Blog: More Than A Summit

First Aid Kits

May 18th, 2018

When planning any outdoor adventure, a first aid kit is often considered one of the ten essentials. However, many people make the mistake of purchasing a first aid kit already stocked, stuffing it in the brain of their pack, and then never opening it. Many will also think that not having to use a first aid kit is a good sign – that means nobody got hurt! Yet, a first aid kit can and should be utilized regularly, and therefore requires time and thought to build one to meet personal needs.

There’s nothing wrong with purchasing a first aid kit from the store shelves already stocked, but building your own will allow for more specificity of your kit. Below are some tips and tricks to help you build your own first aid kit, but the most important tool in your kit is knowledgeIf you haven't already, consider taking a wilderness medicine course in order to better protect yourself and others in emergent (and non-emergent!) situations. Prepare for the unexpected and stay safe out there!

General First Aid Guidelines

Here are some other general thoughts on first aid kits before we categorize specific items you may wish to carry:

  • Specificity: Match the items in your kit to the trip needs. A rock climbing trip kit will look different than a ski mountaineering or day hike kit. Consider the terrain/conditions in which you’ll travel (snow vs. greenery), number of people you’re supplying (personal vs. group), and duration of the trip (single vs. multi-day). Though it’s hard to predict what may happen in the backcountry, the trip plan gives us valuable information on what we should be prepared for. For example, carrying altitude medication wouldn’t be helpful when climbing Mt. Si.
  • Restocking: It’s important to restock your first aid kit before every trip. Though an ‘off the counter’ premade first aid kit can work in the beginning, we recommend keeping items in bulk for easy restock before trips. (Plus, the bags that come with a first aid kit off the counter are usually quite awesome to use for a DIY one!)
  • Familiarity: Know where important items are located within your kit, and notify others where you keep it in your pack (especially if supplying for your group). Familiarization with the items in your first aid kit is critical! Don’t carry something you don’t know how to use – your level of knowledge and medical/first aid training should be a guide in what you specifically put in the kit.

First Aid Kit Items

First aid kits should be designed to meet an individual’s knowledge and needs. The group size, trip length, location, and remoteness of the trip will also shape what’s needed, but we will dive into this next. Of course, this complicates the process because there is not a ‘one size fits all’ model for first aid kits. Below is a list of first aid kit items based on the types of supplies:

The Vessel

Choosing how you carry your first aid kit items will depend on preference and the trip. If traveling somewhere with plenty of water (so, anywhere in the Pacific Northwest!), make sure your kit is waterproof. You may consider packing in waterproof zip-top bags, dry bags, or even dry cases if water is a more serious concern (i.e. pack rafting trip). Also think about weight and organization. Do you want a nylon clamshell with organized pouches and see-through dividers (so much room for organization! How fun!), or do you prefer a military-grade pouch? Use what works best for you and the way you travel in the backcountry.


Athletic tape is one of the most frequently used first aid items for injuries and non-injuries. It can be used for wound care, bracing for sprains/strains, and more! Everyone should have a roll of it in their kit.

  • Athletic tape, 1”
Bandaging Materials

Minor cuts and lacerations are one of the most common injuries in the outdoors. Keeping the injury clean to avoid infection, and having materials to manage bleeding are critical.

Wound Care
Blister Care

Unfortunately, blisters happen. If you’re prone to blisters, it’s a good idea to use some materials for prevention on ‘hot spots’ where you’ve gotten a blister in the past. Also bring materials for if unforeseen blisters pop up.

  • 2nd Skin: can also be used for burns (these blister pads are also awesome)
  • Moleskin
  • Foam relief pads
  • Whatever works for you! Note that duct tape is not recommended on open blisters.
Musculoskeletal Injuries

Sprains, strains, and muscular injuries are very common in the backcountry. Additionally, splinting materials may be required for more serious injuries such as fractures.

  • Cravat/triangular bandage: makes a perfect arm sling, and are multi-functional
  • Kinesiotape
  • ACE wrap
  • Elastic bandage with Velcro closure
  • SAM splint 

Often called the ABC’s in emergency response, these are materials for urgent conditions that involve: Airway, Breathing, Circulation.

  • Gloves: non-latex, Nitrile protective gloves
  • CPR rescue mask or breathing barrier
  • Tampons without applicator: perfect for nose bleeds, and better than Q-tips
  • Israeli emergency bandage: for arterial bleeds
  • Tourniquet: if bleeding cannot be controlled (I like the one in this link because it has a spot to write the time it was placed!)
  • Stethoscope and Blood Pressure Cuff: for lung sounds and blood pressure, which can be more information than needed, but helpful in diagnostics 

Make sure all medications are clearly labeled. It is not advised to mix medications in a container because of confusion with different pill colors/shapes, and medication allergies. Small pill bottles are light and can’t be misinterpreted.

  • Personal prescription medications (i.e. asthma inhaler)
  • Tylenol/Acetaminophen (500mg tablets)
  • Ibuprofen/Advil (200mg tablets)
  • Aspirin (325mg)
  • Epi Pen: personal, or if you’re trained to carry one, you can ask your PCP
  • Stool softener
  • Anti-diarrheal
  • Eye drops
  • Antacid/Tums
  • Oral glucose gel: honey packets work great
  • Hydrocortisone: topical corticosteroid
  • Antiemetic: for nausea, vomiting, motion sickness
  • Antihistamine: such as Benadryl for allergic reactions
  • Diphenhydramine hydrochloride/Claritin
  • Azithromycin/Z-pack: for bacterial infections; requires PCP prescription/rx
  • Dexamethasone (2mg tablets): to treat active altitude sickness; requires rx
  • Acetazolamide/Diamox (250mg tablets): when traveling to altitude; requires rx
  • Trauma/EMT shears
  • Tweezers: get a good pair that are sharp and pointy!
  • Knife
  • Thermometer
  • Hypothermia thermometer (if traveling in cold climates)
Personal Care Items

The following emergency essentials may be carried separately from a first aid kit, but are important for most trips.

