Experienced hiker Katrina 'Kit Kat' Hemingway shows you how to climb that hill.
Nothing rivals the sheer thrill and elation one feels when you finally reach the top. You gaze downwards and beyond, often a full 360⁰, marvelling at the contours, the green hues, the winding rivers, the solitary tarns, a vast ocean surrounded by sky, big thunderous clouds, glorious sunrises, and the setting sun’s vibrant pink hues. You cannot live, thrive, or survive without these epic views.
But must there always be such a hellish climb? I love bushwalking, but I’m not a fan of going uphill. No matter how much aerobic and strength training I do, it gets no easier. Here are my tips to get you there.
Use those glutes and core muscles I rely on my legs’ hamstrings, quadriceps and calf muscles to propel me up hills. They do the job, but I have no spring in my step. Try engaging your glute muscles. Glutes are those oft-forgotten muscles in your butt which turn on your core muscles and inject power into your stride. Since receiving this tip, my ascents have become quicker and more efficient.
Count and don’t look up I softly count aloud when I struggle. 1 to 100. And again, until my fingers register 1,000 steps, then 10,000 steps, that magical daily number, bringing me ever closer to that elusive mountain view. I love switchbacks, a zigzag formation common on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), with their gentle gradient. But if your trail takes you straight up, keep your head down until you reach the top. There is nothing more disheartening and tiring than stopping too early at a false summit and needing to summon more energy to continue on your way.
Altitude Climbing at high altitude is difficult because you are entering a low-oxygen environment. It is normal to be more fatigued and lethargic. You cannot exercise with as much intensity at high altitude, but you can practice good uphill form. Take your time. Try to keep a slow and steady pace. Take in deep meaningful breaths, hold for a few seconds, then slowly exhale.
Ideally, acclimatise beforehand at higher elevations to try to avoid acute mountain sickness (AMS) which can develop as low as 2000m, a similar height to Mount Kosciuszko, Australia’s highest peak. Consider spending a few days near your hiking destination doing small day hikes to higher elevations, camp at lower altitudes, then reascend to begin your mountain hike.
Altitude increases your metabolism but will suppress your appetite. Continue to eat to keep adequate energy levels and stay hydrated. Rest if needed and if you get distressed always descend. The mountains are not going anywhere. There will be plenty of opportunities to try another day.
Distractions Some paths go on forever. I love finding distractions. A quick peek either side of me and I glimpse a happy marmot, sun baking on a rock, a gorgeous hot pink prickly pear cactus, or I hear a rattlesnake’s warning. I take a photograph and use the opportunity to catch my breath. Take in your surroundings. Notice the wildlife and flora. Enjoy nature. Admire that view. Congratulations! You made it in your own good time.