Training For a 14er Like a Professional


Expert advice from world renowned Alpine trainer, Kris Peters, on preparing your body for The Colorado 54

Alpine trainer Kris Peters on the summit of Hallet’s Peak while preparing client Kent Stewart for Everest.

Alpine trainer Kris Peters on the summit of Hallet’s Peak while preparing client Kent Stewart to ascend Mount Everest.

When Kris Peters makes his clients want to cry, it’s a good thing. He’s helping to prepare them for the extreme mental and physical challenge of summiting some of the world’s most difficult peaks. From North Face athletes, like Emily Harrington, to simply passionate mountaineers from all over the country, Kris has been conditioning rock and alpine climbers in Boulder, Colorado for almost 2 years. Recently, he sat down with Second Mile Water to discuss training for a 14er like a professional and making sure you’re fit and ready on August 2nd for The Colorado 54.

Step One: Assess Your Endurance

Before dedicating yourself to a full summer on the stair stepper, it’s important to assess your current level of fitness. Trainer, Kris Peters, suggests taking a weighted pack (between 15 and 20 percent of your body weight) and heading to your favorite local uphill trail. During your ascent, pay close attention to your heart rate, posture, leg strength, and breathing.

“It’s important to remember that we’re all at different levels,” Kris explained, “a class two 14er could feel just as difficult as someone training to climb Mount Rainier.”

Step Two: Set Weekly Training Goals

“The training for alpine climbing can very from an hour or two a day to six or seven hours a day, so it just depends on your goals and physical abilities,” Kris said, “If you have an hour a day, try three days a week of endurance, and three days a week of strength training.”

Examples of endurance activities? Take it outside, Kris says, back to your trusty local trails with a weighted pack, or cycling which is one of Kris’s favorite ways to condition mountaineers. For your strength training, focus on activities that will help you improve stability and balance in the lower half of your body, so can stay strong during your descent from the summit.

Step Three: Prepare Yourself Mentally

Image for The Colorado 54, training for a fourteener.When it comes to the endless uphill ascent of a 14er, mental toughness can be more valuable than physical strength. “I’ll ask my clients, ‘why don’t you think you can do this?’” Kris said, “But with encouragement and motivation, you can do anything. As long as you have solid people in your life that believe you can do it, and they express that to you, that’s the best way to overcome mental weakness.”

Step Four: Start Breaking in Your Gear

If you find yourself having blister fear, start breaking in your 14er gear several weeks to a month in advance. From your shoes, to your pack and parka, the gear that you choose to accompany you on your journey is going to be essential to your success. Finally, that Patagonia jacket can provide more function than fashion.

Kris says, even when his clients fly in from other parts of the country, “Make sure you’re doing your training in the shoes you’re going to use.” Even on the stair stepper, wear your hiking boots and pack. Another important trick Kris mentioned, make sure you understand how to properly use your backpack. Loading the weight correctly, and making sure your water and snacks are quickly available, is going to take a lot of the strain and struggle out of your ascent.

Step Five: Establish a Ritual for Rest

Throughout your training regimen, provide yourself one or two days a week of complete rest. “I usually say no more than three days in a row of training, because I think over training is a very common thing for people to do,” Kris said. Particularly, before an event like The Colorado 54, allow your training to begin to taper off about 4-5 days prior to your climb.

“Your body will decrease in performance during hard training, then when you rest it, that’s when you come back up,” Kris explained.

Step Six: Warm up before your run up!

Many of us will begin our ascent while still rubbing the sleep from our eyes. Instead of embarking on a stumbling start, do some dynamic warmups, Kris suggests. Jumping jacks, leg kicks, and other such activities that require your muscles to fire before starting your trek will allow your body a better beginning.

Most importantly, Kris says, make sure you understand the risks involved in climbing a 14er. Whether you’re doing a class one or a class five, these mountains are no mole hills. Ensure that someone in your group is familiar with alpine safety techniques, you’re properly acquainted with trail etiquette, and you’re ready to make the decision to turn around if need be.