The Alpinist Fitness Assessment

Put a number on your mountain skills

Alpine climbs contain a diverse range of fitness demands, you gotta push it in the gym to push it on the mountains. (Bojan Mitrovic/iStock)

Last November, I began working with two groups of alpinists training for objectives in Patagonia and the Himalaya. 

I designed “event-specific” training plans for each, including initial assessments, and this started me thinking about what a general “Alpinist Fitness Assessment” would look like.

By “alpinist” I’m speaking here in terms of an athlete who climbs high, glaciated peaks—think the Alps, Canadian Rockies, and Tetons. 

Alpine climbs contain a diverse range of fitness demands—mode-specific endurance for uphill hiking under load, upper, lower and core strength, climbing-specific fitness and proficiency, work capacity for short, intense, events, and stamina for long pushes and long days.

This past spring I designed the “Alpinist Fitness Assessment” (AFA) as a way to measure these fitness attributes in one setting. 

As originally designed, the AFA takes 3.5 to 5 hours to complete.

Below is a shorter version, which can be completed by most athletes in 2 hours. And in case you’re interested in trying the full version, I've included that below as well. 

Required Equipment:

  • Measured 25-meter area for shuttles
  • Pull up Bar
  • Dip Station
  • 17-inch box or step for step ups
  • 18-kilogram pack for step ups
  • GPS watch for measuring distance and time, and or a known 5-kilometer running course and stopwatch to time final run

Alpinist Fitness Assessment, Short Version

Warm Up:

  • 3 Rounds
  • 25x Step ups (unloaded)
  • 10x Push ups
  • 3/5x Pull ups
  • 10x Situps
  • Instep Stretch
  • Lat + Pec Stretch

Assessment:

  1. Max Rep Bodyweight Bar Dips: Bodyweight bar dips test upper body pushing strength. Rest 3 minutes.
  2. 20 Minute Step-Ups: using a 17-inch box and a 40-pound pack, for total reps (as many as possible in the time-frame). These will test lower body strength, and uphill hiking fitness and endurance. Rest 5 minutes.
  3. Max Rep Bodyweight Pull-UpsBodyweight pull-ups test upper pulling strength. Rest 3 minutes.
  4. 300 Meter Shuttle, for Time: A test of anaerobic power. Rest 10 minutes.
  5. Bouldering V-Sum: 30-minute time limit, top five routes count toward your score. A test of climbing proficiency and fitness. Rest 10 to 15 minutes.
  6. Run 5 Kilometers for Time: This will make you finish with a test of your aerobic base, endurance, stamina and mental fitness.

How to Score:

  1. Step Ups (30 points possible)

    Total Reps               Score
    550+                                30
    525-550                           27
    500-524                          24
    475-499                          21
    450-474                          18
    425-449                          15
    400-424                          12
    375-399                            9
    350-374                            6
    325-349                            3
    300-324                           0
     
  2. Dips – Each rep counts as .5 point
  3. Pull-Ups – Each rep counts as .5 point
  4. 300m Shuttle

    Finish Time (sec)         Score
    < 60                                         30
    60.1-62                                    27
    62.1-64                                    24
    64.1-66                                    21
    66.1-68                                    18
    68.0-70                                   15
    70.1-72                                    12
    72.1-74                                     9
    74.1-76                                     6
    76.1-78                                     3
    78+                                           0
     
  5. Bouldering V-Sum: After a 5 minute traverse warm up, you have 30 minutes to attain as many V-Sum points as possible. Climb at least 5x bouldering routes, and only the top 5 routes count toward the score. For example, an athletes climbs the follow-ing routes in the 30 minute time limit:

    V4
    V3
    V4
    V2
    V1
    V1
    V4
    V3

    His V-Sum would be the sum of the V-score for the top 5 routes he climbed: V4+V4+V4+V3+V3 = Final V-Sum of 18.
     
  6. Run 5 Kilometers for Time (30 points possible)

    Finish Time (hr:min:sec)          Score
    < 18:38                                                     30
    20:11-18:38                                             27
    21:44-20:12                                             24
    23:18-21:45                                             21
    24:51-23:19                                             18
    26:24-24:52                                            15
    27:57-26:25                                             12
    29:30-27:58                                             9
    31:04-29:31                                              6
    31:04+                                                       0

Here’s an example of how to score the assessment:

Dips: 15 reps = 7.5 points
Step-ups: 455 reps = 18 points
Pull-ups: 21 reps = 10.5 points
300m shuttle: 65 sec = 21 points
Bouldering V-sum: 11 = 11 points
5 km run finish time: 23:22 = 18 points

Total = 86 Points

Scoring Standards:

For Male Athletes
60 is a poor score
95 is a good score
130 is a great score

For Female Athletes
40 is a poor score
70 is a good score
100 is great score

Alpinist Fitness Assessment, Long Version

Warm Up:

3 Rounds
25x Step ups (unloaded)
10x Push ups
3/5x Pull ups
10x Situps
Instep Stretch
Lat + Pec Stretch

Assessment:

  1. Max Rep Bodyweight Bar Dips: Rest 3 minutes.
  2. 40 Minute Step Ups with 40-pound pack for total reps. Rest 10 minutes.
  3. Max Rep Bodyweight Pull ups: Rest 3 minutes.
  4. 300 Meter Shuttle, for Time: (12x 25m). Rest 10 minutes.
  5. Bouldering V-Sum: Rest 10 to 15 minutes.
  6. Run 15 Kilometers for Time

How to Score:

  1. Step Ups (30 points possible)

    Total Reps               Score
    1100+                              30
    1050-1099                      27
    1000-1049                      24
    950-999                          21
    900-949                          18
    850-899                          15
    800-849                          12
    750-799                            9
    790-749                            6
    650-699                            3
    600-649                           0
     
  2. Dips – Each rep counts as .5 point
  3. Pull ups – Each rep counts as .5 point
  4. 300m Shuttle

    Finish Time (sec)          Score
    < 60                                          30
    60.1-62                                     27
    62.1-64                                     24
    64.1-66                                     21
    66.1-68                                     18
    68.0-70                                    15
    70.1-72                                     12
    72.1-74                                      9
    74.1-76                                      6
    76.1-78                                      3
    78+                                            0
     
  5. Bouldering V-Sum (click here for explanation) Final score = points
  6. Run 15 Kilometers for Time (30 points possible) 

    Finish Time (hr:min:sec)          Score
    < 1:05:00                                                 30
    1:05:01-1:08:00                                     27
    1:08:01-1:11:00                                      24
    1:11:01-1:14:00                                       21
    1:14:01-1:17:00                                       18
    1:18:01-1:21:00                                       15
    1:21:01-1:24:00                                      12
    1:24:01-1:27:00                                       9
    1:27:01-1:30:00                                       6
    1:30:01-1:33:00                                       3
    1:33:01 +                                                   0

Scoring Standards:

For Male Athletes
70 is a poor score
105 is a good score
140 is a great score

For Female Athletes
50 is a poor score
80 is a good score
110 is great score

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