Fit To Trek

How Fit is Fit Enough for High Altitude Trekking?

Are you considering a trek with Adventure Consultants, but not sure you can physically handle the experience? We’ve teamed up with our friends at Uphill Athlete to understand how fit you need to be for a high-altitude trek.

There is no question that proper preparation will make your upcoming trek much more enjoyable and there is even a good chance that it might make the difference between a wonderful adventure and a disappointing failure. For example, on an average day trekking on the Everest Base Camp Trek, you’ll be covering 6 to 12 kilometres of trail, with elevation gains of between 400-800 meters. One day of this is not likely to be difficult for a healthy person. But, doing this for 15 days in a row and at altitudes ranging between 2,610 and 5,550 meters means that fitness will play a major role in your experience of this trip.

To adequately prepare, you should at the very minimum, begin a regimen of regular hiking no later than twelve weeks before your departure. Since you’ll be on your feet hiking for between 4 and 7 hours each day, your primary exercise in this preparation period should also be hiking. If you can, the preference is to train on hilly terrain. You won’t be swimming between tea houses or high alpine huts and bicycles are out of the question for treks. So, put on your walking shoes and get out the door as much as possible, though anything you can do such as swimming and biking to increase your cardio fitness is going to help.

A good training plan will gradually progress to the point where you achieve a total exercise time of about 50 percent of your expected weekly trekking time in the final week leading up to your adventure. If you can comfortably handle this with no adverse reactions to the altitude, you should be able to enjoy your trek. Your highest-mileage week of training should include walking spread throughout the week, with at least one long day hike of around 6-7 hours. This training walking will ideally have vertical gains and losses that are also roughly 50% of what you will experience on your trek.

Trekking down towards Dingboche, Nepal. Photo: Caroline Ogle

What if you don’t have access to mountains or even hills in your locale? For the best results, you will need to get on a treadmill set at a steep angle, like 10%, or even spend some of your hiking time on a stair climbing machine. If you find yourself in this situation, be sure to have some good podcasts or movies on tap to kill the boredom.  You’ll be congratulating yourself on your wisdom and discipline by the second or third day of the trek. Don’t forget to break in the shoes you plan to wear for the trek during the last week of your preparation, nobody likes blisters. The only question that’s left: What are you waiting for?

This article was written in conjunction with Uphill Athlete for people interested in or considering an Adventure Consultants trek. Want to learn more about training?

Check out our Fitness Training Webpage  or sign up for your trekking training program at Training Peaks Uphill Athlete and check out the Adventure Consultants/Uphill Athlete 12-week Everest Base Camp Trekking Plan.

Trekking over French Pass, Mt Dhaulagiri behind. Photo: Guy Cotter

The cover image:
The lush green fields of Western Nepal.
Photo: Guy Cotter

Read about the level of fitness required for achieving success on our climbing expeditions in the Fit To Climb article. Click below…
Fit To Climb
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