Adventure Consultants/Uphill Athlete 16 Week Mountaineering Plan

Average Weekly Training Hours 08:25
Training Load By Week
Average Weekly Training Hours 08:25
Training Load By Week

This plan is ideal for those climbing the high peaks of Peru, Boliva and Ecuador by mountaineering routes. This is the minimum training plan that we can recommend for those who have a goal of climbing an high altitude expeditionary peak such as Denali, Aconcagua, Peak Lenin, Cho Oyu, or Everest. This 16 week plan progresses gradually but will require considerable effort to complete. It is not for the totally-out-of-shape as it starts off with over 6 hours of required training per week and culminates in 11 hours per week. Stick with this plan and you will see great results in your fitness.

This plan is based on scientifically sound training and a combined thirty years of professional endurance coaching experience and sixty years of world-wide climbing and mountaineering experience. The plan starts an Aerobic Threshold assessment test. From this you will establish the training intensity limit for most of the aerobic base training that will dominate in the overall plan but especially in the first 8 weeks. The first 8 weeks also include a simple, easy-to-apply strength program to develop what is called strength reserve, the ability to repeatedly execute strength-dependent movements such as taking a step while wearing a heavy backpack. The final 8 weeks applies more complex strength training methods. We take a multi-faceted approach aimed at maximizing your strength through proven strategies to improve neuromuscular control of muscular contractions; you'll become a lot stronger without adding any weight or size during these weeks. Starting in the tenth week of the plan we include our proven mountaineering-specific muscular endurance workouts. Complete these, but only after laying the base with the previous weeks of properly executed and periodized strength training, to put the frosting on your fitness cake.

Tips: Rest when you are tired. If you miss one workout in a week, do not try to make it up, simply move on. If you miss more than two workouts in any one week then repeat that week. Do not increase the intensity and hope to gain more benefits or to squeeze a 1 hour workout into 30 minutes. There is no short cut when it comes to aerobic adaptation.

This plan has proven successful for climbers all over the world who used it to prepare for moderate climbing objectives including guided ascents of Denali and Everest. For those of you planning to climb Everest or Denali we very strongly recommend using the 24 Week Mountaineering Training Plan. Following that plan will give the athlete a chance to utilize a more advanced periodization schedule. In our experience, and we've climbed and trained climbers to climb all of these mountains, the order of difficulty (from harder to easier) for these climbs via the normal routes is: Everest without supplement oxygen, Cho Oyu without supplemental oxygen, Denali, Everest with supplemental oxygen (those last two are very similar in difficulty), Cho Oyu with supplemental oxygen, Peak Lenin, and Aconcagua. Of course this list assumes equal conditions and weather. Obviously any of these climbs can be rendered completely impossible in poor weather and/or conditions.

For detailed information and to understand how this plan is constructed, please consult our book, "Training for the New Alpinism" published by Patagonia Books. For specific questions about this training plan, or to send us your success story and be featured on our website email us at

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Steve House and Scott Johnston

Sample Day 1
Aerobic Threshold Test for Zone 1 and 2 determination

The first 4 weeks of this plan are meant to help you transition you into a regular structured training program, They are primarily meant to prepare you for the harder work ahead and may not feel particularly challenging in the initial weeks.

If you do not have a good idea of your aerobic threshold heart rate you need to establish that first thing before beginning training as this will set the upper limit for your aerobic base training. Since this is most important training you will be doing it is a good idea to get it dialed. One way to do this (the best) is with an expensive lag test.
It can be tricky to find a good lab as detailed here.
If you are careful and diligent you can do your own test using Training Peaks Premium edition. 
Thats what we are going to explain now. Read this article to understand this test better.

This test can be done on either on a treadmill, stair machine or a flat to very gentle loop course outdoors.  It can not be done on an uphill/downhill out and back course.

1) TREADMILL: Set treadmill to 10% and begin running slowly. Gradually build speed till HR stabilizes at what you FEEL is an easy aerobic effort. Allow 10 min to find the speed allow you HR to stabilize there.
Once that is dialed in do not adjust speed or grade. Run continuously for 60 min at this speed. Record HR and upload to TP

2) OUTDOORS: Run, preferably on a flat (or very gently rolling) course, at what feels like an easy aerobic pace. Once your HR stabilizes start the recording feature on your GPS enabled HR monitor watch. Record for one hour while you do your best to keep the HR as close to that initial HR number. Upload the data to TP.

If the Pa:Hr is greater than 5% your initial HR/pace was above your Aerobic Threshold and you should do the test again at a lower HR. This may take several attempts to find a Pa:Hr decoupling of less that 5%.

Once you determine your AeT HR set that as the top of your Zone 2 in your Training Peaks Zones. Subtract 10% from this and set that as the top of your Zone 1.

Sample Day 2
Core and Gen. Strength

1x core routine and 1x general strength from Training for the New Alpinist book.

Sample Day 3

Run/hike on rolling terrain

Sample Day 4
Recovery Run/Jog/Walk

This should be a very easy run/hike on flats. HR should be well below AeT. (AeT-10-15bpm)

Sample Day 5
Core and Gen. Strength

1x core routine and 1x general strength from Training for the New Alpinist book. For details on these routines see the attachments in week 1.

Sample Day 6
Aerobic Threshold Run/Hike

Aerobic Threshold Run/hike. Run/jog/walk at a pace you can maintain while breathing through your nose (assuming your nose is clear)

Sample Day 7
Hike on Hilly Terrain

Run/Hike on hilly terrain, vert gain min of 1,000ft.

Uphill Athlete by Steve House and Scott Johnston
Uphill Athlete LLC.

What originally inspired us to write Training for the New Alpinism, and what inspires us to continue to share the things we’ve discovered through, is the information void when it comes to specialized training for endurance mountain sports. We have successfully demonstrated a more systematic approach, using proven principles, to help you improve both your chances of achieving your goals, and your long-term fitness and safety in whatever mountain sport you are practicing.