24 May 2019: Curiosity about the Pik Lenin expedition 4 to 18 August often centers on how to deal with the altitude and the physical preparation required. The latter is an element of greater direct control for a mountaineer, assuming the conditions, willingness and discipline is there, while the former essentially boils down to a combination of genetics and acclimatization technique once up at high altitudes.
The snow cover remains substantial in the Alps now in late May as a consequence of one of the snowier winters in recent years and a relatively cold and wet first half of May. The physical preparation focus has therefore been on cardiovascular fitness and leg strength at more modest altitude, while saving the 4,000m+ preparation for the month before the expedition. Two nearby mountains here are great training grounds for vertical training; Mont Salève (1,379m) and Le Môle (1,863m). Both offer fast access to the trailhead, and spectacular views from the top to the western Alps at the end of the grueling one hour+ speed hike.
I’ve managed an 800 vertical meters per hour ascent rate with some consistency, and getting in the squat rack at the gym twice a week. Expedition partner Luuk, meanwhile, has been doing the best he can at sea level in Singapore with kettle bells and the like.
The altitude component preparation of the expedition is what concerns me more, since it will be a 1,200 meter increase over the previous high of Cotopaxi at 5,897m. Some people are genetically less prone to the negative effects of lower oxygen levels (fatigue, headache, nausea), while others become desperately ill even at 2-3,000m. I have no reason to believe I am at either end of that wide spectrum based on the previous experiences, and will simply follow the acclimatization guidance of our Pik Lenin guide Evgenii Patlay in August.
We are getting close to the launch of the Summits for Scholarships campaign with the UWCSEA Foundation – keep your eyes on this blog for updates next week!