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Train for Elevation Gain

Climbing the 48 4,000 footers of the White Mountains in New Hampshire is an incredible achievement and worthy challenge. Some people bang them out in one summer, whereas others take years to complete them. Whether you are seeking to finish the 4,000 footers in one season or over a period of months and years, some training is needed to make sure you do not hurt yourself and know what to expect physically. This post does not cover the preparation you need to consider for the various types of weather as that deserves its own entry (or several).

Congratulations if you’re reading this from Boston; you’re surrounded by multiple hiking opportunities that will build up your endurance, navigation capabilities, and appreciation for elevation gain.

What’s the difference between regular elevation and elevation gain?

Take Blue Hills Reservation for example: the highest point (elevation) at the park is only 635 feet, but throughout hiking the Skyline Trail, there is an elevation gain of 2,542 feet, meaning at the end of 12.7 miles, you will have climbed 2,542 feet in elevation (although the highest point is only 635 feet).

Compare that elevation gain to the White Dot White X loop at Mount Monadnock. Over a much smaller distance of 3.8 miles the gain is 1,771 ft.

Test question: Which park will have steeper inclines?

Answer: Mount Monadnock has the steeper elevation gain because over a much shorter distance (compare 3.8 miles to 12.7 miles of Blue Hills) hiking requires more climbing. Training properly for the White Mountains requires an appreciation for this elevation gain difference, as trying to summit Mount Madison and Adams involves 5,000 feet in elevation gain even though the route is only 10 miles (still less than Blue Hills in length of miles).

Now that you have some appreciation for what elevation gain is and how important it is to prepare for it when attempting to hike the White Mountains, here are a list of hikes with lower elevation gain but longer distances. Doing these hikes will help you build your overall strength and endurance, which is crucial when talking hikes with more extreme levels of elevation gain.

Middlesex Fells

Skyline Trail: 7.9 miles, 846 elevation gain

Blue Hills

Skyline Trail: 12.7 miles, 2,542 ft elevation gain

Mount Monadnock

White X White Dot: 3.8 miles, 1,771 ft elevation gain

Pompelly Trail: 8.3 miles, 2001 ft, elevation gain

If you can do the above, you will be well prepared for a successful White Mountain 48 4,000 footer challenge! Start with Mount Tecumseh, and work your way from there!

What if you can’t make it out to a reservation? If you can’t head to the park, try the stair stepper at the gym and wear a fully-packed backpack if given permission. This will continue to build strength in your lower back and legs to supplement your real-world hiking. Read our article about training for hiking here for more suggestions and details you can use in the city to help prepare you for the great outdoors!

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