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I'm from Munich, Germany. There is a German highest mountain Zugspitze (2.962m) close to the city (2 hours with a train), and I want to climb it in spring. Base camp is 700m high.

There are a couple of possible ways to hike there. Each takes from 8 to 10 hours and has from 8 to 21 km. I prefer the 21km road, because its the easiest one and starts from train station in the city under the mountain.

About me: 20 years old, fit, BMI 22-23, have done swimming for 2 years, now do gym 3 times a week. I also can run, 5 km with 5-6 pace, larger distances are boring for me. Now I quit running to gain some weight. I'm also a skier, have been skiing in Tirol, Austria, pretty high 2200-3400m altitude, so I can imagine what it's like.

Since I'm not much into hiking, have done it a couple of times as I was a kid, how can I prepare my body for such a hike? I suppose I need some kind of endurance training and do more leg days in a gym.

To mention, I have suitable gear, such as hiking boots (Haix P9), and baselayers and backpack.

I'll appreciate any helpful advice or strategy.

Suggested below answer What are some proven methods of training for week long backpacking trips at high altitude? has more information about acclimatisation and long trips. But was useful in general.

I also found the information about altitude sickness in this one: Altitude sickness when going from sea level to 14,000 ft (4,200m) in a single day.

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    Please remember that nothing we say substitutes for medical advice. Everyone's body is different, and responds to various types of training and acclimatization in different ways. Just because something has worked for others, doesn't mean it's safe for you, and vice versa. Please check with your doctor if you have concerns, or before taking on a big hike you've never done before. People here have a lot of experience, and are happy to share it. We just want you to be safe. – Sue Saddest Farewell TGO GL Mar 16 '18 at 20:14
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    @Liam Under 3,000m is not what most alpinists would consider "high altitude". – ShemSeger Mar 16 '18 at 20:47
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    Possible duplicate of Strengthening exercises for a backpacking trip? – Benedikt Bauer Mar 17 '18 at 20:45
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    Even although the summit is not really "high altitude", 2200 meters of elevation gain and several hours of ascent is nothing to take easy, even for a fit person. Climbing a mountain is also not just an elongated sports challenge but you are moving in potentially dangerous terrain, can be subject to quickly changing weather. Also, if you get too exhausted, you can't just go home or stay where you are until you have recovered. If you don't have mountain experience please start with way shorter and easier tours and get some experienced companion for the tour. – Benedikt Bauer Mar 17 '18 at 20:49
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All other answers here are good, and you for sure can prepare for the hike somewhat by running/cycling, or just go unprepared and push through it somehow. But have you considered building up your condition for a hard hike by simply doing shorter hikes?

As you have mentioned, you live in Munich, so there should be no lack of smaller mountains within 1-2 hours reach. And while there is snow at higher altitudes, you can surelly find short hikes that start low enough. Or you can also look into winter hiking/snowshoeing routes. In any case, there is snow on Zugspitze probably till late June or even early July. You still have lots of time to prepare.

Or do you really want to do the hike in spring? I do not have much knowledge about this specific mountain, but a hike to the top in spring should be somewhere in between impossible/dangerous and difficult/requiring specific knowledge and equipment. There will for sure still be snow in spring, and avalanches will be a threat whichever path you choose. You can find some information in German about the recommended hiking months. From the looks of it, August seems to be the best month, while end of June till September should also be fine. And some of the easier paths (Reintal, Gatterl) could be sometimes doable in May. It all varies from year to year though. This winter was fairly snowy in the Alps, so I expect the hiking season might very well be delayed.

  • Yea, it is snowing even now in this area. May/June will be optimistic. I took your advice into consideration, thanks. I wil also look for smaller hikes. It would be nice if I will find a company to hike with them. – Deutche Knabe Mar 19 '18 at 14:40
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The mountain you're planning to hike is similar in size to the mountains I climb in the Canadian Rockies. I grew up climbing mountains, but I've never been one for training, especially running. If I was you I'd just go climb the mountain.

When I was in University I led a group of guys on a multi-day backpacking trip in the mountains near where I grew up, I was nervous because I knew a couple of them were runners and spent a lot of time jogging each day; I doubted my fitness in comparison. On the hike it became apparent that I was the strongest hiker carrying a big bag, the reason being that out of everyone in the group, I had spent my youth carrying big bags on long hikes. The others were athletic, but had trained their bodies to perform during different activities.

That being said, on another occasion when I took a group of boys out backpacking there was one 17 year old boy who had never carried a bag in his life, but was heavily involved in team sports. He stormed the trail like nothing could slow him down leaving everyone else in his dust, and did it without breaking a sweat. To add insult to injury he did it wearing an old pair of gym sneakers.

If you're reasonably fit, and have a good pair of footwear, then I'd say you're adequately prepared to take that hike on. The only thing you'll need to learn is how to pace yourself. If you don't know how to pace yourself, you'll figure out your pace after about an hour of hard hiking when you're exhausted.

What would serve you better than physical training, is practical knowledge. Learn some basic mountain safety and first aid. Those skills will serve you better in the mountains than how many leg days you do in a week.

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    In my experience, that strategy worked well for me in my 20's, but be warned, it becomes less effective as you get older :) – user5330 Mar 16 '18 at 22:56
  • @mattnz I fear your warning may be too late for me, but the OP is just 20, so he may benefit. – ShemSeger Mar 17 '18 at 2:30
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    I've had similar experiences. I've met swimmers, long distance runners who struggle on multi-day hikes. Running can improve your aerobic abilities. But the overall skillset for a hike is different than running. – Ricketyship Mar 19 '18 at 5:55
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The question here is not if you will be able to climb the mount or not. You will climb it for sure. The question is how comfortable the climbing will be? Will you be able to see a beauty of the mountains or during your climb you will be suffering and sweating?

Good indication that you are ready and you will be comfortable on the route is that you are able to run 10km in less then 50min.

If you don't like running you can ride a bike. You can go to swimming pool once or twice a week. Another good thing is sauna.

So as more sport you do as more comfortable you will be on the route.

  • I'm not sure running is a good measure (it is good fitness training). I can hike up mountains all day, or cycle a hilly 200km in under 12 hours, but even when I ran 10km 3 times a week, 55 minutes was the limit. Its different. And what benefit is a sauna supposed to have? – Chris H Mar 19 '18 at 12:54
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    It would be great if you can suggest better measure. With running if someone able to run 10 km in 50 min then I can say with big probability that this person would not have a problem on the route. For your case: if you are running 3x a week and can't reach 10\50 then maybe you are doing something wrong(maybe you are running to much or to less) or you are old. Maybe you are doing another physical activities and you are to tired for running. Regarding sauna - it's just another type of training. It's not substitution of running\cycling\swimming it's additional. – user1209304 Mar 19 '18 at 14:21
  • I think sauna is great for the circulatory system and body in general. Running 10K with pace 5 and afster is new for me, i'll try it out. – Deutche Knabe Mar 19 '18 at 14:33
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    Well I am nearly 40! But for me running is a substitute for more enjoyable forms of exercise so maybe my heart wasn't in it. Also being able to sustain one power level all day is very different to being able to sustain a significantly higher power level for an hour. Saunas are nice but they don't get you fit – Chris H Mar 19 '18 at 14:37
  • @ChrisH i agree, be able to be under load all day long is crucial – Deutche Knabe Mar 19 '18 at 14:45

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