How to Get in Shape to Climb Mt. Rainier

Mailbox Peak looking at Rainier

How to Get in Shape to Climb Mt. Rainier

To summit Mount Rainier, you’re going to hike up (and down, oh yeah) 9,000 feet in elevation and more than 18 miles roundtrip. Side note: that’s as much elevation gain as from Everest Advanced Base Camp to the summit. The better your physical condition when you climb, the more enjoyable and safer your trip will be. The risk of mistake or injury increase dramatically when you’re fatigued. So…let’s learn how to get in shape to climb Mt. Rainier.

When to Start Training

Begin your Mt. Rainier conditioning at least six months before your planned trip. It takes time to convert your core, lower-body, and aerobic fitness levels into a finely tuned mountain-conquering engine.

Exercises for Optimal Training Results

Create an exercise program that will simulate the challenges of climbing Mt. Rainier. Your desired results should include:

  • Increased lung capacity. Get your body ready for the altitude change. The higher elevation means your lungs work harder to get oxygen to your muscles. These are long days of hiking, as you put in the hours to reach the top.
  • Lower body muscular strength. Your pack could be as heavy as 40lbs. Your legs and knees will need to carry you both up AND down the mountain. Those are very different physical functions.
  • Upper body muscular strength. Shoulders, back and core muscles will ache.


Trail Running

This is the ultimate conditioning as you will strengthen your legs faster than simply hiking or going for a jog on flat streets. Running downhill on trails creates the force equal to several times more than your body weight. This will beat most every other kind of leg training.

Hike Your Local Hills with Pack

It’s wonderful being in the outdoors, and your conditioning requires you put in the mileage, both uphill and down. Put in the mileage and prepare your body for climbing mountains. Many in the Seattle area climb Mailbox Peak (9.4 miles, 4000’ elevation gain).

Stair Stepper with Pack

Fill your backpack with full water bottles and get on the stair stepper machine.

Lift Weights

Squats, step-ups and lunges for your legs and knees. Medicine ball sit-ups and back extensions for your core. Shoulder press, curls, and pull-ups for your upper body.


More Training Resources

Check out Alan Arnette’s Everest Training Guide. If you follow this, you’ll be ready.

Another good mountain resource is International Mountain Guides training regiment.


Top image credit Flickr.