/ Which discipline to focus on for alpinism?

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TheFasting on 09 Sep 2017
Sometimes I look at other logbooks here of people who've climbed alpine routes on my wish list to see how they train.

It appears the majority of them mostly do trad, maybe 50% trad. Personally this season I've done more sport. I did this to be more comfortable with pushing the grades up. I do trad a lot too but so far a bit more sport climbing. Some bouldering as well.

How do you prefer to train? Would you change how you train if you could?
neuromancer - on 09 Sep 2017
In reply to TheFasting:

Not to seem obvious, but more time climbing mountains in the alps probably.

The closest thing you could get to specific training I suppose is Scottish winter if the climbing is mixed and technical?
TheFasting on 09 Sep 2017
In reply to neuromancer:
Yeah of course I spend some of my time in the mountains, but I don't think that's where most alpinists learn to rock climb. At least I didn't. I go there to express what I already learned, rather.

Surprisingly from the logbooks I've looked at who climbed the Schmid route on the Matterhorn and the Heckmair route on the Eiger, they didn't do a massive volume of ice and winter climbing.

It might seem like a dumb question but I've asked people offline and I get many different answers.
Post edited at 08:50
Dave Kerr - on 09 Sep 2017
In reply to TheFasting:

> Yeah of course I spend some of my time in the mountains, but I don't think that's where most alpinists learn to rock climb. At least I didn't. I go there to express what I already learned, rather.


I think you're overthinking this. Big days of any sort in the UK for fitness and slickness and lots of alpine routes.
TobyA on 09 Sep 2017
In reply to TheFasting:

> Surprisingly from the logbooks I've looked at who climbed the Schmid route on the Matterhorn and the Heckmair route on the Eiger, they didn't do a massive volume of ice and winter climbing.

You don't know that as not everyone religiously logs every route they do.
Big Lee - on 09 Sep 2017
In reply to TheFasting:

I think you're looking at logbooks and assuming that is their alpine training. A lot of my alpine training isn't actually climbing, it's endurance strength type stuff, which won't appear in my logbook.
MFB - on 09 Sep 2017
In reply to TheFasting:

Trad for the gear and the rope tricks
Bit extra run cycle swim
And keep doing as much of this
Via Lara (n3+)#photos
As you can fit in

TheFasting on 09 Sep 2017
In reply to Big Lee:

Interesting. I'm wondering more in terms of rock climbing skills though and how to progress those to be able to climb more routes. Guess I maybe shouldn't have used two mixed routes as examples.
TheFasting on 09 Sep 2017
In reply to MFB:

Yeah I'm going to the mountains for technical stuff one weekend per month going forward.

But those other 3 weeks, should I try to do mainly trad, or equal parts of everything?
Wayne S - on 09 Sep 2017
In reply to TheFasting:

You are overthinking it. If I look at your logbook I would suggest that 70 odd routes over this year is at least a quarter of the number you should be aiming at.

What attributes do you think you need for alpine success, and which do you need to work on?

Honing navigation skills and getting slick at belay changeovers will probabaly help more than being 5% fitter/stronger, whatever that is.
Confidently moving quickly over easier ground, being slick and considered with gear placements will help a lot. That's all before you need to get your running shoes on. Longer routes and longer link ups often will be fun and will help.

It seems that increasing people are training for life rather than actually living it. Pick a challenge at an appropriate level and go do it, that is the training.
jcw on 09 Sep 2017
In reply to TheFasting:
Big long days out on the hills in all conditions, getting soaked climbing wet rock with frozen hands to get tough. It is the mental training of learning to suffer while doing something hard that pays dividends and in the end is curiously enjoyable.
TheFasting on 09 Sep 2017
In reply to Wayne S:

Yeah I'm just wondering how best to go about it. I disagree though, in sports you're always training for something whether you know it or not. All the small choices add up to bigger results. Otherwise you'd never get any better.

