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Q. WHAT'S THE BEST WAY TO KEEP FIT FOR CLIMBING IN THE OFF-SEASON?

"Do what I do," says Chris Sharma, 22, arguably the best sport climber and boulderer in the world. "Grab a book and head to a café." Easy for him to say. But his point is a good one: "Climbing can be really hard on your body," he says. "Beginners tend to overtrain, so don't forget to let your body rest." That said, most non-superstars need to combine rest with a fitness regimen tailored to the rigors of climbing. Eric J. Hörst, author of Training for Climbing (Falcon/Globe Pequot, $17; www.trainingforclimbing.com), recommends three areas of focus for the off-season climber. First, keep your strength-to-weight ratio high with an aerobic activity like running, swimming, or biking. Second, do sit-ups and leg lifts to develop your abdominal region—an area climbers exaltedly label their "inner core." Finally, bolster pull-up strength by holding yourself in the up position for a few seconds with each pull-up. "Most important," Hörst says, "climbers need to climb." Getting some indoor wall time (for locations, visit www.indoorclimbing.com) is the best way to dial in your technique, improve economy of motion, and beef up grip strength. (Hangboards also work, but beginners tend to stress underdeveloped tendons.)

Q. IF POLITICAL VIOLENCE PERSISTS IN NEPAL, WHAT WOULD BE A GOOD SUBSTITUTE FOR THE TREK TO EVEREST BASE CAMP?

Trekkers have been looking to replace the classic 15-day route from Lukla, Nepal, to Everest base camp and back ever since Maoist rebels began their insurgency in the countryside in 1996. With a mounting death toll and one rebel leader vowing to "hoist the hammer and sickle atop Everest," there's good reason for caution. Additionally, a popular alternate to the Everest trek that takes hikers through remote terrain near Pakistan's K2 is now also considered unsafe. So where can a peace-loving traveler go for a transcendent Himalayan circuit? The snow-capped peaks of the Buddhist kingdom of Bhutan is one option. Another option is the millennia-old pilgrimage route around Tibet's Mount Kailas (see photos from the March feature "High Holy Days"). Or head to the Indian side of the Himalaya, to the Ladakh region, which many consider the heart of Himalayan Buddhism. Himalayan High Treks (www.himalayanhightreks.com) offers a 23-day mega-tour from Zanskar to Ladakh that features nearly a dozen monasteries, four 16,000-plus-foot (over 4,877-meter) passes, and a lot of lonely yak herders. "There," says Sanjay Saxena of Geographic Expeditions, "you see Buddhism as it was practiced in the region 300 to 400 years ago."

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March 2004



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