Jordan Cannon and partners Matt Segal and Jesse Huey made the second successful ascent of Cowboy Direct, the original route up Pakistan notorious Trango Tower. Whether or not you dream of high alpine ascents like his, there’s plenty to learn from his approach to training for this arduous expedition.
Jordan Cannon didn’t even know that he would be making the trip up to Trango Tower until April. But on August 5th, 2023, he found himself standing on the summit after making the second ascent of Cowboy Direct. This treacherous high-alpine climb tested Cannon and his partners Matt Segal and Jesse Huey in more ways than they could have ever expected. The attempt put them through the kind of test that you can’t completely prepare for. They learned as they went, and pulled from their decades of combined experience as some of the most accomplished climbers in the game. The ascent took everything in them, accumulated over all those years, to come to fruition.
Even so, Cannon put valiant effort into training himself up for the expedition. He only had about two months of notice before leaving for Pakistan—not much time to prepare the body and mind for cruxing at 20,000 feet above sea level. But Cannon made the most of that short window with an emphasis on improving his cardiovascular system, respiratory system, work capacity, lower body strength, and mental approach.
The team’s expedition on Trango Tower involved much more than just climbing. Before they could even begin to ascend the rock, Cannon and his partners spent nearly a week hiking up from the last town in the canyon to Base Camp carrying haul bags weighing over 50 pounds each. But the work didn’t end there. The manual labor involved in making alpine adventure possible adds up to demand at least as much effort as the actual climbing—if not more. Fixing ropes, hauling gear, jugging up to the previous session’s high point, and trekking back and forth from camp ate up countless hours of each day, on top of the actual climbing process.
To that end, Cannon knew that he would need to hone more than just his climbing abilities before setting off to Pakistan. He kept up with his regular bouldering, hangboarding, and route sessions in the gym leading up to the trip for the sake of maintaining his top-end climbing strength. Beyond that, though, Cannon committed to playing hockey four to five days a week as a way to prepare himself cardiovascularly for the miles of hiking that lay ahead. Hockey also helped him develop more leg strength for those heavily weighted hikes and aggressive approaches to the climb.
Cannon then got off the ice and onto the rock. He spent time soloing and hiking between long linkups in Red Rocks near his Las Vegas home. The habit improved his work capacity for climbing, but also his mental capacity for managing fear and controlling effort throughout lengthy endeavors high above ground. Cannon even set a new goal for himself that he began tackling during this time: putting together the HURT (Honnold’s Ultimate Red Rocks Traverse) that covers 35 miles, 23 summits, and 14 routes to the tune of 24,000 vertical feet.
Finally, Cannon tucked into a Hypoxico altitude tent every night for the six weeks leading up to the expedition up Trango Tower, which tops out at 20,618 feet. While altitude tents have nothing on the actual experience of climbing in the high alpine, they can make a big difference in how easily the body is able to adapt when the time comes.
Keep in mind that Cannon climbs at an elite level with a speciality in big wall ascents. The specific training he completed over the course of these two months leading up to the expedition certainly made a difference; but those weeks pale in comparison to the years of climbing experience he’d already accumulated going into it. The biggest takeaway we can learn from Jordan Cannon’s quick turnaround is this: play the long game. Train for the love of climbing itself, not just for a particular agenda. You never know what spontaneous invitation for the adventure of a lifetime might come your way.
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