Words from Wik

Sharing my Experiences

Sunday, March 6, 2011

How to Train for Mount Everest

As the next batch of adventurers get ready for their own attempts at Mt. Everest, I find myself asking them how they train for “the big E” (as some people call it). When I was preparing and training I did all the research I could, asked all the people that might know, so that I would be as prepared as possible. Looking back on it almost one year later I thought I would list the things that I thought helped me the most, and in general they can be applied to other circumstances also. In order if decreasing importance they are:

1. Listen to people that have done it before.

The fact is Everest has been climbed by thousands of people. Chances are if you are at all entertaining the idea of climbing Everest you’ve met someone who has done it. Hopefully you’ve climbed with them. Ask them all they know and take it seriously. I attribute a lot of my success to picking the brains of Ryan Waters at Mountain Professionals, who I climbed Aconcagua with, and Arnold Coster, who I climbed Cho Oyu with.


2. Climb an 8000m mountain before attempting Everest

One of the things I learned from point (1) above is this point. The company I climbed Aconcagua with stated that climbing Aconcagua was enough to qualify for Everest. However I was convinced by others it would be better to climb Cho Oyu first, and I’m glad I did. Aconcagua to Cho Oyu was a step up, a predictable one to be honest. And Cho Oyu to Everest was of course a step up also, but more that I thought it would be.

I have since developed my own reason for recommending that people climb Cho Oyu first. The straight fact is that nobody knows how their body will react to elevations of 8000m. And to put it bluntly, it’s much easier for others to drag your unconscious or otherwise disabled body from or near the summit of Cho Oyu than from most points on Everest. So as you learn how your body reacts to 8000m, do it in a place that has more room for ‘self discovery’ than Everest.

Another, less important reason, is to prepare one’s mind to long expeditions. Going from a three-week expedition like Aconcagua or Denali to an eight-week Everest expedition is a big jump. Most people that don’t summit Everest are not turned back by bad weather or from being too tired or not having enough technical experience. They choose to go home early because they don’t know how miserable an Everest expedition is, how taxing on the mind and body, how much they’ll miss their families (keep all family contact to a minimum when on the expedition to help with this point).

I have met a bunch of people, from marathon runners in tremendous shape to true Alpiniste mountaineers who make first ascents in the Alps and Andes, decide to go home early. And there’s nothing wrong with that, I also wanted to go home early at various points. But there is a way to be prepared for it.

Climbing Stairs with Pack

3. Train Mentally

I could write a lot about this but I think it has been said better by Ice and Mixed Climber extraordinaire, fellow Canadian Will Gadd on his own blog Gravsports. An excerpt is below:

Nobody wants to think about mental fitness. It’s a lot easier to keep track of physical improvement than mental improvement. To become stronger mentally you have to look inside yourself and realize that, even if you can do a one-arm pullup with an engine block in the other hand, the ultimate limiting factor is your head. And most people are simply too weak mentally to actually get stronger mentally. For many people the area between their ears is completely dark, off-limits and filled with soul-twisting demons that just can’t be faced much less slain. But, unless you know how to hit your ideal mental performance state, all your training is quite literally a waste…

How did I train mentally? By climbing Cho Oyu first (see point above). By going (several years in a row) on a ski trip with friends, which involved a profane amount of drinking all night, followed by extreme hangover pain the next morning, but going skiing anyways when I felt like dying, feeling that nauseating sting of yesterday’s alcohol still in my system course through my veins as my heart rate climbed as we skied. By following a strict diet in my training, eating things that were good for me but rarely good tasting, often the same thing day after day.

(Just to elaborate on a couple of those points above, my training specifically for Everest involved a strict diet and no alcohol at all, with the exception of that New Year’s ski trip I mention above. I jokingly called it part of my mental training as I took those few days off, but there was a lot of truth to it. Also, the discipline I learned from my diet of eating the same thing day in and day out helped me to eat whatever was available on Everest, to wolf down that tasteless bowl of Dal Bhat in Camp 2 and ask for another as I watched my companions play with their first serving even though I was sick of eating it as much as they were. I lost 25 pounds on Everest so eating all you can plays a big role.)

Ice Climbing

4. Everything Else

After those three points above comes the thing that most people focus on, the physical training, technical climbing ability, mountain experience, etc. I think they are still quite important, but there are enough other people that have written about them that I will defer to them. I say quite often, you have to come to Everest prepared physically. But once you show up physically trained, climbing the mountain is 90% mental.

