What is the best way to prepare for high altitude expeditions?
This is the question we ask ourselves before departing to those higher regions of the world. In this blog I am going to discuss some of the methods we can use to improve our chances of success and alternative training options.
If like me you live close to sea level and don’t have mountains over 1000 meters on your door step then we have three options to improve chances of success. I say improve because all we can do is improve our chances in the mountains. Unless you have traveled to high altitudes regularly then you will have little idea how your body will react.
Train in the gym - Many mountaineers will turn their nose up at this option however for some people it is the simplest option to get fitter. It may also be the most beneficial because the majority of us can access a gym on a regular basis. And to be successful, consistency is key.
Access the hills and mountains- Many of the UK’s most famous mountaineers trained on mountains less than 1000 meters high in Wales and The Lake District. Even though mountains in Britain are small they can be challenging, technical and the weather is changeable. Hours hiking and climbing will build leg strength and endurance. It will produce confidence in ones ability to stay safe and increase your mountain sense.
Travel to altitude- getting some altitude experience under your belt will be well worth the investment. Not only will you gain an understanding of your body acclimatising but you will also develop fitness and skills. The alps are a great training ground as well as Morocco which has mountains over 4000 meters and is a considerably cheaper alternative.
Extra services out there..
Altitude chambers, tents and gyms - There are options to rent altitude tents which people sleep in prior to departing and options to pay for equipment which lowers oxygen levels in the air while training. Specialist gyms around the UK offer this service. Your body will start adapting to the set altitude and so this is a very good option if you don’t want to travel. This option may suit someone who is time short but can afford the specialist equipment. However altitude gains do not last long on the body and it is said that the body re-adjusts to sea level as quick as it adapts to altitude. So by the time you leave your altitude tent or gym and step onto the mountain you may have lost all of the gains. Traveling to remote locations can take days or even weeks so timing is key to keeping any altitude gains.
A success story of altitude tents was a climber I met on Mustagh Ata over 7000metres high in Tibet who had been sleeping every night for over a month in an altitude tent at home each night steadily decreasing the oxygen in the air.
He told me he summited without any rest or acclimatising days. Although I did not follow him so if I was to believe this method I would have to believe him. There are lots of mixed reviews on the internet to the benefit of altitude tents so I will let you do your own home work and make your own opinions on the matter.
I hope you found this interesting and please comment or message me if you have any input