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Training for British mountains or the Alps or bigger near London

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 montyjohn 22 Apr 2022

I'm currently training for the Alps for this summer and I live near Croydon in London. Not know for having many mountains.

There are load of threads with people asking how or where to train in and around London, and I didn't really feel that any of the answers give me what I needed.

A common suggestion is Leith Hill in the North Downs, but access is difficult if you don't have a car (not a problem for me), and you'd need to do it several times in one session to get much out of it.

What you really need is:

  • Hours on your feet using the boots intended
  • Hours with a backpack
  • Some decent elevation gain to get the right muscles working and condition your joints

I believe the best that the London area has to offer is the southern ridge around Surrey hills that runs parallel to the M25.

The ridge is only about 100m high, however, it's very long. As in more than 50 miles long such that you can go up and down it multiple times never repeating your tracks.

To prove a point, here's a route from Otford to Guilford:

https://www.alltrails.com/explore/map/mega-training-walk-3607292?u=m

The route is a little over 100km with 4200m elevation gain and almost entirely on country foot paths and trails. 

And what's better you can break it up as it passes loads of train stations near Woldingham, Oxted, Mertham, Reigate, Dorking etc so you can do it over several days and really get some good training under your belt. All easily accessible from central London.

Hope the link works and others in the area find it useful.

 Trangia 22 Apr 2022
In reply to montyjohn:

Are you talking about single day outings or multi days? If the latter why not one of the long distance footpaths in the South? Eg South Downs Way or North Downs Way? You'll get plenty of ups and downs on them, particularly the latter, or do some long walks through the Wealds of Sussex and Kent. The Weald is often underrated by those that don't know it because it is generally wooded, so not many long distance views of hills like in the Downs, but believe me it is hilly and surprisingly undulating once you get into it. With the Downs you often get a steep climb up followed by miles of relatively level walking until you reach a descent, however in the Weald the hills and valleys are closer together, so, no sooner have you reached the top of a hill, than the path goes down again, only to be followed at the bottom by another ascent, and so on. 

OP montyjohn 22 Apr 2022
In reply to Trangia:

I'm only likely to do single day hikes I suspect, but will try and do full days, this is why I wanted a route that can easily be broken up at train stations.

So the route that I shared is along the alignment of part of the North Downs Way. But the problem with just doing the North or South Downs way is they are not specifically seeking out the elevation change.

Take the North Downs way for example:

https://www.alltrails.com/explore/trail/england/surrey/north-downs-way

You get roughly 25m of elevation gain per km,

The route I planned is around 40m of elevation gain per km, and I'm sure with a bit of time I could get it much higher than that.

The great thing about the ridge is I can consistently go up and down hill and really avoid the flat bits almost altogether. And the ridge is really steep so will be quite a challenging walk.

Google maps is great for identifying where the terrain is steep. Take a look at this:

https://www.google.com/maps/@51.2790091,-0.0920027,10z/data=!5m1!1e4

You can see the ridge really clearly and how much steeper it is than anything else in the south east.

I would like to spend some time in the High Wealds as it's a pretty area but I think I'll struggle to achieve the elevation gain there. Plus it's a much longer drive out and would likely be limited to circular routes.

Post edited at 14:28
 HeMa 22 Apr 2022
In reply to montyjohn:

Imho. Not having a hill is not a problem. First thing is to simply get fit (jogging, biking)… I never did, and always differs due to it.

Then it helps to do just walks with your boots and later add a rucksack with some weight in it.

Last thing is actually something like a stadium… or any other place where you have lots of stairs. Then climb them up and come down. A gym with a stairmaster works as a last resort.

Two of the first things are important, the latter is not. Being fit and having comfy boots is key. 

 artif 22 Apr 2022
In reply to montyjohn:

There's a bunch of short but steep hills on the north side of the m20 near Folkestone, plenty of paths and good opportunity for elevation change. 

 BruceM 22 Apr 2022
In reply to HeMa:

I lived there for a while.  Took my gear to work and walked/trotted up and down the stairs in my 10 story building a couple of times a day for months.  Then used to run to Alexandra Palace hill and run up and down it and dream of the real mountains!  All a bit desperate.