  • Lighter
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Insect repellent (depending on time of year)
  • Sunscreen
  • Lip sunscreen/lip balm
  • Knife
  • Baby wipes
  • Body powder: can save you from trench foot and chaffing
  • Toilet paper
Emergency Items
  • Gear repair kits (i.e. sleeping pad repair, tent pole repair)
  • Duct tape
  • Tenacious tape
  • Paracord
  • Space blanket/emergency blanket
  • Spare batteries: AA and/or AAA based on what batteries are required
  • Cell phone or satellite radio 
  • Paper and pencil
  • Information booklet on First Aid
  • Prescription drug information
  • Verbal SOAP note reference (for a radio report/calling for help – see below)

First Aid Kit Organization

Packing your first aid kit requires thought in effort to protect valuable equipment and make access to emergency items fast and easy. A list of contents of the pack should be outlined somewhere in your first aid kit (with the items’ intended uses). All items should be clearly labeled and divided into appropriate subsections. You can organize your kit based on the types of supplies (as outlined above) or urgency. If choosing to organize based on urgency, use the three stages of emergency response as your guide:

  1. Stage One is stabilization of ABCD. A problem with Airway, Breathing, Circulation, or “Da Brain” must be addressed and stabilized before intervening with other conditions. Stage One includes items such as a CPR mask, Epi Pen, and emergency bandage.
  2. Stage Two is diagnostics for less urgent conditions. This includes a stethoscope, BP cuff, thermometer, notebook/pencil, trauma shears, thermometer, etc.
  3. Stage Three is intervention for the less urgent conditions. Once ABCD has been stabilized (or is being properly monitored), responders can put attention to other problems requiring intervention.

Sample Personal First Aid Kit

For a one-person first aid kit, the following contents should be comprehensive enough to deal with most emergent conditions. Click on each title below to see recommended items for a personal single and multi-day trip first aid kit.

  • 1 roll Athletic tape
  • 8-10 Adhesive bandages (varied shapes/sizes)
  • 1 ACE bandage
  • 2 4x4 gauze pads
  • 2 2x2 gauze pads
  • 1 Roller gauze
  • Blister care
  • Alcohol/Iodine swabs
  • Tylenol/Ibuprofen
  • Nitrile gloves (optional)
  • CPR mask/breathing barrier
  • Tweezers
  • Personal items: sunscreen, hand sanitizer, bug spray, knife, prescription medications

ADD the following items to the single-day list:

  • More wound dressings
  • More blister care
  • More ACE wraps (2)
  • Irrigating syringe
  • Topical antibiotic
  • Steri-Strips
  • Tincture of benzoin
  • Trauma shears
  • Triangular bandage
  • Anti-diarrheal medication
  • Antiemetic medication
  • Claritin and Benadryl
  • Antacid medication
  • Thermometer
  • Appropriate personal and emergency items (depending on trip plan/location)

 Peaks of Life First Aid Kit


Peaks of Life takes first aid and safety seriously. In higher altitude terrain and more remote locations, there is potential for longer term care. Additionally, preventative care is important, especially during longer expeditions. On every climb this year, we will carry a variety of first aid kits: smaller kits for rope leads, and one "guide" kit for the trip leader. Below is our list of materials we'll be carrying to ensure safety of trip leaders and our climbers. Please note that we still encourage our climbers to bring their own first aid kits to ensure all personal needs are met! The bolded items below will ONLY be in the trip leaders' first aid kit.