It's the same with life too. If all you did was live life and never try for something bigger, that would seem pretty boring to me. But if you jump on something big unprepared because you haven't trained but you've just been living, then the chance of making it is much lower.
MFB - on 09 Sep 2017
In reply to TheFasting:

Trad
placing gear, estimating distances to belay, stuck ropes, loose rock, traverse, extending gear, rapping, steep unprotected ground etc etc
TheFasting on 09 Sep 2017
In reply to jcw:

I'm thinking in terms of skill do you do anything in particular to get into new grades or difficulties? I could just climb a ton of multipitch but I doubt that would make me a stronger climber, just more experienced with the logistics and mental side of things?

I mean, in going from an F3b multipitch route to an F5b route, what would you do in between? Just do whatever and keep climbing in all disciplines? Focus on bouldering if hard moves is your weakness, sport if endurance is the problem or trad if gear and rope management is the issue?
John Clinch (Ampthill) - on 09 Sep 2017
In reply to TheFasting:

My conclusion was that Alpinism wasn't for me, even back in the day when I was an OK climber and quite fit

I'd echo the advise above. Big days out with lots of walking and Trad. Lots of basic fitness. I can't see sports climbing being the way to go, unless i'm missing something. I found it like extra scary trad due to the extra does of areas of crap rock ,big hard to escape situations, the need for speed etc.
Wayne S - on 09 Sep 2017
In reply to TheFasting:

I think we may fundamentally have a different approach. I am not suggesting there is no need to practice in order to achieve mastery. And great joy can be had from achieving improvement.

I think the word is specificity, as in practice in a way which is most like the thing you want to improve. The thing that is most like alpine climbing, is well ........climbing in an alpine environment, there doesn't need to be any precursor to this.

I don't see climbing as a sport, this is where we differ. I see it as an adventurous undertaking, that requires practiced skill, applied knowledge and a specific physical strength.
John Clinch (Ampthill) - on 09 Sep 2017
In reply to TheFasting:

> I'm thinking in terms of skill do you do anything in particular to get into new grades or difficulties? I could just climb a ton of multipitch but I doubt that would make me a stronger climber, just more experienced with the logistics and mental side of things?

> I mean, in going from an F3b multipitch route to an F5b route, what would you do in between? Just do whatever and keep climbing in all disciplines? Focus on bouldering if hard moves is your weakness, sport if endurance is the problem or trad if gear and rope management is the issue?

If you literally mean going from French sport grade 3b to 5b then yes lots of climbing activity. I would be surprised if you weren't fir enough to climb a long F5b pitch. I say that as I lead a F5b at Conqi Torri this year. My current state of fitness is that I definitely can't do a pull up.

Doing loads of trad and lots of bouldering might add some fitness ad strength. But more importantly it will make you better at climbing which I believe is what is really needed at these sorts of grades
Rick Graham on 09 Sep 2017
In reply to TheFasting:
Concentrate on your/any weaknesses in your overall skill or fitness set.

Make sure you can interpret weather forecasts or just be lucky.

Within reason, ignore conditions and climb in good weather in the mountains, " you can climb through (bad ) conditions but you cannot climb thro bad weather ".

Learn how to aid and other low life tricks. That way you can climb through or bypass bad conditions/verglas/waterfalls.

Being confident/cocky/well prepared will get you up the grades and onto more difficult routes, but first you have to try.
Sometimes just getting above the bergschrund or onto the first pitch is the hardest part.

Edit. Choose a good partner.
Post edited at 11:07
pdone on 09 Sep 2017
Big Lee - on 09 Sep 2017
In reply to TheFasting:

I'd say with alpine as the primary goal, long multipitch routes are probably best because of the greater need for efficiency and good ropework. Sport has a smaller set of transferable skills. Outdoor bouldering the least. Sport and bouldering will improve strength and technique but without sufficient alpine experience you'll never feel comfortable pushing anywhere close to your technical abilities in that environment anyway. Better just to get out there and do what feels technically comfortable and then worry about improving upper body strength / technique when you realise everything feels comfortable except that.
Robert Durran - on 09 Sep 2017
In reply to TheFasting:

Hillwalking. Seriously.
Misha - on 09 Sep 2017
In reply to TheFasting:
You won't be doing anything as technically hard as on rock routes but you will have to move quickly and run it out well above the gear over easy and moderate ground, as well as having to deal with some loose rock. So trad is far more important. You want a few grades in hand though, so don't just do easy trad. Of course you might need to do some sport to improve at trad.

