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October 2005

Mountaineering Fitness: Climb Like Ed

Got summit fever? The sky's the limit with a fitness plan and climbing tips from world-class mountaineer Ed Viesturs.

©David Emmite



Last year, Viesturs noticed a chiseled bodybuilder staring at him in the gym. The stranger approached him. “Ed, you are wasting your time,” he declared in a thick Scandinavian accent. “Let me help you.”

The blunt weightlifter turned out to be Ubbe Liljeblad, an elite 39-year-old bodybuilder-turned-personal trainer. Impressed by Liljeblad’s nerve, physique, and training philosophy, Viesturs let the 5’11” Swede replace his generic free-weight program with a regimen that emphasizes core and trail-specific exercises. In one, for example, Viesturs moves a medicine ball down and across his body. It’s no coincidence that’s the same motion he uses to pull his pack on and off hundreds of times during a climb. Liljeblad also added four 60-minute stair-climber sessions per week (sometimes wearing an 80-pound pack) to Viesturs’s 7 miles of almost daily running. The result: more strength and stamina. “I was so solid on Annapurna,” says Viesturs. “I could move a lot of weight around without taxing myself.”

Liljeblad has modified the workout that helped Viesturs stand atop Annapurna to create a program for the rest of us. Start today, and in 2 months you’ll conquer the hills that once left you gasping. Stick with it for 4 months, and you’ll be ready to climb Rainier.

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