Training For Everest 2015

Climbing Mount Everest demands that you train the hardest you have in your whole life. No matter what climbs and training you have done in the past, every aspect of your conditioning must be harder, higher and farther than ever before.

During 33 years as a climber, I’ve trained a lot. I have for rock climbing, ice climbing, and snow climbing. My conditioning has carried me to one hundred summits higher than 14,000 feet,  including to the top of Cho Oyu (26,906 feet in Tibet).  I climb year-round in the Colorado Rocky Mountains and between mountain days I ski, run, snow shoe, bike and weightlift.

None of that is enough.  Physically and mentally, I need to train myself to a level that I have never reached before.  Everest demands it.

How Do You Train For Everest?

I started training for Everest on April 1, 2014 – one year before the expedition began.  The amount of training I have done is collectively much more activity than the expedition itself. Here’s a table that lays out numerically what climbing Everest requires and how much training I did to get ready for Everest:

April 2014 to present
Summit elevation = 29,035 ft Home elevation = 5,000 ft
Vertical ascent to reach summit* = 11,735 ft Total vertical ascent in training = 200,311 ft
Distance to reach summit* = 12 miles Total distance hiked in training = 684 miles
Everest expedition = 65 days Everest training = 184 days
Climbing time on summit day = 18 hours Total time in training = 558 hours

* =  From basecamp (elevation = 17,300 feet) to summit.

All of this is stacked upon a fitness foundation built over 33 previous years of technical climbing and high-altitude mountaineering.

Training Approach

To be safe, successful and self-sufficient on Mount Everest, a mountaineer must be:

  • Physically fit
  • Mentally prepared
  • Technically skilled
  • Fully committed to the team, Sherpa partners, and the expedition process
  • Resilient

I share practical tips, techniques and insights on each of these in my Everest Resilience blog.  Right here, let’s focus on physical conditioning.

There are many ways to train for big athletic challenges. Therefore, the approach described here is not universal, nor is it necessarily appropriate for you, your physical status, or your goals. Here is a brief summary of my personal approach.



  • Train 3-4 days per week (weight lift, aerobic activity, hiking, climbing)
  • Work with a well-qualified trainer, like those at the Raintree Athletic Club in Fort Collins, Colorado.
  • Improve instabilities & dysfunctions from previous injuries
  • Core strengthening, stability & flexibility, proper function & movement
  • Climb a “peak per week” (technical or hiking)
  • Lose 5 pounds


  • Begin accepting the scope of the challenge you have committed to
  • Embrace that you must do more and become more
  • Anticipate and welcome the growth, suffering and learning that is coming your way

Jim training for the Himalayas



  • Train 4-5 days per week (see above)
  • Do “hump day” in the middle of every week – carry a heavy pack (30-50 pounds) uphill, wearing mountain boots.
  • Continue climbing & hiking “peak per week”.  Go higher, faster or further.
  • Schedule in some rest days and lighter weeks (lets muscles grew, body recover & prevents injury).
  • Lose 5 more pounds. Eat better.


  • Look for ways to make it tougher (climb early, run in the wind, hike in the dark)
  • Schedule several tough training days in a row.
  • Apply the discipline to make all of the above happen consistently.



  • Train 5-6 days per week
  • Choose mountaineering-specific exercises (box steps, stairs, pack carry, etc.)
  • Increase length of endurance exercise, hikes & climbs.
  • Continue “hump day” pack carries, now with less rest breaks.
  • Go farther, faster, higher and heavier.


  • After a long mountain day, do not totally rest the next day. This teaches your mind and body to respond, even though already fatigued.
  • Make some training events “Deprivation Days”.  Go when you are hungry, tired, or hung over. Hike without stopping, climb in bad weather.
  • It’s time to toughen up – you are going to Everest in six months!

As the departure for Everest nears, this training intensifies.

Note: This web page cannot possibly cover all aspects of Everest training. An excellent resource for high-altitude climbing is Training for the New Alpinism and detailed Everest training information by renowned Everest climber, Alan Arnette, is here.