Suggestions for Altitude Training? | Uphill Athlete

Suggestions for Altitude Training?

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  • #58709
    Amanda Lyall


    I wanted to reach out to see if anyone had any recommendations on the best way to prepare your body (and mind) for higher altitudes. I know that it affects each person differently so there may not be a lot of generalizable feedback people can give. I’ll be climbing Kilimanjaro in January and this will be my first big mountain. I live essentially at sea level (a stone’s throw from boston harbor) and don’t really have the ability to spend much time at higher elevations right before the trip due to spending the holiday season with family on the east coast. Does anyone have any perspectives they’d be willing to share? Thank you!!

    All the best,

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    Anonymous on #58712

    Hi Amanda,
    I guided for years in the Andes, Alps and Nepal. Most of my clients lived at sea level. Acclimatization is critical, and fitness isn’t a barometer of how it will go. Everyone’s body adapts differently. My first question is how high have you been before and for how long?

    Next, and more important. The Do’s and Don’ts. Do keep drinking caffeine if you regularly do, focus on staying well hydrated and fueled, so hard for so many but if you get behind the curve you can’t catch up. Eat and drink even if not hungry or thirsty.

    Practice the mountaineers rest step.

    Use pressure breathing to blow excess CO2 out of your lungs, on ascent and descent.

    It’s also not a bad idea on quick trips to have Diamox prescribed by a physician for back up. Taken prophylacticly it can be a game changer for some, your choice and talk to your physician about that.

    Don’t push too hard too soon, or get sucked along at a pace you can’t maintain because others are going fast, don’t beat yourself up, speak up if you feel off at all. A tiny break can give your body the time it needs to adapt. Again the UA motto of slow is fast will pay off.

    My old standard was one day of acclimatization for every 1,000 feet above 8,000ft my clients were climbing for each trip. So, if attempting an 18,000ft peak you need 10 days to acclimatize. Climb high, Sleep low. I know you’re being guided so you may not be able to make this happen, so focus on all the above, on self care, don’t rush and be patient. Aside from that you’ll just need to see how it comes together I’m optimistic you’ll do really well!

    Amanda Lyall on #58819

    Hello Carolyn,

    Thank you so much for all of this incredible feedback!! To answer your question, about my prior altitude experience, I’ve only been at 6k for about a week and a half before (Colorado Springs and Sequoia, separate trips). Other than that I haven’t had a lot of time at higher altitudes unfortunately. I do plan to have and/or take diamox prophylactically and I know that one of the biggest mottos on Kili is “pole pole” or “slowly.” I believe we have a relatively small group too so I think sticking to a manageable pace will be a bit easier.

    Would you recommend that I try to travel somewhere ahead of time to see how I fair at higher altitude in the shorter term (e.g, Breck)? I was also curious what you thoughts were of those “acclimatization tents”? I’m somewhat skeptical but didn’t know if you knew of anyone who found it to be useful or effective in preparing.

    I’ll definitely start incorporating more breathing exercises into my daily workouts with the hope of improving on that front.

    Thank you again for all of this information! Loving the program so far.

    All the best,

    mmingus on #58961

    Hi Amanda, Check out this article (attached below) from the Wilderness Medical Society to prevent and treat acute mountain sickness.
    I recommend Diamox 62.5 mg 2X daily as prophylactic dose, using the 125 mg 2X dose for the summit push. Also have some 250 mg Diamox dose to take for treatment. Get some Zofran to help with nausea, which is so common at altitude, to help you maintain your appetite and hydration. Testing out your acclimatization ability is a good idea. If you can spend 6-7 days at moderate altitude up to 14 days prior to your trip (staged ascent), that could help too (the exact number of days that “preacclimatization” is good for is not really known). I would ask Steve House about acclimatization tents. They may be more accessible now. Please feel free to reach out to me ( I have a specialty in mountain medicine and am happy to help you. Melinda

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    Allison McCallister on #59002

    Amanda! Thanks for asking this great question, I’ll be climbing kili in Feb and this is super helpful information for me too. What guide group are you going with? I would love to chat more about how you have been structuring your training and your trip in general:)

    Allison M

    Amanda Lyall on #59031

    Hello Allison!

    This is great! I’m excited for you and will be happy to provide any info after i’m done. We leave January 2nd. I’d love to talk more. Here’s my email: Reach out whenever and we can try to schedule a chat 🙂

    Looking forward to it!
    All the best,

    Melanie Hunter on #59595

    Hi Amanda,

    I grew up in Colorado Springs but have lived at sea level for the last 10 years with frequent trips home to do 14ers. One purely personal/anecdoctal idea that you might try is heat acclimation through either sauna use or hot yoga 2-3x/week for a couple weeks before your trip. I believe there might even be some research out there on this now, but my experience with it comes from just noticing that I seem to do better at altitude when I’m more heat acclimated. I mean, obviously a heavy sweat is one more stress on your body when you’re already training, but just an idea!


    Emese Foss on #60890

    Hi, I am also going to start training for high altitude events this winter for spring and summer mountain trips. As I’m almost 60, I find that my Zone 2 heart rate is lower compared to younger athletes, which puts my pace a little slower than them. I’m concerned that when roped for glacier travel, I will need to move faster than my preferred pace. Is there any specific tweaking I can do with my training to try to make up for this difference? Thanks, Emese

    Anonymous on #60921

    Hi Emese,
    Yes one of the realities of aging for us all is our HR over the years drops; Max, AeT and AnT.And not that we older athletes can’t be badass, we do really need to honor the reality that it is unlikely we will keep pace with our significantly younger athletes.
    Especially if they are fit. So of course my first answer is pick rope teams, and guides if using them, wisely as slow is fast in the mtns anyway and rope teams must honor all members, hence the name “team”. Next, keep building that aerobic base, most of all. Other things you can do to increase movement economy are get stronger. A great strength program that makes you stronger, so that it becomes easier for your muscles to move your BW + pack weight will help. And once a solid base of strength, aerobic conditioning, and ME is established you can sprinkle in a bit of short burst higher intensity zone 4 work, but not a lot. This certainly can help if here or there you need to hustle on the mtn. I often use a Tabata style, unweighted uphill interval for people. after a quality 20+ min warm up 8 rounds 20 secs hard/10sec recovery of uphill bounding/scrambling. That is 4 min total. depending on the athlete I’ll do two blocks of 8x 20/10 to start with 2 min rest between and a quality cool down. And build up to more blocks of 8x 20/10 only if pace and output stay consistent. Do not add more blocks if you are tanked by the second of 8x 20/10 or if output drops significantly even in the first block or 8 rounds of 20/10. It may llok like:
    warm up 20 min – go hard to open up the lungs for a min with 2 min recovery x 3
    do a few front lunges, air squats, legs swings front to back and get ready for hte business.
    8x 20 sec hard/10sec recovery – 4:00min total time (if output decreases for the 20 during the effort do not add another block of 8×20/10 until you can maintain output. Output can be measured by terrain covered or perceived fatigue.
    2 min rest
    8x 20/10 recovery
    Cool down 10 – 15 min

    Again if you did well with this you can add a third block the following week. Or if two blocks of this was hard enough your output declined on the second block stick with two rounds again until you can be consistent before adding more.
    I usually wont ever do more that 4 blocks of this and ofter two to three is plenty for an athlete if done well.

    I hope this helps!
    And remember only add this in on top of a well establish strength base, aerobic base and muscular endurance base.

    Emese Foss on #60952

    Wow, this is great! Thanks so much for fully explaining this. I’ll incorporate this in a few more weeks once I feel that I have a really good base and proper strength. Thanks!

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