1 3M Littmann Lightweight II S.E. Stethoscope, Black
1 Economy Blood Pressure Cuff, Adult
1 Pulse Oximeter
1 Trauma Shears
1 Plain Splinter Forceps, Straight, Pointed Tip, 3.5"
1 Precision Xtra Blood Glucose & Ketone Meter
10 Lancets
1 Precision Xtra Blood Glucose & Ketone Strips, BX/50
1 Ammex Nitrile Gloves, Small, PR/2
2 Ammex Nitrile Gloves, Medium, PR/2
2 Ammex Nitrile Gloves, Large, PR/2
1 Ammex Nitrile Gloves, X-Large, PR/2
2 Biohazard Bag 10 Gallon
1 Purell Hand Sanitizer, w/ Aloe, 2oz
2 Triangular Bandage, 36"x36"x51"
2 Medi-Pak Elastic Bandage, W/ Velcro, 4''x5yd, Latex Free
2 SAM Splint, 36", Roll, Orange/Blue
1 SAM Finger Splint, Orange/Blue
2 Emergency Blanket
1 CPR Barrier
5 E-Z Lubricating Jelly, 3g, Foil Packet, Water Soluble
1 Color Coded Guedel Airway, 50 mm, Size 0, Blue
1 Color Coded Guedel Airway, 60 mm, Size 1, Black
1 Color Coded Guedel Airway, 70 mm, Size 2, White
1 Color Coded Guedel Airway, 80 mm, Size 3, Green
1 Color Coded Guedel Airway, 90 mm, Size 4, Yellow
1 Color Coded Guedel Airway, 100 mm, Size 5, Red
1 Robertazzi Nasal Airway, 22 Fr
1 Robertazzi Nasal Airway, 26 Fr
1 Robertazzi Nasal Airway, 30 Fr
1 Robertazzi Nasal Airway, 34 Fr
2 HALO Chest Seal, PK/2
1 Combat Medic Reinforcement Duct Tape, Roll
1 Epinephrine Auto-Injector, 0.3mg, PK/2
1 Nitrostat, 0.4mg, BTL/25, Sublingual TAB
1 Ondansetron, Orally Disintegrating, 8mg, BX/10, UD TAB
1 Ventolin HFA, Metered, 90mcg, 60 Dose
1 Insta-Glucose, 31g Tube
1 Aspirin, 81mg, BT/36, Orange Flavor, CHW TAB
12 Gauze Sponge, 4"x4", PK/2, 12 Ply, Sterile
4 Abdominal Combine Pad, 5" x 9", Sterile
3 Stretch Gauze Bandage Roll 3", Sterile
1 QuikClot Combat Gauze LE, 3"x4 yds, Z-Fold
1 Israeli Emergency Bandage, 4"
1 Syringe, 60mL, Luer-Lok
1 Saf-Shield Irrigation Splash Shield
1 Double Antibiotic Ointment, 1 oz., ONT
3 Stretch Gauze Bandage Roll 3", Sterile
1 Krinkle Gauze Roll, 4.5" x 4.1yds, Sterile
1 Athletic Tape 1" x 10'
1 Adhesive Bandages, Assorted Sizes, BX/60
3 Non-Adherent Pad, Sterile, 3"x4"
2 Blist-O-Ban Blister Bandage
2 Petrolatum Gauze Strip, 3'' x 18"
2 Wound Closure Strips, .125"x3", PK/5
2 Benzoin Tincture Ampule
5 Extra Strength Acetaminophen, APAP, 500mg, UD
5 Ibuprofen, 200mg, PK/2 UD
5 Antacid Tablet, 420mg, UD TAB
5 Electrolyte Replacement, UD TAB
5 Loperamide HCl, 2mg, CAP UD
5 Meclizine HCl, 25mg, TAB UD
5 Loratadine, 10mg
5 Diphenhydramine HCl, 25mg, UD TAB
5 Phenylephrine HCl, 5mg
5 Cough Drops, Menthol Cherry, 7.6mg
1 Oxymetazoline HCI, 0.05%, 15ml, Nasal Spray
1 Lubricating Eye Drops 0.05%, 0.5oz, DRP
5 Tampon Tampax Regular Absorbency
1 Hydrocortisone Ointment 1%, 1 oz
2 Cotton tipped applicators
6 Providone Iodine
2 Knuckle bandages
20 Acetazolamide 250mg
20 Dexamethasone 2mg tablets



Knowledge is power when it comes to safety in the mountains. One of the best tools you can bring with you to the mountains is knowledge, and there are many opportunities for continuing education in first aid and emergency response. Check out your local resources for a CPR, Wilderness First Aid (WFA), Wilderness First Responder (WFR), and other remote/emergency response courses! Below are some recommended accrediting

Here’s to Climbing for More Than A Summit!

*Please note Peaks of Life does not benefit from you clicking any of the above links to purchase at REI, Amazon, or NOLS. The links are purely for your shopping convenience so you can start building your first aid kit immediately.

**Knowing your own body’s needs are imperative to maintaining safety in all situations. Please consult with your Primary Care Physician for any questions or concerns regarding your own mountain health.

***Most importantly: Stay safe out there, everyone!


Training for Mountain Goals

April 23rd, 2018

What’s that gaseous ball in the sky that blinds our eye? I’m feeling excited and I don’t know why! Oh wait, I think know the reason – it’s a glorious change in seasons!

Alas, the weather in the Pacific Northwest is starting to change! We’re beginning to see glimmers of the sun, and it’s time to dust off our sunscreen bottles. Since we all have unique mountain goals, we will all find different reasons to get outside this year. If you’re reading this article, you likely have certain objectives in mind. From summiting Rainier to alpine routes in the North Cascades, mountaineering and alpine climbing requires certain levels of knowledge and preparation to minimize our risk of injury, and maximize the chance of successful summits!

With the upcoming Spring and Summer seasons of outdoor adventures, there’s a lot to we can do to prepare our bodies for the physical and mental stresses of climbing. Training can certainly feel like a daunting task. How can we find the time in our busy life to train for our goals? What’s the optimal way to prepare for our goals? Here, we share some information to begin implementing a training program immediately! It’s time to take advantage of your motivation, tighten your boots, and start training for all your goals – big and small!

In this post, we focus on training methodology for mountaineering and alpine climbing based on the book by Steve House and Scott Johnston:  Training for the New Alpinism.

Physiology 101

Understanding basic human physiology sets the framework for training programs (and I promise to keep the nerd talk at a relative minimum here). Basically, climbing requires muscles to contract, and muscles require energy to do so. Where we get this energy from depends on the amount of power needed and duration of the activity.

Metabolism refers to the chemical process that creates energy for muscular contractions. This can be produced with oxygen (aerobic) or without oxygen (anaerobic). These two processes allow for different output of power and strength:

  • Aerobic: moderate power output, long duration
  • Anaerobic: maximum power output, short duration

Energy is delivered to muscles in the form of ATP (adenosine triphosphate), which is metabolized in the ways listed above. Our aerobic work capacity depends on the rate at which our working muscles can produce ATP, which acts as gasoline to cellular energy. Aerobically, ATP is produced via the Krebs Cycle in mitochondria. This is a slow process with high yield (38 molecules of ATP per cycle!), so the amount of power that can be produced is limited. In contrast, ATP can be produced without oxygen via glycolysis. This happens outside of the mitochondria, and a byproduct is lactate. As lactate increases, it begins leaking into the blood and overall, the body decreases pH and becomes more acidic. This is where the phrase “lactic acid” buildup comes from. This gives us short bursts of energy when higher power level is required.

