Plan Focus: Teton Grand Traverse Training Plan

Ryan Burke atop Teewinot, the first summit of the Grand Traverse. Grand Teton is in the background. Andy Bardon photo.

By Rob Shaul

I’ve never personally completed the Grand Traverse. Best I’ve done is the Cathedral Traverse – the first 3 peaks – Teewinot, Owen and the Grand. MTI Athlete and Senior Exum Guide Brenton Reagan lead me up and over these peaks one day a few years ago.

It wouldn’t be accurate to say Brenton “guided” me – more like “dragged.” There was no easy “guide’s pace” hike up the steeps to the top of Teewinot, and while walking across a ledge with a several thousand foot drop below somewhere near the Gunsight Notch between Owen and The Grand, I asked Brenton, “Hey, shouldn’t I be roped up for this?”

He responded. “No, you’re good. Just don’t look down.”

Several mountain runners and alpinists have completed the entire traverse in day – under 12 hours, solo. The climbing isn’t difficult by most standards – 5.8 in spots – but the exposure is severe. Solo completers free-solo these parts – no rope. The Fastest Known Time is just over 6 hours.

One of my former athletes, Brian Harder, described free soloing the east face of The Grand during his 11-hour 1-day traverse. He got off-route, and had to down climb some sketchy 5.8. “I was so scared I almost threw up,” he remembered.

With 10 Peaks, 14 Miles, 24,000 feet vertical gain and loss, the Teton Grand Traverse is perhaps the premier alpine traverse in the lower 48. Most complete the Grand Traverse in 2-3 days, with one or two bivys.


Starting elevation is 6,700 feet. The Grand Traverse links Teewinot, Mount Owen, the Grand Teton, Middle Teton, South Teton, Ice Cream Cone, Gilkey Tower, Spalding, Cloudveil Dome and Nez Perce for a total of ten summits.

While the mileage is not insignificant, the 24,000 feet of vertical gain and loss is the “crux” on the fitness side. Most of the route is 3rd and 4th class scrambling, up and down, up and down granite. Hence the major fitness demand – uphill hiking under load endurance, and specific leg strength and endurance for uphill and downhill movement.

The Teton Grand Traverse Training Plan is intense, 8 week, 6-day/week training plan designed to prepare athletes for the fitness demands of the Teton Grand Traverse. It is designed to be completed the 8 weeks directly before the climb. Week 8 in the plan is an unload/taper week.

This program combines loaded vertical climbing, focused eccentric leg strength training for the descent, bodyweight strength and core, long trail runs and 1x day/week rock climb training.
Here is the weekly schedule:
  • Monday: Loaded Step Ups or Vertical Ascent
  • Tuesday: Eccentric Leg Strength Training, Bodyweight upper body and core, Moderate Run (Possible 2-A-Day)
  • Wednesday: Climbing Fitness in Bouldering Gym
  • Thursday:Loaded Step Ups or Vertical Ascent
  • Friday:Eccentric Leg Strength Training, Bodyweight upper body and core, Moderate Run (Possible 2-A-Day)
  • Saturday: Long Trail Run out to 13 miles.
This is not a beginner’s program. Athletes need to have a high level of fitness before beginning the program.

Week one includes two days of strength training, 3000 feet of vertical movement, a 8 miles of moderate running and 7 mile trail run. The program increases in difficulty and volume from there and peaks at Week 7 with 7,000 feet of vertical movement, 20 miles of moderate running and a 13 mile trail run.

Click the Product Image above, then the “Sample Training”  tab to see the entire first week of programming. We recommend athletes complete this before purchase to see if they are ready.

Required Equipment
This is a limited equipment training plan. The strength training in the gym is bodyweight only. Below is the required equipment:
– Steep Hill, Stadium Steps, or 16-inch Step Up Bench for vertical movement
– Backpack with 25 pounds of load
– Pull Up Bar
– Foam Roller
– Bouldering Gym for Wednesday’s V-Sum
Recommended Equipment
– Wrist GPS to monitor running mileage
– Hand Counter to count step ups

This is an endurance-heavy program which demands commitment in both effort and time. Sessions last 60-180 Minutes. Bodyweight Strength Training  (Tuesday/Thursday) is designed to take 30-40 minutes, but these sessions also include a moderate run which can be completed directly after the strength work or later in the day as a 2-a-day. Endurance days could extend to 180 minutes. 


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