The Ancient Historian

Ancient history, mountaineering, cycling and other outside adventures

Athletic performance on big mountains

Here’s a something I’ve been wondering about for a while which I hope generates some discussion. I come to mountaineering from the world of competitive cycling. Lots of interesting comparisons I think. One the great things now about cycling is that bikes allow us to now measure pretty specifically power output (in Watts), calorie consumption, heart rate vs. power, climbing rates and so on. I am wondering what happens in high altitude mountaineering since we hear about people going too high and running out of gas, getting into trouble and so on. This is especially interesting to me since not eating and drinking enough seems to be a big part of climbing on big mountains. Here’s the question. Does anyone have ideas about calorie burn rates, how this is effected by altitude, and what people are doing about it. Are more gels being used for example? Does experience come in so once you are used to altitude you eat/drink better? I know that people seems to burn tissue, and lose a lot of weight after Everest. Is there science now on performance in mountaineering? I am amazed by it all; if you feel crappy, sleep deprived and not having eaten much, I don’t see how people actually perform at all on summit day!! I am fairly in awe. Any guess on calorie burn on summit day? I’dlike to be able to quantify a succesful Everest assault, or something like the Kasakh Lhotse-Everest traverse. You quantify in order to compare. This is by way of saying that high altitude mountaineers must be, easily, among the best endurance athletes in the world. Any ideas just write me a note here. I am digging for answers and will no doubt have more to say……

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