Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Reaching the Summit: Low-Altitude Training for High-Altitude Climbing

How to acclimatize and have ability to hiking at high altitude? The highest summit in UTM is Balai Cerapan, in Johor Bahru is Gunung Pulai, in Johor is Gunung Ledang and in G7 is Gunung Tahan. Plus the training must do regularly. Can we climb Tahan regularly? No time and budget!

So I wrote here to explain how we can acclimatize with high altitude condition and it can be done daily, as a preparation to conquer Kinabalu Summit soon.

Altitude and Performance
Recently, as climbing gyms have boomed, more and more climbers from low elevation areas, are seeking higher grounds and traveling to much higher elevations to climb. Mountains like Kinabalu (4101 meters) are at altitudes where the oxygen pressure is low enough to limit aerobic performance, which is necessary in climbing. Training methods and the problems associated with this type of altitude are of great importance for climbers in these areas because they have to train at such low elevations. Fortunately, there are ways to prepare for this type of excursion in order to maximize performance, limit the danger of high altitude disorders and sicknesses, and increase the enjoyment of the climb.

One's aerobic performance can best be measured in terms of his or her VO2 max--the maximum amount of oxygen that one's body can consume. The amount of oxygen consumed by your body is directly proportional to the amount of work or exercise your body is performing. For example, walking up a mountain at a certain speed requires a certain amount of oxygen. Increasing the speed of walking requires even more oxygen. When you are walking or running as fast and as hard as you can, you are likely consuming the maximum amount of oxygen that is possible for your body, i.e., your VO2 max. The higher a person's VO2 max, the harder or more intense they can work. Conversely, altitude lowers a person's VO2 max which then lowers work capacity.

The problem of oxygen consumption is compounded at altitude because of the reduced pressure of oxygen. Walking up main dome on a 30 degree slope at 3 mi/hr with a 40 pound pack is easier than walking up to the summit of Mount Rainier on a 30 degree slope at 3 mi/hr with a 40 pound pack. You are doing the same amount of work, but since your body's ability to deliver oxygen to the working muscles at altitude is lower than at sea level, you are working closer to your maximum capacity.


This is where training comes in. Everybody is born with the ability to reach a certain VO2 max. One person may be able to reach a certain VO2 max but another person, no matter how hard they train, will never be able to reach a comparable VO2 max. If you are genetically able to reach a certain VO2 max, and you don't train, your VO2 max is not as high as it can be. Proper training, directed at increasing your VO2 max, makes it is easier to climb and you can climb harder.

Let's look at training for this incredible trip that you have been saving for. The best type of training is highly aerobic activities like running and cycling. You need to start out slow and short if you have not trained before. Eventually work your way up to doing one of these exercises 3-5 days a week for 30min to an hour at 70-85% of your maximum heart rate. Your maximum heart rate can be estimated by subtracting your age from 220. For example, a 24 year old person will have a maximum heart rate of 196 beats per minute (220-age) and 70-85% of this is 137-167 beats per minute. While doing this aerobic type of exercise you can throw in one minute intervals of higher intensity in order to push your limits. Also, you can supplement this exercise with your regular weight and climbing workouts.

Another good training technique is to, at least one day a week, do an exercise that resembles what you will encounter while climbing. This can include hiking, or running stairs with your pack on. When training for a climb, my regular weekly work out consists of running 3 days, lifting weights 1 day, running stairs 1 day, sport climbing 1 day, and resting on the last one. Generally you should allow a minimum of three months in order to get the most out of your training, but even longer if possible. All of the normal dietary and hydration concerns are the same as with any training program.


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