Preparing myself

A big concern I have about this journey is how well my body will cope. On previous trips, I've suffered through lack of physical preparation - my body just hasn't been strong enough to start with.

For the GR10, through inexperience, I brought crampons and an ice-axe when starting in early September, not to mention a 2-man tent, a petrol stove and a water filter! My pack weighed about 38 lbs, and in 30 degree heat, the first week was a big struggle. Having sent lots of things back, my legs slowly got stronger and my endurance picked up.

Looking South to the Alpspitze from Kreuzeck

On the Haute Route of the Pyrenees, I started with a bare pack weight of 23 lbs, and was in slightly better shape. With 1-5 days of food, my pack fluctuated between 26 and 34 lbs. Lack of physical conditioning was quite a problem, as well as the heat, so the first week was really tough. As my legs got stronger, so the trail became more manageable, and after four weeks, I was able to walk 12 hour days.

Before both trips, I had walked fine beforehand in the UK with a full pack on not very demanding trails, so expected to adjust better and quicker than I did.

What I get from this is that we concentrate a bit too much on pack weight - it's easy to measure, and spending money on lighter gear is a quick and easy fix. Much more important is getting enough strength and stamina and toughness into one's body. Also, the best preparation for climbing hills is.... climbing hills, not walking easy trails!

This time, I'm in rather worse condition than before, a bit overweight, and very unfit after two years sitting behind a desk. The plan then is to use the time available to prepare my body carefully.

Before leaving for the Alps, I have a 20 week programme, starting with core balance and suppleness through yoga and developmental stretching, then core strength and fixed weights, followed by more free weights, building a good aerobic foundation with running and swimming, with work on strength endurance, and development of aerobic stamina, and a small amount of work on my anaerobic systems.

Once I'm in the Alps, I'll drop gym work back to strength maintenance and spot work, with specific speed and endurance training through hill walking and snowshoe work. I'll be careful to keep stretching and using free weights so that supporting muscle groups don't weaken.