No, not baseball. This is way more exciting than baseball. Everyone wants to know what to do to stay in shape through the winter, or to ramp up training in the spring so they can be ready for whatever ambitious climbs they’ve been dreaming about for 6 months. I have never hiked Mailbox or Si or Cable Line for conditioning because like many others,
I hate people I go to the mountains to escape, and those trails have a lot of traffic. While slogging up Granite a while ago, I had a moment of clarity where I realized what works best for me (which probably means delirium had set in from exhaustion). Here are my general guidelines.
1) Don’t get out of shape. But who are we kidding. I like egg nog and you like hot chocolate and we both like rumchata and ever since I discovered you can mix them all together my
holiday winter standard diet has gotten out of hand. So this is a fake #1.
Here’s the real #1.
1) Ditch the snowshoes. They’re impeding your progress to Greek body glory and double Rainier summits and one day multi peak slams. Pushing through thigh deep powder on a 30 degree slope will burn like 200 calories per step (non-scientific estimation). Offer to always break trail for your friends, unless they’re in way better shape than you and need something to slow them down (cough, JT). Just remember to step carefully when you turn off of a well packed trail or you’ll faceplant immediately, which may provide comic relief to your equally exhausted trailbreaking friends, but will not help you.
2) Pick up skiing, but don’t actually learn how to ski. Or splitboarding, but again, don’t really ace it. Obviously, this is why I’m still bad at skiing. Make sure your ski/snowboard boots are uncomfortable enough that you always carry approach shoes, mountaineering boots, and the ski/splitboarding boots. And throw in some down booties because your ski boot liners will start to smell like death so you shouldn’t wear those in the tent or in the lookout. And overpack every time. Between carrying the skis, extra food, extra puffies, down booties, the ten essentials, I don’t know, some beer, it’ll add up.
4) Mentally resign yourself to turning around all the time. Part of getting in shape for mountaineering is mental, and this is your mental training. You aren’t going to summit on those winter snow plow trips. If you do, it’s an added bonus. But this isn’t about the summit. This is about slogging and suffering and getting dehydrated and cranky and impatient and testing your friendships and climbing compatibility because no one likes climbing with assholes unless they’re snarky and hilarious. 70% of mountaineering is being generally uncomfortable for extended periods of time, and that’s part of training. The boring, tedious, yet somehow exhausting slog. And if you get used to turning around now, it’s easier to turn around in the summer too.
5) Round up your good friends to join you. I have several who have seen me at rock bottom. Tony, while I was facedown on the Colchuck trail clothesline-carrying my skis after taking a tree to the face. Tony when I snapped that no, he may not make coffee after a night stuck out on Cutthroat because it’s 8am on a Monday and I need to get to work. Tony when I made it to Winchester Lookout at 5am after a 11pm start and asked that he take pics of sunrise for me before deciding I was being wimpy.
Okay, so mostly Tony. But Sam’s had his moments (me, staring blankly at an impassable downed log when we got lost on the way down from Snowfield) and JT (also bushwacking down from Snowfield, or crawling back from Formidable), and Kacie who realized that any time I’m being extra nice it means I’m 9/10 pissed and Cheryl who combined with Simon and whiskey makes anything funny and Calvin who will never forget the one goddamn time I didn’t bring a headlamp and taught me many new versions of the f bomb. Who’d I leave out?! You’re probably in the lucky bunch. Point is, you need to make sure you have a good crew, otherwise you’ll be ass deep in posthole with your foot stuck under a branch falling downhill because your skis make your overnight pack too heavy and you can’t sit up while you wonder why anyone does this shit for fun and why the world has betrayed you.
Another bonus: Have your roommate/SO/kids/dog eat all the junk food. That way you aren’t being wasteful, but you also aren’t eating it yourself, and you seem like a nice person.
Basically, do anything. Anything is better than sitting at your desk for 10 hours straight and then going home to sit on the couch
which is exactly what I’m doing tonight no, I’m going for a walk, and now I have hundreds okay, dozens of readers to hold me accountable. Doing laps on Si or Mailbox or Cable Line is fantastic if you have enough breath and patience to stop every few minutes to talk to hikers on their way down. Stuck in the city? Go hit up Denny or Queen Anne Hill or jog up and that hill downtown between Alaskan Way and 2nd and laugh at everyone who can’t do hill starts in their cars.
- Mt. Hood – Awesome winter peak. Better if you don’t know how to ski.
- Hidden Lake Lookout (winter route) – Wallowing off trail carrying skis,with a cozy destination.
- Camp Muir – WTA link
Snoqualmie Mountain – Rare glance at an old blog postMt. Baring – How to turn around and not whine
- Vesper Peak – this can be done with a fair amount of snow but I didn’t write about it. Pics below.
- Dickerman – Also doable with snow
- Gothic Basin (bonus: Del Campo) – Also doable but spicy with snow
- Mt. Daniel – Do it in a day. Also a great ski trip. But make sure you carry them a lot.
- Hibox (or Alta Mountain) – Hibox is steeper with a class 3 scramble, Alta is further away but less steep. Pick your poison.
- Mt. Pugh – This one’s only for you August warriors
- Bonus: Round Lake & Breccia Peak – another one for my August summit folks
- Mailbox – The old trail obviously, the new trail is all downhill
- Mt. Adams – Road currently snowed in. More slog!! Except it’s like 20 miles of slog which is too much even for us. So maybe wait for May on that one. Good for carrying skis (skinning is too easy).
- St. Helens – road closed at the moment, several miles of more slog!!
- Ruby Mountain – the slog of all slogs with great views of highway 20
- Teneriffe – Close to seattle! Less sloggy, still steep.
- Low Mountain – WTA
- Round Mountain – sneaky WTA
- Excelsior Peak – WTA
- Stettattle Ridge – Basically Sourdough but go left and up the ridge instead of following the trail right when you hit the national park sign (well this one I turned around on before the ridge because I was alone and wallowing alone is no fun – see rules 4 & 5)
Finally, here’s a link to one of the best winter resources, the Mountaineers’ list of winter summits. Don’t look for what days they’re doing which climbs on their website, because then their massive 12 person groups will have broken all of the trail and that violates rule #1. You. Always. Break. Trail. Stop. Whining.
One of my friends made a facebook post earlier today about losing weight, and my friend AJ had my favorite advice on there. “Just keep pushing, every day. The scale is useless, what did a scale ever do for anyone? Just do do do and go go go and wake up one day five months from now and ask yourself how you feel.” Because that’s what getting in shape is. It’s waking up after 5 months of slogging, grinding, feeling shitty, and thinking hey, I feel pretty strong today. You don’t notice it on day 3, or on day 8, or even on day 30 if all you’re doing is comparing day to day. And that’s how my spring training is. Get in a routine, space out, every weekend is physically punishing, but then June comes around and I think whoa, I can do some pretty cool things pretty easily.