Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Supplements For High altitude Mountaineering

UPDATE: With the exception of the liver tablets, I no longer take or recommend these supplements.  Please standby for an updated post to find out what's working better for me in 2014.

Since my earlier post: Nutritional Supplements For Climbing Mt. Everest, I've learned a lot, and what I now take is significantly different, hence the need for this update.  I under-dosed a lot of the supplements in my previous post, and they didn't have the desired results.  Here's what I'm taking each day and am bringing to Everest.  As lunch is usually on-the-go, I take these in divided doses during breakfast and dinner:
Yum! Goes well with Argentinian steak. Photo by Jamie McGuiness
Mutivitamin x 2 - Now Adam (I've tried a lot of multis.  These are cheap, simple and work well for me)
Fish Oil x 4 - Controlled Labs OxiMega (double strength fish oil, reduces inflammation, 'thins' the blood, and serves as fuel)
Probiotics x 1 - Now Stabilized Acidophilus (needs no refrigeration)
Antioxidants x 2 - Now Super Antioxidants (phytoflavonoid formula.  Sometimes I don't get enough fruit and veggies)
Liver Tablets x 4 - Beverly Ultra 40 (for red blood cell production, boosts amino acid profile, and can serve as fuel.  I'll carry some extra (up to 12 per day) of these as well)
Vitamin C x 1 - Now Vitamin C-1000 (antioxidant, and reduces cortisol at night)
Mitochondria Energizer x 1 - Jarrow MityQondria CoQ10 (keeps the mitochondria fired up and become more efficient at producing energy)
Glucosamine x 1 - GNC TriFlex (joint care)

I also carry some digestive enzymes and use as required (if I have to eat a lot of carbo (rice, pasta, breads), I get gas, and the digestive enzymes help with that): Now Super Enzymes (the tablets work better than the capsules).

Specically for Everest, I'm also taking these adaptogens to help with better oxygen utilization and performance:
Garlic x 1 - GNC Triple Garlic
Ginkgo/Eleuthero x 1 - GNC Gingko Biloba Plus
Optygen HP x 4 - on climbing days

Fuel and Recovery:
  • While climbing, I use Hammer Nutrition Perpetuem, which uses soy protein instead of whey, and does not contribute to ammonia load.  Perpetuem comes in both solids and powder.  I prefer the powder which dissolves into my water bottles.  If I need solid food, I use Hammer Bars.
  • Post climb, I recover with Hammer Nutrition Recoverite.
  • I'll also bring some MRP (Meal Replacement Powder), to help maintain my bodyweight while on the mountain.
I buy most of my stuff from iHerb, and if you are a new customer, make use of this discount coupon for $5 off: KOH756

Monday, March 28, 2011

Peak Training for Mt. Everest

It seems there is no one 'best' way to train for climbing the big E.  With less than a month to go, Esther Tan, my team mate for Everest and fellow North Face athlete, took part in the Aviva Ironman 70.3 last weekend here in Singapore and placed 1st in her age group; also on our expedition is Grant Rawlinson, who is newly married (congrats dude!) and wakes up at 5am to  get in some quality training time; two-time Everest summiter and fellow Singaporean Khoo Swee Chiow, who will also be climbing the North Ridge of Everest on a separate expedition this Spring, is busy with his family and only has time for the treadmill at his gym; our guide, Jamie McGuiness, who is amazing at altitude anyway, is doing no training whatsoever.
CrossFit Prowler Push. Photo by Laura Liong.
As for me, the most of my long, hard training has been done.  After climbing Aconcagua last month, I promptly got the flu and was sick for a week.  When I was well enough to resume training, I was left with exactly one month before Everest.

It has always been part of my plan to 'peak' my training with some high-intensity work, and then taper off with some 'high-altitude' training.  With a month to go, I've combined the 'peak' and the 'taper' together.  I feel that CrossFit is the ideal training tool for this.  It's very high intensity, but also very short.  Which means that I'll reap the benefits of the high intensity work, but it won't leave me shattered and require a long recovery period. 
Training at '17,000 ft'.  Hypoxico generator and altitude tent on right. Photo by Laura Liong.
I've also bought a Hypoxico Altitude Tent and accessories which allow me to sleep and train at simulated altitude.  As time grows nearer to my departure, I'll gradually add in more 'high-altitude' training sessions, while reducing the CrossFit sessions.

