Big Mountain Dreams

What are you training for right now? What is on your wish list that, maybe, you’ve not started training for yet? I’ve been ticking along recently, which has been a much needed gear to be running in but I’ve recently been feeling the need for something more. For picking an objective and committing to the work that will be required to get from where I am now, to where I need to be then.

I have dreams to climb big mountains, via big routes, over big days in the hill, and that means I need to get in shape.

The North Face Mountain Athletics Launch

The North Face #MountainAthletics

The North Face #MountainAthletics

Long before the starting of The Mountain Foundry I had come across a few organisations offering what was inspiring me at the time – highly specific training for mountain objectives. Gym Jones in Salt Lake City, Utah, and Mountain Athlete in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, are the undisputed leaders in this field and I have been keeping an eye on both of them since, even attending a training weekend with the Gym Jones crew when they came through the UK last year.

Mountain Athlete teamed up with The North Face a few years ago and launched Mountain Athletics, a mountain objective training app that could coach people remotely, anywhere in the world. At the same time they designed and created a clothing line to complement the training. America is always a few steps ahead of the UK in these things so it is only now that we get to see what it is all about..

Professional climber, James Pearson

Professional climber, James Pearson

I was invited to a recent event hosted by The North Face launching Mountain Athletics and all that goes with it. As would be expected, they didn’t hold back and we were treated to a ridiculously awesome event. Popping back to London for it, I got to catch up with a number of people over coffees before it all started and it was great to see so many familiar faces. After a quick breakfast, though, it was to business. A few short talks from TNF staff led into a Q+A with James Pearson, an incredible British climber who has pretty much dominated every aspect of climbing he has turned his massive hands to. After this came a real treat, Sir Ranulph Fiennes.

Sir Ran, as he is known apparently, was a little unknown to me. Of course, I had seen him around in the press and heard of his exploits but I have not read any of his books and most of what I know about him is from stories people tell. Hearing these stories from the horse’s mouth, however, was something else. Funny, witty, blunt, and just plain bonkers, Sir Ran did not disappoint and by the time he finished, I think every one of us would have happily sat there for another hour listening to him talk. But it wasn’t meant to be.

At this point it was all about getting in on the action of trying out the workouts and kit. Bring on 3 20 minute HIIT stations, each aimed and training for 3 core outdoor sports; skiing, climbing, and trail running. No stranger to any of these sports, I’ll admit I was a little cocky going in. I assumed it would be fine and I’d take it in my stride. Woh, I was a little wrong there. Teaming up in pairs, somehow I ended up with James Pearson. Shit. How was I going to hold up to a professional climber?

The workout was intense. Seriously intense. However, support from James and the atmosphere in the room more than help drag me through it. After 20 minutes of climbing intervals it was over to the trail section and finally skiing. By this time I was pooped but thankfully food and sustenance was to hand. Banana bread, is there a better recovery food?!

Big Mountain Dreams

Hard winter climbing on the Frendo-Ravanel

Hard winter climbing on the Frendo-Ravanel

Projects like the Mountain Athletics launch are there to inspire and it most certainly did. I’ve been treading water a little in Chamonix recently – yes, getting out on some amazing skiing and a little climbing but I really want to get my teeth stuck into preparing for something awesome.

It is still very much in the planning phase right now but the ideas of climbing in the Greater Ranges and getting some real altitude experience, ticking off more of the Great North Faces of the Alps, and also working on climbing longer, harder, and more committing routes is all up for grabs. I guess, in fact none of them are mutually exclusive. Why not go for all of them? Well, maybe, we’ll see. First things first is to start the prep, the base phase, the GPP as it is called – General Physical Preparedness. I’m lucky enough to be training and training with an awesome and driven climber who is after the same thing so, for now, I’m going to buddy up with him and see where we can take it.

What are your Big Mountain Dreams?

What are you training for?

With whom?

Let me know in the comments below!

All bar the last photo are copyright Martin Hartley / The North Face.

by Charley Radcliffe

2 Responses to “Big Mountain Dreams”

  1. Mark Mckenzie

    Hi Charley,

    Would just like to say, really enjoyed reading your post, blog, “Big Mountain Dreams”.

    I too have big mountain dreams, and have been working on them for a while now, retraining etc. I will be attending ML Training this year, as well as looking to build on my QMD’s.

    After missing out on an ascent of Mont Blanc in 2014, due to severe weather, that’s the mountains for you, I will be aspiring to succeed in the summer of 2017, only this time with a bit of a twist and preplanning is already underway. That is what I will be training for. I will be largely training alone, but I am sure they will be company along the way.

    I also enjoy skiing and climbing and will be in Chamonix in just over a weeks time. Maybe, get some ski touring or winter climbing in and looking to discuss my plans further.

    May I take this opportunity to thank both yourself and Sophie for accepting my invitations on social media, I will certainly look forward to following your developments.

    Happy Training
    All the best Mark.

    • Charley Radcliffe

      Thanks for stopping by my blog, Mark!

      The mountains are their own master and respecting that is a great place to be. I’m sure you will have better luck next time on Mont Blanc.

      Send me a message when you are here and we can hopefully grab a beer and chat plans!

      Happy training to you too,


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