Vert Thursdays

May 21, 2021 | Training

With summer only weeks away and the hope of some longer adventures in my heart, I can’t ignore the reality that is my fitness level. Long days on skis are fantastic for developing an aerobic base, but hiking muscles are a different beast. I’ve been running on the road every week, putting in around 20 miles of easy pavement miles so the engine is feeling pretty good. Which leaves the climbing legs, building strength on the quads, hammies and core to power me up the long mountain passes with weight on my back.

There is no better way to build that strength than to find vert – the steeper the better. The climbing will build leg strength and lung capacity, obviously, but the downhill is equally important, as it builds the ability to eccentrically load the quads and withstand the pounding of downhill miles. I’ve been focusing on hiking up as quickly as possible (not very quick some days, if I am being honest…) and then running back down to maximize the downhill effect.

I am lucky to have a wonderful adventure buddy (need coaching – she’ll get you to your goals!) who is training for an impossibly cool stage race in the Austrian Alps, where vert is just a fact of life. We’ve dedicated one day a week to go and find some serious vert, and after several weeks, I’m seeing a big improvement in my ability to climb and descend. We hope to cap off our climbing training with the Triple D Challenge – a one day summit of Mt Defiance, Dog Mountain and Devil’s Rest. We’ll see how that goes!

If you want to add some vert to your life and you’re training in the Portland area, here are the routes we’ve mapped out as possible destinations for climbing practice.  You can pare them down and do repeats or combine in other ways. If there is a big climb you know of that I’ve missed, let me know in the comments.

p.s. If you are interested in getting local maps from Komoot, let me know via email (runnerteri at I can email you a code for a free region of maps. I’m a big fan of their mapping and planning features. I’ve been a fan of Gaia GPS for a long time, but I might have a new favorite.

About The Author

About The Author

Teri Smith is starting her third act as a photographer, writer and adventure seeker in the Pacific Northwest. Learn more here.