So with less than two weeks to go, I hope I've got my bases covered between CrossFit and my 'High-Altitude' Training ;o)

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Cult of CrossFit

Pulling the sled around the block at CrossFit Singapore.  Photo by Laura Liong
Tucked away in a Kallang industrial estate amidst motorcycle workshops is a small, gritty gym.  It's called Crossfit Singapore and it's run by 32-year-old Kevin Lim, or 'Coach' as he is called by his 70+ members.  The gym has been running for two years, and its members pride themselves on having the most intense workout of any commercially available program.  "Your workout is my warmup", they like to say.  Indeed, having followed the program for just over three weeks, I can attest to it's intensity and it's effectiveness.
Coach Kevin cranking out some pull ups.  Photo by Laura Liong
Workouts range from gymnastic movements, olympic weightlifting and sprinting.  Among the more unusual tools used include sleds to pull loads around the block and monster truck tires.  Workouts are constantly varied, so the body doesn't get used to them, but they are also very short.  The longest workout is about 25 minutes, and a typical workout lasts around 15 minutes.  The key is the intensity, and Crossfit can really ramp it up!  For those 15 minutes, your heart will be working at near maximum capacity!  It's an intense blend of strength training and aerobic conditioning, and is definitely not for the faint of heart!
CrossFit Culture.  Photo by Laura Liong
CrossFit has its roots in founder Greg Glassman's garage about 40 years ago.  It has evolved to become the world's fastest growing fitness movement with a culture of its own.  Its gritty, no frills, take-no-prisoners style is not for everyone.  About 80% of new participants drop out.  Practitioners who stick with the program include not only elite armed forces all over the world, but also grandmothers looking for a way to boost functional strength and have a more active and productive life.

How can this be?  Can grandmothers really participate in workouts that "are universally regarded as being the toughest workouts in every athlete's experience."?  Coach Glassman says that "the needs of our grandparents and soldiers differ in degree, not kind.”  Those needs would be to build a broad and general functional competence, in such movements as squatting, picking things up off the ground, putting things overhead, pulling ourselves up, running, and jumping.  The key to the all-inclusive nature of CrossFit's training program is the ability to scale, or tune the workload to match each individual athlete's abilities.

Richard performing the Snatch, an Olympic weightlifting movement practiced in CrossFit.  Photo by Laura Liong
How does one get started in CrossFit?  The best way is to start is with an affiliate gym to learn the movements.  If there isn't an affiliate gym nearby, go to CrossFit.com.  The WODs or Workouts of the Day are posted online.  Instructions and videos are also available on the website to help learn the movements.  Most importantly, take the first few workouts easy.  Scale down the loads if you need to, and take the time to learn the mechanics of the movement.

One thing is for sure, CrossFit has changed the way I train.  Permanently.



CrossFit Defined:
CrossFit is a strength and conditioning system built on constantly varied functional movements executed at high intensity.  The aim of CrossFit is to develop total fitness as defined by these ten physical skills: cardiovascular/respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, coordination, agility, balance, and accuracy. 

Monday, March 14, 2011

2011 Equipment List for Climbing Mt. Everest

Fresh off Aconcagua and with Everest looming right around the corner, I'm scrambling to get my gear cleaned, organized and packed.  I'd like to thank The North Face for their support and for providing much of the needed gear for the expedition; to Rudy Project for providing eyewear; and to Hammer Nutrition.  I also need to thank many of the local shops in Singapore for stepping forward to offer discounts for gear: All Sport (Petzl headlamps and ascenders), Camper's Corner (Black Diamond Climbing Equipment), Outdoor Life and X-Boundaries.  Thanks also to Silkair for the extra baggage allowance.

