Training for Alpinism

Training week for Alpinism

How do I practice mountaineering?

Mountain climbing is experience, hard fitness and climbing skills

In mountain climbing, the experience is emphasized because there are many changing factors in the mountains due to the mountain and the weather. The situation could be compared to hockey, where the experience of playing plays a central part, but the physical and skillful performance of the individual hockey player plays a decisive role. However, mountain climbing is played in an open environment and the activity also includes a strategic level. On the classic northern walls of the Alps, the ice situation varies every year, and the light time according to the seasons; In large mountains, expeditions without supplemental oxygen last 60 to 100 days. Experience and physical performance must be balanced. Experience brings wisdom and physical performance the ability to move forward quickly and cope with difficult situations.

The goal of mountaineering determines the emphasis of training

My goal in mountaineering is the highest mountain without supplemental oxygen and the steep north walls of the Alps (Grandes Jorasses, Matterhorn, Eiger), so my 15-20 hours of weekly training is 60-70% endurance and 30-40% climbing and strength training. In mountain climbing training, 50% of the year should be spent living in the mountains, so that in addition to physical performance, you get enough experience of the mountains and mountain weather at different times of the year.

Different exercises of the training week

My typical 15-20 hour training week includes 10-12 exercises:

  • 2 long uphill training sessions
  • 4 running exercises
  • 3 climbing exercises
  • 1 – 2 power exercises
  • 1 mobility exercise
  • 1 massage

Training takes time with planning, preparation, driving trips, maintenance and accounting about 1.5 times the time in terms of training hours, i.e. about 20 – 30 hours a week. In addition, the exercises must be timed with eating and sleeping and in relation to each other. I take Sundays as a day of rest.

Long Uphill Training

Long uphill training is measured according to height (vkm), load (kg), power (heart rate) and time (h). The kilometers traveled horizontally do not tell the truth and the load of uphill training in the mountains. Typical uphill training at an altitude of 1,500 meters with a backpack and running poles Long Uphill Training 1 vkm/15 km/3 h (10 kg) Z1-2 is equivalent to a 30 km running hike on a flat. Long uphill exercises are done by walking uphill and running downhill, if necessary additional weights (water bottles) can be emptied after the uphill section.

The long uphill workouts are 3 to 5 hours long and after the workout you can do a 10 km VK1 run or an endurance climbing workout, in which case training takes the whole day.

In mountain climbing, the load (backpack + clothes + shoes + climbing equipment) is usually 10 – 20 kg, so uphill exercises must be done weekly with a load of 3 – 20 kg. Power exercises (VK1 – MK) uphill with poles are done only in running equipment, and long exercises can be done with different sizes of ranges, in which case the training effect is different.

Long uphill exercises are mostly done at PK1 – PK2 heart rate, sometimes also as power training (VK1, VK2, MK). Basic endurance training accounts for 80% of all endurance training and about 50-60% of the entire week’s training.

Climbing exercises

The climbing exercises (bouldering, sport, rock, ice climbing) vary from period to period according to the focus of the training. In climbing exercises, different techniques and performance of rock and ice climbing skills are practiced in different conditions and on different routes.

Climbing exercises can be divided into bouldering (without a rope), sport climbing (ready-made bolts on the wall), trad climbing, crack climbing, ice climbing, dry tooling (climbing on rock with picks) and mixed climbing. If you want to be a good Alpine climber, most of your climbing training should be sport climbing on different rocks. Bouldering is also an important part of training, as it enables climbing cruxes on long routes and the development of climbing technique and maximum strength. A typical climbing exercise outside is for example Rock Climbing (lead 1x 5b + 4x 6b 40 m) KV 4 h and climbing exercise inside is for example Bouldering (warm up + 20x 6a-c + Plank 5’00” + Finger Power 10x 20 mm 7 sec/30sec + DT Pull Up 20) 2.5 h.

When raising your climbing level to the next level, climbing (3 – 4 times a week), bouldering (passing cruxes, maximum strength, climbing technique), finger strength training, foot technique training, developing balance, core exercises, climbing on different routes and platforms (different rocks require different grip techniques) are emphasized often enough ) and maximal strength training. Basically, all climbing is lead, 10-20% of climbing can be working on a project on the top rope.

The weekly climbing exercises are 2 to 4 hours long and include approach and climbing exercises. A typical climbing exercise includes approach, warm-up on easy routes, climbing challenging routes, and possible side exercises. Due to the length of the exercises, snacks and water are always included. The climbing backpack also has a change shirt and the necessary climbing equipment. Bouldering is the most efficient in terms of time use, but the most difficult to combine quantitatively with a large endurance exercise, because the muscles are usually in recovery mode from the previous exercise.

