The Cascades sure look nice in the horizon on a sunny day, but getting to the top is no walk in the park. If you’re serious about summiting a glacial peak for the first time this summer, take the time to heed the advice of Steven Salta.
"I wanted to climb Mount Hood since I was a kid. It was always the mountain in the background, like you could almost reach out and touch it," says Steven Salta, who grew up in Portland and now resides here on the Eastside.
"I always thought I’d do it when I was in high school or college," he says. "But, it took me a lot longer than that."
By the time Salta was ready to summit the mountain just last summer, he wasn’t exactly in alpine condition. "I thought, 'If I’m going to climb this mountain, I might need to get in better shape.'" With only a few months to prepare, Salta enlisted the help of Bellevue Club trainer Christin Tercek. After a lot of hard work, Salta made it up the mountain and back. He brought with him these lessons for all those beginners who think they have summit fever:
The Training Regimen
"I did 45 minutes of strength training three times a week with Christin. We did mostly free weights, lower body machine work, and lots of core," Salta says. At Tercek’s direction, he followed that up with 45 minutes of cardiovascular training on a treadmill or stair climber. Another large component of his training was consistent weekend hikes. "Every weekend I’d climb Tiger Mountain, Mount Si or anything with a few thousand feet of elevation gain. Rattlesnake Ridge is also excellent training." He trained for two months prior to the climb.
Lesson Learned: "Two months was good; three would have been perfect," Salta says. Both Tercek and Salta agree that adventurers should train for at least three to four months prior to any serious hike.
The Moral Support
Salta says beginners should never consider summiting a mountain without a professional guide. He says going with a trusted friend also helps with morale. "My business partner is a much more serious climber, and having someone to go with was really great. The best advice he gave was, 'It’s not altitude; it’s attitude.'" Salta admitted that while the trip was definitely the most physically challenging thing he has ever done, his partner was right and much of the challenge boiled down to mental toughness.
Lesson Learned: "I used a lot of positive self-talk. I told myself, 'I can do this. I can keep going.' There was a point about 1,000 feet from the summit I made a psychological switch to, 'I will do this, or I will collapse trying.' And it actually got easier after that."
The Cascade Hierarchy
One of the main reasons Salta chose to climb Mount Hood for his first summit trip was because it overlooks his hometown, but the trip is also known worldwide for it’s accessibility to novice climbers. Salta says it’s especially perfect for beginners because you can summit and return in one day, about nine hours, whereas mountains such as Adams and Rainier take at least two or three days.
Lesson Learned: Climbing mountains can be addictive. Salta is now considering summiting Mount Adams, although he’s not ready to tackle Rainier just yet. "That’s when you get into more oxygen issues."
The five highest (and most often summited) peaks in the Cascade Mountain Range:
Mount Rainier: 14,410 feet
Mount Shasta: 14,180 feet
Mount Adams: 12,280 feet
Mount Hood: 11,250 feet
Mount Baker: 10,781 feet
3 Tips for Summiting
from Bellevue Club trainer Christin Tercek
"Don’t ignore your core. It is important to strengthen your core because it will keep you balanced."
"You have to get your cardio stamina up, especially when you’re going to high elevation. The stair climber is the closest thing you can get to a mountain, and that’s good, but you really need to get out into the actual mountains before attempting a climb like that."
"Put a backpack on with weight during weekend hikes and cardio training. You need to experience the feeling of a heavy backpack. It is much better than a weight vest because it will simulate the exact experience."
➸ For more information about summiting Mount Hood, visit timberlinemtguides.com. For more information on how to train with Christin or another BC trainer, please pick up a Meet the Trainers brochure.