Dream of touching the sky one day? Learn to climb right here at home, then go for the summit with real sherpas using legendary mountaineer Peter Whittaker's top tips. 

1. Level with yourself 

“Mountaineering is long-term suffering,” Whittaker says. Those glorious summit pics are usually the result of grueling, hours-long trudges uphill (and, at times, technical rock climbing) with a massive pack on your back. Then you’ve got to make it down. Still want to sign up for that trip?

2. Get up to get down 

“Most people train to go uphill, but downhill can be more brutal,” Whittaker says. Not near mountains? Find a stadium—or even a tall building’s stairwell—and put in an hour here or there, eventually with a pack. Finally, mimic a summit push by hiking 10-plus hours with just 10 minutes’ rest per hour.

3. Test-drive the peak 

“An awful lot of people climb Rainier for their first time, find it’s the hardest thing they’ve ever done, and quit climbing altogether,” Whittaker says. Before investing in your own pricey kit or a major climb, tackle a smaller summit with a commercial outfitter who offers skills training.