I recently wrote a blog for Jackson Hole Mountain Guides. It was all spurred by a conversation I had with an upcoming guest about a Grand Teton Ascent.
For months prior to a climb with us at Jackson Hole Mountain Guides, many of you spend hours every week training. Climbers seem to spend their training time focused on the uphill. That’s great, and necessary, however, we often find that some time focused on the downhill trajectory will be helpful. Remember, going up a Teton peak is roughly 60% of the work. The other 40% occurs on the return trip when you are already tired and have been awake and moving for 6 to 12 hours.
Going is 60% of the work.
Whether the workout is in the gym or running down the bike path, there are a few things you can do to make your trip more comfortable for you and your climbing partners. You want to start training a full 8-12 weeks prior to your trip. Think of these tips as an investment in yourself to support your climbing goals.
First of all, mentally prepare to do some hard things. Recently, I climbed the Pownall-Gilkey route with Joe, a local here in the Tetons. When we arrived on the summit, he says to me “Matt, I can’t really think of a word to describe this! It’s just ………….” I replied “uhh, it’s just hard!”. Joe says “YES!!!! That’s it!”. Climbing mountains is a lot of fun, but scrambling over rocks and cliffs, using crampons on the firm morning snow, covering ground, and getting to the top will expend some calories.
When you hike downhill, it’s ok to try to go fast. I’m not talking about running, but just swift, continuous movement. Some areas will require more attention and time. Areas such as boulders, or rocky zones simply take longer to cover. That’s OK. Try to make up time on the flatter, dusty trail sections. Let your momentum help carry you. Fighting gravity and momentum seem to make me more tired and sore. I feel as though I am fighting myself and gravity. Obviously, do this within reason. This helps to build your agility and puts that mountain chassis to work.
Practice hiking downhill in loose gravely type areas. The Tetons have a nickname – ”the Scree-tons”. There is no shortage of loose small rocks in the alpine zones. Getting used to it before you get here will increase your confidence and mountain mobility. Think about your body position as well- nose over knees, knees over toes. That puts you in a strong athletic stance that helps to use your quads as shock absorbers. It keeps you in balance as well.
If you use trekking poles, consider using just one. I find that two poles require more mental energy. One is good for balance and additional support, but two is simply too much. I frequently find that I’m placing a hand down on a boulder to make a larger step. Two poles don’t allow you to do this as easily. No wrist loop either.
Your weekly workout or training plan could look something like this:
Days 1 and 2. Spend an hour or more hiking with a pack on. This pack should be 25-30 pounds for the uphill portion. A ski hill, stadium steps, or even a hilly hiking trail should be sufficient. Work up to 3,000’ of elevation gain. Most of our approaches gain 3000-4000 feet in elevation before we ever start climbing. On the downhill, I recommend that you pack is lighter. Ten pounds of that pack weight can be in water. A trick is to fill up four to five liters of water, then dump it out for the way down. This will help to save your knees from getting too tired. Fifteen pounds of gear should be plenty to train your legs for any descent. This is a tried and true strategy that alpinists the world over have used for years. Give it a try. Try to do this two times a week. Some good tunes in your ear buds can help. This is also mental training. Remember 3000-4000’ feet up equals 3000-4000’ back down.
Day 3. Spent doing some functional movements in the gym. I recommend getting familiar with the squat rack (front and back squats). Squats are the king of exercises. Deadlifts help balance out the legs (hamstrings and glutes). Walking lunges with dumb bells help develop balance and general strength. The next part should be hardening of the mountain chassis- that’s your trunk or core. Sit-ups, push-ups, pull-ups, planks, bird dogs, etc. Rowing some intervals or even good kettlebell swings will be helpful. An hour in the gym should be plenty for this. I like a gym that has no benches or mirrors- I don’t want to see how hard I’m working and I’m not there to sit down. Please keep in mind that it is worth seeking qualified strength training coaching if you haven’t spent much time in the weight room. Start light too. Don’t worry. You will not get bulky and heavy. Trust me on this.
Day 4. This should be a full day’s hike covering eight to ten miles with up to 4000 feet of elevation gain. Do an out and back hike so you can hike back down to where you started. You may have to do some laps.
Day 5. Go rock climbing! Or hit up the local rock gym for a couple of hours.
To wrap this up, remember that eccentric movement is the opposite of concentric movements. Going up is concentric, going down is eccentric. Train both. We go up for our heart and lungs, and down for our legs, so train them both. No one has ever complained that they were too strong for a Teton ascent. Don’t forget to take it easy the week before your climbing trip. A couple of days off and 3 active rest days after a taper should set you up well.
Like all outdoor recreation activities, climbing and bouldering has the potential to cause ecological degradation, such as vegetation loss, soil erosion, and resource modification; social impacts, such as user conflicts, crowding, and increased anthropogenic noise; and aesthetic impacts associated with residual climbing chalk on stone.
I recently got involved in some FacePlant banter about climbing clubs, groups, and guides/climbing schools. My point is that we really need to try hard to put our own personal wants and wishes aside when deciding where we are going to go climbing, when we consider WHO is coming with us. If we decide to bring 18 of our closest friends, we might choose certain venues over others. The profile from parking alone is a huge factor, especially when we park on the street. We know the neighbors don’t want us there, and based on some conversations I’ve had with a specific neighbor recently, I’d suggest we, as a user group, consider the crags as less of an entitlement, and then think about our impact on others (neighbors, hikers, recreational users, other climbers). There is way more to responsible behavior than simply picking up micro trash, carpooling and saying we “tried” to mitigate our groups size of 30. We need to stop treating our crags like we treat the rock gym.