Basically, our mission is to produce more power with decrease reliance on glycolysis because glycolysis unsustainable for long periods of time. We can do this by increasing ATP production aerobically via increasing mitochondrial mass, aerobic enzymes, and capillary bed density. In order to do this, the best stimulus is increasing the duration and frequency of the training load, NOT intensity. Now that we can understand that at a basic level, how do we apply these principles to training?

There's more biological reasons for the above, and if you’re interested in learning more, please refer to Training for the New Alpinism, or ask below! We will try to answer your questions to the best of our ability.

Training Principles

Okay, now that we got some terminology and fun nerdy facts out of the way, let’s crack down on training! There’s two basic types of training:

  1. General conditioning that readies you for event-specific training.
  2. Training that prepares you in a specific way for the event itself.

The “event” is the goal—be it mountaineering, alpine climbing, ski mountaineering, or rock climbing. Thus, having a specific goal in mind is necessary when developing a training program. (Need a goal to work towards? Check out Peaks of Life upcoming climbs on our event page!)

The Training Effect

Our bodies respond to whatever stress we put into it. When we apply physical stress in our training constructively, consistently, and progressively, we set ourselves up for success. Since our bodies naturally want to be in homeostasis (biological state of equilibrium), we respond to stress via recovery. When a training effect cycle of stress/recovery is timed correctly, we actually end up with supercompensation, where our body overcompensates by ending at a higher fitness level than before the physical stress was applied. The human body is pretty neat, huh?

One of the most important points here is the need for recovery. Without proper recovery between sessions, we are at risk for overtraining and overuse (and, therefore, injury). We must remember that training makes us weaker, and recovery makes us STRONGER. Watch out for these three signs that indicate you didn’t recover well!

Guiding Principles

The three guiding principles to training are:

Continuity, Gradualness, and Modulation


Maintain a regular schedule with little interruption. If you miss a week in training because of unforeseen or planned circumstances, you must pick up where you left off, in order to allow your body to adapt to each stage in training. Otherwise, injury or setbacks can happen.


It’s important to progress the stress we put on our bodies at an appropriate rate. Beginners will progress slightly faster than elite athletes because they are further from their ultimate potential fitness.


This is the “undulating level of training stimulus that allows your body a chance to recover its homeostasis.” If we train too hard, we can't recover. Additionally, as we begin to adapt to one stress level, we will need to modulate our activities to allow for continuous progression. Each stage of added stress (training load) typically lasts 3 to 6 weeks.

Assessing Fitness Level

General fitness is important for a variety of objectives. Measure your base and your progress using the following exercises:

  • Timed 1,000-foot (305-meter) vertical ascent on steep second- to third-class terrain carrying a pack weighing 20% of body weight. This should be somewhere local to return to for a retest. Alternatively, you can do a timed box step with same weight (20% body weight) to reach 1,000 vertical feet (305 meters) – box should be 75% the height of your shin (tibia), usually 8-12 inches high.
  • 60-second test for maximum repetitions of the following exercises:
    • Dips
    • Sit-ups
    • Pull-ups
    • Box step-ups
    • Push-ups

Listen to Your Heart

Though not necessary to monitor during training, heart rate is an excellent tool to monitor intensity of our training sessions. By measuring heart rate, we can quantify the effort we are putting into our training. Each zone of heart rates is based on our maximum heart rate, which is typically measured by 220 minus age, but this has proven to be inaccurate for most individuals. Instead, a “max test” can be used:

Make sure you’re well-rested, motivated, and healthy. Gradually warm-up for 15 minutes and work progressively harder. The last 2-3 minutes should be spent breathing and sweating moderately. Without resting, run hard for 2 minutes up a hill with incline steep enough to still allow you to run (6-10%). In the last 20 seconds, run as hard as you can to the level of complete exhaustion. If you collapse at the end, you likely have elicited maximum cardiac response! After the 2 minutes, check your heart rate as it should be within 5 beats of your maximum.

Heart Rate Zones

Zone 1 is “Basic Endurance” (55-75% max HR), and the zone in which we spend most of our time in the mountains. It’s important to recognize that training at a higher intensity does not always increase aerobic capacity. Rather, longer duration at lower intensity may offer higher benefits. The easiest way to determine if you’re in Zone 1 is your breathing. If you start mouth breathing, you’re likely out of it already! As your aerobic capacity increases, you’ll be able to go faster and higher while still maintaining your heart rate in Zone 1.

Generally, Zone 2 is “No Man’s Land” as it’s too hard to be easy, and doesn’t offer the benefits of higher intensity training. Zone 3 is “Uppermost Aerobic Training,” and is described as a fun kind of hard. This should be a pace that could be maintained for an hour, and the upper limits of Zone 3 are often named the Anaerobic Threshold or Lactate Threshold. Zone 4 is the “Anaerobic Zone” where our bodies can no longer rely on oxygen for fuel. Typically, Zone 4 can be maintained for a few minutes, and training at this level doesn’t yield significant gains for mountain fitness. The “Maximum Effort” in Zone 5 can only be sustained for 10-15 seconds, and plays a role in overcoming a climbing route’s crux and building strength, power, and power endurance in muscle groups used to go uphill.

