View Full Version : Building Up From Sea Level to 14K+

12-08-2010, 23:11
I've set a goal of summiting Longs Peak in honor of my late mother, who climbed it twice herself, and as a challenge for personal health and conditioning and for the fun of it, with the target date, at latest, of 2016, the year I turn 50. Have always loved mountains, have realized how much so this year - it's become one of my principle passions, hiking and, as conditioning improves and experience builds, rock climbing and mountaineering.

I start off needing to lose about 75 lbs to get to peak condition and am following a plan of hiking and exercising as much as possible, ascending ever higher peaks - my highest yet was Stratton Mountain in October, and I had a small asthmatic reaction (worst ever for me, my only real, albeit small asthma attack - I'd only had an occasional small wheeze in the past).

So, to the point - my worry is to make sure I gradually acclimate and condition myself, over time, to higher altitude. I live near sea level in Connecticut, so my lungs are used to the thick air, plentiful with O2. The plan, generally, is to hike Killington Peak, Mt. Washington and maybe Lafayette next year and, from there, to do some 8K peaks (Half Dome comes to mind) and beyond in coming years, building up to Longs' 14,235 or so by '16, hopefully sooner. (It appeared that Tuckerman Ravine to Washington's summit is similarly difficult to Longs' Keyhole Route in terms of grade, with altitude and some tricky stretches near the summit of Longs being the big differences).

The good news is I'm on good track for Washington next summer. Recently did a hike which approximates Tuck's first three miles with relative ease (the same hiked taxed me mightily last July, a month into my new hiking adventures). Am working on steep ascents which correspond to the pitch of Tuck's wall and the summit cone with improving results.

I'm looking for helpful suggestions - has any of you had to deal with asthma or overweight or diabetes? Followed such a gradual altitude conditioning program? Any insight and experience you can share will be most appreciated. Thank you in advance.

The Solemates
12-09-2010, 00:04
sounds like you got off the couch....congrats! thats the first step. no problem with taking it slow. enjoy it and happy hiking!

i too live near sea level (600' maybe)...I hike quite a bit out west...and have found that camping high the first night (8000-11000 feet) helps me tremendously. from there, I am good to go. conversely, if I try to arrive and hike up past 12000 on the same day (or have camped low the night before), it is much harder for me.

12-09-2010, 02:40
Thanks, Solemates. I'm thinking that to stay for a day in Denver/Boulder, then camp/stay up near Longs or at Estes Park, will help with acclimitization with altitude.

Yes, got off the couch, though never was entirely on it. Have golfed and kept active - gym, etc. But more pronouncedly this year. The key thing is that I greatly enjoy hiking, much moreso than golf, which I always quite enjoyed in itself. My remaining challenge, aside from keeping with the exercise program, which I'm enjoying so that's pretty easy, will be to keep the appetite in check. I have a tendency to eat like a thru-hiker without putting in the 15 miles a day. :o Guess I'll just have to hike more. ... :-?

double d
12-09-2010, 10:43
Driver 8, when you arrive in Colorado from your homestate, take a day or two of sight seeing Colorado, as I once lived there (Mags could direct you to some day hikes, but there are a million of them in Colorado) and the elevation off the plane is about 5,000 feet. Then, go to Estest Park for a day or two before you start your hike and follow the advice from Soulmates and you will be fine. It will be a great way to allow your body time to adjust and you will be ready to honor your mother with your hike, as Longs Peak is one of my favorite hikes in the U.S.

12-09-2010, 11:15
Thanks double d - your kind words warm my heart. :) I plan to see some sights in Denver/Boulder - plenty of good stuff to see. Maybe make a trip down to Trinidad for some family-significant visiting. Then up towards Rocky Mountain NP.

Longs does look like a spectacular ascent - I've done it on Google Earth quite a few times. :) One thing I'll likely do during the week of my trip will be something I also intend to do with Katahdin, which is to time my day of climb based on weather reports. I'd like to climb each of them on as pretty a day as possible. Impossible to be 100% about such things with big, moody mountains, but with some planning, and hopefully more luck, I hope it'll work out.

12-09-2010, 13:11
By the time you can hike Mt. Washington you're fit enough for hiking to higher elevation. There's no reason for taking years to gradually raise your altitude limit to 14K. Eastern mountains are too low to learn how you adapt to altitude. Altitude acclimation varies from person to person, and it may be genetic. If you're going to higher elevation (15K+) it's useful to work out what you need to reach altitude. For me, if I can spend a couple days at 8K then a couple of days at 10K, a couple of days at 11K to 12K, I'm good for higher with minimal problems.