I divide the climbing exercises into low altitude training (practice sites at 0 – 1500 m altitude) and high mountain climbing (2000 – 5000 m). Low-level climbing training is emphasized in the weekly training, because it is the most efficient in terms of time management. A two-hour bouldering exercise takes 2 hours, but a two-hour climb at an altitude of 3000 meters takes 12 hours with approaches.

Running exercises

Running exercises are in the training program, because running is the best way to develop oxygen uptake capacity in different areas of endurance. The running exercises are divided into restorative short running exercises (30 – 60 min), speed exercises (10 x 50 – 150 m), power exercises (VK1, VK2, MK) and long running exercises (1.5 – 2 h). A typical running workout is, for example, Easy Run PK1 5 km/30′ or Run (10x 150 m/30 sec) 10 km/50′ or Run (VK2 10x 5’/1′) 18 km/1 h 30′

Restorative exercises (2x/week) while running are good the next day after the developing exercise. They take care of the body, open the hip flexors and keep the metabolism and blood circulation moving. The purpose of speed exercises (1x/week) is not to develop speed, but mobility and sensitivity as a counterweight to long uphill exercises with additional weights. The purpose of power exercises (2x/week) is to develop the capacity and margin of oxygen uptake to an altitude of over 7,500 meters. Power training also enhances the development of comprehensive endurance and enables a better correlation with the probability of summiting in mountains above 8000 meters. I prefer intensive training while running, because then I can monitor my progress against the track and the clock. You can do long runs on a flat surface if there are no mountains nearby. 30 km runs can replace long uphill workouts.

If there are no mountains in the training environment, running is, along with climbing, the most important form of training for mountain climbing. Good running technique and running condition enable fast movement in the mountains on technically easy routes. Young people should build their performance for mountain climbing through running and climbing.

Strength exercises

Power exercises create the conditions for carrying a backpack at an altitude of more than 7,000 meters, surviving a snowstorm and climbing with a backpack on difficult Alpine routes. The focus of strength training is on maximum strength training, pulling and pulley training, core training and strengthening finger strength.

Strength training (1 – 1.5 h) is divided into maximum strength (MK), basic strength (PV), endurance strength (KV) and speed strength (NV), of which maximum strength accounts for 70%. The advantage of maximal strength is the development of strength level and innervation rather than the growth of muscle mass. When developing the core, I preferred basic and endurance strength and static holds.

Strength training with weights in the gym especially develops deep abdominal and back muscles (core), deadlift (DL), squat, and pulley and pulling training (e.g. chin-up with pull-up). Various planking and leg balance exercises and combined movements of the whole body are good. I almost always do the strength exercises as intensive 1.5-hour battery exercises (two movements alternate 3 times, one of which is a core movement), the warm-up of the exercise is rowing. A typical strength training is, for example, Basic Power (row + DL 10x 100 kg, Squat 10x 120 kg + core) 1.5 h

Strength training can also be done as a dry tooling exercise and as a side exercise for climbing. Due to the short ice climbing season (2 – 3 months), it is good to practice drytooling on a rock or in your own workshop, so that the body gets used to the combined sport-like movements of the whole body. There are quite a few places for drytooling, so instead of building your own boulder wall, you should build your own drytooling mancave in the garage with your friends. There is no better strength training for Alpine climbing than drytooling.

Mobility exercise

Mobility training is a factor affecting performance, which should be included in the program once a week. Instead of muscle stretching, you should pay attention to species-specific mobility and active muscle activity. Opening movements in mountain climbing include, for example, different rotations of the back and thoracic spine, as well as movements that open up the mobility of the hip flexors and hips. In particular, uphill training with additional weights requires speed and mobility training as a counterweight, as well as proper stretching once a week. Daily jogging and stretching are a good addition to training if there is time for it.


Massage is part of the training program of every goal-oriented competitive athlete. With mobility training, it is challenging to open up all muscle groups, so the massage should be aimed at opening up the back, for example. In my case, I have noticed that I get the best results by timing the massage on a rest day. If I do strength training within 24 hours after a 1.5 hour sports massage, my body goes completely crazy. After the massage, ensure adequate hydration. The next day, running is usually lighter and easier.

Periodization of the training week

My individual exercises are effective and have a 90-100% success rate. Good preparation (sleep + quality of food) and rhythm of training affect the success of the exercises. With the right training rhythm, you can train about 50% more, and the training effect and training quality is significantly better. It’s a completely different thing to sit for 1.5 hours in the gym than to do intensive cardio exercise with heavy weights.

