Performance metrics for 8000m without supplemental oxygen

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  • #7162

    Recently you’ve talked a bit about how you see some trends in CTL that those who are able to climb certain mountains often share, like about 130 CTL for 4 months for 8000m without supplemental oxygen.

    This is my goal in a 5-10 year time frame. So CTL is one thing, but it would be nice to know if you’ve noticed any other metrics that I could also use as an indicator of being ready physically for it.

    For example things like Alpine Combine results, marathon times, and other concrete things I can use to measure with.

    The answer will probably be “it depends” I think, but no one has more access to data on this than you guys, so I figure it’s worth a shot.

Posted In: Alpinism

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    Peter Hamel on #7172

    I think this is a hard question to answer, because there’s a big person to person variation in performance at altitude. It seems to come down to genetics even more than to training, in my experience.

    On the low end, I’ve met 2 people who’ve climbed Cho Oyu and Manaslu without oxygen, with a very modest amount of training, maybe 8000 feet of vertical gain/week. Lots of people on this forum would have no problem doing the same, without training any harder than they already are, provided they have the natural physiology for it.

    A friend and I made a attempt on Broad Peak, this year (without oxygen), and I think our experience shows the variation between people, pretty well.

    My training was 7 months of hiking, averaging 15,000 vertical gain per week, with some big weeks above 20,000 gain, and a few long days with more than 10,000 gain. I did a max strength phase and some muscular endurance pack training.

    My training averaged around 130 hrTSS/day in my biggest weeks, or higher than that (160) if I use Scott’s fudge factors like adding 10 TSS per 1000 feet of gain. I’m just adding up TSS/week and dividing by 7 to get these numbers, I don’t know the exponentially weighted CTL (I’m too cheap to pay for trainingpeaks).

    My partner did no organized training, maybe a quarter of the total volume I did. Some weeks he’d do a long hike or two, some times he wouldn’t train at all. He did no strength training at all and a small amount of pack training.

    At low elevations, I was really fit after all that training, much faster than my partner. At around 13,000 feet, our speeds were about even. Above 17,000 feet, I couldn’t possibly keep up with him, he moved at least 50% faster than me.

    We both turned around near 7700m. Fitness wasn’t the main reason for giving up, but it was a factor for me, I was among the slowest people on summit day.

    So, I guess my answer is, “depending on genetics, you might get to 8000m without much training, or it might still be very hard even with a lot of training, and some people are very prone to AMS and might not be able to do it at all”.

    Also, every one of those peaks is different. I think Cho and Manaslu are probably the easiest, especially in the fall, when there are 100 other people on route, having ropes and a broken trail makes a big difference. Also, getting to 8000 or 8200 without oxygen is much easier than making it to 8800.

    Anonymous on #7173

    As Peter says, fitness is one factor in success at 7000m and above. Its one we can control and it makes sense to maximize it as it will give you your best chance of success. However there is a great deal of variance in the people’s individual response to altitude. Some folks just do not adapt well to altitude. The best way to find out how you fair is to go to high elevation and try. Repeated exposure to high altitude does seem to speed up acclimatization. Although if you are a low or non-responder then I you are going to struggle no matter what.


    Thrusthamster on #7179

    Wow that’s interesting that you did so much training and still fitness was a factor in turning around. I guess there’s a bit of luck element to how you respond to the training too I guess. Hard to get much over 20 000 feet a week (Jornet does like 33 000 but he’s Kilian Jornet)

    Yeah I figured it probably isn’t one of those things where you can say “if you can do x, y, z, you have the base fitness you need”, but still an interesting topic for me.

    Anonymous on #7181


    I think Peter is saying that Fitness was not what turned him/them around. He’s not specific but given that it sounds like he was have difficulty with the altitude it may well have been that was what turned them around (speed). He was strong down low so fitness was fine. If you are moving well at lower elevations but slow up high that is proof that fitness is not the limiter and that altitude is.


    Mala Honnatti on #7237

    With my experience, I too of the opinion that it is not just the fitness that matters it is the body physiology at ALTITUDE, how it responds to altitude, that is crucial in any high altitude mountaineering expedition.
    I was on Everest North Face during 2015 April-May at the age of 62yrs!. Before deciding to try Mt.Everest, I too was intrigued as to how I can translate my fitness at planes to success at high altitude. I am a Crossfitter, 4.30 marathoner, frequent trekking and climbing in Himalaya upto 20000′, marathon at Antarctica, Everest Base Camp Marathon et la. But climbing above 7000mts was missing in recent yrs though I had reached that altitude way back in 1992. I met few veteran mountaineers, doctors to get that idea and feel confident that I am fit enough to think of Everest Summit at 62yrs!. Nobody could give me exact idea as to how I can relate my fitness level to mountains.
    I was doing very well during acclimatization walks, ice craft, stay at BC, at par with youngsters…..but when I started my trek to ABC (24th April) I was feeling dehydrated, breathless, weak in my limbs and retraced my path after 5hrs trek and came back to BC! Was planning to try again on 26th.
    But it is a different story that we were struck by an earth quack on 25th and we had to abort our expedition on 30th.
    Still I am bogged by the question as to what is the equation between fitness at planes to fitness above 7000mts, how far it would be feasible for me to plan it again.

    aset.danialov on #7609

    I think there is no general metrics, the only useful metrics is to compare training you used to do for particular mountain and then decide where you are on the scale of preparedness.

    I agree with Peter, there are people who can manage low 8k peak without much hard training, given they are in good shape and can do some intermittent aerobic exercise (running, etc.). On Manaslu I met a guy who did not train at all! for a year but he was 50% faster than anyone (even on the summit bid night), need to admit that he had few eight-thousanders under his belt already.

    So yes, I believe no reliable metrics can be used to make 100% readiness check.
    Isn’t that what makes mountaineering so interesting?)

    Thrusthamster on #7686

    It does make mountaineering a bit interesting that there’s the challenge part of it. But I also just like being in the mountains and taking in the nature, and alpinism is more a way to both get an athletic challenge while enjoying all the wild nature and sights as well. So I just like the idea of being so well prepared that I suffer as little as possible due to poor fitness and I can enjoy being there more.

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