My Equipment List for Climbing Everest in 2011
  • Sleeping
  • -20 Sleeping Bag - TNF Solar Flare
  • -30 Sleeping Bag - Shehe (Borrowed)
  • Mattress Inflatable - Thermarest Ultralite (old)
  • Mattress Closed Cell - Thermarest Z-Lite
  • Pee Bottle - Nalgene 48oz flexible canteen 
  • Inflatable Pillow - for BC and ABC
  • Clothing for Summit
  • Down Suit - TNF Himalayan
  • Fleece Bodysuit - MH Powerstretch Suit (zips match down suit)
  • Mitts - TNF Himalayan
  • Backup Mitts - OR Alti Mitts
  • Gloves - OR Alti Gloves
  • Socks - Smartwool Mountaineer 4 pairs
  • Boots - Millet Everest GTX
  • Balaclava - OR Gorilla
  • Beanie - TNF
  • Clothing for Lower Mountain
  • Bibs - TNF Mammatus Bibs
  • Softshell Top - TNF Kishtwar
  • Rain Jacket  - TNF Triumph
  • Rain Pant - TNF Venture Full Zip
  • Down Jacket - MH Subzero SL Hooded
  • Puffy Vest - TNF Redpoint
  • Puffy Pant - Patagonia Micro Puff
  • Fleece Tops - 2 lightweight TNF Tops
  • Fleece Bottoms - 1 lightweight stretch
  • Trekking Pant - TNF Paramount Zip Offs
  • Gloves - FA Guide Gloves
  • Boxers - 6 pairs
  • Long Underwear Tops - 3
  • Long Underwear Bottoms - 2
  • Buff - 3
  • Bunch of misc tee shirts, shorts, socks, hats and gloves
  • Trekking Boots
  • Eyewear
  • Rudy Project Guardyan (with Cat 4 lens)
  • RP Guardyan (in goggle configuration with clear photochromic lens)
  • RP Kalybro goggles (with clear and lazer bronze lenses)
  • Climbing  
  • Backpack - TNF Prophet 65
  • Ice Axe - BD Raven Pro 65cm
  • Crampons - BD Sabretooth SS
  • Harness - BD Couloir
  • Ascender - Petzl Ascension (left only)
  • Descender - BD Super 8 (frozen ropes can be a pain to squeeze through an ATC)
  • Locking Carabiners - 2 Petzl Attache 3D
  • Carabiners - 3 Camp Nano 23
  • Misc webbing, tape and cord
  • Trekking Pole - REI Peak UL
  • Headlamp - Petzl Myo RXP with lithium batteries
  • Backup Headlamp - Petzl Tikka XP 2
  • Emergency Headlamp - Petzl E+Lite
  • Eating and Drinking 
  • Cup/Bowl - GSA Fairshare Mug
  • Spoon - Brunton Ti folding spork
  • Water Bottles - 2 16oz and 1 32oz Nalgene Widemouth Bottles 
  • Thermos - TNF 0.5 liter 
  • Nutrition
  • Fuel - Hammer Nutrition Perpetuem
  • Recovery - Hammer Nutrition Recoverite
  • Bars - Hammer Nutrition Organic Bars
  • Vitamins, minerals and herbal supplements for 60 days
  • MRP - ON Oats and Whey for protein, carbs and fiber
  • Electronics and Cameras
  • DSLR - Nikon D7000 with 2 batteries, 10.5mm, 16-85mm and 70-300mm lenses
  • Compact Cameras - 2 Panasonic LX3s with 5 batteries
  • Tripod - Slik Sprint Mini
  • Phone - iPhone
  • Solar Charger - Brunton Solaris 12
      • Personal Hygiene 
      • Sunscreen - Banana Boat SPF 80 x 2
      • Lip Balm - Banana Boat SPF 35 x 2
      • Soap/Shampoo/Toothpaste - Dr Bronner's Peppermint
      • Wet Wipes - BC and ABC 
      • First Aid
      • Silver Sol - broad spectrum anti-microbial in a small spray bottle
      • Diamox - 250mg x 20
      • Ibuprofen - 400mg x 12
      • Paracetamol - 500mg x 10
      • Dexamethasone - 4mg single dose HACE
      • Nifedipine - sublingual HAPE
      • Melatonin - sublingual 2.5mg x 60
      • Cough Syrup

        work in progress...

          Saturday, March 5, 2011

          Cerro Aconcagua

          A climber at sunrise on Aconcagua
          It was our first morning at Basecamp Plaza Argentina.  I was awakened by the thumping beat of an approaching helicopter coming in to land.  I popped out of my tent to see a man being assisted into the helicopter.  Later, I would find out that he was a Polish climber with severe frostbite.  His partner was still missing on the upper mountain *.  It was a reminder that Aconcagua, considered by experienced mountaineers to be an easy 'walk up', should never be underestimated.

          Frostbitten Climber Being Assisted to the Helicopter at Basecamp

          Aconcagua, at 6962m, is the highest mountain in the Americas, as well as the highest mountain in the world outside the Himalaya.  Esther Tan and I chose to climb the False Polish Glacier Route on Aconcagua with Project Himalaya as preparation for our Mt. Everest bid next month.  We wanted to get some high-altitude experience, and get some training value (but not do something so hard it would leave us drained, physically and mentally, for Everest), as well as to evaluate Project Himalaya, as they would be managing logistics for our Everest climb.

          Esther (back) and me carrying a load up to Camp1.  Photo by Jamie McGuiness/Project Himalaya
          I wasn't disappointed.  Jamie McGuiness from Project Himalaya has a wealth of information that he is ever willing to share.  Having done mainly technical rock and ice climbs at lower altitudes, I knew little about high-altitude mountaineering.  Jamie quickly brought me up to speed on things like high-altitude medicine and acclimatization, as well as provide many small tips that only someone with extensive experience at high-altitude can provide.
          The Guru: Jamie McGuiness
          After spending four nights acclimatizing at Plaza Argentina, we left for the higher camps.  This being a non-technical climb, we were lightly loaded, carrying just crampons, but no ropes, harnesses or pro, and I didn't even have an ice-axe.  This worked out well.  The climbing, as expected, was basically a slog, but it was one tough slog at altitude, and it was made harder by unpredictable weather conditions, and an unseasonably wet and cold summer.
          Ice crystals in the wind high on Aconcagua
          On the bright side, I did manage to summit, and made a quite a few friends along the way :o)

          Summit, Aconcagua
          More photos on the climb Here.

          *The missing Polish climber was found dead near the summit of Aconcagua on March 2nd.  The 6 climber deaths on Aconcagua this season makes it one of the most deadly on record.