Training Tuesdays: Mountain Athletics Complete Review

The North Face has attempted to put together a coherent all encompassing training plan to build a base for aspiring alpinists for the season. They call it the Mountain Athletics Alpine Climbing training program. Over the past 6 weeks James has been slowly chipping away at this program below is the full review.

The Program: The Alpine Climbing program, much like each hard IMG_3143training day, felt like it would never end – How can I succeed?? It has taught me, after crossing the finish line in style, how tackling goals in small bites makes them manageable. I have realized how important a gradual approach is- even in the context of building a base. You could describe my last day of sandbag getups and weighted stepups as surprised. Surprised that I felt so confident and strong when entering the 700s then 800s then crushed all the way to 1000 stepups. Surprised because I remember the feeling of starting an insurmountable 500 tedious stepups just 6 weeks ago.

On the whole this is a solid program. One that upon starting I didn’t fully comprehend the consideration that had gone into it. Since reading training for the new alpinism I have a whole new respect and understanding for how it has been formulated. Slow steady progress including hours of recovery and Zone 1&2 workouts.  Getting out on ice this winter has already proven to me the benefits of a solid foundation from which to build sport specific training.

The Workouts:IMG_3140

I have opted to omit detailing the last 2 weeks of training here since I now believe it is by design that you cannot preview what is coming up. If I had known what the last week of workouts consisted of I would have been scared off from starting the program entirely. But after having slowly built up to it the mountain becomes more and more achievable. If you would like to see how to do the exercises read Week 4 of this program. 

The App: Frustrating is not the right word for this app – but it definitely needs work. Only able to see 1 day into the future, “What do you have in store on Friday?” There are timers implemented for rests but not for interval training. There is no step counter for the hundreds and hundreds of stepups you will do, but there is an odd interface to track sets of 3 warm up rounds. The most frustrating part was (on an iPhone) when switching to a step counter app the current workout will unexpectedly quit and be lost.

Advice: If you are thinking of attempting this, find some good podcasts to help pass the time and get a step counter– you’ll understand why within the first 100 stepups. I would also recommend getting a watch with an interval timer. Luckily I started this program as Serial was still running and had 10 solid hours of interesting audio ahead of me, and if you’re in to standup comedy I can’t recommend Bill Burr enough- though maybe wait until football season is over.

The Results: 4/5 Stars. The training is well-thought-out, well-structured, and allows you time to continue your climbing. If The North Face were to update the app to match the quality of the program it would be full 5 stars. There is a static nutrition page which isn’t very helpful other than “Go Paleo for 6 days of the week and cheat for the 7th”. Here I stand at the end of the program stronger than when I started.

Overall, this is a great program and a good way to prep your foundation for a serious season – especially for those who don’t have mountains to train in. In the coming month Matt and I will be starting a full 8 month Alpine Training program and I feel confident that I am ready to crush it.



What program are you undergoing? Where have you seen the most improvements? How do you make your program work with kids / dogs / work / family to attend to? We love your feedback!

6 thoughts on “Training Tuesdays: Mountain Athletics Complete Review

  1. Good review on what sounds like a solid program from the NF. Out of curiosity – what single component of the training plan did you find translated to immediate advances and improvements to your fitness on moderate or technical routes in the mountains?

  2. Hey Jimmy, the most immediate impact for me was from the stepups. I noticed improvements mostly in long approaches and moderate terrain. Endurance. There is no focus on technical skills in this program, if that is what you’re looking for I’d look elsewhere. Next up for us is the Training for New Alpinism program peaking for our August trip to the Bugaboos.

    1. Nice! I read Steve House’s book and by the end of chapter 3 I wasn’t sure if I needed to buy a heart monitor or quit my job so I could train 12 hours a day – there’s an intimidating wealth of information in there. He does outline a great training program though, I’ve borrowed components of it for my personal regimen.

      What’s on the tick list for the Bugaboos?

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