Big Mountain Climbing Training Program


  • Intense, 10 week, 6 days/week training plan designed to sport specifically prepare athletes for high altitude, expedition-style alpine climbs up big mountains like those found in the Canadian Rockies, Alaska, and the Himalaya.
  • Designed to build mountain-specific leg strength and base mountain endurance for big mountain expeditions
  • Strong focus on durability to keep you healthy in the mountains
  • This training plan is one of the 450+ Plans included with an Athlete’s Subscription.


This 10-Week, 6 day/week training program is event-specifically designed as a “peak” training plan prepare athletes for a primarily non-technical, guided, big mountain expedition-style alpine climbs such as peaks in the Canadian Rockies, Alaska and Himalaya.

This plan is designed to be completed the 10 weeks direly before departing for your trip. Week 10 in the plan is an unload/taper week.

This training program has 3 general objectives:

  1. Increase vertical and decline-specific leg strength and strength endurance.
  2. Increase base mountain endurance via easy and moderate pace runs and trail runs.
  3. Train your Chassis Integrity (functional core)

This is Version 3 of this plan, built June, 2023.

Changes from V2:

  • Total re-write of the vertical fitness (step ups, hiking) and run programming/progression in the plan
  • Overall increase in mountain endurance volume
  • Change and update to the Chassis Integrity programming

Vertical Fitness
Below is the weekly running volume in miles, and the Saturday long trail run in the plan:

Week   Total Miles    Long Run (Miles)
1             18              8
2             20              9
3             23              10
4             25              11
5             27              12
6             29              13
7             31              14
8             33              15
9             34              16
10           20              n/a

Below is the weekly focused hiking or step up volume, while wearing a 35# backpack:

Week   Total Vert Feet
1             2400
2             2600
3             2800
4             3000
5             3200
6             3400
7             3600
8             3800
9             4000
10           n/a              n/a

Vertical Leg Strength
The vertical leg strength and uphill movement endurance programming in this plan is intense and high volume. 

This training plan includes two options for building the uphill and downhill leg strength, strength endurance, and recovery needed to complete and recover from the vertical gain/loss in the WURL.  

Gym-Based Option – this is for athletes without easy access to a long, steep hill they can hike and do laps on. The gym-based work focuses on MTI’s leg blaster complex to build the eccentric leg strength for the downhills and high volume step ups to build the concentric leg strength and strength endurance for the uphills.

Steep Hill Option – this option is for athletes with access to a long, steep hill, and includes specific daily vertical gain and loss totals which can be completed by doing laps on a steep hill wearing a backpack.

Chassis Integrity
This training plan includes 1 day/week of bodyweight chassis integrity (functional core) training – 15-22 minutes weekly. 


  • Mon: Vertical Fitness – step ups or hill hike
  • Tue: Eccentric Leg Strength, Easy Road Run 
  • Wed: Chassis Integrity
  • Thu: Vertical Fitness – step ups or hill hike
  • Fri: Easy Pace Trail Run
  • Sat: Long Moderate Pace Trail Run
  • Sun: Total Rest


How do I know I’m ready for this plan?
To determine if you need are ready for this training plan,  complete a max rep effort of 30 minutes of step ups, at a 16-18-inch bench or step. If you score 400x or less reps in your effort, we recommend completing the Mountaineering / Hiking Prep Plan prior to beginning this plan.

What is the Required Equipment?

  • Foam Roller
  • 16″ Box or Bench for Step Ups
  • 35 pound backpack
  • GPS Watch/Phone App or courses/trails of known distance
  • Pair of 15# dumbbells for women, 25# dumbbells for men

How Long do the Sessions Last?
1-8 hours depending upon your running/climbing pace. Longest day will be the Saturday’s long trail run which peaks at 40km on week 8. Tuesday and Thursday vertical climbing via step up or a steep hill will also take significant time. Overall, this training plan will take significant training time and commitment.

What if I miss a day?
If you miss a day, make up the session you missed the next day and follow the programming as prescribed. The programming is progressive – it builds upon itself. Don’t skip ahead.

What does 25/35# Dumbbell Crawl mean? What about 3/5x Chin Ups.
25/35# Dumbbell Crawl = women use 25#, men use 35#
3/6x Chin Ups = Women do 3x, Men do 6x.

Where do I find unfamiliar exercises?
See our Exercise Library HERE.

