Uphill Athlete 24 week Expeditionary Mountaineering Training Plan


Scott Johnston & Steve House

All plans by this Coach


24 Weeks

Typical Week

3 Run, 2 Strength, 2 Walk, 1 Day Off

Longest Workout

4:00 hrs

Plan Specs

winter sports

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This is an ideal plan is for those who have a goal of maximizing their chances of success on a big expeditionary peak such as Denali or Everest. This would also be an ideal plan for an experienced mountaineer with a good base of endurance to use in preparing for the most difficult 8,000ers such as K2 and Makalu. This 24 week plan progresses gradually. Each of the three 8 week periods serves a different purpose and are not meant to be a stand alone programs. Stick with this plan and we are confident that you will see very significant changes in your fitness.

This plan is based on scientifically sound training practices and a combined thirty years of professional endurance coaching experience and sixty years of world-wide climbing and mountaineering experience. The plan starts with a self-administered 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 help you 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 next 8 weeks applies more complex strength training methods aimed at maximizing your strength through proven strategies to improve neuromuscular coordination of muscular contractions; you'll become a lot stronger without adding weight or size during these weeks. Starting in the seventeenth week of the plan we incorporate our proven mountaineering-specific muscular endurance workouts. Complete these, but only after laying the base during the previous weeks of strength training, and you'll put the frosting on your fitness cake.

Tips: Rest when you are tired. If you miss a workout do not try to make it up. Just move on. If you miss more than 2 in a week then repeat that week. Do not increase the intensity and hope to gain more benefits. There is no short cut to when it comes to aerobic adaptation. The 24th week of this training plan is a taper week designed to be completed the week before you depart home for your expedition. This plan could be extended beyond 24 weeks by repeating weeks 12-16 with slight increases in weekly aerobic training volume.

This plan has proven successful for climbers all over the world who used it to prepare for climbing objectives including guided and un-guided ascents of Denali, Everest, Cho Oyu, and Makalu (with and without supplemental oxygen). 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: K2, Makalu, Everest, Cho Oyu, 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 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 www.uphillathlete.com email us at coach@uphillathlete.com
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Steve House and Scott Johnston


Training Load By Week
Average Weekly Breakdown
Average Weekly Training Hours: 07:59
Training Load By Week
Average Weekly Training Hours: 07:59
Average Weekly Breakdown

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 Uphillatlete.com, 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.

Back to Plan Details

Sample Day 1

Aerobic Threshold Test for Zone 1 and 2 determination

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 hiking slowly. If training for flatter runs set treadmill to 3% and run. Gradually build speed over the first 10-15 min until HR stabilizes at what you FEEL is an easy aerobic effort. If you have a good idea of what your Aerobic Threshold HR is then target that HR for the beginning of the test. NOW YOU ARE RADY TO BEGIN THE TEST.

NOTE: If hiking you may need to use a steeper grade (10%+) in order to get you HR up sufficiently.

Once that speed and grade is dialed in do not adjust speed or grade again during the test. Run or hike continuously for 60 min at this speed. Record HR and upload to TP

TREADMILL CALCULATION: Since GPS does not work indoors the pace part of the Pa:Hr will not be accurate so you can not use the TP Pa:Hr metric on a treadmill. That's why is so important that you hold the pace and grade constant once you start this test on treadmill. It is very likely that you will see an upward trend in the HR over the course of the hour. To calculate HR drift you need to select the first half of the test in the graph of HR/Pace/elevation. Note the avg HR for each half. Compare those to see if avg HR rose more than 5%

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 General Strength

1x core routine and 1x general strength from Training for the New Alpinism 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-15bpm)

Sample Day 5

Core and General Strength

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

Sample Day 6

Aerobic Threshold Run/hike

Aerobic Threshold Run/hike on flat terrain.

Sample Day 7

Hike/Run on Hilly Terrain

Run/Hike on hilly terrain, verical gain minimum of 1,000ft.

If you train outside the duration of the workout should be total time out. That includes the time both up and down. For example: A workout with a 2hr duration would be the total time from start to finish. This also includes if you are hiking up stairs in a building and back down. If you take the elevator down seen description below.

If you are using an alternative methods like a treadmill, stair master or hiking stairs(taking elevator down) the duration of the workout would be for the time hiking uphill. If you have a 2hr duration workout that would mean hiking on a treadmill for 2hrs.

Uphill Athlete 24 week Expeditionary Mountaineering Training Plan

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