High Altitude Climbing and Acute Mountain Sickness

everest-top

 I have been researching the impact that high altitude climbing will have on my body, what I can expect, what I can do to assist my body’s ability to cope.

And importantly, to be able to recognise the onset of Acute Mountain Sickness in its more serious forms.

Acute Mountain Sickness, AMS as it is often referred to, is the effect the declining number of molecules of oxygen in the atmosphere has on our body as we ascend in altitude. It can range from a mild illness, to the more severe life-threatening forms of the illness, such as High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE), and High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE).

The latter two conditions require immediate attention and descent from altitude otherwise death is the most likely outcome.

I’m not intending to go into a great discussion on either, nor am I qualified to do so, but as part of my journey “To Climb a Mountain” I want to gain a better understanding of both conditions.

High altitude is defined as 5,000 to 11,500 feet, very high altitude 11,500 to 18,000, and extreme altitude as 18,000 feet and above.  At extreme altitudes physiologic function will outstrip  acclimatisation eventually.

My reading has taken me across a wide variety of topics, but the one that caught my attention was the connection between muscle and the requirement to fuel our muscles with oxygen when under exertion.

Over the years I have trained as a power-lifter for strength purposes and I have achieved results I am happy with.  As a consequence I have grown muscularly and currently weigh-in around the 95 kilogram mark.  This has given me a good power-for-weight ratio and has enhanced my speed on the kayak over the short to mid sprint distances.

Power-lifting has helped me develop strong legs, especially my quads through squatting, and dead-lifting.

Will this muscle help, or hinder me on the mountain as I trudge up the side of an 8,000 metre peak?

When exercising, the body, or more specifically the contracting muscles have an increased need for oxygen and this is usually achieved by a higher blood flow to these muscles.

And therein lies the dilemma as I see it.

Due to the less dense air at altitude the number of oxygen molecules for any given mass of air will drop. Consequently, mental and physical performance will decline, and the larger the muscles, the larger the requirement for oxygen to prevent muscular fatigue…

So what can I do?

There is not a lot that you can do to prepare for the effect of AMS, some people will adapt and perform better at altitude than others and this is hard to predict from one individual to another.

What I can do is decrease my muscle mass, and whilst that will mean a decrease in overall strength I can try and maintain the power for weight ratio balance.

The upshot of all this is that ahead of my expedition to Nepal in April I will deliberately take around 10-12 kilograms out of my frame…

The climbs in Nepal will be done without the aid of supplemental oxygen.

I won’t be changing my training routine greatly, I will maintain some weight training, rowing and kayaking, and importantly, a daily walk of around 10-kilometres with a 25-kilogram backpack at silly o’clock in the morning (that is 4:00am).

The best way to control weight change, either gaining, or losing, is via your diet and that starts in the  kitchen.

Baz – The Landy (In my home gym in the “Shed”)

 

Advertisements

Angels, Friends and Lovers

Recently someone asked who is the “Janet” that regularly features in my stories, and suggesting she must be an Angel from above to put up with me.

Um, no it wasn’t Clare, Janet’s mother, but crikey, wouldn’t we be rich if a had a dollar for every time she has, bless her soul…

But just like Tinkerbell, Janet is sweet and sassy, a friend to all…

Literally, the girl next door, yep over the back fence next door, Janet (Planet) and I have been friends for a lifetime…

…Having fun, flying and jumping out of planes together, abseiling off tall buildings, and trekking through some of the wildest jungles on the planet in Papua New Guinea, where we lived for a number of years…

Other times you’ll see us sitting quietly around a camp fire, soaking up the Australian Outback as the sun slips below the western horizon with not another soul in sight for hundred’s of kilometres…

And in those tender moments, spending the night in a lover’s embrace on a remote South Pacific Island.

Strewth, we would not have it any other way.

And TomO, well he’s the jewel in our lives, the creation of the heady mix of two young lovers and remote South Pacific Island’s…

And rest assured, he seems to have our sense of adventure and has already suggested he will stand on top of Mount Everest with me…

Dream big and it will happen I say, so don’t rule it out…that journey is well under way!

Of course, we can’t leave out our best friend, Milo, the wonder dog! The world’s most lovable Border Collie…

In Janet’s words – You boys don’t know how lucky you are…

And ain’t that the truth!

Ps: We’re off to a remote exotic island in the South Pacific in a couple of weeks time 😉

Baz, The Landy

Nice of you to drop in

 

Baz and Janet, AMP Building, Sydney, Australia
Baz and Janet-Planet, AMP Building, Sydney, Australia

Putting in a couple of leave applications the other day to cover my two climbing expeditions to Nepal in 2015 turned out to be a lot of fun…

My boss, let’s just call him Wayne, he’s a keeper, can’t afford to lose him!