Strength Training

It’s important to target maximum strength and strength endurance for climbing. Even though we don’t usually tap into our maximum strength during climbs, having our muscles ready to work is critical – especially when it comes to more powerful moves for our upper body, and steeper sections for our lower body. With maximum strength, the aim is to increase the number of muscle fibers recruited for movements. Muscular endurance will allow for these fibers to work over longer periods of time. Below are some exercises to get you started on a strength routine for the upper and lower body. These types of exercises are typically performed with either maximum resistance (for maximum strength) or maximum repetitions while maintaining good form and no muscle shaking (for muscle endurance).

Read more of the theory behind "Mountain Strong" strength training by Scott Johnson: Part 1 | Part 2  | Part 3


Upper Body

  • Push-ups
    • Important to keep the elbows tucked in with push-ups! Of course, there’s other variations with arms wide, but by keeping the hands directly under the shoulders and elbows tucked in, you work different muscles. Rather than lowering to your knees as you fatigue, try raising your upper body by placing your hands on a bench or a box for more repetitions.
  • Dips
    • Start with box dips, then you can progress to handlebar dips.
  • Pull-ups
    • Obviously this is your favorite exercise, and everyone LOVES pull-ups, almost as much as burps! (Okay, maybe not.) Check out some tips for good pull-up technique here.
    • Can’t do one? No fear! Start training by eccentric control (slowly lowering). Don’t use resistance bands to help with the pull-up motion, because this stops the most important portion of the pull-up. Rather, start hanging on the bar and engage shoulder blades, then either use a box to step yourself up to chin over the bar or jump up, and lower down to fully straight elbows as slow as possible! Do 3 in a row if you can’t do one single pull-up.
  • Scotty Bob’s
    • A push and pull combination movement! Start by doing three in a row, then you can progress to more. See the how-to here.
  • Endurance: Rock Climbing
    • At the rock gym, the goal is to put on as much vertical as possible for muscular endurance training. Climbing up and down routes about 2 grades below your maximum level, and pay attention to heart rate while climbing, too! Try to stay in Zone 1, but you'll notice how your heart races as you reach the crux or harder moves.
    • Another idea as you progress is to wear a pack while climbing (never exceed 20% body weight unless you have really good finger strength background).

Lower Body

  • Box Step-ups
    • Targets uphill muscles
    • Make it harder by increasing the height of the box or holding weight
    • Believe it or not, the stair stepper doesn’t simulate the act of walking uphill too well because the step is actually falling away from you. Stick to hill climbing or box step-ups for more specific muscle training.
  • Squats
  • Poor Man’s Leg Curl is a great way to target the hamstrings, which are essential especially for control on downhill portions.
  • Endurance: challenge your lactate threshold with Mini Leg Blastersthe Quadzilla Complex, or Leg Lactate Complex.
  • Endurance: Hiking with weight
    • The point is to have the rate of climbing limited by your leg muscles, NOT breathing (pay attention to maintaining nose breathing, Heart Rate Zone 1!). Progress percentage of body weight in your pack and vertical distance covered by starting with about 50% of your goal’s vertical and 0-50% the weight you’ll carry in your pack.
    • Hint: a gallon of water is 8 pounds; one quart is 2 pounds.

Core Muscles

Last but certainly not least! Scott Johnson presents his “Killer Core Routine” here. Why even train the core in the first place, you ask?

  1. All athletic movements originate with the core musculature.
  2. Your core connects your arms to your legs.
  3. A weak core results in less effective use of your arms and legs.
  4. A weak core exposes you to injury.
  5. Strength in the core will become the foundation for all your endurance.

Climbing-Specific Training

Peaks of Life Guide to Rainier

So, you want to climb Rainier? Climbers on the Peaks of Life team have developed a progressive plan to build an appropriate level of fitness for the elevation gains of Rainier. Below is the three-month plan developed by our team:

  • Month 1:
    • Week 1: cardio - 5 hours cardio training
    • Week 2: Hike with >5 miles <2k vertical feet carry 15lbs
    • Week 3: cardio - 5 hours cardio training
    • Week 4: Hike with <10 miles >2k vertical feet carry 15lbs
  • Month 2:
    • Week 5: cardio - 5 hours cardio training
    • Week 6: Hike with >10 miles <2k vertical feet carry 25 lbs & 3 hrs cardio
    • Week 7: cardio - 5 hours cardio training
    • Week 8: Hike with <10 miles >2k vertical feet carry 25 lbs & 3 hrs cardio

By this time, you should be able to run 10 miles or hike 20 miles in a single day. If you are not there yet, it is time to step up the intensity of your cardio training for the next two weeks.

  • Month 3:
    • Week 9: cardio - 5 hours cardio training
    • Week 10: Hike with >10 miles <2k vertical feet carry 35 lbs & 3 hrs cardio

By this point it is VERY important that you are able to run 10 miles or hike 20 miles in a single day.

    • Week 11: cardio - 5 hours cardio training
    • Week 12: Hike with <10 miles >2k vertical feet carry 35 lbs & 3 hrs cardio 

Other Considerations to Training
Training for Mental Fitness

This is “the most difficult 80%” of training, and is critical to mention before closing.

Motivation is will, and will has two parts: power and purpose. Without power, your purpose cannot be realized. Without purpose, your power will be diffused and will become impotent.

Firstly, recognize the why behind your climbing – what motivated you to start? You may have to dive deep for this, searching to where it all began and how you felt when you first started climbing. Then, start observing your thoughts and emotions that arise as you climb. Recognize that thoughts create emotions, which can be translated into bodily sensations, such as thinking “I feel so tired,” or “This is so hard,” while slogging up a seemingly never-ending hill (false summits, anyone?). Often times, these thoughts and emotional states are more wearing on the body than the physical stress itself.

