By guest blog writer David Walrath for A Room for Pilates

The first mountain I climbed was Mt. Hood in Oregon with the Mazamas in July, 1968 on the 75th anniversary of the founding of the club.  I still remember shivering in my sleeping bag for some hours as the Oregon rain trickled into my sleeping bag, inadequately protected by my poncho converted into a bivouac covering.  The moisture was slowly spreading through my bag and I was finding less and less space that was dry on which to lie, I wasn’t sleeping.

I was relieved to get up at 12:00 am to start the climb of Mt. Hood.  I had found whatever equipment was available in our basement, my father’s pack from World War II, his worn logging boots, which I realized on the mountain were nearly worn smooth after his years of wearing them to work. I managed a combination of pigeon toed and snow plow technique of walking gaining a bit of an edge to get some bite into the snow and ice, since there was no tread on the soles.

I experienced my first sunrise on the flanks of a mountain, delighted in seeing the shadow cast by Mt. Hood and began my life long love of climbing.

Over the 40+ intervening years I climbed many peaks, gradually improving my equipment and practicing better conditioning.  On that first climb of Mt. Hood I had not done any conditioning, not even so much as a walk around the block.  As the mountains I climbed grew in altitude and difficulty I would sometimes spend months hiking, running and lifting weights, gradually building my conditioning.

An exception to this training regime was when I climbed the tallest peak in Nevada, Boundary Peak.

I had just begun taking my first Pilates mat class at the local community college and wasn’t doing any other physical training at the time.

Midway through the semester I went to the Owens Valley to scout out areas for future backpacking trips.  Since I was a mountain climber and found myself at the foot of Boundary Peak, the tallest mountain in Nevada, I thought I would walk up it a little way to see how it went. Because I had not been training to climb but was only doing beginning Pilates mat work, I did not expect to go to far.

Well as it turned out I hiked all the way to the top, over 13,163 feet.  I had not been training for hiking or mountain climbing and was amazed at how well I did just based on my Pilates training. I felt it was surely the strengthening of the torso/leg connection that made it possible for me to walk so effortlessly up the mountain.

On the way up I even passed a group of 5 mountaineers who had been planning and practicing for the trip for months.  And they were all at least 20 years younger than me.

When I returned to class the next week I proudly shared my story with my Pilates teacher and came to realize that there really was something to this core strengthening practice of Pilates.


David doing the Pilates exercise called “The mountain climber”