Climb faster – by stopping less


Mountain trivia question:  Most Pacific NW climbers know the vertical gain from Timberline Lodge to the top of Mt. Hood is about 5,000 feet.  But how far is the linear distance from Timberline Lodge to the summit of Mt. Hood? Answer: about 3 miles – a lot less than most people think.  “So”, you may reason, “even if I walk at the slow pace of 1 mph, I should be able to climb Hood in 3 hours.” If that’s even close to being true, why do many parties take upwards of 6-7 hours to reach the summit?

The answer lies largely in how often you stop.  For most moderate snow ascents such as Hood, speeding up the “climb time” is much more a matter of minimizing breaks than it is actually walking faster.  It’s simple - avoid time spent standing still. On a moderately paced climb, a fit climber should not really need to take breaks of more than 10 minutes. The constant two and three minute stops to adjust clothes and get a bite to eat can really add up to hours at the end of the day – especially if everyone on your team is doing them at different times!  Here’s some tips to better organize your gear, clothes, food and pockets to shave time off your next climb.

Remember:  keep often used items in pockets you can access while on the move, not in your pack.

  • Consider an add-on front pocket for your pack, like the Marmot Dry Rib.  It’s a very handy place to store often-used goodies like sunscreen, GPS, map, gloves, hat, snacks, small water bottle, etc.
  • While the main food bag and larger water bottles can stay in your pack, keep snacks and a small water bottle in pockets or clipped to easily eat on the go.
  • Keep gloves and hat in pockets, not in your pack, to more easily regulate your temperature.
  • Have a versatile layering system with lots of venting zippers to minimize clothing breaks.
  • Don’t use an ice axe leash.  Use a lanyard instead, clipped to your harness – so you can change hands quickly when switchbacking uphill.
  • Be competent in all the rope skills (clipping through protection, for example) needed for the climb.
  • In a larger party, agree to take a fixed break at a fixed time, such as a 3 minute break every 20 minutes.  If you need something from your pack, wait until the entire group takes a pause together.