That’s all for this post, I think it came out a little longer than expected. But I cannot finish before saying that this is just my experience and opinion. Your mileage may vary. Because honestly, what do I know; I have only summited Everest once, and I consider myself lucky to have done that. So chances are I might have no idea what I’m talking about.

posted by Wiktor at 20:06  

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

I made another video

CIRA contest logoI made a little video clip that I posted on youtube to enter a contest; this contest was organized by the the people who run .ca domains. It was meant to answer the question: how does your .ca domain benefit you? So I took that as an opportunity to show off my worldpeak.ca site, maybe I can get the word out a little better and get some traffic to the site, maybe leading to some donations! Anyways, have a look at it if you want, I show some footage from my Cho Oyu climb along with some new footage of what I’m doing to train for Everest. I thought the video was not too bad, but when I look at it on a new day I realize it is still pretty amateurish, but oh well!


We’ll see if it makes it to the final round, but either way I hope it can generate some interest. 9 days to Everest, and Happy St. Patrick’s Day to everyone!

posted by Wiktor at 21:29  

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Inspiration from Olympians

The Winter Olympics that were held in Vancouver this year came and went, and for most Canadians it was an enjoyable experience (as for many other countries). For me also, however I took some special inspiration from the event and the athletes in particular. I have been training for almost 5 months for my Everest trip, and it has come with it’s emotional highs and lows. I have learned what it means to sacrifice some things in life to achieve something that most people don’t strive for. And so when I think about how Olympic athletes train their entire lives, or at least years upon years of such sacrifice, to get their one chance at competitive glory, their time to show what they can do, I have nothing but the utmost respect for them. And I realize how my training does not even compare, though for me it’s all I can do. And luckily my sport is not a competitive one, I do not have to train to be the best in the world, just good enough. So I just wanted to say, good job athletes, thanks for the show, and thanks for inspiring me to stay focused on what I need to do!
Vancouver 2010

posted by Wiktor at 11:17  

Saturday, January 30, 2010

It’s starting to get to me…

The training I have been doing to get myself into shape for Everest is starting to weigh on me. Not sure exactly why but I am really starting to not like it. When I go to the gym I am tired of feeling pain and burn from the weights, and as I keep upping the weights that burn is not going away. I find I need to take longer breaks between sets, and mentally I’m just not into it as much. I’ll keep going for a while still, though I doubt I’ll reach my weight goal I specified in an earlier post; but no matter, that was just an arbitrary number anyways. Regardless I am glad I’m getting stronger and I can quite confidently say I am in the best shape of my life. And I definitely have an appreciation for those guys at the gym that are totally bulked up, not so much for what they achieve but for the dedication and discipline it takes to achieve it. Though I wonder if I could get as big with my current schedule if I was on steroids? Just a thought, not something I’ll ever find out.

Anyways, this mental challenge in my training I should take gladly, because it’s exactly these kinds of feelings that I will have on Everest. It will be a case of my body not wanting to do what I must convince my mind to do. However, two months of that on Everest will be more than enough and if I have to put up with it starting now I wonder how I’ll fare once on the mountain.

posted by Wiktor at 2:14  

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

It Starts…

Happy New Year everyone! Now that it’s 2010 and I’m deep into my preparations to climb Mt. Everest I thought I’d share some of them.

I am now training what I consider to be full time. I am lifting weights at least three times a week, swimming at least once a week (for an hour), and trying to get out into the mountains for ‘real-world’ exercise on the weekends. I’m learning about training techniques and strategies, and I am learning a lot about fitness nutrition. There is a lot to it, and there’s a lot of information out there to digest, but I am enjoying it! I enjoy learning new things and I am getting an appreciation for how professional athletes train, how diligently they have to eat, etc. There’s some really cool people who are helping me out which should make it a little easier.

I guess just to summarize what I am doing: when at high altitude I will lose weight, a lot of it being muscle, so with my build I need to build muscle to be better prepared for when I start losing it on the mountain. Maybe I could get away with what I have, but I am taking this trip a little seriously and I want every advantage I can get. My goal is to get to 200 pounds (91 kg), where the most I have ever really weighed is 185 pounds (83 kg). While gaining weight can be easy, gaining muscle is not!

I was looking into satellite phones to try and see if I can get one to stay in touch with people while on the mountain, when I remembered someone saying that Everest Base Camp has cell coverage. So I looked into it further and it seems that Nepal Telecom wants to expand that to give the entire south side of the mountain cell coverage! Click here to see the story. Anyways, I’m hoping that system is working and hopefully I’ll be able to keep in touch with a normal cell phone! How times have changes since Hillary, no?

Another little bit of preparation I did today: I sold some stock in AMD that I had bought previously, I’m starting to get the money together that I need to fund my trip. It was a stock that did not too bad between when I bought it back in November 08 and now.

That’s it for now, take care and make the most of 2010!

posted by Wiktor at 6:16  

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