and hands on floor while at the same time raising hips to ceiling. Repeat till desired reps.

Aerobic

 

Paralleling your strength, you will also need to build your aerobic capacity. Summit day on Elbrus will be like competing multiple marathons. Therefore, it is essential you have the endurance to be able to continue at a long steady pace for double digit hours. We will use Zone Training and a Perceived exertion scale to guide your aerobic training. Lets keep things simple.

Zone/Perceived Exertion; 1 of 10 Scale

Zone 1: easy effort/ perceived exertion 5 out of 10.
Zone 2: moderate effort/ perceived exertion 6-7 out of 10.
Zone 3: tempo effort/ perceived exertion 8 out of 10.
Zone 4: will not be used to allow for maximal recovery/ reduce injury chances.

Alpine Preparation Phase I: 4 Week Aerobic

 

Day/ Time (mins)/ Equipment Choice/ Zone

Tuesday –  :30/ :30/ :30/ :20; treadmill/ trail/ cross-training equipment in Z2.
Thursday – :30/ :30/ :30/ :20; treadmill/ trail/ cross-training equipment in Z2.
Sunday –  :60/ 1:30/ 2:00/ 1:00; ideally hills/ mountain (stairs or treadmill as needed) in Z1/2.
*Nice benchmark is to strive for 305 m (1000 ft) of elevation gain/hr terrain for Sundays with a weighted pack. 610 m (2000 ft) the third week.

PHASE II

Mountain Strength

GOALS:

Focus on Overall Strength and Power
2x’s per week/ 3x’s if time available
2-3 Sets 10-12 reps; 4 weeks
:30 sec rest in between sets

 

  • use perfect technique.
  • increased weight/ sets, but keep impeccable form.
  • movement from single leg/ balance to multi-joint power movements functional to mountaineering.

Exercises:

SQUAT OR LEG PRESS

 

Notes: – Stand shoulder-width apart for squat or place legs the same for leg press. Repeat for desired repetitions. Use free weights or DBs for squats and machine for leg press.

Outdoor option: backpack loaded with desired weight. Use what is available to you i.e., filled water bottles are easy to adjust for desired weight.

BENCH PRESS

 

Notes: – Lying on bench or stability ball bring weight down to chest and press. Free weights or dumbbells.

Outdoor option: push-ups regular or modified add pack with weight for advanced.

OVERHEAD DELTOID RAISE

 

Notes: – Raise weights over-head till obtain desired repetitions. Can use DBs or free weights.

Use pack as outdoor option. Start at shoulder height.

BENT OVER ROWS

 

Notes: – With free weights or DBs (pack as outdoor option) bend over at waist level extend arms and row to navel height with a focus on back muscles. Repeat to desired weights.

STEP UP WITH A BICEP CURL

 

Notes: – Place right leg on a step or bench; 90 degree bend and step up with a bicep curl.

Add your pack and isometric contract your arm as you step up as outdoor option.

KICKBACKS

 

Notes: – Stand on two legs shoulder width apart with arms elbow locked to your sides and extend both forearm to wrist at one time.

Outdoor option: take two full Nalgene bottles and extend back till desired reps. Add pack to back for additional core strength in the flexed over from the waist position.

PLANKS

 

Notes: Try to hold position for 1:30 to 2:00 minutes for desired sets. Add pack for a more challenging experience.

ROTATIONS

 

Notes: – Seated on mat rotate right to left with a medicine ball, DB or pack in hands. 60 seconds per set.

LOWER LEG LIFTS

 

Notes: – Lean back 45 degrees on a mat and raise legs slightly while focusing on lower abdominals.

If strong enough place a dumbbell or pack between ankles to challenge. Repeat till desired reps.

Phase II: 4 Week Aerobic

 

Day/ Time (Hrs:mins)/ Equipment Choice/ Zone

Tuesday: – :40/ :40/ :40/ :30; treadmill/ trail/ cross-training equipment in Z2.
Thursday: – :40/ :40/ :40/ :30; treadmill/ trail/ cross-training equipment in Z2.
:10 mins/ Z3 :20 mins (can do 2 mins Z3/ 2 mins Z2 intervals/:10 Z2 mins). 4th recovery week all Z2.
Sunday: – 2:30/ 3:00/ 3:30/ 2:00; ideally hills / mountain (stairs or treadmill if needed).
*Nice benchmark is to strive for 305 m (1000 ft) of elevation gain/hr terrain for Sundays with a weighted pack. 1830 m (3300 ft) the third week.

PHASE III

Mountain Endurance

 

GOALS:

 

Focus on Overall Strength and Power with Endurance
2x’s per week/3x’s if time available
2-3 Sets 15-20 reps; 2 weeks
:30 sec rest in b/w sets

 

  • use perfect technique.
  • increased reps with previous weight/ sets, but keep impeccable form.
  • use the same exercises in Mountain Strength Phase.

