/ Cuillin Ridge training suggestions

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d80f0u on 02 Mar 2013
Don't worry, this isn't going to be one of those 'how fit do I need to be' posts. I'm looking for sensible ideas for a training schedule leading up to an attempt on the Cuillin traverse at the end of May.

I'm competent in terms of efficient ropework and moving over mountaineering terrain, but I know I'm just not fit enough at the moment. Trouble is, I live in central Manchester, work long days and will only have limited opportunities between now and then to actually get out into the mountains, so my training is going to have to be mostly gym-based. Motivation isn't a problem, I just don't feel like I know how best to start.

Over to you, UKC. Any suggestions gratefully received!
yesbutnobutyesbut - on 02 Mar 2013
In reply to d80f0u: Cycle or Run to work and back if possible
Dave Kerr - on 02 Mar 2013
In reply to d80f0u:

Running little and often will be useful. Is it possible for you to run to work 3 or 4 days a week or at least part of the way? And make sure you do massive hill days on the few opportunities you have.
sarahjk - on 02 Mar 2013
In reply to d80f0u:

Run up and down lots of staircases ? Tower blocks or big offices are best
Kevin Woods - on 02 Mar 2013
In reply to d80f0u: Not sure if I would feel confident that a gym workout would tranfer well to the Cuillin ridge.

If it were me and I didn't have access to mountains I would go on some very long walks on my weekends including hills or something rough. Pennine Way maybe? Build up to 6-10 hour days if you're thinking of the Ridge over 2 days. Or build to 14 hour days if you're thinking about a 1 day traverse.

I found the Cuillin to be pretty much hillwalking with rock, exposure, scrambling, abseiling, etc. (That might sound obvious?? But what I'm getting at is get good at hillwalking) So if you've got the technical skills then focus entirely on walking fitness, as well as agility on broken terrain if that's a weakness.
Trangia on 02 Mar 2013
In reply to d80f0u:

The Cuillin Ridge is all about stamina and the ability to move safely and fast over exposed ground. You need to be aiming to walk for 3 or 4 hours a session gradually increasing (all day at weekends) preferably with hills involved. Can you get up early and walk to work? walk home? Carry a pack. Generally walking is better than cycling as you will be toning those muscles.

If you get some weekends in the mountains aim to do long scrambling routes solo or if cragging try soloing loads of easy climbs (V Diff and under) to get used to the exposure. You may find it hard to find long stamina building sessions in a gym, you need overall strength but it's your legs that really matter.
JLS on 02 Mar 2013
In reply to d80f0u:

In reply to d80f0u:

Just go do it. Adminitly I got excellent weather for my day and a half outing last year but I manage fine without being hill fit. I'd done 3 or 4 hill walks in the winter five months earlier but after that I had just been cragging.

If you are not particularly unfit then you can push your way through it. Think of it as a not particularly long walk with a few rest while you do a bit of climbing.

If you are fit then you will be able to recover from the effort much quicker, I was pretty washed out for a couple of days afterwards but as I hadn't planned on doing anything other than sitting at a desk, so this wasn't a big issue.

Day 1: Glen Brittle to Sgurr Alister (4pm to 10pm)
Day 2: Sgurr Alister to Slig Hotel (4am to 9pm)

You don't need to be super fit, so do what you can and worry too much about your lack of fitness.
hwackerhage - on 02 Mar 2013
In reply to d80f0u:

The most difficult bit on the ridge is route finding. Thus read up on the ridge and develop a strategy. Also have plan B's e.g. for when there is a queue in front of the Inn Pin. There is plenty on the internet on what to take and what to do including on our blog (granite & ice). Alternatively hire a guide such as Mike Lates, who knows the Cuillin ridge best.

For fitness long weekend runs are very effective if you are into running. I would start with 6-8 miles and then add 2 miles each week until you can do 16-20 miles. At that stage you will have no problems with fitness on the ridge. Add hillwalks, cycling runs etc. Prepare nearly as for a marathon.

Good luck. It is fantastic if everything comes together!
Mike Lates - on 02 Mar 2013
In reply to d80f0u: For fitness there is no substitute for hours of hill battering but Henning's advice re running & others advice about walking to work & loading a big sack etc are all more likely to work than anything specific in the gym.

The down-load on "how to do it" is a bit dated but most advice is still relevent- http://skyeguides.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/2007_Ridge_Download.pdf

Fitness training is only briefly mentioned in appendices but the balance training can't be emphasised enough; not being stressed on the footwork will save more energy than a whole lot of fitness training will gain you.