Asthma: I have asthma, but haven't climbed in high mountains since I developed asthma. From my research, it shouldn't affect you at all, as long as your asthma is well controlled. Talk to your doctor about your asthma and get a referral to a respiratory doctor. Both cold air and intense exercise can trigger asthma attacks in some people; there are ways to treat this but you need to know about it.
There was a TV series on climbing Everest, 'Everest: Beyond the Limit' (netflix has it). A Danish climber with asthma, Mogens Jensen, was attempting Everest without using bottled oxygen. He eventually made it using oxygen.http://showbizandstyle.inquirer.net/lifestyle/lifestyle/view/20070709-75687/Asthma_no_deterrent_to_reaching_Mount_Everest_tip_

You'll have a lot of fun in the mountains.

12-09-2010, 13:50
Altitude acclimation varies from person to person, and it may be genetic.

I think it's related to my condition/shape. I've some confidence I'll be OK as my conditioning improves - when I was 10 and in A+ condition, my grandma and her husband and I drove Rt. 34 over the top of Rocky Mtn NP and I had no problem. The time I had an altitude episode, I had no conditioning or acclimation, and I was in worse condition than I am now. I will monitor it carefully of course.

Asthma: I have asthma, but haven't climbed in high mountains since I developed asthma. From my research, it shouldn't affect you at all, as long as your asthma is well controlled.

I'd never had an attack until Stratton (two months ago today, incidentally), which was three days after a flu shot which - for my first time ever - had precipitated the lousy semi-flu that can sometimes happen. I think that was a factor, as was the cold, and of course the exercise. I hoofed it to get up in 3 hours and back down in two, just making it to my car as darkness fell, barely seeing the last half mile's worth of white blazes.

The summit of Stratton was much colder than the base - it was 38 F according to meteoroligical records I later looked up, with a steady wind I estimated at 35-40 mph. The attack was mild - maybe 20% impairment and transient, resolving in about 10-15 minutes. It was scary, though, never having had one before. I took it as a caution to be diligent in minding my health and my progress generally and specifically with respect to this project.

12-09-2010, 13:57
Snow Leopard - sorry, I didn't mention this in a prior post, but I had an altitude episode at Lassen Peak's nearby highway, when my hen-girlfriend and I drove up from her home in Chico, CA for the day. From elevation 200', maybe, to 8K+ same day, and I got the heebie jeebies at the top elevation - she drove us, fast as she safely could, downward, and about 1000 feet lower I was fine. It was 11 years ago, and though younger, I was not as fit as I am now, though the diabetes is worse and I have since had the small situational asthmatic episode at Stratton. ...

04-21-2011, 20:03
I've found that NO2 tablets (time-release L-Argenine) from Vitamin World or GNC really help me get better O2 uptake. The nitric oxide they produce in your bloodstream dialates your blood vessles much like Cialis does and you can breath better with the better blood flowto your lungs' alveoli. Everest and climbers of other 20,000+ ft. mountains use Viagara or Cialis for the same reason. :D

04-21-2011, 20:21
Sounds to me like you had better do what most successful Leadville 100 runners do: Get in the best shape you can at home, and then come to CO one month before your attempt and continue getting in shape.
A day or two is not going to help. You need to sleep up there. (and be in shape)
Good luck. Anything is possible.

04-21-2011, 21:24
Driver8, with all the Conn. and Mass hiking you seem to be doing lately you must be in decent shape now. If you had some problems at 8000' you should ascend gradually. Since you'll probably fly into Denver, stay there or at that altitude a day, go to a higher town (say 7K) for a day or two and perhaps to 9K or 10K for a day or two.
In general:
Acclimation to altitude is an individual thing, monitor how you feel; if you start feeling lousy, go down a bit for a day or two then try again.
Take it easy the first few days at higher elevation, say above 7K.
Sleep low, climb high. Whatever you do during the day, increase the elevation you sleep at gradually, especially above 10K.
Stay well hydrated.
Read up on the symptoms of altitude sickness. Mild headache is OK, just take it easy.

I've had mild altitude sickness sleeping at 4000 meters (13000') in Peru, headache, nausea, couldn't eat, felt lousy. We descended one or two thousand feet and I was completely better. After another couple days at 3000m, I was completely fine at 5000 meters (16000'). My girlfriend was fine at 4000m and quite sick at 5000m.

04-21-2011, 21:38
Sleep low. Climb high. Make the lower a little higher each day. The higher a little higher. :)

In Boulder, the foot hills top out @ 8500'. Not a bad way to acclimate...

Have fun!