“Baz”

“Yeah Wayne”

“Might be nice if you could drop into the office and do some work occasionally Baz, but don’t let it get in the way of your endless holidays, and how about you call me boss, just for once”

“Sure Wayne, I’ll make some arrangements”

“Janet?”

“Yes Baz?”

“You doing anything, the boss wants me to drop into the office”

“Just lattes with the girls”

“Meet me at the office, and um, bring the ropes”

“Ooo, we playing those games again, you naughty boy”

“No, well yes, if you like, but not just now”

“Hey Wayne, I mean, Boss, I thought I’d just drop in to see if you’ve signed those leave forms yet”.

These photographs show Janet-Planet (isn’t she awesome!) and me abseiling down the AMP Building, Sydney, Australia, in support of a charity fund raising day!

 Baz, The Landy

 

 

 

Feed the Rat (It’s gnawing away)

 

Baz - The Landy, Southern Alps, New Zealand
Baz – The Landy, Southern Alps, New Zealand

Since a young  age I have been fascinated by the majestic beauty of mountains, of the peaks that poke through the clouds reaching ever higher into a deep blue sky.

Growing up in Australia has had mountaineering limitations given our highest is Mt Kosciuszko, a mere 2,228 metres high.

So I contented myself with walking through and over the hills and mountains, developing a love of the Australian Bush, the magnificent Australian Bush…

Like an unsatisfied lover, in recent years I started to look further afield with a desire to experience more from my affair with the mountains…

Three years ago I commenced training designed to assist and enable me to contemplate  climbing an 8,000 metre peak in the Himalayan Mountain Range.  The mountain of choice Cho Oyu borders Tibet and Nepal and is the world’s sixth highest mountain peak and possibly the most accessible of the world’s fourteen 8,000 metre peaks.

The fun is in the journey, right?

I have had some great times developing my rope skills climbing in the Blue Mountains not far from Sydney as well as undertaking an extreme fitness regime.

And talk about a good laugh here and there, strewth, I can’t even tie my shoelaces properly (it’s a long story) but here I am tying myself off on vertical rock-faces!

 

Unfortunately injuries over the past year or more proved to be a significant setback and at times had me questioning whether I should continue!  But the injuries are now behind me and a solid fitness regime is under way to get me on track!

My head is back in the right place, the switch has been flicked once again…

And crikey, the “rat” is gnawing away and it needs to be fed – that’s a good sign, for me anyway, as Janet rolls her eyes with a wry smile breaking through ever so slyly.

Janet knows the rat well, it has led us on many wonderful adventures…

And how good is New Zealand’s Southern Alps playground – truly a mountaineer’s playground.

After a reasonably steep multi-pitch climb I crossed this snow covered Arête in the cover photo on the way to the summit of Auroa.

Whenever I view this photograph it reminds me that “standing back from the edge is safe, but the view is never as good” – it reminds me what I love so much about the mountains, it inspires me to pursue my goal…

So, one step at a time, let’s do this together!

Baz – The Landy

Standing back from the edge is safe (But the view is never as good)

 

Baz - The Landy, Southern Alps, New Zealand
Baz – The Landy, Southern Alps, New Zealand

After a reasonably steep multi-pitch climb I crossed this snow covered Arête on the way to the summit of Auroa Peak in New Zealand’s Southern Alps.

What a great playground, hey?

Baz – The Landy

Those who don’t think it can be done (shouldn’t bother the person doing it)

 DSCN0576“But there are men for whom the unattainable has a special attraction. Usually they are not experts: their ambitions and fantasies are strong enough to brush aside the doubts which more cautious men might have.” Walt Unsworth.

Walt must have had me in mind when he penned that!

I’m gearing back up, slowly but surely and aiming for a Himalayan trip to climb three 6,000 metre peaks in the not too distant future

And of course, Cho Oyu, the world’s sixth highest and one of fourteen 8,000 metre peaks, still beckons…

DSCN0282

This has been my goal for sometime and you might be left wondering when is Baz going to get around to doing it…and I must say I’m a bit behind schedule after the injuries and personal setbacks of the past twelve months – but I’m getting it back on track, slowly, but surely!

In the meantime I’ll be travelling in Australia’s wonderful outback in June and July, including a crossing of Australia’s Great Victoria Desert and a visit to the site of the Atomic Bomb testing from the 1950s– so be sure to stay in touch!

Welford NP Sand Dune 1

And crikey, just remember, if all else fails, remain out of control and see what develops…

Photos: Baz, The Landy, and Janet Planet

Living the Dream (You have imagined)

Southern Alps, New Zealand

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams, live the life you have imagined…”

Henry David Thoreau

Sound advice Henry!

Photo: Baz, Climbing on Fox Glacier, Southern Alps, New Zealand