All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think, we become.
- Buddha

Taking into account our fears, especially the fear of failure is also important. Failing and failing well is critical to our development as climbers, and often times we impose self-doubt on top of this fear of failing. In training, we sometimes need to surround ourselves by a non-judgmental group in order to feel comfortable with the idea of failing, therefore leading to more confidence. When we set goals, we are afraid we won’t rise to our own expectations. However, we don’t often succeed at our first go. Did Margo Hayes send La Rumba on her first attempt? No, but that didn’t stop her from failing time after time, then again rising to the challenge day after day…

We all have natural biases and subconscious roots to our emotions, and we all have the ability to rise above our self-imposed limitations. Build confidence via skill and practice, find fulfillment in what you set out to do, and stay concentrated – both on your goals and in every moment you spend climbing.

Imagine your goals, and start executing a plan to achieve them. Your success begins with you, and it begins today. Climb on!

Here’s to Climbing for More Than A Summit!


House, S. and Johnston, S. (2014). Training for the New Alpinism. 1st ed. Ventura, California: Patagonia Books.


Peaks of Life Origins

March 15th, 2018

Many of us climb for somewhat selfish reasons: to fill a void, connect with nature, feel free, or challenge ourselves physically & mentally. We feel humbled by the mountains and their beauty, especially in the Pacific Northwest where Mount Rainier mysteriously waxes and wanes from the Seattle city horizon. The mountains that dot our horizon tempt us with spectacular views, new heights, and the chance to prove that we can overcome the impossible.

This is the fuel behind the Peaks of Life objective: the desire—the need—to climb and explore the peaks of our nation and world at large. But how did the often-times selfish need to climb turn into a philanthropic, non-profit organization and guild with Seattle Children’s Hospital?

Photo Credit: Ben Stone

Well, it’s not the most likely story, but it sure is fun! I guarantee it will involve a sailing trip around the Pacific, Craigslist futons, and propeller hats. Curious? Not surprised—I know I was itching to learn more! Getting to know Forrest Barker as a close friend has been an adventure in itself. On any given weekend, he can be found skiing, ice climbing, or running up and down Mt. Rainier… probably with a propeller hat on his head. I have never really been drawn to ‘normal’ people (what’s normal, anyways?), but rather prefer to be surrounded by unique and enthusiastic people. Forrest is this kind of person… to an infinite amount, and it’s awesome.

This man has the climbing history to give him credit amongst accomplished mountaineers, and the medical knowledge to be respected by peer groups such as Seattle Mountain Rescue, Washington Hikers and Climbers, and Remote Medical International. He is a man with passion and enthusiasm that often can’t be matched, and a sense of humor and professionalism that intersect at a perfect coordinate.

Yet, Forrest wouldn’t want his accomplishments in the mountains or his career to define him. He wouldn’t boast about his second earliest ascent of Denali’s Cassin Ridge in April 2017 (Google it!), or the fact that he climbed Rainier seven times in the summer of 2017 (sometimes in a one-day push). Rather, Forrest is most animated when he starts talking about Peaks of Life – the “baby” he’s been nurturing since 2010. Because of his passion for Peaks of Life, it wasn’t hard to tempt Forrest to sit down and talk about where it all began. However, a 72-ounce steak and bottle of wine sure did help with pinning down Forrest amidst his busy and dynamic life…

Forrest once described how mountaineering became truly fulfilling in a friend’s blog entry featuring his rationale behind the “punishing, taxing, painful, exhausting” suffering associated with climbing. He wrote:

For a long time climbing was just fun. It wasn’t until I made climbing about something more than myself that it truly became fulfilling. 

Where does fulfillment come from? Forrest believes it comes from the combination of pride and compassion, where pride is the product of being pushed far outside our comfort zone:

I derive [pride] from prevailing through a fight so hard, that it makes me bleed, cry, get scared, want to quit, and almost fail. Pride stands on the foundation of gratitude. This is the appreciation of having the opportunity to fight and the appreciation of being able to fight. 

Compassion, though, is the base of all of it, and allows us to empathize for others. It is through pride and compassion that fulfillment can truly be felt – and this is what it’s like to climb with Peaks of Life. This is our “why.” (link to uncompensated care blog)

All right, I know what those of you who are familiar with our President and Founder are thinking…

So, in effort to best represent the man with the vision, let’s get down to funny business and dig deeper into the foundation of Peaks of Life.

Forrest wears many hats. Literally and figuratively. Like, he has a hat for any and every occasion: pirate hats, sombreros, straw hats, fancy hats, beanies... you name it, I guarantee Forrest and his girlfriend, Brooke, have a hat for it in their closet. And just to give you fair warning: if you show up at their apartment, you’ll likely be obligated to wear one. (Did I mention the mini hats? Some of us really, really appreciate the mini hats).

But then there’s the other hats he wears: balloon artist, mountain rescue volunteer, wine connoisseur (specifically of the Cotes-Du-Rhone Villages), steak griller (did I mention the supposed 72-ounce steak yet?), Edgar Allen Poe enthusiast, coffee drinker, oversleeper master of “carpe diem,” and skilled climber. Forrest is in every sense a dreamer, and his energy after sleeping minimal hours will never cease to amaze me. He’s a true intellect, and therefore, a bit wacky. Forrest is just Forrest, and people love and appreciate him for it as a son, brother, friend, mentor, or climbing partner. As his friend, David, says:

Forrest is someone that defies labels, one of those truly unique people.