Phase III: Aerobic 4 Week

Day/ Time (Hrs:mins)/ Equipment Choice/ Zone

Tuesday: – :50/ :50/ :50/ :40; treadmill/ trail/ cross training equipment in Z2.
Thursday: – :50/ :50/ :50/ :40; treadmill/ trail/ cross training equipment in Z2:10 mins/:30 mins as 3 mins Z2/2 mins Z2 /:10 mins Z2. 4th week recovery all Z2.
Saturday** 2:00/ 2:30/ 3:00/ X in Z1/2.
Sunday: – 4:00/ 4:30/ 5:00/ 3:00; ideally hills/ mountain (stairs or treadmill as needed) in Z1/2.

*Nice benchmark is to strive for 305 m (1000 ft) of elevation gain/hr terrain for Sundays with a weighted pack. 915 m (5000 ft) the third week.

 

**Summit sets: for those highly motivated, add back-to-back Saturday Sunday outings preferably in the mountains as listed above/ others complete at least one back-to-back during this phase. How? Take Phase II Aerobic Sunday hours presented above and complete them on Saturday while following Sunday as planned above both with weighted packs. Ideal if can use the weekends as opportunities to utilize gear planning on using on the mountain. Do not make the first time you use your gear on Elbrus.

PHASE IV / V:

Mountain Maintenance / Taper

 

GOALS:

 

Focus on Overall Strength and Power Maintenance
2x’s per week
Maintenance 1-2 Sets 12-15 reps; 2 weeks
:30 sec rest in between sets

 

  • use perfect technique.
  • hold weight to 75% of Mountain Strength Phase weight/ keep impeccable form.
  • movement from Endurance to holding strength, tapering and avoiding any injury prior to your expedition. Less is more during this phase.

 

Taper: rest/ recovery no strength; last 2 weeks.

Phase IV / V: Aerobic 4 Week

Day/ Time (Hrs:mins)/ Equipment Choice/ Zone

Tuesday – :60/ :60/ :30/ :30; treadmill/ trail/ cross training equipment in Z2.
Thursday –  :60/ :60/ :30/ :30; treadmill/ trail/ cross training equipment in Z2.
Saturday** 4:00/ 4:30/ X/X in Z1/2.
Sunday – 5:30/ 6:00/ 2:00/ 1:00; ideally hills/ mountain (stairs or treadmill as needed) in Z1/2.

*Nice benchmark is to strive for 305 m (1000 ft) of elevation gain/hr terrain for Sundays with a weighted pack. 915 m (6000 ft) the second week.

 

**Summit sets: for those highly motivated add back-to-back Saturday Sunday outings preferably in the mountains during this phase/others complete at least one back-to-back. How? Take Phase III Aerobic Sunday hours presented above and complete them on Saturday while following Sunday as planned above both with weighted packs. Ideal if can use the weekends as opportunities to utilize gear planning on using on the mountain. Do not make the first time you use your gear on Elbrus.

Mountaineering Training Nutrition for Mt. Elbrus Climbing and Other RMH Expeditions

HOW MUCH?

 

A simple equation suggested which works pretty well if you try and true it in training. Ok, everyone wears a shirt. That being said, take a look… are you a Small, Medium, Large or XL? Ok, got it. Below are your reference calories per hour for training and/ or climbing for sessions lasting greater than one hour:

 

Small:  – 50-100
Medium:  – 100-200
Large:  – 200-300
XL:  – 300-400

 

Please start off on the conservative side of the range to train digestion. Yes, you can move into the next size up range if can tolerate and vice versa if not tolerating. It is an art as well as a science especially the longer and higher you go. Once you have established your calories per hour let’s move on to what to take in.

WHAT?

 

The optimal choices during training and climbing will be easily digestible high carbohydrate with some protein on low intensity and longer days. On higher intensity days and higher up on the mountain, easily digestible carbohydrate rich choices often are better tolerated. Remember, train your nutrition as you do your body for optimal performance. Be open to choices as taste/ preference change as hours go by. Please follow solid food choices with water for optimal digestion/ absorption. Some options:

 

Carbohydrate Rich:

  • Sports Drinks
  • Gels (caffeinated are nice on summit/ longer days)
  • Chews or Blox
  • Dried Fruit
  • Fresh Fruit
  • Bars
  • Bagels
  • Pita Bread
  • Granola
  • Pretzels
  • “Reward Food” (something you look forward to at a point in time i.e., candy bar)

 

Carbohydrate / Protein Combos:

  • Sandwich with:

– Cheese and/ or Luncheon Meats
– Nut Butter; peanut, almond or other

  • Nuts with Dried Fruit
  • Jerky with Fruit
  • Meal Replacement Powders

WHEN?

 

Try to break your fueling into measurable segments I.e., going back to our shirt size let’s say you are a Medium with a goal of 200 calories per hour. You can break your segment down to fifteen minute fuelings of 50 calories if you do not tolerate larger volumes at one time. Or if you tolerate larger volumes, you can go with thirty minute fuelings of 100 calories. Experiment with both choices to find the approach that best works for you.