What about nutrition?
See our Nutritional Guidelines HERE.


Before beginning any exercise program, consult with your physician to ensure that you are in proper health.  Physical training contains inherent risks including, but not limited to, muscle strains, tears, physical and bodily injury up to and including death.  This training program is not meant to provide medical advice; you should obtain medical advice from your private health care practitioner.  If you are unable to assume these risks then you should not engage in this training program.  No liability is assumed by Mountain Tactical Institute, Inc, its owners or employees, and you train at your own risk.  Mountain Tactical Institute makes no warranty, express or implied, of any kind in connection with this training program.

Required Equipment

  • Foam Roller

  • 16" Box or Bench for Step Ups

  • 35 pound backpack

  • GPS Watch/Phone App or courses/trails of known distance

  • Pair of 15# dumbbells for women, 25# dumbbells for men

Sample Training

Below is Week 1 from this Training Plan:

Obj: Vertical Fitness


Warm Up:

(2) 1,200 Step Ups @ 16" Box or Bench wearing 35# Backpack

"Moderate" = Comfortable but Not Easy

(3) Foam Roll Legs, Low Back



(1) Hike up and down, 1,600 vertical feet, wearing a 35# backpack, moderate pace

This can be on one long, steep hill, or laps on a shorter hill. Use Google Earth to determine elevation and make sure you meet the requirement.

Obj: Eccentric Leg Strength, Easy Run

Warm Up:

2 Rounds


(1) 8 Rounds

(2) Run 5 Miles, easy pace. Run on a flat road or track.

"Easy" = you can speak in full sentences while moving. 

If you have a heart rate monitor, run within 10 heart beats of 180-age. So, if you are 30 years old, 180-30 = 150, so run today's mileage at a heart rate of 145-155.

Obj: Chassis Integrity


(1) 15-Minute Grind ...

Grind = work steadily, not frantically through Part (1)'s circuit 15 minutes

(2) Foam Roll legs, Low Back

Obj: Vertical Fitness


Warm Up:
2 Rounds

(2) 1,200 Step Ups @ 16-20" Box or Bench wearing 35# Backpack

"Moderate" = Comfortable but Not Easy

(3) Foam Roll Legs, Low Back


(1) Hike up and down, 1,600 vertical feet, wearing a 35# backpack, moderate pace

This can be on one long, steep hill, or laps on a shorter hill. Use Google Earth to determine elevation and make sure you meet the requirement.

Obj: Easy Pace Trail Run

(1) Trail Run 5 miles at an Easy Pace

"Easy" = you can speak in full sentences while running

If you have a heart rate monitor, run within 10 heart beats of 180-age. So, if you are 30 years old, 180-30 = 150, so run today's mileage at a heart rate of 145-155.

(2) 2 Rounds

Trail Run with moderate vertical gain and loss.

Obj: Moderate Pace Trail Run

(1) Trail run 8 miles at a Moderate Pace

"Moderate" = Comfortable but not easy

(2) Foam Roll Legs, Low Back

Trail Run with moderate vertical gain and loss.


Rest Day


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1)  Mission Direct

Gym numbers mean nothing. All that matters is mission performance. 

To this end, MTI’s fitness solutions and programming are not boxed in by convention, tradition, orthodoxy, public opinion or any other artificial constraint driven by inside or outside forces.

We begin with the raw fitness demands of the mission and build a fitness solution which directly prepares the athlete for those demands.


2) Fitness Solutions Built from the Ground Up

MTI’s programming is not “re-tread” bodybuilding, football, CrossFit, kettlebell, strength or general fitness programming. We’ve built our fitness programming for mountain and tactical athletes from the ground up.

The Fluid Periodization methodology we deploy to concurrently train multiple fitness attributes is completely original and has continued to evolve and improve over the years.

Our mid-section training methodology, Chassis Integrity, is also original, as is our endurance programming, 7 strength training progressions, tactical agility, and work capacity programming.

Our mountain sports pre-season training plans, tactical PFT, selection, school, course, and fitness improvement training plans across military, LE and Fire Rescue are MTI-developed, tested and athlete-proven.

Over the years hundreds of athletes and coaches have taken our advanced programming and unit fitness leader programming courses and MTI is widely recognized within the mountain and tactical professions and fitness media as a thought leader in fitness programming for military and tactical athletes.