Winter and ice climbing over the winter months of course. You should be able to do loads of that in Norway!

Re other people's logbooks, they might be incomplete and bear in mind that many British climbers, particularly those living outside Scotland, often don't manage to do that much ice and winter climbing in any given season due to the ephemeral conditions.
Post edited at 12:09
Goucho on 09 Sep 2017
In reply to TheFasting:

Lots of good advice from seasoned climbers on here already.

Overall fitness - especially stamina and endurance - is one of your greatest assets.

As others have said, get plenty of mileage on multi-pitch trad - if the weather's crap, get out on long mountain Diffs and V Diffs in big boots and a sacs.

Speed can often make the difference between an enjoyable experience and a miserable epic, so work on covering easy ground quickly.

Scottish winters are superb for honing mixed skills, and getting used to poor conditions - you can still have good weather and poor climbing conditions in the alps.

Work on your efficiency as a pair regarding the technical side of things - quick, good rope work, slick belay changeovers.

'Head' fitness is as important as physical fitness, so be confident, but not overly cocky.

When it comes to alpine climbing, being able to climb VS trad and Grade 4 winter, quickly, all day long, in a variety of conditions, will get you up the large majority of alpine climbs.
Misha - on 09 Sep 2017
In reply to TheFasting:
Unless you're very very weak for some reason, you shouldn't need to do any bouldering or sport to get to F5b trad. You don't need bouldering to get to F6b trad either but a bit of sport would help. What you need is a massive volume of trad and don't just bimble around, push the level gradually if it's safe to do so.

Big alpine routes like the Walker Spur don't have particularly hard cruxes but you need to climb them quickly and they might be wet, cold and so on. However the real challenge is the overall size and commitment of the route, so you need to be able to move quickly (both climbing and changeovers) with a big sack and at altitude, sometimes over loose rock, be able to route find on difficult to follow ground, have aerobic fitness to see you through the day and be prepared to suffer a bit. Obviously glacier travel and mixed climbing as well, depending on the route.

You do need a couple do grades in hand, so for example on the Walker I'd recommend being solid at E3 5c (6b+ trad, which probably means you'll be onsighting sport 6c or higher) even though the hardest pitches are only E1 5b (6a trad), with one E2 5b because it's a poorly protected traverse. You'll get away with being solid at E2 5b as there are only a few crux pitches but another grade in hand is much better. You don't need bouldering or loads of sport to get to E3 5c but you do need shitloads of trad.

All comes with experience... not least experience of climbing Alpine routes. Just go and do as much as you can. Conditions will dictate what you actually do but trad is key. There aren't many solid bolts in the Alps. At least not on the big routes.

Plus indoor climbing training a couple of times a week to help push the trad.

It sounds like you need to find some experienced partners / mentors.
Post edited at 12:30
MG - on 09 Sep 2017
In reply to Robert Durran:

> Hillwalking. Seriously.

This. And scrambling, quickly.
Mark Haward - on 09 Sep 2017
In reply to TheFasting:

Lots of good advice above. Having climbed the Contamine routes you've mentioned on your wishlist, several times in fact, I thought I would tie the advice to these routes specifically bearing in mind your profile.

These routes have very little rock apart from mixed scrambling. So long days in mountains with a full pack and boots scrambling plus long or linked easy trad rock route days in boots with a focus on slick and efficient movement and ropework strategies would be useful. For a large part of these routes many teams would move together for a lot of the ground - if confident and capable then on all of it. So ensuring you have the skills for moving together efficiently would be goodtraining. For these routes sport climbing will have little benefit. Obviously, long days linking harder routes is even better as you will be able to raise aspirations when ready.

The Contamine routes are mostly on mixed or snow / icy ground - conditions vary hugely. So climbing long days on straightforward mixed and snowy / icy ground is the way to go. Some parts will probably be pitched, perhaps reaching the equivalent of UK winter grade 3 briefly and a few metres of 4 on the Mazeaud. Most of the ground is grade 1 and lots of grade 2. So lots of time spent honing efficient movement and ropework skills, possibly moving together, on grade 2 ground with the ability to do short sections of 3 and 4 are required.

