/ Can you simulate altitude for training ?

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paul walters - on 08 Sep 2013
I'd planned Mont Blanc for this year but wasn't able to go. Mate of mine did go, but despite being much fitter than me, struggled with the altitude. My attempt will be September 2014, but I'm worried about the effect of height since apart from a planned trip to Toubkal in April, I'm not likely to get any other exposure, and I'm not sure how I'll react in the Alps. Is it possible to simulate low oxygen levels without actually going to height ? I've seen a neoprene mask advertised on the Net from a company in USA, but I'm pretty sceptical about that. Any thoughts anyone ?
elsewhere on 08 Sep 2013
CharleneGibson - on 08 Sep 2013
> I'd planned Mont Blanc for this year but wasn't able to go. Mate of mine did go, but despite being much fitter than me, struggled with the altitude. My attempt will be September 2014, but I'm worried about the effect of height since apart from a planned trip to Toubkal in April, I'm not likely to get any other exposure, and I'm not sure how I'll react in the Alps. Is it possible to simulate low oxygen levels without actually going to height ? I've seen a neoprene mask advertised on the Net from a company in USA, but I'm pretty sceptical about that. Any thoughts anyone ?


You may find that his fitness was part of the problem i.e. if he climbed too hard, too fast. Just go steady with it - hopefully whoever you're going with will allow enough acclimatisation during the attempt.
ablackett - on 08 Sep 2013
In reply to paul walters: Acclimatisation doesn't have anything to do with fitness so don't worry too much about that. It can get anyone if you don't acclimatise right, and chances are you will go up too fast (in terms of number of days, not walking speed) to be sure of being fine, so you just have to be lucky!
hedgepig - on 08 Sep 2013
In reply to paul walters:
Spending an extra few days above 2000m before the main climb, and doing some lesser peaks would help. 'Climb high sleep low', so even a walk over a pass would help. Sea-level aerobic fitness is no measure of acclimatisation. 'Pushing it' is counterproductive, you need to be a bit zen. Everyone acclimatises eventually to alpine altitudes; I take about a week nowadays.
butteredfrog - on 08 Sep 2013
In reply to paul walters:

20+ Marlboro Red a day (or Camels) for 6 months should do it! :)

I did hear a theory that smokers perform better at altitude, due to "being used to operating with a lower blood oxygen level than non-smokers"
dylan_the_fox - on 08 Sep 2013
In reply to butteredfrog:

Yes but remember you then have to give up the fags during the actual climb. 1:30 am in the hut may not be the most auspicious time to do that!
ice.solo - on 08 Sep 2013
In reply to paul walters:

Can simulate the oxygen demands for activity. Proper masks exist, but cheaper option is to breathe thru a tube or even just your nose whilst running up stairs etc.

Not very pleasant and takes a long time to develop true benefits. Be careful of passing out if you try it.
radson - on 09 Sep 2013
In reply to ice.solo:

Yeah we did a lot of interval training with water in our mouths to prevent us breathing. We had to spit it out at the end to show we hadnt cheated. Absolutely brutal stuff.
Al Evans on 09 Sep 2013
In reply to butteredfrog:
> (In reply to paul walters)
>
> 20+ Marlboro Red a day (or Camels) for 6 months should do it! :)
>
> I did hear a theory that smokers perform better at altitude, due to "being used to operating with a lower blood oxygen level than non-smokers"

Actually this actually happened on our Everest West Face expedition. The chain smoker on the team turned down the oxygen we were using on the last 2.000ft because he didn't find it helpful.
Al Evans on 09 Sep 2013
In reply to Al Evans: Alternatively fly a lot, passenger jets are pressurized to 5,000ft absl.
ablackett - on 09 Sep 2013
In reply to ice.solo: Breath through a tube while running up stairs!! Doesn't sound like a great idea.
hokkyokusei - on 09 Sep 2013
ablackett - on 11 Sep 2013
In reply to hokkyokusei: I'm amazed how cheep that is. 225 a month for renting an acclimatisation tent. OK, it's not peanuts but I bet some amateur athletes spend that sort of money on protein shakes, new fancy shoes etc and I would imagine that a bit of at home high altitude training could have a significant affect.
DrP - on 14 Sep 2013
In reply to paul walters:

I have huge problems with altitude sickness and looked in to altitude training centres, tents, diamox, fitness, etc. You are right to be sceptical. I found the following article very useful when I was looking in to using tents:

http://www.outsideonline.com/fitness/fitness-coach/Do-Altitude-Tents-Work-.html

OwenM - on 14 Sep 2013
In reply to paul walters: I think it was Mo Anthoine who said the best training for the Himalayas was "to sit in a hot oven and eat shit sandwiches". I can't say I've tried it.

For the Alps just start with some lower peaks and then do progressively higher ones, always worked for me.
ice.solo - on 14 Sep 2013
In reply to ablackett:
> (In reply to ice.solo) Breath through a tube while running up stairs!! Doesn't sound like a great idea.

its certainly not fun. nor does it specificly train 'altitude' rather oxygen uptake.
altitude capacity is an endocrinal function, so not a lot can be done about it other than drugs, but oxygen uptake can be trained and developed.
much of the benefit too is simply finding your sustainable thresholds - better to dabble with this under simulated conditions than the real thing.

the stairs work well because they work straight with the large leg muscle mass that has a big oxygen demand.
it takes time to develop actual increases, but fairly rapidly you find out how to tweak your output to a sustainable level.
highclimber - on 15 Sep 2013
In reply to paul walters: if you know someone with the same blood ttype as yourself you could steal some of their blood.
abseil on 15 Sep 2013
In reply to paul walters:
>...Mont Blanc... I'm worried about the effect of height... Is it possible to simulate low oxygen levels without actually going to height ?

I wish you luck but be careful. I'm always amazed that people want to shortcut proper and careful adjustment to altitude (Hedgepig's post above is, to me, the best and most useful so far for methods of doing that) before going high. You could try these websites too:

http://www.nhsdirect.wales.nhs.uk/encyclopaedia/a/article/altitudesickness/

http://timberlinetrails.net/ClimbingAltitudeSickness.html

Have a good climb, and best of luck.
almost sane - on 15 Sep 2013
In reply to paul walters:

Plan well.

Allow enough time for acclimatisation, and enough slack in the schedule so you don't feel the pressure to go up whilst you are feeling rough or when the weather is poor.

Invest in giving yourself enough time for the ascent.
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paul walters - on 15 Sep 2013
In reply to paul walters: Thanks for all the advice guys (and girls). I'll be using a guiding company(most probably Icicle Mountaineering) so that I DO get some acclimatisation before the summit day, and also an alternative peak if the weather is bad on the day.

The team that went over this year (which I am now glad I didn't join) allowed no time for acclimatisation at all, which is why most of them suffered some discomfort.

I know I am not fit enough at present, and have started a training schedule to increase my CV fitness. I know too that it's a long way off, but it's a goal with a number of way-points.... Lapland this winter, then Toubkal in April, as well as as many mountain days here in the UK that I can fit in.

If can also start doing something about the altitude at the same time, then all to the better. I'll follow up all the leads. Many Thanks.

Paul W
IainRUK - on 15 Sep 2013
In reply to radson:
> (In reply to ice.solo)
>
> Yeah we did a lot of interval training with water in our mouths to prevent us breathing. We had to spit it out at the end to show we hadnt cheated. Absolutely brutal stuff.

why would that help? surely you are then working the anaerobic system?
derryclimbs - on 15 Sep 2013
In reply to paul walters:

go for a run and only use a straw to breath through!
Stevie A - on 15 Sep 2013

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