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Summit Stories

Everest training – this is how I am doing it

December 28, 2013 by

Much part of an expedition goes into training, and this is even more so for such a big mountain as Everest.

Being in perfect physical (in addition to perfect emotional and psychological) conditions is paramount and everything that can be possibly done will barely make you ready for such a big monster.

Areas I have been focusing on are: climbing conditioning (hill hiking carrying heavy back-packs), strength conditioning (training with free weights to build overall strength to core, upper body, back and legs), cardiovascular conditioning (aerobic sessions with very sustained and prolonged effort) and flexibility conditioning (to increase the flexibility of the joints).

After extensive research, I came up with my own version of a weekly regime that I have been following religiously for the past months and will accompany me until about 1 month from the start of the expedition, when the sessions will be longer and less diverse.

I added in there some random surfing and indoor climbing sessions (surfing because it is good for timing, flexibility and balance – and because I love it – and climbing for strength, mental and balance), and as much trail and hill running as possible. A couple of minor injuries (with the 1st lesson = never push it too much too sudden) and body listening (not done enough, 2nd lesson) complemented the training.









yes I know, the rest day is not quite sleepy, but it is to avoid the muscles to build lactic acid and to keep the system going. plus I can barely sit still for a full day, so I rather make it productive without tiring myself off.


Puncak Jaya, Part 4: Summit Day

November 11, 2013 by

You missed part 3? read it here

It’s an incredibly warm night: we expected a freezing alpine-grade cold (we are at 4350mt/14000ft after all), bad weather and rain. Instead we are welcome at 2am by a calm and clear night (almost full moon) and remarkably warm! We quickly dress down and after a warm tea and brief breakfast, we are set to go.

IMG_1599smallIt takes about 1 hour to reach the steep slopes of the long mountain wall, where we wear helmet and harness and start our long-awaited way up. Despite the clear night, it’s pitch dark and the headlamp helps little in setting the best route up. To our surprise, it’s fixed rope most of the way up, and we do make good use of our ascenders. The occasional shower of stones and rocks from above make us regularly look for cover. I proceed smoothly and the rock climbing training of the past few months proves highly helpful – it eventually turns out that only my almost-new boots will not fully enjoy the sharp limestone of the Pyramid and will keep its permanent signs.

Past 5am and the first lights of the rising sun cast shadows of the steep lines of the walls and illuminate the upcoming next challenge: a vertical wall of about 50mt/160ft, rated 5.8, that leads to the summit ridge. It looks pretty intimidating, but there are a large cracks and a good amount of good holds. Well, climb on!

A couple of times during the climb, I wonder what keeps me away from sitting on a comfortable couch and the daunting task of turning the tv cable on (..!!!…). Yet once I put the first foot on the summit ridge and look around me, the view is unforgettable and makes me forget the doubtful (and WTF) moments I had on the wall – which won’t be the last ones, it turns out soon.

A few minutes to breathe it in and glimpse at the tiny camp down down there at the bottom of the mountain – a steep way up indeed and all in all in full safety.

A short walk on the tiny ridge and I get to the next little adventure – it looks like a video game, remember Pitfall? (If you don’t know what I am talking about, you probably were not old enough to even watch the Olympic Games in Moscow ;) – That is the (in-)famous Tyrolean traverse we had read so much about. A Tyrolean traverse involves using a fixed rope across a gap between two points using one’s hands and legs. To make things slightly more terrifying, this traverse us about 20mt/70ft long and lays on a deep 500mt/1,700ft feet vertical drop (hence the importance to know how to be safely and have good muscles).

While technically moderately demanding, it was probably one of the most frightening mountain experiences I had so far. Even if you know that the ropes are solid and super-safe, you can stop thinking in the back of your mind about that remote possibility where an angry eagle will attack you while crossing or a massive earthquake with a thunderstorm will shake the island and release the bolts that keep the ropes fixed (!!! Some imagination eh?!).

When off the ropes and on solid ground (relatively speaking), the ridge to the summit is a very exposed narrow path that still shows quite a few tricky hazards: two large gaps between walls that require rappelling and a couple of jumps of faith. As the sun rises and brightens the tiny trail, the sharp profile of the summit plateau becomes apparent and screams of joy and celebration echo around. Few more minutes and some more scrambling and I finally reach a cloud-free and limit-less view from the summit of the Oceania continent. Success!!!!

What a climb! I really tested my limits and all the training I have been through in the past IMG_1609smallmonths (especially indoor and outdoor rock climbing) proved essential. Plus that stubborn and lucid persistence that is absolutely necessary in the mountaineering kit.

And… This is just half of it of course, because we need to make it back to camp all the way back. We spend 30minutes or so on the summit enjoying the view: the ocean is just visible and the vertical profile of the mountain we just climbed is truly jaw-dropping (we also see the massive Freeport mine in the distance – the largest gold mine in the world).

and now off back to camp, jumping across the same large gaps, crossing through the Tyrolean again, and a long self-rappelling down on the vertical walls. the very excellent weather allows us not to experience the rain on these steep rocks – it would have certainly been another challenge (the rain eventually makes its appearance as soon as I am off the wall and walking back to camp – I don’t mind it, it is very refreshing after such a wonderful and long day).

More on the gold mine and Indonesian police in the next post.  To be continued…