Mountaineering Climbing Pace

Beginners often make one of two mistakes: they walk faster than they should, or they walk slower than they could.

The most common mistake is walking too fast, perhaps out of concern for the long miles ahead or from a desire to perform well in front of com panions. But why wear yourself out on the first mile of a 10-mile hike if the whole day happens to be available for the walk? Take your time and enjoy it.

A simple test will reveal if your pace is too fast. If you cannot sustain it hour after hour, you're going too fast.

The other mistake is hiking too slowly. Your body complains long before it is hurt. Your muscles may ache but still have 10 miles left in them; your lungs may gasp but be able to go on gasping another 3 hours. A degree of suffering is inevitable on the way to becoming a good walker.

The most desirable hiking speed varies during a day. Get ready for a hike by stretching your legs, hips, back, and shoulders. Walk slowly at the start, letting the body become aware of the demands to come. Then start striding out, using will power to get through this period of increasing work until the body experiences its "second wind."

Physiologically, this means the heart has stepped up its beat, the blood is circulating more rapidly, the muscles have loosened. Psychologically, the hiker feels happy and strong.

Vary your pace depending on the trail. Plod slowly and methodically up steep hills; as the grade lessens, pick up the tempo. Your pace will slow late in the day as fatigue sets in. Adrenaline may fuel short bursts of exertion, but there is no "third wind."

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