Some tips for maintaining energy levels while mountaineering, and the recovery process afterwards:
- Drink or eat electrolytes, during and after. For example, Nuun tablets or salt pills. I've found that having electrolytes during the hike helps fend off the end of day headache.
- Drinking small amounts as I walk is a lot better for me (esp for keeping my asthma under control) than waiting for water breaks. Basically, I recommend trying out a method that lets you have a sip of water without stopping and taking off your pack. I use a drinking tube connected to an MSR 4L dromedary; there are lots of other ways, like having a small bottle that goes in an outer pocket that you refill. This lets you drink when you need to, without wasting time or holding off until you're very thirsty to keep from slowing the group.
- Sun protection is key! A whole section below.
- Layer and de-layer as you need, to keep yourself from sweating and then getting cold. Don't wait too long for that first de-layer when the some comes up, just do it once it's time.
- Eat as you go, have protein and sugar and salty things. Stop and eat a little, if you're starting to feel yourself dragging.
- Keep your feet in good shape. Put duct tape over hot spots as soon as you feel them – I like to make a "band aid" with duct tape if there's any blistering or visible tenderness, with a square of duct tape stuck facing up, so that the sticky part isn't touching tender skin. Do foot maintenance before you hike, don't hike with too-long toenails or you'll regret it. Bring a spare pair of socks.
- Keep breaks short in general, especially on the way up. Keep momentum, go at a steady pace that you can maintain for a long time. We typically only take a long break once we are at the summit.
- Communicate with your party about everyone's energy levels, and adjust accordingly.
- Review the route beforehand, looking at the topo and the elevation profile if you can, to mentally prepare yourself for pacing your energy expenditures. You might bring more or less food or water based on this, too.
- Car snacks, car water, city clothes!! Always have something to eat in the car once you're down, especially if the trailhead is a long drive from anywhere else you might get food. Salty things are good. Make sure there's water to drink when you get there. Have some regular clothes that are comfortable, clean, and not sweaty to change into at the car.
- Put on moisturizer or aloe after you get down – maybe even in the car, definitely after you take a shower/bath at home. If you're on a multi-day trip, wiping your face down to remove the sunscreen grime layer, and putting on some moisturizer really helps.
- Hot shower after helps the muscles, a hot bath with epsom salts helps even more. Or hot springs, if you're nearby one. Do some stretches in the evening.
- Take a walk or bike ride the next day, and stretch some more. Move your body a bit while resting.
- If you're camping at a popular trailhead or base camp, you might want earplugs so you aren't woken up by other people nearby. Or walk further into the woods away from the trailhead to set up your tent.
- I pay attention to how my body is feeling after, and stretch, foam roll, and just generally take notes. I try to keep building my core muscle strengthening and working on overall fitness, which even with asthma has made it noticeably easier over time. In the mountains, it's safer to go fast – as you have more speed and power, so you can go further and go on harder trips as you gain experience and mountaineering fitness. It's a lot easier to keep your energy levels good on a trip and recover afterwards if you pick mountains that are doable for where you are in terms of experience/fitness, and then gradually grow from there. Paying attention in the recovery process will help with that.
- Do your own research, read and learn. Books like Mountaineering: Freedom of the Hills is a good reference, also books on wilderness first aid and reading about it in general. Talk to people you go on trips with about their tips, share methods. I've been mountaineering since 2009 and am still learning stuff all the time! For example, here are some more really good tips from my friend Eva on Lowfifth.com
Really, go all out. It helps your energy over the course of the day and as you recover, if you're not baked by the sun.
- Sunglasses from the time the sun is up enough to make the snow bright. Polarized sunglasses!!
- Sunscreen chapstick!! It's a must.
- We like to bring sunscreen in a tiny mini-bottle, and just refill it before the trip. REI has miniature nalgenes that are like an inch and a half high, so they also have the benefit of being very cute. Wide mouth enough to refill into, and stick your finger in to scoop out some sunscreen.
- Put on sunscreen as soon as there's glare on the snow. Really thick amount, get your ears, under your nose, under your chin, any bits of your neck that show. The sun bounces up off the snow, so you'll get burned under your nose/chin/ears if you don't put sunscreen there.
- I try to not have any skin showing besides bits of my face: I use a hat, a light colored sun shirt with a hood (here are some from Patagonia), a sun hat (usually the Outdoor Research Sun Runner cap because it fits under a helmet; sometimes the North Face breeze brimmer), long pants, mittens.
- Sit or stand so your face isn't facing the direct sun when you take breaks.
- Anytime it's cold enough, I wear a fleece neck gaitor / hood to protect as much of my head/neck/sides of my face from the sun.
- Reapply sunscreen often, way more often than you actually want to.
- The final sunscreen application, as you're descending and hiking out, with the low angle sun, is crucial. Even though you truly never want to do it at that point. If you're staying at a base camp after summiting, before hiking out the next day, be really wary of the sun then.