By Michael Lanza

When three friends and I decided to attempt to thru-hike the John Muir Trail—221 miles through California’s High Sierra, with numerous mountain passes ranging from 11,000 to over 13,000 feet in elevation—in just one week (backpackers traditionally take two to three weeks)—the plan seemed like a wild dream. Hike 31 miles a day for seven straight days through some of the biggest mountains in the Lower 48? It was an agenda for lunatics. So we started training. Seriously training.

Although it would prove to be one of the physically hardest things any of us had ever done—and one of the most rewarding—three of us made it, and the fourth member of our team was fit enough to finish, but had to bail out because of severe blisters. (Read my story about that crazy adventure.)

Since then, with a small group of very fit and experienced friends, I’ve hiked very long days from the Grand Canyon (including a couple of one-day, 42-mile and 22,000-foot, rim-to-rim-to-rim hikes) to the White Mountains, the Tetons and Wind River Range, and a 50-mile dayhike across Zion National Park. And I’ve climbed numerous peaks via technical and non-technical routes, including the Mountaineers Route on 14,505-foot Mount Whitney in California’s Sequoia National Park with my 15-year-old son, who was also motivated to train hard for that.


Hi, I’m Michael Lanza, creator of The Big Outside. Click here to sign up for my FREE email newsletter. Join The Big Outside to get full access to all of my blog’s stories. Click here for my e-guides to classic backpacking trips. Click here to learn how I can help you plan your next trip.

A backpacker on the John Muir Trail hiking toward Silver Pass in the John Muir Wilderness.
” data-image-caption=”Mark Fenton backpacking the John Muir Trail toward Silver Pass in the John Muir Wilderness.
” data-medium-file=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/JMT1-74-Hiking-to-Silver-Pass-John-Muir-Wilderness.-2.jpg?fit=300%2C200&ssl=1″ data-large-file=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/JMT1-74-Hiking-to-Silver-Pass-John-Muir-Wilderness.-2.jpg?fit=900%2C599&ssl=1″ width=”900″ height=”599″ src=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/JMT1-74-Hiking-to-Silver-Pass-John-Muir-Wilderness.-2.jpg?resize=900%2C599&ssl=1″ alt=”A backpacker on the John Muir Trail hiking toward Silver Pass in the John Muir Wilderness.” class=”wp-image-43320″ srcset=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/JMT1-74-Hiking-to-Silver-Pass-John-Muir-Wilderness.-2.jpg?resize=1024%2C681&ssl=1 1024w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/JMT1-74-Hiking-to-Silver-Pass-John-Muir-Wilderness.-2.jpg?resize=300%2C200&ssl=1 300w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/JMT1-74-Hiking-to-Silver-Pass-John-Muir-Wilderness.-2.jpg?resize=768%2C511&ssl=1 768w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/JMT1-74-Hiking-to-Silver-Pass-John-Muir-Wilderness.-2.jpg?w=1200&ssl=1 1200w” sizes=”(max-width: 900px) 100vw, 900px” data-recalc-dims=”1″ />Mark Fenton backpacking the John Muir Trail toward Silver Pass in the John Muir Wilderness.

If you’re planning to climb a big mountain or take a challenging backpacking trip or long dayhike, you may be wondering how to train properly for it—especially if, like many people, you don’t live in a place with easy access to the mountains and don’t have the freedom to spend endless

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