Jason Black: Mountain Climbing Tips from a World Record Holder!
Do you love mountain climbing or are eager to try this incredible sport? Today, we have for you tips on how to train for an epic mountain climbing challenge and also the gear you can invest in to help you complete the journey successfully!
Last month, we spoke with Irish endurance athlete, Jason Black, who has summited Mount Everest, K2, Aconcagua, Mount Kilimanjaro to name just a few. In fact, he climbed Mount Kilimanjaro twice in under 24 hours establishing a World Record!
This record holder reveals to us his ‘tips and tricks’ on training for such tough and incredible mountain adventures and what gear he prefers to use. Also, as a competitive endurance cyclist, Jason tells us what challenges he’s pursuing later on this year.
- Related: Exclusive interview with Jason Black on his climb to becoming a mountaineer and endurance athlete, as well as his World Record!
If you’re in Muscat, come listen and meet Jason Black LIVE at our next ub-cool TALKS tonight! More details about Jason’s Black ub-cool TALKS here>
ub-cool: How many days per week do you train ahead of your next climbing challenge?
“I’m a full time professional global endurance athlete. I suppose, for me, every day is preparation for my next expedition, my next climb, my next journey, my next adventure.”
I train 6 days a week and take one day a week off completely. On a day to day basis, my training is made up of generally a 7 AM first training session, which could be up of two hours. After this, I break for breakfast. But, usually, I train my first session on an empty stomach.
ub-cool: How many hours on average do you train per day?
Jason Black: 5 hours every day.
One session first thing in the morning (1-2 hours), then usually another session in the afternoon or evening, which is up to four hours long. These could either be training in the mountains or on the bike. So, generally, it’s two sessions a day totalling 5 hours.
I try to get it all done before 5 o’clock in the evening to allow my body to start adjusting to lower the demand on the body. It prepares me for a relaxing evening and then I can sleep better. I generally find that if I train late at night that it affects my sleep pattern.
ub-cool: What kind of training do you do?
Jason Black: I do both aerobic and anaerobic training which is made up of either biking up in the mountains or running.
I’m also a big swimmer. I swim 3, 4, or 5km per day, and I average about two -three days of swimming per week.
“I’m a big believer in promoting a balanced approach to training.”
I think it’s all about having a very varied approach to it. I think that’s how you can be strong. Sometimes I think if people are very single-minded about their sport, all the other parts of their body become weak.
“For me, as a mountaineer or an endurance athlete, it takes all parts of my body. I need to be strong above as well as I do below.”
I’m conscious that I have to haul this body around and I generally have to haul with me a lot of equipment on my back while I’m climbing.
“So, for me, it’s about being light and efficient – so, I try to keep my body fat levels down at about 7-8%.”
You know, that’s about it. I love a good healthy lifestyle. I do enjoy a glass of wine from time to time. Psychologically, it keeps me safe, and it also holds onto my marriage.
ub-cool: You mentioned your morning training happens on an empty stomach. Can you tell us more about your meals after that?
Jason Black: Yes, in the morning, I get up and go straight into a workout session with no food in my system. I teach my body to use its natural fats as fuel.
“I’m a fat-adapted athlete. I use fat as fuel. I don’t eat much carbohydrates, if any. So, I’m a low carb, high fat burner.”
I’ve been in that state for two years and I’ve been teaching about how to burn fat as fuel. I suppose the theory behind that is because with the environments I’m in, carrying a lot of carbohydrate fuel isn’t efficient. It’s unnecessary and I suppose it goes back to the primitive way we used to eat and used to train our bodies with food. Fat was the source of fuel, so I chose to go back there.
ub-cool: Was it easy adjusting to a ketogenic diet?
Jason Black: It took a lot of time to hone that craft.
“A ketogenic diet is not easy. It’s very specific to each and every individual. There’s guidelines as to how to do it, but I think you have dial them to your individuality – what works for you.”
Generally, I follow a high fat, low carbohydrate diet. I keep my sugar levels under control, and my insulin levels are low. I have oily fish like mackerel, sardines or things that replaces the Omega-6 oils in my fat stores and in my skin.
Gear & Equipment
ub-cool: What advice do you have for amateur mountain climbers in terms of what gear and equipment to invest in ahead of their climbs?
Jason Black: For a beginner reading this article, what I’d advise is to not set you sights too high, too fast. What I mean is that I meet a lot of people who are motivated to try to take on these big mountains with very little experience.
“I think start small and grow into your expedition. And, by doing that, your gear will grow with you. You’ll get an understanding of what works on what type of mountain and what type of terrain. And, as you climb to higher altitudes, the gear level and the gear experience will come with you because that’s all part of the learning process.”
Footwear: Shoes & Orthotics
The gear that you’ll require for the likes of Mount Everest and the gear that you’ll require in Tanzania is two very different pieces of gear. But my advice is, first and foremost, start with the basics.
“Start with the feet. The most important point of contact is the ground. If you’re spending money on anything, it should be on footwear.”
It is the most important. Why? Well you want to have good support. You want to avoid any injury like blisters, and those types of things. I meet so many people and they don’t invest in the feet.
ub-cool: Which brand of shoes do you use?
Jason Black: I like using Scarpa – they’re a French boot.
They work well. There is a lot available on the market – I’d suggest to get out there and try them on with a profession fitting in a shop.
Also, orthotics inside the shoes can be important as well. Some people underestimate it and don’t realize that a standard boot or shoe often comes with a flat footbed. I recommend that everyone researches the arch support of their own foot because if your arch is collapsing, you’re going to have major issues with muscles. So, it’s about getting out there and experimenting.
Next up is socks. You need to have good working socks. There’s no point in having socks that absorb moisture and then all of a sudden you may as well be wearing a pair of wet things on your feet.
Jason used a tent from The North Face during one of his climbing adventures | Image Source: Jason Black
Invest in your Equipment!
Pay the money and invest.
“You’re investing in yourself. You’re not investing in anything else but your own safety. And, I think what’s really important is when you get those two fundamentals correct, then the climb, the walk, the trek, the expedition becomes fun. Because then you’re not concerned about blisters and you’re not concerned about all those things that make the climb distasteful. My feet are sore. My legs are sore. That usually from having bad footwear.”
Upcoming Adventures and Challenges
ub-cool: I know you’re also an endurance cyclist in addition to being a mountaineer. What are your upcoming challenges this year in both areas?
Jason Black: This year, I have a lot coming up.
- 25th April: I’m going back to Italy. I’m going to do Race Across Italy which is an endurance cycling race of 1,100 km through the mountains from the Adriatic Sea to the other side and back again.
- 6th June: I’m heading off to California to start Race Across America, which is another endurance cycling trip but this time 5,000km, from one side of America to the other. I hope to set a world record there.
- I’ve also registered for the Ultra Marathon Cycling Association World Championship.
- Mountain climbing: I’m going to try to sneak in one of the seven summits and that could be Antarctica perhaps – I’m not sure yet.
Are you a mountain climber? What gear do you use and how do you train?
Leave us a comment below!
All images provided by Jason Black