When building a training program for the week, I try to use certain basic exercises, which is more efficient in terms of time management. In a way, I throw the pieces of the puzzle into morning and evening workouts, and after that I make a smart whole that works. Sunday is always a day of rest.

Mountain climbing training week, example



Fast Run (10x 150 m/30”) 9 km/50′


Bouldering (20x 6a-c + side plank + Finger Power 10x 20 mm 5 sec/30 sek + DT Pull Ups 20) 2 h


Am – Pm

Long Uphill Training (with poles) 10 kg/1,5 vkm/20 km/3 h Z2



Easy Run 10 km/50′


Bouldering (20x 6a-c + plank 5′ + Finger Power 10x 20 mm 5 sec/30 sek + DT Pull Ups 20) 2 h



Easy Run 10 km/50′


Max Power (row + DL, Squat, Pull Ups, Core) 1,5 h



Easy Run 10 km/50′


Sport Climbing (warm up 5b 40 m + lead 4x 6b-c 40 m) 3 – 4 h


Am – Pm

Long Uphill Training (with poles) 5 kg/2 vkm/25 km/5 h Z1



The mountain climbing training program has one or two periods in which running and climbing exercises alternate with long uphill training. I do running exercises in the mornings and climbing and strength exercises in the afternoons, because running is not sensitive after strength training. Long uphill workouts usually take the whole day and the rest of the day is rest.

I always program the optimal number of hours per week, because I know from experience that at least one day a week other things interfere with the training program. For example, I plan 20 hours if the goal is 17 to 18 hours. In a normal week, there is 30 to 40 hours left for other work. Sundays I take a rest from all sports.

Extra-long overnight exercises for high mountains

In autumn, once a month, it’s good to do a few extra-long exercises, lasting 20 to 50 hours during the 100 hours, when they simulate climbing mountains of more than 8000 meters from Base Camp to the top and back to Base Camp. One of these is, for example, a 4,000-meter uphill training from the Alppi village to the top of a 4,000-meter mountain, or a Trail Running run of 10 vkm/200 km in the Alps.

The training week varies according to the seasons

The emphasis of the training week varies depending on the season and training period. The most important thing in mountain climbing training is to train enough. For example, 100 climbing days, 100 running days and 100 vkm per year is a good starting point for training.

Ice climbing and skiing season, Bouldering

In winter, between December and February, ice climbing is done as much as possible. Bouldering is done inside and maximum strength is done in the gym. Endurance training is backcountry skiing in the mountains and hiking with ice crampons, while practicing arctic winter survival skills in the mountains near the tree line. Running feeling is maintained every week.

Sport climbing and running season

In spring, April-May, when the snow melts, the focus of climbing changes from bouldering to sport climbing on outdoor rocks, and skiing changes to shorter running training. The sport climbing and running season is a preparatory season for summer Alpine climbing. In sport climbing, it is also good to do endurance exercises.

Alpine climbing and Trail Running season

In summer, from June to August, sport climbing, trad climbing and Alpine climbing are regularly on the program. Whenever possible, crack climbing is emphasized, because you can’t survive on Alpine routes without crack climbing skills. Summer is the best time for Alpine climbing training, but friction, snow and ice conditions are at their best only in September. Summer is also the best time for Trail Running and long exercises, because in the Alps it is bright and warm for 20 hours a day. It’s also a good time to start Paragliding from the mountains to the Alpine villages.

Drytooling and Trail Running season

In autumn, September-November, the weather cools down, the days get shorter and the friction improves. The best time to climb demanding Alpine routes is in September-October before the first snowfall. As winter approaches, Alpine climbing at an altitude of 2,000 to 4,000 meters changes to Drytooling (rock climbing with picks) training in mountain valleys at an altitude of 1,000 meters. The cool weather and autumn twilight create the best conditions for effective uphill training before winter arrives.

Mountain climbing in the Alps

I told about the weekly training for mountain climbing, the goal of which is to improve performance. In addition to sports training, mountain climbing requires various skills for survival, handling ropes, decision-making, evaluating weather and avalanches, choosing the right equipment, handling electronics and a parachute, as well as first aid, medicine and rescue. Experience in mountaineering is at least as important as physical performance.


Mountain climbing greetings from Montana, on the 22 November 2023,

Jussi Haikka

1 vastaus artikkeliin “Training for Alpinism


Sähköpostiosoitettasi ei julkaista. Pakolliset kentät on merkitty *