Using Crossfit to Take On Mt. Everest

 I thought this was a really cool article worth posting! 

 “I can definitely notice the difference (since starting CrossFit). At the end of a long climb, I used to feel exhausted and bent over from the weight of the pack, but now I feel more upright."

At 17 years old, Erica Dohring had climbed 19,341-foot Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, 20,328-foot Mount McKinley in Alaska and Argentina’s 22,841-foot Mount Aconcagua — the highest peak in the western hemisphere.

With those daunting peaks behind her, she aimed for the world’s most coveted peak: 29,029-foot Mount Everest. If she reached the summit at 17 years old, she would have the extra honor of sealing the title, “Youngest American Woman to Climb Mount Everest.”

However, with just a few months remaining before her 18th birthday, Dohring had little time to prepare. She trained by hiking and climbing near her hometown in Arizona at least four days a week, wearing a heavy backpack to help her develop balance and strength.

By March 2009, she had left Arizona for the Himalayas. She started the three-month climb to the top of Mount Everest with several guides and experienced climbers. But in May — after two months of climbing the cold, dangerous route up the mountain — she stopped at 24,000 feet and turned back.
“At that point, I had some doubts and the weather was getting very dangerous,” Dohring remembers. “It was extremely cold and we were facing a white-out. One of the other men who went with us ended up losing a toe because of hypothermia.”

Although she came back down the mountain, Dohring did not relinquish her goal to reach the top.
In March 2013, Dohring, now 20, is set to begin the three-month climb again — this time after having taken a different approach to training. Although the title is not within reach anymore, it’s become a matter of dedication and personal determination for Dohring.

“Now I know I’m physically strong enough, and I know I want to do this,” Dohring says.
Since September 2011, she has been regularly training at CrossFit affiliates, spending most of her time at CrossFit New England while she is enrolled at nearby Wellesley College. Dohring, who found out about CrossFit from a friend, does the affiliate’s daily workout and head coach, Ben Bergeron, closely monitors her progress.

“Her strength was a big issue,” Bergeron says. “When she started, she couldn’t do a single push-up or pull-up. Athletes need to shore up their weakest link, so we’ve done a lot of work with push-ups, pull-ups and mixed deadlifts and presses in gradually. Her core strength is so much better now, so she’s able to use all of the muscles in her core, mid-line area — not just her abs — to climb.”
Dohring also has focused on squats, clean and jerks and snatches as part of Bergeron’s speed strength-training approach. As she nears next year’s climb, Dohring will add more met-cons and longer hiking trips. And she’s been spending time on flexibility, completing 30 minutes of stretching usually in addition to the daily workout.

“I can definitely notice the difference (since starting CrossFit). At the end of a long climb, I used to feel exhausted and bent over from the weight of the pack, but now I feel more upright,” Dohring says.
Before CrossFit, she trained by climbing almost year round and spent time focusing on endurance a few times a week at various gyms.

To focus on her upcoming attempt of Everest, she took summer classes in between semesters in 2010 so she could take off the upcoming spring semester at Wellesley to train. Her family has been supportive of her goal and her decision to take the upcoming semester off. Her father, a long-time hiker and mountain climber who introduced Dohring to the sport, will join her on her climb along with other experienced climbers. It will be her father’s first attempt at climbing Everest.

Having gone on many climbs with his daughter and by himself, Dohring’s father tried to dissuade her from focusing so much on CrossFit compared with long-distance running and training climbs. But after Dohring beat her original training-time on Mount Whitney in California over the summer, Dohring’s father also has started CrossFit as part of his training for the Everest climb.
The climb takes more than just excellent physical condition, however. The mental fortitude required for such an expedition is essential, Dohring notes. On the way up the mountain, climbers witness the extreme poverty the Nepali people endure, which can be disheartening. Plus, during a three-month journey in extreme conditions, a climber’s equipment can break down or become damaged, so it is important to be aware of upkeep at all times.

“I grew up more in that first three-month trip than I ever have before,” Dohring recalls.
After completing leadership classes at the American Alpine Institute in 2010 and doing CrossFit, Dohring says she now has the confidence, as well as the mental and physical strength she needs.
Still, the question remains: Why attempt such a dangerous climb a second time?

“I believe the experiences that challenge you lead to the most growth,” Dohring explains. “And the feeling of satisfaction you get is amazing. I know that if I can climb Mount Everest, anything else won’t seem anywhere near as difficult.”

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