Got most mileage out of hiring a car and going on long hike camping trips in Wales.  Plot big trips across the hills and camp out somewhere along the way.  Rain and all that

That stuff along with standard running does help heaps when you're stuck in that concrete flatland.  Nice place for everything else other than the outdoors tho.

 VictorM 22 Apr 2022
In reply to montyjohn:

All good advice, save for the use the boots intended bit. Of course, insofar as that is possible it's great advice but tarmac chews through Vibram like a knife through butter so your expensive B3s will be in need of a resole before you even get to the ice

In reply to montyjohn:

Probably more useful to up your caffeine tolerance as you sit around drinking lots of coffee waiting for the weather to improve.... 

OP montyjohn 22 Apr 2022
In reply to HeMa:

Absolutely.

Along with the hikes I'm going on short jogs. I've never been one for running. Find it a bit boring and therefore too easy to just stop. But where I live is quite hilly (for greater London) and I've got a loop that's only 2 miles long but has 115m of elevation gain (half on road, half in woods).

I still can't run it in one go but getting close now. First few times it felt like my lungs were on fire. I think I might get into this hill running stuff. I surprisingly quite enjoy it.

OP montyjohn 22 Apr 2022
In reply to tcashmore:

"Probably more useful to up your caffeine tolerance as you sit around drinking lots of coffee waiting for the weather to improve.... "

Enough of that namby pamby softy talk. Rain or on rain, the hills are waiting.

2
OP montyjohn 22 Apr 2022
In reply to VictorM:

"All good advice, save for the use the boots intended bit"

Interesting. I've actually got B2's scarpa Mantas. Probably pushing them a little on the steeper stuff but never lost a crampon. I wonder if the B2's have tougher soles or the same as B3's? I don't know if all Vibram is created equal or not?

The good news is the routes I'm picking are all dirt tracks (mostly) so hopefully the soles will survive. We'll see. I'll keep an eye on it.

 VictorM 22 Apr 2022
In reply to montyjohn:

> "All good advice, save for the use the boots intended bit"

> Interesting. I've actually got B2's scarpa Mantas. Probably pushing them a little on the steeper stuff but never lost a crampon. I wonder if the B2's have tougher soles or the same as B3's? I don't know if all Vibram is created equal or not?

> The good news is the routes I'm picking are all dirt tracks (mostly) so hopefully the soles will survive. We'll see. I'll keep an eye on it.

It doesn't have that much to do with the toughness of the sole itself, although that might also contribute due to the fact that climbing boots tend to have a softer (stickier) rubber compound. It's mainly to do with the rigidity of the entire sole unit. If it has some give (say a B1 hiking boot or a light B2 boot) there will be less wear and tear on the sole while scratching the tarmac. With a B3 there is virtually no give and also often little to no rocker, so the sole scrapes along a lot of tarmac, especially on the front. 

 McHeath 22 Apr 2022
In reply to montyjohn:

I used to train on the only steep hill we had, 80m of height gain so I used to do 15x up and down with a rucksack full of telephone books. Was deadly boring but did the trick.

 ianstevens 22 Apr 2022
In reply to montyjohn:

> "Probably more useful to up your caffeine tolerance as you sit around drinking lots of coffee waiting for the weather to improve.... "

> Enough of that namby pamby softy talk. Rain or on rain, the hills are waiting.

Yeah that’s not how you play in the alps.

 MischaHY 22 Apr 2022
In reply to ianstevens:

> Yeah that’s not how you play in the alps.

Might be how you die or need rescuing in the Alps 😅 

 bouldery bits 22 Apr 2022
In reply to montyjohn:

Find a tower block.

Smash up the stairs in boots and big bag. 

Lift back down.

Repeat until you are elite. 

 VictorM 23 Apr 2022
In reply to MischaHY:

I made the mistake of pushing through in bad weather once. Result: two bad bivis, a number of fingers with mangled skin taking months to completely heal, a short visit to ER, and a broken watch, hardshell and climbing trousers. No summit to show for it. 

I'll wait for the good weather thank you very much. 

In reply to montyjohn:

I think modern boots are so comfortable that it’s not necessary to wear them for training. We used to go fell running for fitness before the Alps and expeditions and my climbing partner Al Rouse who wasn’t a runner went for long walks with a rucksack full of sand. Perfect quality inner city training for front pointing and conditioning  the legs is to climb up the stairs on a high rise building carrying a heavy load however many times you can. Boring, but relatively quick though.

