Thursday, May 20, 2010

Training to Climb Mt. Everest

VO2 Max testing in 2008.  I did another one at the start of the year before I began training for Everest.

There's surprisingly little specific information available for training to climb the big Himalayan peaks, or high altitude mountains.  Searching the web yielded Ed Viesturs's training program.  I tried Ed's program of 4-days-on, 1-day-off (which means less than one day of rest in a typical training week), but I was pretty whacked out by the 4th day.  And then the 1-day-off wasn't enough recovery time, so I couldn't get the intensity up during the next 4-day-on cycle.  I've now settled into a 3-day-on, 1-day off cycle, and this has been working well for me.

I read as many books as I could find on the subject, including: Mark Twight's Extreme Alpinism, The Outdoor Athlete from Human Kinetics, and Clyde Soles's Climbing: Training for Peak Performance.  The one book which stands out, and that I continue to refer to, is Twight's Extreme Alpinism.  Although slightly outdated, it still contains much relevant information, and the principles of training, nutrition and equipment can still be applied.  Twight now owns and runs Gym Jones, a successful, if somewhat controversial gym, that trained the cast and crew of the movie '300'. Twight's Gym Jones website offers some of his updated philosophies on training and nutrition.

Twight and I seem to have read the same books.  Twight's nutrition advice agrees with Dr. Michael Colgan's groundbreaking 1993 book Optimum Sports Nutrition; and Colgan's strength training advice from The New Power Program: Protocols for Maximum Strength seems in line with Twight's (Twight now uses Crossfit training elements in his strength training protocol which I've also employed in mine).  Twight's advice for cardiovascular training is a departure from the norm in that he advocates intensive (interval) training before extensive (long endurance) in the macro training cycle.  If that sounds complicated, it is.  Go read the book ;o)

Core training.  Photo © Laura Liong

It's about a year til my Everest climb, and from Experience, I know I'll get burned out if I try to plan out a macro training program that allows me to achieve peak fitness once in a whole year.  So I've broken it down into two roughly 6-month long programs.  I plan to peak my fitness to climb Mt. Chola, China (6168m) in August, take a short break, and the train up again to peak fitness for the Mt. Everest climb in the Spring of 2011.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Go Climb A Volcano

Approaching the summit of Mt. Rinjani at dawn.  Nikon D300, 10.5mm.

Trekking Mt. Rinjani isn't for the faint of heart.  The volcano is active, and although the last significant eruption occurred a year ago on May 10th 2009, smaller eruptions occurred every 4-5 hours during our trek there last week.

Me, standing on the crater rim as we begin our pre-dawn climb to the summit.  Photo © Laura Liong. Canon 7D, 15-85mm.

Mt. Rinjani is 3726m tall and is located on the island of Lombok, Indonesia.  Trekking information is hard to come by, and is usually out of date.  The best time to go is during the cool and dry season from May to October.  If you are trekking down into the rim (ie. down to the crater lake), you'll take your chances during the wet season as the trail is pretty rugged.
What's a climb without a summit photo?  Laura and I on the summit of Mt. Rinjani.

The trek is guided, and porters will carry the camping gear, food and water.  If required, you can also arrange for a porter to carry your personal belongings.   

Chilling in the hot springs after coming down from the summit.  Nikon D300, 10.5mm.

We did the 4-day trekking option, starting from Sembalun Lawang.  The first day was relatively easy, starting out at Semlabun Lawang (1156m) and making our way up the grassy slopes to our camp on the East crater rim.  Our second day was long.  It began with a pre-dawn start from our campsite on the crater rim, to the summit and down into the crater to camp at the lake shore, where we enjoyed a soak in the nearby hot springs.

Thar She Blows! An eruption early in the morning.  Nikon D300, 16-85mm.


The mornings are usually the best time for views, as the clouds tend to roll in by late morning, obscuring the views.  Our third morning began with a thoroughly enjoyable walk along the shore of Danau Segara Anak (Child of the Sea Lake), with great views of the volcanic cone, Gunung Baru Jari, and made our way up the West crater rim.  The volcano is active, and erupted every 4-5 hours during our trek.  This forced us to wear masks which filter out volcanic ash which would rain down following each eruption.

Volcanic ash covers our tent in the morning. 

Our fourth day was flexible, depending on how far we got on day three.  In truth, we probably could have made another long day and walked all the way out on day 3, but we chose to spend our last night in the jungle and had a short walk out to Senaru.

Trekking along the shore of Danau Segara Anak with the active volcanic cone behind.  Nikon D300, 16-85mm.

The rim-summit-lake-rim (Senaru to Sembalun or vice versa) trail described in here is probably best suited to the experienced trekker or the adventurous traveler.  It is a rewarding experience with fantastic scenery, but visitors will have to put up with the sorry state and significant trash at the campsites and rest stops.

More pictures on Flickr.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Everest: Roll Call

It’s been a while since I last wrote.  During this time, I’ve been busy with base or foundation training (getting basic fitness).  I’m happy to report that my knees have survived, and I’m ready to push my training further.

For a ‘flatland’, urban, tropical island boy like me to want to climb Everest reminds me of the movie ‘Cool Runnings’ and the Jamaican Bobsled team.  The training won’t be easy because there just isn’t mountainous terrain for me to train on in Singapore.  It can be done with endless hours spent climbing  stairs or on the gym’s treadmill or stair-master, but it will be boring, and I’m going to need lots of motivation and will-power.  Still, some of my countrymen (and women :o) have done it.  Here’s a list of Singaporean Everest summiteers:

  • 2005, Teo Yen Kai*, age 24, South Col Route, MIR/International Mountain Guides 
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  • 2006, Khoo Swee Chiow^ , age 42, South Col Route, Malaysia/Singapore Friendship Expedition
  • 2007, Ang Yau Choon, age 40, South Col Route, International Mountain Guides
  • 2009, Lee Li Hui**, age 27, South Col Route, NATAS SWET/International Mountain Guides
  • 2009, Esther Tan, age 26, South Col Route, NATAS SWET/International Mountain Guides
  • 2009, Jane Lee, age 25, South Col Route, NATAS SWET/International Mountain Guides
  • 2009, Joanne Soo, age 39, South Col Route, NATAS SWET/International Mountain Guides
  • 2009, Lee Peh Gee, age 32, South Col Route, NATAS SWET/International Mountain Guides
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  • 2010, Lien Choong Luen, age 36, South Col Route, International Mountain Guides
  • 2011, Khoo Swee Chiow, age 46, North Ridge Route, (not sure who organized logistics for Khoo)

  • 2011, Kenneth Koh, age 46, North Ridge Route, Project Himalaya
Update! Add one more to the list:  Lien Choong Luen summitted Everest on 23 May 2010 via the South Col Route with International Mountain Guides

* First and youngest Singaporean Everest Summiteer (With all due respect to Mr. Khoo Swee Chiow and Mr Edwin Siew, they were Malaysian citizens at the time they summited Everest in 1998 ;o)
^ Khoo Swee Chiow climbed Everest for the second time in 2006, this time as a Singapore Citizen :o)
** First Singapore woman summiteer

Update! I managed to summit Everest on 27 May 2011, making me the 10th Singaporean to summit Mt. Everest.  Woohoo!  I'm also the 2nd Singaporean to summit Everest via the North.  Mucho congratulations to Khoo Swee Chiow, who made his 3rd Everest summit, and beat me to being the first Singaporean up the North side of Everest by 5 days.