3) The MTI Method

→ Research: MTI begins program design with extensive research of the fitness demands of the mission, sport or event, identifies the exercises and progressions which sport-specifically meet those demands, chose end-of-cycle goals, and program backward to design the training plan.

→ Deploy & Assess: We deploy the training plan “Lab Rats” at our Wyoming facility. Training session and cycle issues are identified and fixed as we work through the training plan. Post cycle we assess the programming’s effectiveness and efficiency. We keep the stuff that works, and fix or toss the stuff that doesn’t.

→ Publish & Assess Again: Plan is published for purchase as an individual training plan and made available to our subscribers. Feedback/results are assessed.

→ Iterate: We take what we learn from lab rats and athletes, re-visit, update and improve already published training plans. Several of our individual training plans are on their 4th or 5th version.


4) Mission-Direct Research

MTI exists to “Improve Mountain and Tactical Athletes mission performance and keep them safe.” To that end, we have developed a unique research methodology aimed at identifying real world areas of improvement and identifying immediately deployable mission-direct solutions. Click HERE to learn more about MTI’s Mission-Direct Research methodology, and Here to read about just few of our research efforts.

5) Field Proven

Our stuff works. Weekly we receive unsolicited reviews of our programming and testimonials to its effectiveness.


6) Programming Breadth

MTI’s library of 200+ sport-specific fitness plans for mountain and tactical athletes is unmatched. Resources range from specific programming for tactical special forces selections, to specific plans for climbing Rainier and Denali, to general fitness solutions such as running improvement, to post-rehab from injury.

Over the past decade, MTI has partnered with hundreds of athletes throughout their individual mountain and tactical careers, and provided fitness solutions as they face new mountain objectives, tactical schools, selections, PFTs and deployments, and came back from injury.


7) Worldwide Influence

Our work is not limited to US Athletes.

We’ve developed selection-specific training plans for Canadian, UK, Australian and German Special Forces Selections and worked with individual military personnel from Scandinavia, South, and Central America.

Canadian, Australian, UK and western European law enforcement and fire/rescue athletes have used MTI programming for mission-direct fitness.

On the mountain side, Alpinists from Japan to Slovakia have consulted with MTI and used MTI’s programming to prepare for mountain objectives.


8) Mission Performance beyond Fitness

MTI’s exists is to improve Mission Performance for mountain and tactical athletes and keep them safe. 

This focus on “mission direct” solutions, enhancements and improvements drives our work and research and extends beyond fitness solutions to include training, leadership, gear, team culture, and safety. 

Fitness is just one area of our work.

Our non-fitness research has included tactical cultures, combat uniforms, and gore-tex performance, and effect of stress on marksmanship.

Our work on defining what it means to be a Quiet Professional has had penetrating influence and driven healthy conversations with both mountain and tactical professionals.


9) Direct, Honest, Clear Answers

Since 2007 we’ve taken and answered dozens of questions weekly from mountain and tactical athletes. We’ve saved these individual Q&A’s and now thousands are archived on our site.

We’re not salesmen, and our answers are noted for their directness, honesty, and clarity. Our stuff isn’t for everyone. If we can help, we’ll let you know. If we can’t, we’ll let you know that, too.

– Rob Shaul, Founder


All of the Above is Backed Up By Our Promise: Our Stuff Works. Guaranteed.

Our Stuff Works. Guaranteed.

By Rob Shaul

I received notes frequently from athletes hesitant to purchase a subscription or training plans asking me to sell them on why they should make the purchase.

While I understand the question, I’m not a salesman – so I can’t put a hard sale on anyone for our programming.

I can tell them the process we go through to design our programming.

We begin with extensive research on the fitness demands of the event, identify the exercises and progressions which sport specifically meet those demands, chose end-of-cycle goals, and program backward to design the plan.

Then we test the cycle on ourselves and our lab rats here in Wyoming. We document, note what works and doesn’t work, re-assess, and make changes and modifications.

Then we publish the programming in the form of one of our plans or as part of our subscription daily training sessions for tactical and mountain athletes.
We don’t stop there – our daily programming is the “tip of the spear” for our programming evolution. We use these sessions to learn and make continuous improvement.

As we learn more and improve, we go back, and update the sport-specific training plans on the website. For example, we’re currently on Version 5 of our Ruck Based Selection Training Plan and Version 3 of our Dryland Ski Training Plan and Version 4 of our Big Game Back Country Hunting Training Plan.