 

What would this look like you ask? Let’s say we are going on a 2-hour training hike. The goal would be 400 calories in total. For example, to achieve these 400 calories, I am going to go with Cliff Bar Shots and Gatorade. Therefore, I am going to fill my Nalgene with 200 calories of Gatorade and bring a package of Cliff Bar Shot Blox which is roughly 200 calories per package of six. Remember, you will need water to help digest/ absorb the ‘solids’ you take in. Therefore, I am going to pack another Nalgene with water. I am an individual that tolerates calories well. Therefore, I am going to have 230+ml (8 oz) of Gatorade at :30 minute intervals and alternate it with a ‘solid feed’; 3-Blox and 150ml (4-6 oz) of water. Continue for the remainder of session. Remember, your choices can be real food here. Have fun and experiment. But, please, do not wait on this. Nutrition is as important as your physical training.

WHERE?

 

It is best to plan rest breaks or if you are a frequent feeder keep your calories convenient on your person. On Elbrus, many enjoy having gels, waffles and other supplemental nutrition easily accessible in front pouches of their jacket or pack. When the group stops for a scheduled rest, you will be able to work in perhaps a heartier portion. You can always draw back the feed thereafter or if nearing a rest can skip prior to enjoy the goodness you have in your pack. The key is to be flexible. What worked in training does not always work higher up in altitude. Therefore have options. Taste choices also changes.

WHY?

 

You can say, once the training is complete 80% of your success lies in your ability to allow your muscles to do their job. Glycogen is the key to help unlock your ability to your summit. Please do not overlook this area. Feeding can also act as intermittent points of “eating the Elbrus elephant”… piece by piece.

Proper Hydration

How much daily? It has long been believed to drink 8-8oz or 64 oz (just under 2 Liters) per day. However, recently it has been found there is no research backing these amounts. So, how much you drink daily in your normal as well as training/climbing should be driven by your thirst. If, you are thirsty… drink. But, how will I know I am properly hydrated and able to continue you ask. As we train our fitness for climbing, please train your hydration in your preparatory sessions. Each session is an opportunity to learn a little more about how your body reacts and responds to variable intakes.

 

A couple areas to consider are urine output and body weight. When passing fluids while training and/or climbing please take note on the color of your output – straw colored equals well hydrated vs golden colored is an indication you are behind on fluids. If, you are not passing fluids in a key session or passing a deep dark amber color please try to take in a follow-up sip after each drink to ensure a few more oz/ml go in. Again, assess your output upon making this adjustment.

 

Likewise, with body weight, you can help determine your hydration status post climbing or training with a sweat-rate test.  Simply, weigh yourself pre session then post (without sweaty clothes) and see how much weight you have dropped. Please note losses of 1-2% will negatively impact your performance. Like the output example above please try to mitigate this loss by in-fluxing your amount of fluids per drink and/or set a watch timer to remind yourself to drink in the case you may have become forgetful.

 

On Summit Day on Elbrus, it is likely you will fall into a fluid deficit due to the inability to carry all the fluids you will need to stay in balance. But, you can and should keep these margins slim in training to ensure the best physicality upon arriving. On Elbrus (and other high altitude expeditions), the reason you will fall into a fluid deficit is you will be limited by the weight you will be able to carry for fluids. A sufficient quantity for a Summit Day will be in the ballpark of 2 L (67oz). This can be easily accomplished by carrying two 32oz/~1L wide mouth Nalgenes. If, you desire hot liquids it is recommended to add a thermos to the equation in substitution of a Nalgene or if you have the ability add it to the load.

dt+n; Draper Training and Nutrition – RMH Official Strength and Conditioning Provider.

We do care about your health and safety on the mountain like no one else in the industry. Also, we do care about our excellent summit success and safety rates, that’s why we partner only with the Best in the World. This High Altitude Mountaineering Training & Nutrition Plan was exclusively designed by Chris Draper, RD, LDN, CSCS – the CEO and Founder of dt+n; Draper Training and Nutrition, to provide RMH guests with the world’s most unique and effective training and nutrition plan for the best possible performance on Elbrus climbing expeditions.

If you desire a personalized one-on-one plan and attention, please contact our Official Strength and Conditioning provider dt+n; Draper Training and Nutrition. dt+n is owned and operated by Christopher Draper, RD, LDN, CSCS. As a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and Licensed/ Registered Dietitian, Chris brings a unique comprehensive twenty plus year history of bringing endurance athletes to successful goal completion. In addition, Chris has successfully summited Mount Elbrus with us in 2018 by both North and South Routes; experiencing both sides of the mountain as well as being an Ultraman World Championships Hawaii AG Champion; 5x competitor, Tahoe 200 Endurance Run finisher, as well as many IRONMAN finishes, with a sub 10hr best and other endurance feats. dt+n understands you and your unique needs to achieve success.

Contact Chris at: [email protected]com

Or Call Chris at: +1 609-433-3934

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