Forrest thrives on ideas and imaginative thinking – true acts of genius. But a genius cannot act alone (well, not always). And so, the story begins in 2010 with a trio of college students at University of Puget Sound: Forrest Barker, David Reif, and Aleksandr “Sasha” Romanenko. These three were incredibly studious—studying all hours of the night, grinding hard, and working towards big goals from early on… “pedal to the metal” one might say…

*Record scratch sound effect*

Okay, okay, maybe that’s what we’d expect when we see the Peaks of Life that exists today: a non-profit organization with a formal Annual Gala, and guided climbs throughout the Pacific Northwest. But what’s important to understand here is that this dream came to fruition from the pursuit of true passion. Some people have to work really hard to find what ignites their fire—what makes them strive for more. But this isn’t the case for Forrest—he is always with bursting ideas (a million a day, says David). The trio didn’t create Peaks of Life via Excel spread sheet analyses, but during bonfires trash can fire conversations and beers. Casual, simple, and genuine.

In freshman year at college, Forrest was studying sculpture and international communication. A true artist and creative mind, Forrest can work with any media—from ceramics to paints to balloons. His dorm was just down the hallway from David, who reports Forrest would be up all hours of the night painting, rather than sleeping in the hammock beneath his raised dorm bed. For Forrest’s capstone art project, he stayed up for 48+ hours to build an art gallery out of balloons – hundreds of balloons. On the ceiling of this gallery? A F52 jet plane – made entirely out of various black and gray balloons. He even had a giant Super Mario on a motorcycle inside. Yes, all made out of balloons. A true Renaissance man, you may say.

Beyond the arts, Forrest and his compadres had a serious itch for climbing. Later in college, Forrest and Sasha shared a house with the most epic man-cave setup. The basement floor was layered in futons and cushions purchased on Craigslist as crash pads for the climbing holds and hangboards that filled the walls, door frames, and ceiling. In the backyard sat vintage bicycles beside a full woodshop. These guys clearly shared a passion for climbing, and dreamed of making money by climbing someday…

In September 2010, Forrest decided to get an EMT license as a preemptive step to safety in the mountains. Soon after, he was offered the chance of a lifetime: to join Captain Denny Morgan in an 8-month sailing trip across the Pacific Ocean! Forrest took a break from studies at Puget Sound, and entered a life of solitude on the sea, embracing a vastly different schedule than at college.

To Forrest, this was a pivotal trip. Beforehand, Forrest’s confesses, “I didn’t have much respect for rules and regulations, and did whatever I felt was in my own best interest… or more fun.” This all started to change aboard the ship, where he beheld his “Mistress Kindle” most nights (reading, reading, and reading), and perfected the whistling songs of birds across the Pacific. While sailing from the Martial Islands to the Philippines, Forrest realized it was time to adjust his sails back in the United States. Once returning from the adventure of a lifetime, Forrest basically restarted his college education. He completely switched gears and decided to pursue an education in medicine. At Bellevue Community College, he spent a year taking foundational courses – Biology 101, Chemistry 101, Physics, Anatomy – with full immersion in the sciences. After a year, though, Forrest started to feel restless. He says,

I wanted to be impactful rather than just a bookworm.

In early 2012, as a junior in college, Forrest recognized he couldn’t yet pursue a career in medicine, but wanted to make his own path. This is where the nightly bonfires and beers come in, alongside constant conversations with David and Sasha. David compared it to a nightly “jam session.” In 2012, Obama had been reelected for his second term, and Obamacare was coming into fruition. The media spoke of the pros and cons of universal healthcare, but Forrest saw a gap: What about special populations like pediatrics? Children are completely dependent on thir caregivers for healthcare, so they didn’t have any control over how these changes would affect them. Forrest described these kids as rubber ducks in the ocean, drifting to wherever the weather and tide may push them.

Forrest wanted to play a role in shifting the tide, carrying the children safely to shore, and so the real thinking began. The three climbers tossed around various ideas for a non-profit organization to benefit pediatric healthcare. The idea of helping children brought Forrest to research Seattle Children’s Hospital, and he eventually found the Guild Association. That was it! The crew knew they’d come closer to an answer, and would have to develop the means to raise money for uncompensated healthcare so all children could be treated regardless of their ability to pay. The seemingly hopeless dream to make money via climbing kept resurfacing while contemplating their burning question:

How can we benefit pediatric healthcare by playing in the mountains?

In 2012, they were in a little over their heads with establishing the non-profit with Seattle Children’s—filling out paperwork and applying for tax exemption was rather complicated! Now that Peaks of Life was official, the team had to decide what action they’d take to raise funds. They played with the idea of promoting healthy lifestyles via marathon laps on Mt. Si or educational courses, mountain biking and kayaking, and field days. That year, Forrest and his friends focused on climbing and having fun, all the while anticipating the growth and evolution of “Peaks of Life.”

That first official year, Sasha was proactive in designing a logo, and the team put together a celebration for the end of climbing season and Peaks of Life’s first fundraiser: “The Winter Gift.” Then, in 2013, things got a little quieter. The trio tried setting up field days at the Annie Wright school in Tacoma where David was working, but they ran into the issue of insurance. Things kept growing and shifting as David eventually moved to the east coast to pursue a career in nursing, and Sasha headed back to Anchorage.

The Original Peaks of Life Logo!

For the next two years in 2014 and 2015, Forrest and his friends climbed all the major peaks in the PNW and brought the newly designed Peaks of Life banner everywhere he went! These outdoors trips were “outreach oriented” because he didn’t yet have the insurance or legal ability to begin organizing and leading trips. So, he brought the banner when climbing in Squamish, hiking to fire lookouts, and summiting Rainier.