OP montyjohn 23 Apr 2022
In reply to ianstevens:

> "Probably more useful to up your caffeine tolerance as you sit around drinking lots of coffee waiting for the weather to improve.... "

> Enough of that namby pamby softy talk. Rain or on rain, the hills are waiting.

> Yeah that’s not how you play in the alps.

Oh, the the original comment wasn't about the London latte sipping culture and intolerance to the continuous UK drizzle? If it was I stand by my "namby pamby softy talk" comment when walking in the North Downs.

If he meant the Alps, I think I'm sorted. I've only been to Chamonix once before, and every day was calm and sunny. So, statistically speaking, when I'm in Chamonix, the weather is great. No arguing, that's just how the weather works.

Now I just need something wooden to touch....

OP montyjohn 23 Apr 2022
In reply to VictorM:

> With a B3 there is virtually no give and also often little to no rocker, so the sole scrapes along a lot of tarmac, especially on the front. 

Really interesting. 

I was just looking at my soles and there is a fair bit of rounding on the front. The Manta's are fairly stiff I believe as far as B2 goes. I don't recall using them on tarmac, but I guess there's a fair bit of tarmac on the Pyg up Snowdon if memory serves me well. Ahh, wait, last time I did Crig goch I came down the Llanberis route and walked to a pub a mile or so down a road.

Hmmmm. Will make more effort to bring a pair of trail running shoes with me next time. Thanks for the tip.

In reply to montyjohn:

Don't over think what's required.  If you get reasonably aerobically fit, by whatever means, and practice climbing multi-pitch routes efficiently with some emphasis on moving together you will be fine. I am assuming that you get out climbing and walking on a regular basis. I've climbed all the Grande Courses and did very little specific "training" beforehand.  If however you want to climb the North Face of the Eiger in a day, that's a different matter. The thing that is most likely to affect you is altitude and that unfortunately is pot luck.

 GCO 23 Apr 2022
In reply to montyjohn:

A good quality Indoor cycle set up - turbo trainer - is what you need. Initially, focus on improving your aerobic capacity. Then work up to bigger gear sessions which will replicate uphill efforts. You’ll work your quads and calf muscles, which is reasonably close to uphill walking. 
 

you still need time on the hills in my view because it’s not just about fitness. Foot placement, moving over different terrain etc. all needs to be worked. But for pure fitness, a home turbo trainer is as good as anything and very convenient. Just remember to buy a good fan and ventilate the area well.

 Exile 23 Apr 2022
In reply to montyjohn:

The strongest I've ever been for walking up hill was off the back of doing quite a lot of road cycling. 

 seankenny 24 Apr 2022
In reply to montyjohn:

If you’re west(ish) then getting to South Wales is really easy and quick, and they have proper mountains. I’m sure a day hit would be possible for the keen.

In reply to montyjohn:

A partial substitute for training in big boots (which don't flex and get ruined, as stated by others) are ankle weights. Most are adjustable so you can set them slightly heavier than your big boots.

That stairmaster thing deserves respect, you think it's some 80s retro equipment just for fat sweaty people who wear headbands? Just try it.. you'll see!

Use the stairmaster (with ankle weights) 2 steps at a time nice and slowly. Start really slow and easy because you need to train for 40 minute + sessions... that's for developing endurance not speed. Only add intensity once you are accustomed to regularly doing 40-60 mins

 C Witter 25 Apr 2022
In reply to montyjohn:

Just leave London. It's awful anyway. It might take a while to realise, but nothing in London has any more solidity than air, and all the vast accumulations of wealth and  attendant psychodramas melt like sugar in rain on contact with the realities of life elsewhere, revealed to have been little more than boredom and the generalised impoverishment of life, spiced with masochism.

I mean... they don't even have hills... you said it yourself.

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OP montyjohn 25 Apr 2022
In reply to C Witter:

> Just leave London. It's awful anyway. It might take a while to realise, but nothing in London has any more solidity than air, and all the vast accumulations of wealth and  attendant psychodramas melt like sugar in rain on contact with the realities of life elsewhere, revealed to have been little more than boredom and the generalised impoverishment of life, spiced with masochism.

> I mean... they don't even have hills... you said it yourself.

