Elevation change on the trail is a big effing deal. No wusses. Here are some hard cold facts:
- Starting elevation outside San Diego is 77 feet above sea level.
- Over 2650 miles, there are 418,903 feet of vertical ascent. That’s the equivalent of climbing Mt. Everest (29,029 ft) 14.43 times.
- The highest point on the trail is Forrester’s Pass at 13,128 ft.
I live in Salt Lake City, Utah (my watch altimeter tells me my living room is at 4722 ft above sea level). Over the next 5 months of preparation I plan to get my lungs in as good a climbing shape as possible.
When climbing elevation we use some of the largest muscles on our body – the quads, hamstrings, and calves. As those muscles are used they call on the lungs for an extreme amount of oxygen. Thats why even climbing a flight of stairs can be taxing for someone that is out of shape. The more accustomed to the exercise the muscles are, the less oxygen they will require and the more pleasant the experience will be.
Forrester’s Pass is approximately 800 miles into the PCT. By then I am sure that my legs will be in great shape and have stamina to make the climb. All my pre-PCT training will focus on building enough endurance and strength to get past the first 14 days of the trail without breaking down or going through an overuse injury.
Today I had a great workout by filling my backpack (currently a REI Yosemite 75, but not sure if it will be my PCT pack) with 4 gallons of water (about 40 lbs) and climbed a 300 ft hill as fast as I could. I’m counting it as the first official PCT prep workout and I was pretty pleased with the results. I could feel my legs and lungs working together to find a pace that didn’t overtax my system.
My plan is to do at least two +10 mile hikes per week and two sprint hikes that will focus on elevation climb over short distances.
Any comments or feedback on how to prepare for elevation on the PCT is greatly welcome!