The Alpinist Project


By Rob Shaul

There has been little research completed on mountain athletes in general and even less on “Alpinists.” We will work to change that over two days of testing in May or early June and are naming this effort “The Alpinist Project.”

We’re starting with two studies.

The first study focuses on professional and high-level recreational Alpinists and Mountaineers. The study has two components.

(1) Physiological Testing

The objective here is to attain baseline physiological data for these unique athletes. Testing will include VO2 Max, Anaerobic Threshold, Body fat analysis, hand and finger strength, hip and shoulder mobility assessment, as well as basic body-type discovery (height, weight, age, etc.) We’re interested to see if there is a consistent athletic and physiological profile for a high-level Alpinist. We hope to test both men and women. Physiological testing will occur on Day 1 of the testing.


(2) Validating the Alpinist Fitness Assessment (AFA)

The Alpinist Fitness Assessment is a battery of fitness we developed this winter which aims to assess the mountain-specific strength, technical climbing ability, loaded hiking fitness and work capacity, endurance, and overall stamina of an Alpinist.  The AFA has a unique scoring system, and the objective is to compare what we would expect professional Alpinists to achieve on the assessment, to what they actually achieve. The Alpinists will take the AFA on Day 2 of the testing.

The second study revolves around professional alpine mountain guides who spend the summer guiding in the Tetons. This study has two objectives:


(1) Establish a Physiological Baseline for Professional Mountain Guides

Similar to above, we hope to put several professional Mountain Guides through a battery of physiological tests to establish a baseline physical profile for this group of mountain professionals.


(2) Determine the Physical Impact of the Summer Guiding Season

It’s not unusual for mountain guides working in the Tetons to shepherd clients over a dozen times during the summer up and down the Grand Teton, in addition to multiple guided day trips and ascents of other Teton peaks. We repeated the battery of physiological testing at the end of the guiding season to determine the fitness demands and physiological changes guides experience during a busy summer.

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The Study was overseen by Dr. Kristen Ouellette who was spending her summer in Jackson as a Doctoral Fellow with Mountain Athlete.

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Learn More About The Alpinist Fitness Assessment Test Results


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