Training Tips for High-Altitude Hikes

Training Tips for High-Altitude Hikes

In our last post, we shared what you need to know about altitude sickness. While it is a possibility with high altitude hikes, there are steps you can take to prepare yourself for a successful trek.

High altitude hikes and treks can be exhilarating experiences with breathtaking views, clean crisp air, and a physical achievement that you will never forget. It doesn?t have to be as intense as climbing a continent?s tallest peak (although we encourage that also!), it could be an overnight camping trip with a sunrise summit.

For all hiking adventures, you will need a base level of fitness and a bit of training to make sure you are prepared, but more so for activities at higher altitudes. Most people begin to feel the effect of the altitude at around 2400m (8000ft) ? some shortness of breath or tiring more easily is common.

Our bodies can adjust to this altitude change as long as we take the right approach.



So how do you prepare for your high altitude adventure, even if you don?t live near mountains? Follow a simple training plan! Aerobic activity improves your body?s use of oxygen. Activities that improve your aerobic fitness, such as running, cycling, and swimming, can be done no matter where you live.

It is best to start at least 2 to 3 months before your trip (perhaps more if you?re planning a several day trek above 4200m/14,000ft). Here are a few training tips to help you prepare:

  • Running or Cycling. Run or bike 3-4 times per week. Gradually build up your endurance by increasing your distance each time, and choosing steeper hills to climb. The last few weeks before your trek, you can train with 5-6 kg in your backpack to benefit you even more.
  • Interval training. Increase the intensity for 1-2 training sessions per week. If running, do sprints uphill, walk down, and repeat 5 times. You can also run stairs in segments of high and lower intensity (sprint up 4 flights, walk up 2 flights, sprint again, repeat). A stairmaster machine in the gym is also good.
  • If possible, go for a hike with the shoes and pack you will be wearing on your trek. This could be in a local park, or just outside of town (even better if there are hills or it?s a bit higher). Start with a light pack the first week, and add weight as the time for your trek grows near so you train with the weight you will be carrying on the trek.
  • Deep, slow, and controlled breathing help you use oxygen more efficiently on the trail. Attend a yoga class a few times per week with a focus on breathing techniques. An added benefit is finding your zen!
  • Remember that muscle recovery is important, so plan your training for 5-6 days per week, then give your body and mind a day to rest.
  • Be sure to eat well to fuel your training, as well as your trek. Protein helps fuel and build our muscles, and carbohydrates and healthy fats give us energy. Fuel up with healthy food, and train hard to achieve your goals!


Adjusting When You Are There

When planning your trip, remember to plan a day or two at your starting point to allow your body to acclimatize before you start the hike. When you arrive, go for short walks, drink lots of water (hydration is essential!), eat well and get a good night?s sleep. Many times 24 hours is all that is needed to adjust, but take care to listen to your body. We will cover more on successfully completing a high altitude hike in our next blog.

While exercise is always good for us, training prepares us to reach a goal. So choose a goal, and start training for your next breathtaking adventure!

What?s your goal? A great one would be joining us to summit Mount Khuiten in the majestic Altai Mountains this August. For more info click here: or email us at

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Phil Voss