We understand our programing isn’t cheap, but we believe it’s a great value. The $79 for the Ruck Based Selection Training Plan, and $39 for the Dryland Ski Training Plan reflect the, research, work, innovative theory, iteration, testing and feedback we’ve put in and received to make these plans effective.

All that matters for us is outside performance, and we feel strongly that Our Stuff Works in the real world.

Here’s our guarantee:

1) Individual Training Plan Purchase:
If you purchase an individual training plan, follow it as prescribed before your season/event/pft/selection, and if you don’t feel you were physically ready for your season/event/pft/selection, and/or didn’t see dramatic improvements in your early season performance, we’ll refund your money, no questions asked.

2) Athlete’s Subscription
If you purchase an Athletes’ Subscription, follow the training sessions as prescribed, and are not satisfied with the quality of the programming, notify us within 30 days of purchase, and we’ll refund your money, no questions asked.



Do you have any reviews or testimonials from athletes who have used your Athlete’s Subscription
Yes. Click HERE.

Is it true you guarantee your stuff works?
Yes. If you purchase an Athletes’ Subscription, follow the training sessions as prescribed, and are not satisfied with the quality of the programming, notify us within 30 days of purchase, and we’ll refund your money, no questions asked.

How is MTI programming different than CrossFit?
This is a common question. Read our answer HERE.

You have a lot of competitors. Why should I choose MTI?
MTI is driven to improve mountain and tactical athletes’ mission performance and keep them safe. This emphasis and focus on mission performance sets us apart. Read about more that sets us apart HERE.

If I purchase a plan or subscription, how do I access the programming?
All of our plans are online, accessible via username and password.
You can log in through our →Website  or Mobile App →IOS and Android.

Do you have downloadable .pdf’s of the training plans?
No. But you can print the programming, by week, from your browser. You access individual training plans online via a username and password.

Do you have a mobile app?
Yes, we do. Available for IOS and Android.

What is the difference between purchasing an individual training plan, packet of plans or an Athlete’s Subscription?

  • Plan – Like purchasing the DVD of the first Star Wars movie. You own it forever, including any updates we make to the plan.
  • Packet – Like purchasing the DVD’s of all the Star Wars movies. You own them forever, including any updates we make to the plans.
  • Athlete’s Subscription – Like subscribing to Netflix. You get access to all 200+ plan in our library, but lose access if you unsubscribe.

If I purchase an Athletes Subscription Can I cancel on my own, anytime?

Do I have to contact MTI to cancel or can I do it myself?
You can do it yourself. Instructions HERE.

If I purchase a subscription and have questions about where to start or what plans(s) to use for my goals, will you help?
Yes. We answer dozens of training questions from athletes weekly. Email

If you add new plans or update existing plans after I subscribe will I have access to them?
Yes. We are continuously adding training plans and packets (2-5/month) and updating plans. With your subscription you’ll have access to all new plans, new courses and plan updates.

What Equipment is Required?
Click the “Required Equipment” tab to find out what equipment is required for the specific plan you are interested in.

Where do I find unfamiliar exercises?
See our Exercise Library HERE. The Run and Ruck Calculators are listed as exercises.

What about nutrition?
See our Nutritional Guidelines HERE.

Can I see sample training?
Click the “Sample Training” tab to see the entire first week of programming.
You are encouraged to do it before purchasing.

What if I have more questions?


Love your training plans. I used to the PreSeason backpacker and Big Mtn V2 for training for this years hiking season in the PNW (I live in Vancouver, BC). I was in great shape for hiking in our area - day hikes and multi-night trips. I also cruised through a 7 day hiking trip in the Canadian Rockies. At 43, and with sedentary work, I was in the best shape I have ever been for carrying heavy weights in my pack overs trails with elevation gain and long distances. Many thanks to you and your team. - M


Also , just wanted to let you know how great your big mtn program was.   I trained with it the past 10 weeks and made a successful summit of mt rainier two weeks ago in 60 mph winds.   The program had me in excellent shape for that mountain all while living here at sea level

  • J



The dust has settled after another season in the high mountains of Peru. I used the Big Mtn plan and the bodyweight plan for 4 months prior to prep. It was technical climbing at altitude. My work schedule often prevents gym access, so I used the bodyweight plan to supplement when I couldn't get to the gym.