Just to put it into perspective, the National Outdoor Leadership School recommends a maximum group size of 12. Outward Bound recommends 10. Acadia National Park demands that all groups be 12 or less. LNT.org makes no recommendation but suggests that 8 might be about right based on impacts to the ground we walk on.
How can we reduce our impact?
have a plan and hold yourselves to it
carpool in full car loads-don’t park on others property, and don’t clog the road
climb in small simple cohorts. Like a crew of 2 or 3. The larger your group is, the more impact you have, and the more you affect others outside of your group.
if your social club outing is large, spread out to two or three different crags
acknowledge that your large group isn’t helping to maintain access
own that you are part of the larger problem and that you need to come up with a solution
travel and climb in groups of 12 or less. This is a strong recommendation form me. NOLS also recommends this as a maximum group size.
reduce your sound profile. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve head someone’s F Bombs from the dam on my walk up to Ragged. These crags are sounding boards.
own that we are our own solution. If we don’t solve this for ourselves, someone else may do it for us, and we could very well loose access.
join RMF and Access Fund. Chip in a few bucks to buy a cliff. It’s hard to shut it down when you own it.
provide leadership to others who aren’t in the know or don’t understand
Group Take over at Green Wall
I wrote the following for the Ragged Mountain Foundation in 2016. It seems like ages ago, but it’s still totally relevant.
By Matt Shove, RMF Board Member
Our local climbing is awesome and everyone wants to go climbing on beautiful days. However, parking at all of our crags can be limited.
The RMF believes we can reduce congestion in the neighborhoods if more climbers begin carpooling. We hope that folks can leave a few minutes earlier, meet in a parking lot, and ride together to the crag. We know that it’s not always possible, and someone in the party might have to leave before everyone else.
Believe it or not, more No Parking signs are going up and the neighbors do actually notice you. All we ask is that you do the best you can to help limit our profile in the neighborhood parking areas. There is room for about 7 cars at Pinnacle Rock and about 10 at Ragged.
Please take as few vehicles as possible to the residential parking areas do your best to maintain a low profile. These small considerations go a long way in helping us maintain good relationships with the neighbors which in turn helps us keep our crags open.
BEST PRACTICES FOR RESPONSIBLE CLIMBERS
Don’t block regular traffic on the roadway
Don’t park within 25ft of a mailbox, driveway or intersection
Pack and rack up before you arrive at the cliff. Please don’t rack up in the road or step foot on the neighbors lawn.
Leave your hammocks and stereos/speakers at home. The crags can be a sounding board.
Please don’t change your clothing in the road. There are women and children watching.
Please don’t drink celebratory beers by your cars.
Say hello and wave to our neighbors – be friendly and respectful if confronted.
Pick up some trash while you’re there and throw it away at home.
Below are some convenient places to meet you partners and arrange carpools to the crag.
RAGGED MOUNTAIN CARPOOLING:
These areas work well for Ragged, Cathole and the neighboring areas.
330 Southington Rd, Berlin, CT 06037
Please park in the main lot near the golf course
Big Y/Starbucks/Parma Pizza
275 New Britain Ave, Plainville, CT 06062
Also near Pinnacle Rock
With some regularity, I will receive an email request like this:
“I was wondering how much does an intro to trad course cost for a day with 2 people? My experience is a course for anchors and my friend has previous trad experience. My partner has led many easy climbs while I have no experience. We’re both confident 5.10 sport climbers and projecting harder 5.11s in the gym.”
You may have a match, but you may not. Seems to me that there is an experience dispense. Many leads and no leads means a lot of catching up to do.
5.10 sport climbing has some value to traditional climbing, but your mileage will vary depending on location.
Projecting 5.11 in the gym? Yeah, sweet! Those hand and footholds are pretty good compared to 5.11s outside. The good news? You probably pretty strong if you’re only one hanging those routes. Keep it up.
Who taught your anchor course, and how long ago?
You didn’t tell me your outdoor climbing experience.
Can I teach you to be a trad climber? Yes. But it probably going to take more than 2 days. Doing a learn to lead program is best suited in a 2:1 grouping. That way I can coach the leader while the partner belays. That said, I have done a number of 1 on 1 learn to lead sessions and great success.
Please remember this. When you come to visit me because you’re ready to lead, you make best use of our time together if you are an experienced outdoor climber. You need to know how to top rope. Sport climbing experience is a bonus. Gym experience, while helpful, isn’t as useful because of the medium. After all, the floor is padded.
So, be like Jared. Jared came with Brenna for a couple of days of training. We went climbing on day 1. Day 2, we brushed up on our anchoring skills so we could be at baseline. Days 3 and 4? Jared learned how to use the gear, practiced a ton, and by the end of day 4, he got to lead an easy climb. That set him up well for a bunch of his own climbing. In fact, I have even seen him cruising around the Gunks on his own. He does climb in the gym, however it doesn’t define him or his experience.
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