Mt. Hood, 2015

Oregon climbing trip in 2013 with Aleksandr Romanenko

Summit of Denali's West Buttress!

Forrest can have a conversation with anyone, and so it’s no surprise that he got people to pose with the Peaks of Life banner, like the folks from Veterans Expeditions below. I could see it now – Forrest walking up to strangers, telling them about his mission, gathering a real following for his idea. He started realizing this somewhat crazy idea of climbing for uncompensated care was viable! Gauging others’ enthusiasm, Forrest reaffirmed that it was a functional business model and let go of the idea to working with children directly. Instead, Peaks of Life needed to focus on one thing: CLIMBING AND MOUNTAINEERING TRIPS!

Peaks of Life and Veterans Expeditions hanging out at Camp 14, 2015 (Denali)

2015 was a huge year for Peaks of Life, and the first annual gala event was held on October 23 at the end of climbing season. Given Forrest’s previous track record in time management (and effective use of 24 hours in a day), it was awesome to hear how this gala came together last-minute. Forrest sold 50/80 tickets in the last two weeks before the gala, with a huge following from Washington Hikers and Climbers. He said it was a steep learning curve, and used his balloon animal skills to get people’s attention at Pike’s Place, Bellevue Square… anywhere to get people’s attention in order to sell them a gala ticket! Forrest’s family also were crucial advisors in fundraiser event planning. His mother has done full-time fundraising for a number of organizations, and helped to coordinate caterers and silent auction items. In fact, the day of the gala, Forrest met his mother in downtown Seattle to get the auction items from her hotel room. What he didn’t know as he walked into the hotel room, knife in hand to open the boxes in the hotel room, was that secret service agents were on watch! Forrest was interrogated for suspicious activity while wearing his full gala attire, escaping just in time to get the auction items and be on time for the big event!

In 2016, Forrest started finding other people to more seriously follow his mission. Brooke joined the team when she heard about Peaks of Life while working with Forrest in UW’s lab. She became the necessary mastermind behind getting the business model in line, and put the “organization” in non-profit organization. Sponsors began getting more involved as Forrest began practicing his delegation skills. This time, the 2016 Gala (“A Night Above the Clouds, Tour of the Himalaya”) wasn’t planned a mere two weeks in advanced – Brooke and Jane would never allow it!

Connor, Forrest, and Brooke!

It’s inspiring to learn how much growth has happened in the last two years. Now, the September 2018 gala is being planned as early as March (yes, right now)! Our board has grown, and everyone part of the Peaks of Life team has full-time jobs and busy schedules. Nonetheless, we find the time for the organization and make a lot happen because we truly believe in the outcome.

Left to right: Brooke, Jane, and Amber at our 2017 Gala. Brooke and Jane have kept Forrest on some earlier deadlines for gala planning.

Any gathering can fuel our conversations about Peaks of Life’s direction—even a Friday night dinner of steak, vegan eggs (aka eggplant), and coniferous apples (aka pineapples). Oh, and don’t forget Brooke’s delightful desserts—they’re sure to bring any group together. Even on Thanksgiving break during a cabin stay at Crystal Mountain, our team found a way to brainstorm the future of Peaks of Life. When you get a bunch of people together with a common cause, it bands you together in a unique way. I don’t think I’ve ever had a group of friends like this one, and it all started with Forrest’s motivation and passion. Peaks of Life is moving forward like a wild animal that simply can't be tamed.

So, what does the future hold? More money raised during climbs in the Pacific Northwest, and the refinement of a streamlined, stable, sustainable model in order to support our ideas. Perhaps one day we will even begin international climbs, but for now we’ll stick to wearing silly costumes while getting people to climb with us on Friday mornings, summiting peaks, and hosting events to get other people excited about our mission with a truly unique history.

Friday mornings at Vertical World, Seattle.
Top (left to right): Brooke, Kristen, Forrest, Amber, Eve
Bottom: Robert, Garrett

How will we do it?! Together, that’s for sure. Brooke surely will keep Forrest and our entire team on task (how does she find the time?!). We aim to share more on social media with help of our photographer and social media marketing manager, Garrett and Amber. With Robert’s guiding hand, we won’t get too over-zealous in our plans and have a well-executed system in place. Eve will certainly help to keep the ropes in line, and plan for some epic climbs this season. Jane will keep counting all the money we raise… and write some big checks to Seattle Children’s Hospital. And me? I’ll write about it all for you, talk to you at events, and fire you up for all we have in store! We can’t wait to see what the future truly holds for Peaks of Life, because it’s come so far already.

Forrest is one of the hardest working and interesting people I’ve ever known, and we are so lucky for his leadership in Peaks of Life. Some weeks, Forrest works 60+ hours at his full-time job, but Peaks of Life would never be sacrificed. This organization is his lifeline, and his deep, tethered connection between passions. And so, we stand beside our enthusiastic, unique leader for the future of Peaks of Life and pediatric healthcare.

Special Thanks

Thank you, Forrest, for all you’ve done and all you continue to do. You inspire all those you come in contact with. Never lose your enthusiasm for all life has to offer!


Thank you, David, for sharing your side of the story, and Sasha for being a part of this vision from the beginning.


Thank you, to Forrest’s family, for raising a man who believes in philanthropy and the good in helping people.


Here’s to Climbing for More Than a Summit!


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About Our Blog

Peaks of Life climbs for 'more than a summit.' On our blog, we represent the children and families we serve at Seattle Children's Hospital, while providing valuable information for our dedicated climbers and volunteers.

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