Training for Mount Aconcaqua
Leave for Aconcaqua Dec 14 - 2013,
Ready for summit attempt New Years Eve 2013.
PowerBreathe (Aug 2013)
I was very sceptical of this device when I was first recommended it, as there are a lot of devices out there that make all sorts of fantastic claims to aid your breathing at Altitude. This is one of them that now has a growing voice from well respected high altitude mountaineers, along with having been used by numerous Everest expedition climbers and also has nearly a full page dedicated to it in the fantastic book "Mountaineering Training and preperation" a book which I can most certainly highly recommend for your training.
This small device restricts your breathing and you simply suck on a mouthpiece with deep breaths in and out 30 times, twice a day and no more. It is designed to build that all important diaphragm muscle in your lungs and train you to breathe correctly and easier.
I was very sceptical at first, and if Im honest Im probably still not 100% totally convinced whether it is this or a mixture of all the other training that Im doing along with this PowerBreathe that has improved my breathing.
But there is absolutely no doubt that I have definately moved up the scale of intensity on this device from when I first bought it. I was initially on a setting of 2 with 1 been the lowest easiest, now after 3 weeks I am on number 5 and think that number 2 is so easy it wouldnt be worth bothering with. Also I have one of them some what scary looking Elevation Training Masks to make life hard when Im in the gym or out in snowdonia training, "a video of me using it is at the bottom of the page". I never really noticed any significant improvement using the Elevation Mask previously, but I must admit since using the PowerBreathe I have noticed definate undeniable improvements with not only the Elevation Mask, but also my running. I seem to be able to take bigger longer deeper breaths and hence Im not out of breath so easily when training outdoors or indoors.
It just seems such a simple device to use that it is hard to believe that it can be this alone that is making these huge improvements in my breathing, but without a doubt I have only noticed these improvements since using the PowerBreathe.
Choosing a personnel Trainer (Aug 2013)
I have now decided which Personnel Trainer
I will use for this climb up Aconcaqua Mike Buss of Swindon.
Despite me for years saying I would never ever have the need for a PTI as I’m always more than motivated to keep myself fit and easily manage to go out training on my own each and every week, I only ever work on my Cardio, my Legs and my Endurance. I never ever bother with body core or upper body. I realise that for something like climbing Aconcaqua where I will be carrying heavy load’s up at extremely high Altitude 22,840ft - 6,962m for between 6 - 12 hours a day I will need to work on these key areas and will have to invest in the services of a personnel trainer. I have spent the last month contacting and researching personnel trainers in the area that I live Wiltshire, trying to find one that fits the criteria. It wasn’t as easy as you might think ie just picking any personnel trainer. Yes there are lots of them who are more than qualified and experienced. However I ideally need someone who has a very good understanding and knowledge of the rigours that the human body has to endure at extremely high altitudes (60% less oxygen on the summit compared to sea level) where the altitude and extreme cold (between minus 30 and minus 40) makes something as simplistic as taking your boot off and changing a sock or tending to a blister extremely difficult. Along with one feature which Aconcaqua is infamous for, horrendously high winds which regularly reach over 100mph making the temperature with wind chill plummet.
I have now chosen to work with Mike Buss from Swindon who holds numerous world records for endurance challenges raising money for the British Forces Charity Help For Heroes, he has also raced in the 6633 Artic Ultra, was also a British Army PTI and Artic Survival Instructor along with been a member of the PTI team that trained the British Army Expedition on a Mount Everest Challenge.This will mean an initial training session with Mike to put me through my paces to establish a base point from which to work from and improving my definite weaknesses ie Body Core and Upper Body along with building on my strengths. It will mean sticking to a training plan he sets out for me whether that be when I am out on my own training on the Wiltshire downs (hills) or back in his gym that he owns in Swindon, along with a once weekly 1 on 1 session for the next 21 weeks. We will also work on my nutrition as I at present just eat what I want when I want as I know I easily burn it off when I go off training on my own.
It should be noted that I am no professional climber or personel trainer, I do however love training and pushing my body as hard as I can but prefer to train outside in the open air whether it is snowing/raining or hot and sunny. I can usually be found out running and Mountain Biking near to where I live which is just outside the Cotswold's. I am at least once a month up in either the Brecon Beacons or Snowdonia scrambling/hiking at pace up some peak or running up Pen Y Fan or Mount Snowdon.
I do still use the gym but up until last week I have not felt the need to use a personnel trainer but I am now starting to re-think this, as I know I never bother with my body core or upper body. I do have all good intentions of working these areas all of which are absolutely super critical for anything such as Aconcaqua. However as soon as I get into the gym and I see the cardio equiptment I forget about the body core and upper body and just get stuck into pushing myself as hard as I can on the usual cardio equiptment ie rowers/treadmill/stair climbers/cross trainers/bikes/steppers etc along with working my legs squats lunges, and absolutely love it when I walk into the changing rooms dripping with sweat from a cracking work out having completely ignored my core.
So with Aconcaqua looming I feel its vital that I employ the services of not only a professional personnel trainer, but one who specialises in either endurance sports ie Triathlon and or has experiance of going to and or training clients who have been to extremely high altitudes.
Not as easy a task as you may think, as even when you find one who has the technical skills, they also need to be able to feel that they too can work with you as well as you work with them. Along with them been able to motivate you in your training enough so as to push you that extra length when your whole body is telling you to stop "Ive gone to far I feel dizzy" and you are about to be sick.
I have now contacted a number of Personnel Trainers in the area who I feel could be the ones that have the experiance and knowledge I am looking for. I will then hopefully be able to arrange a session with each of them to find one that I feel can push me that extra mile and motivate me to work on the areas that I keep negleting in favour of doing what I enjoy most ie cardio workouts.
A recent video of me out in Snowdonia July 27 training for Aconcaqua.
Carrying a backpack full of water which weighed in at 40lb, I used water so as to be able to dump it at the summit to save my knees on the way back down.
I also had a 1lb ankle weight on each ankle along with the Altitude training mask. The training mask despite the manufacturers claims cannot replicate altitude. What it does do though is really give your diaphragm a good work out and helps to make life a whole lot harder for me rather than just carrying the weight upto the top (I also use the PowerBreathe system which is very similar).
The peak I chose was Elidir Fawr in Snowdonia which is one of the Welsh3000 peaks. I chose this one because it is the hardest and steepest of all the 3000ft peaks in snowdonia. It goes up to 3000ft in a little under 2 miles starting out at approx 300ft above sea level. It is a peak that is not only steep but is just one of them horrible horrible peaks that just seems to go on and on and on with not one section that is flat its just one horrible hard mental slog.
It has large boggy grassy areas that sap your energy along with slippy scree areas. All designed to push me and try and give me a hard work out. Once at the summit in 1 hour and 40 mins I simply dumped the water, went back down to the bottom and filled the bags up with water and repeated the process.