Grand Teton Training

“There is no reward without work, no victory without effort, no battle won without risk.” - Nora Roberts

What You Need to Know

You do not need to be an accomplished athlete or experienced climber to climb the Grand Teton. Most of our climbers have never done anything like this before and our guides lead the vast majority of them to the summit. You do need to be fit and you do need to train in order to be successful and to enjoy the experience. Below are tips and ideas that will help you prepare.

An appropriate level of both cardiovascular and motor fitness is required of all climbers. Cardiovascular fitness refers to the ability of your heart and lungs to supply oxygen to your muscles during exercise. Motor fitness refers to your strength, endurance, agility, and balance.

The Grand Teton climb is a two-day endurance event. On the first day you will travel 7 miles and gain approximately 5,000 ft. of elevation. The trail is steep requiring strength and stamina. In many places the trail is rocky and uneven, and it passes through large boulder fields, requiring balance and agility. The second day involves uphill hiking, scrambling and climbing another 2 miles while gaining approximately 2,000 ft. of elevation to the summit, followed by your descent to the trailhead. Cardiovascular fitness is what allows your muscles to work efficiently throughout the two days, at elevations between 6,800 and 13,770 ft.

The absolute best way to train to climb the Grand Teton is to hike on steep trails similar to what you will be on during the actual climb. This training will effectively improve cardiovascular and motor fitness. If you live in a place with hills that you can use for training, it is the single most recommended and efficient way to prepare.

If you don’t live in a place that allows this, we recommend a training program that uses the same muscle groups in the same ways, with or in addition to, cardiovascular training. Climbing stairs or stadium steps is a good alternative. If a gym is your only choice, the stairmaster should be your primary training machine, with occasional sessions on an elliptical machine or treadmill for a change of pace and to work slightly different muscles. Exercises to increase quadricep and hamstring strength are essential, as are exercises to improve core strength, balance and agility.

Your goal is to train to a point where you will be comfortable on the climb as described above. For most climbers, the climb involves approximately 6 hours of uphill hiking on the first day, and the second day is typically 4-5 hours to the summit, 2-4 hours back down to our basecamp, and 4-7 hours back to the trailhead.

While there are no definitive guidelines that ensure success in the mountains, a good measure of your readiness can be gauged from similar efforts. If you have hills to train on, you can use the metric of 1000 feet/hour for 2 or more hours, to gauge your fitness. In other words, at a minimum you should be able to comfortably hike up 2000 vertical feet in approximately 2 hours. Keep in mind that climbing the Grand Teton involves more than just hiking, but this guideline will help you determine whether your overall aerobic fitness is adequate.

If you are disciplined and familiar with the specific exercises that will accomplish your goals, you can complete your training on your own. The majority of our climbers set up their own program and train with a friend for motivation. If you have never been involved in a training program though, and don’t know where to start, or if you want to be sure you are training effectively, we suggest that you work with a professional athletic trainer who has mountaineering experience. Depending on where you live you may be able to find a great local trainer. Another option is in the answer to the next question.

One option is Samsara Mountain Training, located in Jackson and owned by Exum guide Zahan Billimoria. Samsara Mountain Training offers personalized training plans, online tools, weekly follow ups via phone or skype, and great motivational coaching. The Samsara Mountain Training Method is a science-based approach to getting fit for your climb. Your plan will be custom built for you, based on your goals and the training tools you have available.

Zahan is a well-respected local guide, climber and athletic trainer who has successfully guided hundreds of Exum climbers on the Grand Teton. We are certain that he can help you prepare for your climb. Please note though, that there is no affiliation between Exum and Samsara Mountain Training, and we receive no commission for referrals. If you choose to work with Samsara Mountain Training, your agreement is with Samsara Mountain Training alone, and Exum services begin on your first day of climbing instruction.

Email Zahan at zahan007@gmail.com

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Reaching the summit of the Grand Teton is an incredibly rewarding experience – it will take work to prepare for the climb, effort during the climb, and indeed there is risk in all climbing.

All of us at Exum feel incredibly lucky to live in a place like Jackson with the Tetons in our back yard. Once you arrive, and begin your two days of climbing school, you will also begin to understand the attachment we feel to this place. We want to share our mountain playground with you and we want you to experience the tremendous feeling of accomplishment that you will feel when you reach the summit of the Grand Teton.

Begin your training now and stay motivated – your reward will be well worth your efforts!

Note: If you have not been physically active for some time, we recommend that you check with your doctor before you begin training.