Hiking Mount Washington is a challenging task, but it's attainable with the right training and dedication. To help you reach your goal, we offer these tips.
When to Start
Seasoned hikers recommend that one of the best ways to get ready for a big hike is to do at least three to four smaller hikes starting in the spring. One or two longer, steeper hikes in the weeks before the event will test stamina and endurance. Those attempting Mount Washington for the first time may benefit from the Appalachian Mountain Club Beginner Program.
Where to Go
New England offers opportunities for other great hikes to get you ready. There are smaller peaks in the White Mountains, and some options closer to Boston, such as Middlesex Fells and the Blue Hills. Mount Monadnock is a particularly good training location as it is similar in grade and terrain to Mount Washington.
Advice from Experienced Hikers
On any mountain, such as on Mount Washington, where there is significant hiking above treeline, hikers spend a significant amount of time practicing rock hopping and scrambling skills in preparation. Here are a few personal suggestions from those in the know:
Endurance and rock-scrambling skills are very important. I like to start getting ready for my July climb even before the weather is nice enough to get to the mountains for practice hikes. A good way to prepare is by taking long walks and climbing stairs. Rather than go to the gym, I often climb up and down 30-40 flights of the stairs at my office. It helps prepare me for the steepness of the climb and gives me practice with my foot placement.
-Mike Thonis, Washburn Challenge founder
The best training for a Mount Washington climb is to go climb some other mountains. Gym equipment and runs in the park are all great for fitness, but the best way to prepare for the Washburn Challenge is to get out there and cover some miles and elevation. When I'm preparing for a climb like this, I throw some weight in my backpack and head west to the Fells or the Blue Hills south of Boston, and hit the trail at least one day a week. This allows my feet, ankles, legs and lower back to be ready and accustomed to the pounding and jarring that will come on the actual climb. I'll start with low weight in my pack and keep the mileage pretty low, but slowly increase both as time goes by.
I start this sort of training three to six months in advance of the actual climb. During the week, when workout time is limited, I'll go trail running in the local park or perhaps jump on the treadmill at the gym. I also find that yoga is very helpful in maintaining fitness and adding strength and flexibility.
-Phil Jones, Washburn Challenge spotter and AMC member
This is not an official training guide. There is no one, best way to prepare for climbing Mount Washington, and everyone's level of conditioning is different. Hundreds of people climb Mount Washington every year, but its reputation for severe conditions is well founded. Please carefully consider whether a single or challenge climb is right for you. Advance preparation will allow you to get the most out of your hiking experience.