How to Build Sherpa-like Mountain Endurance

A quality Sherpa guide can make 10x the average yearly income of a normal resident in just one season. This comes with great difficulty and danger.

A Mountain Sherpa spends his life lugging heavy loads up and down the highest mountain in the world, Mount Everest. He is like the Tibet/Nepal version of a professional athlete.

But it's not just a sport or job. Sherpas respect Everest as a deity, calling it Chomolungma, which translates to something like "Goddess Mother of the World."

Most Sherpas are Tibetan Buddhist who see their daily life of climbing up and down Everest with 80+ pounds on their back as a path to enlightenment.

Though we many not say it in such religious terms, I believe that many hunters see the Mountain and hunt in a similar fashion. It’s our chance to escape all the comforts and ease that modern life provides in order to test ourselves against the most brutal aspects of nature – extreme difficulties that test both our physical endurance and our mental toughness:

  • Putting ourselves in remote areas where we are not only predators but also prey to some of the most ferocious animals on the planet,
  • Struggling to summit what seem to be insurmountable mountains,
  • Searching for basics like a place to take shelter and find drinking water,
  • Overcoming that voice in our heads that tells us that we can’t continue.

Our reward for putting ourselves to the test is the most beautiful parts of nature:

  • The sunrise coming over the mountain with the smell of elk in the air,
  • The thrill of the chase,
  • The rush of adrenaline as we send a bullet or arrow zooming through the air,
  • Approaching a downed animal with great reverence and knowledge that the freezer will be full this winter with the healthiest meat that the Earth can provide,
  • Weightlessness when we get back to the truck and take off a pack loaded with meat – feeling as though we could fly away.

As much as we admire the abilities of the Mountain Sherpa, we must acknowledge that we are not them. We don’t make our income from packing heavy packs up the mountain year-round. If we did, there would be no reason for me to write this article.

The point of this article is to create a blueprint for how to develop Sherpa-like mountain endurance. Since we don’t have all-day every-day to train, we must learn to use our training time as effectively as possible and mitigate the risk of injury.

Speaking of using training time effectively, did you know that aerobic capacity is the number one aspect of fitness that leads to a longer life? For this reason, it is wise to maintain a high level of aerobic fitness for more than just the performance benefits.

If your fitness goals have to do with living a longer and healthier life and being a better mountain hunter, you are going to want to pay very close attention and apply what you learn in the rest of this article.


Destroying Common Misconceptions

1) To get in shape, all you need is High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

There was some poor initial research that created a HIIT phenomenon that took the fitness industry by storm – something that seems to be far too commonplace.  I fell victim to it as did almost everyone else.

I've spent a lot of time over the past year going DEEP into the research behind conditioning and implementing it with my clients.

Here’s where the research went wrong:

  • Most notably, it was very short-term – when the scale of the research is extended past 10 weeks long slow distance (LSD) becomes more effective than HIIT,
  • Ignored the fact that the results of HIIT training plateaued after 3 weeks,
  • had few participants – 14 in the original Tabata study to be exact,
  • worked with untrained and out of shape participants,
  • didn’t take into account enjoyment – HIIT is much more difficult than LSD. This isn’t bad occasionally but it’s not very enjoyable three times per week.

Diving Deeper (skip if you’d like)

LSD results in enlargement of the left ventricle of the heart. This makes it possible for the heart to pump out more blood with each beat and thus it doesn’t have to work as hard to deliver blood and oxygen to the working muscles. This adaptation is known as eccentric cardiac hypertrophy.

HIIT works by thickening the walls of the heart and strengthening the heart. This is known as Concentric Cardiac Hypertrophy.

LSD allows you to do more work while maintaining a lower heart rate – this has a large carryover to mountain endurance.

HIIT allows you to maintain a higher heart rate for a longer duration of time – helpful on the mountain but not to the same extent.

The lower that you can keep your heart rate while doing the same amount of work, the better your endurance will be.

For best results, your conditioning program needs to include the right balance of intensity, volume, and rest.


2) You Have to Train All-out for Good Conditioning "no pain no gain"

This is a big misconception about conditioning. People think they must be training all-out to the point where they are miserable. Training high intensity with every conditioning workout is a huge mistake. If you don't plan adequate recovery, it puts a huge stress on your nervous system that opens the door for injury and illness. (See videos below for more.)

The goal of LSD is to provide a stress that forces the body to adapt in a favorable way, not beat your body into submission and pride yourself on being able to endure the pain. You should be able to maintain a conversation throughout (130-150bpm).


Here’s the first 2 videos of the 5-part Mountain Fit Conditioning Course.

The rest of the Mountain Fit Conditioning Course is reserved for clients and people that purchase my book, Mountain Fit: The Hunter’s Fitness Solution. Join my email newsletter to find out how to do both.


Building Sherpa-like Mountain Endurance – In Practice

The SAID Principle – Specific Adaptions to Imposed Demands – states that if we want the body to make a specific adaption, we have to provide the right stimulus to force that adaption. That means that doing the same Workout of the Day (WOD) as everyone else in your Crossfit box is NOT going to help you accomplish your specific goals.

To build great mountain endurance, you have to train in a way that is specific to your body and the goal of going long days in the mountain.

Sherpa-like Mountain Endurance requires the ability to do long periods of work while keeping the heart rate under control – not to reach peak HR for a short period of time.

For LSD, I recommend the Cardiac Output method 2-3x per week (30-90 minutes)

This is a great time to incorporate backpack cardio into your program

Medium-intensity cardio 1-2x per week (Tempo Intervals, Aerobic Plyometrics)


High-Intensity cardio 1-2x per week (HIIT, AMRAP, High-Intensity Continuous Training, Cardiac Power Intervals, Threshold Method etc.)


Now you have the blueprint to developing Sherpa-like Mountain Endurance.

This article is more in-depth than most training programs that you would pay for online. I take a lot of pride in offering value like this free of charge.

I understand that I just unloaded a lot of information on you. Much of it might have been completely new and may have left you thinking “This is all great and useful, but how do I incorporate this with my weight training program?”

If that’s what you are thinking, I highly recommend that you download my free 5-Day Hunter’s Fitness Solution Email Course. It’ll explain how my coaching programs work and give you the 5-step process to get Mountain Fit.

Sign up today and I’ll throw in my ebook, The 26 Common Gym Mistakes and How to Fix Them, absolutely free.

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