Say you are living in Switzerland and would like to climb 4000m peaks over the weekend, but spend Mon-Fri at sea-ish level.
Has anyone had success spending time at altitude only during the weekends and maintaining some acclimatization effects? Or a week long holiday is the only way?
Only musings rather than anything concrete but I suspect its a very personal thing. I know I'm good to about 3800m straight from sea level as long as its just a day trip and I'm not up there for ages. I think I'd struggle to go to 4000m without time up high before hand. My wife starts getting headaches pretty quickly after about 3500m unless she has had a day or two up high first. Try something that's easy to back off and see how your body responds.
Normally I don't accimatise particularly fast & start to feel the effects at 3 000m, sometimes lower. But there have been a few winters/early springs when although living at low altitude (Nancy, Paris) I was ski touring at weekends once or twice a month from Christmas till Easter and found that the acclimatisation from a week at the start seemed to last with the regular 'top up' of a night in a refuge at altitude plus the ski touring at heights up to almost 4 000.
But everyone seems a bit different when it comes to alititude so you'll just have to try & see ho it goes for you.
I also know I can go straight from sea level to 3800m with an intermediate hut stop. Followed by 4000m peaks. My guess is that once you've acclimatised to 4000+m you'd probably maintain it by only climbing at weekends. But everyone is different
> I went up the breithorn last year no acclimatization and I’m a fat old bugger... went ok for me
In that case you are a lucky fat old bugger.
> My guess is that once you've acclimatised to 4000+m you'd probably maintain it by only climbing at weekends. But everyone is different.
I'd be surprised if that didn't work for most people as long as you kept it up; I think very little acclimatisation would be lost in just a week.
As someone who lives in Switzerland and sometimes climbs 4000m peaks at the weekend I'd say that it's perfectly possible although I doubt that there is any long term physiological change. In the scheme of things 4000m isn't high and the risk of pulmonary or cerebral oedema is low so sleeping badly is about the worst thing that can realistically happen unless you're very unlucky.
There's a relatively subconscious psychological adaptation though as after a few times at altitude your body "remembers" how to adapt and you know what to expect which helps enormously.
A few things that help are being as fit as possible and deliberately ascending slowly to huts so that you're always in zone 1. Arriving early is also good as you get the afternoon for the change in blood PH to take place - beer helps as it's a diuretic!
I suspect it may be the opposite. Sometimes people talk of a "ping pong" problem effect caused by going up and down too much. Don't know if there is any scientific basis for it, but there is some logic that going up and down repeatedly, changing the conditions your body is trying to cope with might confuse it and actually be counterproductive.
But I don't think this stuff is well understood, so really it's all conjecture. Probably, simply whether you acclimatise well and can cope with sudden altitude changes particularly well is the key. Everybody is different and even the same person can acclimatise completely differently on different occasions... I think you have to just try stuff and figure out how it works as you go along - but being aware that the repeat up and down could be unhelpful rather than helpful may be no bad thing.
No personal experience, but I've met a few Italian climbers who live down around Milan or at a similar altitude and made regular weekend hits on the 4000ers. Didn't seem to be a problem for them, they were fast and fit. Once acclimatized, 5 days break didn't seem to make any difference.
Once you've got the red blood cell count built up, I believe that will stay raised for over the 5 day period from one weekend to the next
Repeat acclimatization works great, just takes a bit longer. You will not have the quick height response (mediated by NaHCO3 excretion), that will disappear over the week at low altitude, but if you go high every weekend the EPO mediated long term response will kick in. No need even to go up to 4k.
You won't acclimate over a weekend, but you don't need to for 4000m as you wont be up there long enough. Just sleep the highest you are comfortable at. Anything around 3000m should be doable, higher if you get Friday night in as well.
I'm a very normal acclimatizer and regularly go sea level to sleep at 3650m.
Retaining over a week is unlikely (recall you wont have acclimated to 4000m just something around where you slept maybe), but knowing how you perform at the altitudes and the stress/recovery/rest cycle will help.
The whole series is an interesting read.
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