Physical conditioning and mental attitude

Sound preparation and conditioning for bushwalking or ski touring is as much an issue of attitude as it is of physical condition. The importance of physical fitness for the enjoyment of a trip is obvious. It also greatly increases the chances of avoiding or surviving hypothermia, heat exhaustion or physical injury.

Although involvement in sports and other physical activities is beneficial for general conditioning, bushwalking and ski touring have their own specific fitness requirements that are best acquired through practice in the activity. This means that proper training and a gradual build up are essential prior to undertaking extended trips. Accidents occur and potentially dangerous situations develop when group members are unequal to the task set for them.

Apart from improving physical performance, the conditioning process should include familiarisation with the different conditions that may be encountered, thus strengthening attitudes to situations of stress and discomfort. Beginners on pack-carrying trips, especially school groups, should be psychologically prepared for what might turn out to be a difficult experience. They should be told that on occasions it may be wet, cold or very hot, that their feet may be sore, and that their packs may feel extremely heavy; but nevertheless they will find that they can cope and still enjoy themselves.

Maintenance of high morale enhances trip enjoyment and will help to offset exhaustion and exposure should such situations develop. Morale appears as a contributing factor in exposure cases, when coupled with low physical endurance capacity. Low morale saps energy which would be best conserved for the task of walking or skiing.

Physical and mental fitness for bushwalking and skiing can be supplemented by other physical preparation, but it is best achieved by successfully experiencing a series of trips at the individual’s level, which gradually increase in difficulty and develop or strengthen a belief in personal ability.