I've never felt stronger in the mountains. My regular climbing partner even remarked that he'd never seen me that fit. The only thing I can think of was paying closer attention to my diet that was different than last time I did the Big Mtn. Anyway, thought I'd pass along the kudos. I ripped it this year.

Looking forward to ice season now.


- C


Finished your program and summited mount Rainier with ease.  Great program!

This past weekend I was able to successfully summit Mount Rainier (my first attempt on any mountain). I used your Big Mountain Training Plan to physically prepare myself. It was a crucial and very effective part of my preparation. Thanks again for putting together a simple and effective training plan.Below is some feedback on the program and how it related to my experience if you're interested:

I feel the plan met all 3 stated goals. My legs felt strong for the duration of the climb and descent. I barely noticed the weight of my pack at any point. During and after the climb I remained injury free. My quads and hamstring are a bit sore but nothing to complain about. Success on all fronts there.

Other feedback/thoughts

  • step-ups, leg blasters and SBGU are a brutal combination that I simultaneously hate & love

  • the first full leg blaster (session 26) destroyed my quads

  • hundreds of step-ups not only built leg stamina but mental stamina. The time it took to do 1000x step-ups seemed like hours. Whereas climbing thousands of feet flew by in minutes (at times)

  • I am curious about what effect, if any, there would be in varying the height of the step-ups in the program. Sometimes you'd do step-ups at the normal height (16"-20") but other times do stepup at a lower height (maybe 10"-14"). The vast majority of my steps on the mountain were not nearly as high as the steps on the stepups.

Not a ton of feedback. This plan felt really dialed in for what I needed. Thank you.


In preparation for climbing/skiing a technical line on Aconcagua I thought I would try something new for preparation and used your Big Mountain Training Program.  While I did supplement the program with long runs (9-14 miles) 4-5 days a week and big weekend outings here in Breckenridge there is no doubt that the program had me in the best climbing shape of my life.  All of my mountaineering/skiing/climbing partners have all commented on how much stronger I am.  At no point during the entire 2-weeks on the mountain did I feel strength was ever a limiting factor.

I completely plan on continuing to utilize the workouts going forward and will use the full program again when it's time to get ready for the next big climb.



I recently completed your Big Mountain Training Plan. I trained with the plan in preparation for an international climbing expedition to the Tien Shan Mountains in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. Our goal was to do an attempt on a 7,000m peak called Khan Tengri.

The training plan was an enormous help! Throughout the climb my legs felt strong and well conditioned. The tough mental programing I developed while training allowed me to function confidently, physically and mentally, in hard times such as while climbing in inclement weather. The Tien Shan turned out to be a highly unstable mountain range. Our 4 person team acclimatized well and took advantage of several good weather windows. We were able to summit a 6,090m peak but were unable to summit the Khan due to very bad weather. In any case it was an amazing learning experience. I am totally pumped on your training plans. Thanks again!!


Hi Rob,

I recently finished up the Big Mountain program and I wanted to thank you for making me strong again.  I do mountaineering and search and rescue and I am much more effective now confidence wise and physically as well.  I tell everyone on my SAR team about your gym and I consider it "my gym" even though I'm in New Mexico.


I am employed with the Canadian Forces and am in the sand box right now and have completed your 12 week Big Mountain Training Program. I have been able to give it my full attention, well made time for it and have never been this fit, flexible or satisfied. I have been traing conventionally for 10 years now, along with 1/2 marathons and work up training for two deployments in nine years.



Bought the Big Mountain Training Program last year and it changed my fitness and climbing forever. It fixed weaknesses I had in my body for many years from injury or neglect and made me a more complete and better athlete.

- M.

Hey Rob -

On Friday - I'll complete the 10 week Big Mountain program. I leave for Denali next week.

Thanks for putting together a program like this. It's totally worth every penny. I feel more prepared physically now then any climb I've done before. I also feel really mentally prepared. It took something to complete every workout as it's written. I loved the program and will recommend it to all of my fellow climbing friends. I can't wait to see how all of my hard work will pay off over the coming weeks.

- A.

Rob -

I wanted to say that your program is awesome. I honestly can say my legs have never felt this strong before. I am a month and a half out from leaving for Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan for a climbing expedition. Your program has helped me to acquire a good deal of confidence. Thanks again for everything!

- N.


I just got back from climbing 2 volcano peaks 18.4K and 17.1K in Mexico this week and the Big Mountain programming worked great,  2nd time I've used it and it really translates well to the outdoors.

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