Obviously running and general fitness helps and may be necessary, personally my training would be going mountain walking, scrambling, running, climbing in different seasons and conditions. Hope this helps...
TheFasting on 09 Sep 2017
In reply to Mark Haward:

Sounds like my upcoming trip where we're going to move with running belay over a long knife edge ridge in Jotunheimen is just what's needed then.
Tom Last - on 09 Sep 2017
In reply to TheFasting:

Without the luxury of actually going mountaineering all the time, fell running can be a good way of training for long days on the hill. I guess you might want to be careful with this though so as not to mess up other training phases or such like, as 20 mile fell run has it's own special way of messing you up - you might not want to plan any big mountain routes, or climbing endurance training the next day for example. It'll get you fit though, no doubt about it. Just a thought.

galpinos on 09 Sep 2017
In reply to TheFasting:

I'm not really sure what you mean by "Alpine routes". Sport climbing is going to be neither use nor ornament on the North Face of the Tour Ronde but would help on Bienvenue aux Georges V. Your wish list seems more the former than the latter though so i'd say heed the advice of the previous posters.

At the standard you are at, the best training is actually doing as much alpine climbing as possible. It's only as the standard gets higher that you need to mix your training up. If you can't go alpine climbing, do something as similar as you can, i.e. Long, trad protected, etc.
Fergal - on 09 Sep 2017
In reply to TheFasting:

Definitely Bouldering.
Misha - on 09 Sep 2017
In reply to Fergal:
Font circuits started as Alpine training rounds so you might be right...
bouldery bits - on 09 Sep 2017
In reply to TheFasting:

Go and suffer.
Gawyllie - on 10 Sep 2017
In reply to TheFasting:

Have a look at Steve house and Scott Johnson's book 'Training for the new Alpinism'

Its's basically a manual on how to train and prepare yourself for Alpinism.
summo on 10 Sep 2017
In reply to TheFasting:
I've always had a build up of a few months if aiming for tougher alps routes. If I was tied to the weekends, maybe a bit of cragging on Fri evening.. Sat 30km/3000m ascent scrambling ... small bag etc.. Sunday perhaps a day climbing with a bit of a walk in.. then Mon to Fri, more climbing and aerobic training and/or other sports.

Bouldering is the last thing I would consider as beneficial prep for the alps, unless I was running 5 mile to and from the crag, uphill, dragging a tractor tyre on a rope behind me! ;)
Post edited at 21:13
HeMa on 10 Sep 2017
In reply to TheFasting:

As has been already mentioned a few times. Alpine routes are not all alike. For a hard mainly mixed route, mixed climbing is more beneficial. For snow, well you guessed it, snow. And so on.

That said the only thing common with almost all alpine adventures is the need to be fit, do a really long day and still have your wits about.

Naturally trad climbing will certainly help in regards for pitched climbing. But more often than not, being fast & effocient don't really come into play on moderately long rock routes. And they are a key element of alpine climbing.
Big Lee - on 11 Sep 2017
In reply to Gawyllie:

> Have a look at Steve house and Scott Johnson's book 'Training for the new Alpinism'

> Its's basically a manual on how to train and prepare yourself for Alpinism.

If Dave Brailsford did marginal gains alpinism then it would be Training for the new Alpinism. It's good book if you are already a competent, experienced alpinism looking to train for a big objective. I don't really think it's a book to start out with. No point worrying about the finer points of training until the ropework, belays and gear selection are slick in an alpine environment because they'll cost more time on anything harder than a snow plod. Better off with a book that covers the basics needed for efficient alpinism. The Mountain Outdoors Expert Alpine Climbing book is excellent for example.
Gav Parker - on 11 Sep 2017
In reply to TheFasting:

Get as fit as possible and a bit more.....
duchessofmalfi - on 11 Sep 2017
In reply to TheFasting:

fitness
Trangia on 11 Sep 2017
In reply to MG:

> This. And scrambling, quickly.

