The 31st of July is quickly approaching and I’m actually pumped to go give Mt. Elbrus, in Russia, a red hot go. Normally, the trip is planned for about eight days, which I’ve accommodated for if needs be. The plan, however, is to try and knock it out in a few days. Obviously, that’s predicated on having great weather and not having to deal with any altitude illness (or any other political strife).
One of the things I’ve been trying for the last few weeks is an altitude simulation tent made by Hypoxico. Basically, it restricts the amount of oxygen in the tent, comparable to different altitudes. For example, last night I slept at “14,600ft.” Just like being at elevation for real, the first few nights at a higher altitude you generally sleep like crap. The higher you go, the more you get to deal with things like awesome headaches in the morning, Cheyne-Stokes breathing which effectively is sleep apnea whereby your breathing rate slows down quite a bit while sleeping, but with the reduced oxygen in the air, you often wake up gasping for air. It can be kind of freaky at first as you wake up gasping for air, however with the lower oxygen percentage, you don’t catch your breath right away. The key is to calm down as quick as you can.
One of the reasons I’ve been using the Hypoxico for a mountain like Elbrus, which is pretty straightforward and non-technical, is to test out the effects of the “altitude training.” If all goes well, I’m planning on making another attempt on Everest next Spring. The company I want to use (Alpenglow Expeditions) has a “rapid ascent” program which enables you to minimize the time spent away and maximize the training effort at home. They’ve been able to cut the trip nearly in half from roughly 70 days down to about 35. Part of how they cut the time by so much is through the use of the Hypoxico tent. You get to stay at home, and incrementally sleep higher and higher. By the time you leave, you should be “acclimatized” to about 18,000ft which is roughly the height of basecamp. From an experience perspective, you miss out on all the teahouses & monasteries considering that you avoid the trek in all together. If I hadn’t had the opportunity to do that last year, I’d have to heavily weight the decision to shorten the trip.
Just about a week until I head off to Russia and make an attempt on Elbrus. I’m hopeful that with the Hypoxico training, I’ll be able to shorten the climb substantially and get a bit more time in Moscow to check out the sites and get home sooner 🙂