I don't need convincing on this one. Born in Yorkshire, grew up in N. Wales. Moved to London for work opportunities. Long term plan to move out, pandemic likely made that sooner than previously possible.

It's not going to happen for this season tho'

OP montyjohn 25 Apr 2022
In reply to seankenny:

> If you’re west(ish) then getting to South Wales is really easy and quick, and they have proper mountains. I’m sure a day hit would be possible for the keen.

I have a trip to the black mountains planned. Just the one tho'. A bit too much effort to do on a regular basis.

OP montyjohn 25 Apr 2022
In reply to CantClimbTom:

> A partial substitute for training in big boots (which don't flex and get ruined, as stated by others) are ankle weights.

This never occurred to me. Great tip.

> Use the stairmaster (with ankle weights) 2 steps at a time nice and slowly.

I just know I won't push my self hard on this type of equipment. If my goal is get to this point on a map, I can put a huge amount of effort into it. If my goal is to work hard at this activity for 1 hour. I just can't be bothered. I need none-time based goals. I can't explain why this is, it's just different things for different people.

In reply to C Witter:

I'm a Londoner and I agree, only still here because kids doing GCSEs and I don't want to change their schools, no good reason to be here otherwise, now that I can work mostly anywhere fully remotely (and for £90 eeekk!!! a month you can have good broadband *anywhere* via StarLink). 

 ianstevens 25 Apr 2022
In reply to montyjohn:

> Oh, the the original comment wasn't about the London latte sipping culture and intolerance to the continuous UK drizzle? If it was I stand by my "namby pamby softy talk" comment when walking in the North Downs.

Ah maybe I misinterpreted. For the UK countryside, sucking it up when the weather is rubbish is absolutely fine (nicer if you put your latte in a flask and take it along though) 

> If he meant the Alps, I think I'm sorted. I've only been to Chamonix once before, and every day was calm and sunny. So, statistically speaking, when I'm in Chamonix, the weather is great. No arguing, that's just how the weather works.

> Now I just need something wooden to touch....

Perfect, sounds like you should just spend the whole summer there for the good of the community!

 GrahamD 25 Apr 2022
In reply to GCO:

> A good quality Indoor cycle set up - turbo trainer - is what you need. Initially, focus on improving your aerobic capacity. Then work up to bigger gear sessions which will replicate uphill efforts. You’ll work your quads and calf muscles, which ....

Funny, but I never found the specific muscle development from the bike to be as transferable to hill walking as I'd have expected.  If I'd neglected walking in favour of purely bike fitness for any length of time, my legs would be killing me after a day hill walking.  In my experience, bike fitness is really great BUT specific walking/climbing muscle groups still need to be worked on.

In reply to montyjohn:

>  I need none-time based goals.

You could jump on the train to Gatwick and come over to Guernsey? Our cliff path is 24km long with 500m of total ascent according to Komoot. It takes ~6 hours at a brisk pace without stopping, and you'll know about it after you've done it as it's a lot of steps. Make a weekend of it and do it in both directions - it's like doing a different walk as you're looking at the scenery in opposite directions.

 seankenny 26 Apr 2022
In reply to montyjohn:

> I have a trip to the black mountains planned. Just the one tho'. A bit too much effort to do on a regular basis.

If you like outdoor sports and live in London then you just have to get used to driving! With two of you South Wales is absolutely no bother. 

 CurlyStevo 27 Apr 2022
In reply to HeMa:

yeah stairs training really works well and you can monitor the height gain. It does translate quite well to the fitness required for similar height gain in the mountains I find.

In reply to montyjohn:

 Cycling: many years ago I had a pretty much the same conversation as this thread over a pint with Roger Payne about the best training for general mountaineering other than actual time on the hills/mountains. He was of the opinion that the next best was cycling. He reasoned that it had a leg motion closer to snow plodding than tarmac jogging (bigger range of motion) and that the period of exercise and intensity of cycling was often more equivalent to mountaineering than e.g. jogging or circuit training etc. He also said that intensity can be adjusted with "poor" gear choices if you lack steep hills. I was disappointed as I personally am not keen on cycling (yeah.. downvote me , each to their own!) but he was clear on his opinion.

Edit: apologies for name dropping, I wasn't sure whether to use someone's name or not but I am making an exception so advice is taken seriously (even though I still don't cycle myself)

Post edited at 10:06

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