Plus 1.

I would add, the ability to move solo quickly, confidently and safely on rough and exposed terrain. In the UK, the Cuillin Ridge is probably as close as you can get to Alpine mountaineering. If you have to keep stopping to pitch what is in effect scrambling rather than rock climbing you will run out of time.

And not just in Summer conditions. In winter practice moving confidently over mixed rock, show and ice in crampons, again with safe peed being of the essence.
JackM92 - on 12 Sep 2017
In reply to TheFasting:

Personally I've found that being a better technical climber has made a huge difference in climbing long routes faster, far more so than being fitter, slicker etc. If you're very comfortable at the technical grade then leading a pitch clearly requires less gear and time to work it out.

In terms of actually getting better at rock climbing I've found doing even a small amount of sport incredibly beneficial, also outdoor bouldering.

If all you ever do is climb longer routes at the same level you'll never improve technically, although you will likely become slicker with ropes, geat etc which is obviously a big part of alpine climbing!

Gordon Stainforth - on 12 Sep 2017
In reply to JackM92:

Surely it goes without saying that to climb alpine routes you need a huge amount in reserve technically. You need to allow a much bigger margin of safety than on British routes. So if you're climbing VS competently, though you may get up a TD on a fine day, when the shit hits the fan (= bad weather hits the face), you'll be in deep trouble. To climb ED you need to be climbing at at least E2, imho. People are right to emphasise that there are lots of other skills that are necessary, particularly very slick rope-work when climbing very long routes fast (often not a bit like UK multi-pitches of just a few hundred feet) , moving together etc, plus, of course, downclimbing quite difficult/serious terrain in difficult conditions and when very tired (most UK rock climbers don't get enough practice at this). Above everything, fitness and stamina are the primary requisites. The best training in the UK for the Alps remains: Scotland in winter, the Cuillin in summer (and winter!), down-climbing easy rock routes, and lots of massive hillwalking with a heavy sack ...
Post edited at 14:48
Pero - on 12 Sep 2017
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

> The best training in the UK for the Alps remains: Scotland in winter ...

... and, I once heard a French guide say that the Alps was the best training for Scotland in winter!

GridNorth - on 12 Sep 2017
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

I agree with you but with the caveat that the clothing requirements are different.

Al
Goucho on 12 Sep 2017
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:
> Surely it goes without saying that to climb alpine routes you need a huge amount in reserve technically. You need to allow a much bigger margin of safety than on British routes. So if you're climbing VS competently, though you may get up a TD on a fine day, when the shit hits the fan (= bad weather hits the face), you'll be in deep trouble. To climb ED you need to be climbing at at least E2, imho. People are right to emphasise that there are lots of other skills that are necessary, particularly very slick rope-work when climbing very long routes fast (often not a bit like UK multi-pitches of just a few hundred feet) , moving together etc, plus, of course, downclimbing quite difficult/serious terrain in difficult conditions and when very tired (most UK rock climbers don't get enough practice at this). Above everything, fitness and stamina are the primary requisites. The best training in the UK for the Alps remains: Scotland in winter, the Cuillin in summer (and winter!), down-climbing easy rock routes, and lots of massive hillwalking with a heavy sack ...

I knew a guy back in the day, who during the two weeks preceeding the annual pilgrimage to the alps, would head to Wales for a few days, and solo about four or five routes up to VS, on each of the main cliffs in the Pass each day, wearing big boots and carrying all his alpine gear, irrespective of the weather, jogging the inbetween bits, and after his last route on Dinas Mot, would carry on up to the summit of Snowdon and back down.

I don't think he ever climbed anything above TD during a season, but what he did do, he did bloody quickly
Post edited at 17:42
Lion Bakes on 12 Sep 2017
In reply to TheFasting:

Dont forget aerobic, strength, and endurance training. How you develop those depends on what you can fit in best. If you're unfit in the alps you will be found wanting and have a miserable time.
Misha - on 12 Sep 2017
In reply to JackM92:
You need a few grades in hand, yes, but you need all round competence and slickness as well. No point climbing 8a or indeed E8 if you faff around for half an hour on every belay...

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