"Fitness. Levels of fitness are hard to quantify but runners tend to have the best gauge of where their fitness lies. A runner capable of completing a marathon in less than 4 hours probably has a good enough level of fitness.
Practicing at home. Moving across a boulder-strewn beach, balancing along kerb stones or a kiddies adventure playground is more suitable training than indoor climbing walls for a Ridge Traverse. Find out what affect a big pack and wet conditions make to your ability."
Kevin Woods - on 02 Mar 2013
In reply to Mike Lates: Just interested to know in what ways your 2007 guide is dated? Changed techniques or tactics?
Mike Lates - on 02 Mar 2013
In reply to Kevin Woods: Yep, just a few bits of fine-tuning really. I'm always tinkering.
The biggest single change this past season was to aim for a short day before bivvying then one long day to finish. I was finding that even very fit folk were lacking the heart for the climbs & seeking the easiest way to Gillean on the second day after doing a big first day to half-way.
The change of tactic happened to work particularly well with the drought as the Ghrunnda spring continued to flow and very few were too whacked by reaching a bivvy here. The prospect of Alasdair to Gillean is certainly daunting but went well and always in under 10 hours. More importantly we were less burnt out at the end than having had 2 big days.
Jet-boil & rehydrating food is quite a saving from my more "culinary" days which I think the 2007 doc recommended.
Still using the boats regularly as the aesthetics & physical are so superior but it is an expensive luxury which I maybe didn't point out either.
I've always intended to add the route description to it as well. I'm aware that a high % of SMC guidebook sales are made purely on the basis of Ridge aspirations but do feel the download is incomplete as it stands. Quite where I go with it will depend on life priorities this season.....
d80f0u on 06 Mar 2013
Thanks everyone for all the advice, I'm already trying to run to work a couple of times a week. Not found any convenient stairs though! Anyone got any thoughts on stepper machines - optimum resistance/intervals etc?

Withnail - on 06 Mar 2013
In reply to d80f0u:


I did a one day traverse last May and will probably go back this year and try to beat my slow time. I'm drawn back to it because its so amazing! A really fantastic trip. There's also some great cragging on Skye thats worth doing after, while your up there.

If you can get on any long 10hr plus hillwalks or scrambles over the weekends near where you stay, this would be really valuable. Otherwise running and a stepper/crosstrainer might be good. I'm not very scientific with my training so afraid I cant help with intervals/resistance. I basically just try to keep up with the dog!

Training whilst dehydrated sometimes might also condition your body a bit.

Best advice I can give is:

1) Get as much detailed info on the ridge as possible (there is a rockfax guide on the internet which is good aswell as mike lates description), the route is not always obvious-we had to backtrack quite a few times.
2)Light is right. We brought no water and filled up in the coire short cut on the way up to the saddle between sgurr nan eag and sgurr dubh mhor. Then dumped stuff, headed along to garbh bheinn with no packs and back over sgurr nan eagh to pick up stuff enroute to the rest of the ridge.
3)Bring a straw-we were slurping out of muddy puddles near the end-a straw wouldve made things a lot easier (doesnt sound nice but you wont care near the end!)

hope that helps


jepotherepo - on 07 Mar 2013
In reply to d80f0u:

It is a rather long day out.

We left a stash of water and some buscuits in the saddle just after sgurr banachdich (easy walk up past the fairy pools the day before)Even with the extra water felt like i had an awful hangover the next day due to dehydration.
Dont underestimate just how long it could take you especially if the cloudy island lives up to its name as navigation in a with magnetic rock afecting compass bearings.....or you could take a GPS!

Best of luck, light is right. Fitness - try getting into circuit training and fell runs/ long hills days/ link big scrambles together for endurance.

wilkie14c - on 07 Mar 2013
In reply to d80f0u:
I've done it twice in different syles and both were satisfying, done it the short + long day with bivvy as mike points out and also done a 'get as much done as you can hope for' one dayer, this was in less than ideal conditions and involved some work-arounds to save time before the weather broke as it was forcast to early that evening. No climbing gear but abb rope and harness, we bypassed the TD gap after abbing in, looking out to sea from the bottom of the gap, exit the gully and turn right and you can find an unlikley looking scramble to save you climbing the other side of the TD gap, this could save an hour. Collies ledge instead of Kings Chimney, again an hour saved. We walked past the inn pinn, we'd done it before and the time was more valuble than the tick to us. And finally walk past the tooth on the slig side, dump sacks and romp to the top of Gillian, retracing back to the sacks and exit to the slig via corrie bastier. We got from the start to the end on a day when most wouldn't even contemplate starting. Got a bit wet but hey
Training wise, if you can spend a day or 2 outside then a route such as tryfan via the NE ridge, over the gylders via bristley ridge, electric mountain then up to pen-y-pass and do snowdon via crib goch and continue over Llewidd. This is actually the 'first' half of the welsh 3000's done in reverse and a route thats as near as anything ever done that is comparable to the Skye ridge in length, ascent/decent and scrambling <although it lacks somewhat in the scrambling> In the UK and can be done if you live in central-ish England without overnight stop overs. 2 litres of water and try and make it last to pen-y-pass before you refil. The ridge will be like this on the day - 2 litres all day and a refil right near the end. That final climb and descent of Llewidd when you are beasted will feel just like the final climb and descent of Gillian and the walk out is about the same. If you want to do more climbing and moving together, all 3 classic rock routes on Tryfan in a day is good for the scrambling descents to return to heather terrace for each route.
I wouldn't worry if you don't feel 100% fit and ready on the day, adrenaline will make up a fair bit of what you are short of. Its a special experience, good luck!
Exile - on 07 Mar 2013
In reply to d80f0u:

If you're climbing is up to it just run and / or cycle as much as you can between now and then, (big hill days out are useful but not absolutely necessary in my experience.) Ease off the training in the last but one week and do very little in the last week. Pack very light and go for it. Sort out your nutrition and hydration strategy for the day as if you cock this up it can be a real stopper.

I've done the main ridge twice with bivis both times and the greater traverse in one day, going very light, once. from this experience I'd suggest going for it in a day - two days light kit, with water, is still relatively heavy.
Pero - on 08 Mar 2013
In terms of mountain fitness, you are looking at three things: quads, calves and ankles. In my experience, you can build up the first two at the gym, but it's difficult to simulate walking on rough terrain anywhere but the hills. If I'm away from the hills for too long, it's usually my ankles that feel it most.

If you have limited time, you can do maybe 20-30 mins hard cardio a day, but it has to make you puff from the start. Two-four days on, one day off. Bikes and cross trainers at high resistance can simulate walking uphill. I find running never feels like walking uphill.

But, you know, Manchester is pretty much the best major city in England for the mountains. If you can't get out to the hills from there, then something is badly wrong! You have the Lakes and N Wales practically on your doorstep!

HargreavesAllan - on 03 Apr 2013
In reply to d80f0u:
I believe it will depend on your age. If your under 35 my regime probably won't apply.
I did the route a couple of times in the brilliant weather last year, each time in a one-er. To train I did fast sessions in Snowdonia every weekend for a couple of months with a minimum of 2000m ascent each time, culminating in doing the 15 3000ers; plus either runs or hardish bike rides more or less every day (minimum 2 hours, 500m ascent).

I then had a 2 week break.

I still found it quite hard physically - it took 12.75 hours peak to peak.

Unless you are very young (I'm 60) with a lot of residual fitness, I think you'll find it very challenging indeed if you don't get a good few 1000 ascent metres into your legs.

BTW I'm doing it again this year end May/early June, so I might see you there!!!
wilkie14c - on 03 Apr 2013
In reply to HargreavesAllan:
12.75 hours is damn fine sir, well done, not bad for an old duffer! ;-)

We'll be up in may also, not climbing this time but some pottering about with the wife this time
Wiley Coyote2 - on 03 Apr 2013
In reply to d80f0u:

I'd try not to make too big a deal of it. Granted. I'd just turned thirty when I did it so this approach might not work out too well now I'm nudging bus pass age, but we did it with no special preparation, I was not super fit and we had no bother. It was just a very long brilliant day out.
As someone else has said, it helps to be able to keep moving at a reasonable speed over prolonged tricky ground(as opposed to being a hard climber). We did it in a day, leaving Glen Brit just before dawn and finished with plenty of daylight to spare in September. We opted for a lightweight single day traverse specifically so we could travel fast. Two bivvying teams we met on the ridge told us they could not have done it in a day and we replied that neither could we carrying their packs so I guess on that score you pays your money and takes your choice.
But our prep amounted to planning a cragging trip to Cornwall, then when my mate arrived to pick me up he said the forecast was brilliant and we should go to Skye. Add walking boots to car and away we went.
machine on 03 Apr 2013
In reply to d80f0u:

Im going up in early June and ive done no training. Been foiled twice in the past due to terrible weather. I think that as long as the weather gods are on your side that's half the battle won. My advice would be to try and travel as light as you can as its a bit of a slog just to get to the start never mind completing the ridge. I would have thought lots of cardio and long walks at a fast pace with a heavy pack, even just around the town would help.
Steve Perry - on 03 Apr 2013
In reply to d80f0u: Do the welsh 3000's or the Lakeland 4x3000's first, despite the distance I'd say the ridge is tougher.

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