I am preparing to climb K2 like I never prepared before. After all K2 is like no other mountain on earth and deserves immense respect.
My strategy is based on what I used for the 7 Summits in 2011 and Manaslu just 6 months ago. It uses real-world training to develop strength, medicine endurance and mental toughness. My weekly goal is do one long climb lasting from 8 to 12 hours and two other shorter climbs of 4 hours
For example, healing in the last two weeks I did three 1,500 foot snow couloir climbs, two climbs reaching 13,000′ and summited two 14,000′ mountains all here in Colorado. A total of seven outings in 14 days.
I try to climb at a pace or rate of 1,500 feet per hour with a 20 – 30pound pack. All of these have been in somewhat winter conditions as we have had a banner year for snow in Colorado.
The goal for the shorter climbs is to push myself hard physically to work my cardio vascular systems and large muscles development. The goal for the longer days is to work on my pacing, stamina but most importantly, my mental toughness. Taking adequate rest days is critical, especially at my age, to let my body recover.
There are many reasons I like to do real-world training as opposed to gym workouts. Before I go on, let me stress that I am fortunate to live in Colorado, close to high mountains. Also, many, many climbers use gym programs with personal trainers or Crossfit very successfully. My approach is just works for me.
There are three primary benefits I experience:
- Walking in deep snow or uneven terrain works the tiny muscles, tendons and ligaments that are sometimes ignored with machine workouts.
- Being outdoors is exactly what I’ll be doing on K2 experiencing all kinds of weather from gusty winds, to wide ranges in temperatures as the sun moves in and out of the clouds.
- I can do a 12 hour day when summiting a hard mountain with a long approach where I cannot imagine spending 12 hours indoors on a stairmaster! 🙂
Another benefit is I get to use all my gear, find out what works, what needs modifications or replacing. Also, I get to experiment with hydration and nutrition.
Working on Mental Toughness
This is a short video I made yesterday, May 18, 2014, while climbing Longs Peak, 14,256′ in Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park. It was a perfect day to work on my mental toughness. A few days earlier, we had a huge spring snowstorm that dumped over two feet of fresh snow on Longs. No one else had been to the summit so I had to break trail from 11,000′ to the summit in one to three foot snow depths.
At times, I felt I was going a bit too slow and worried about running out if sunlight, but this is exactly what I wanted – to push myself outside my comfort zone and to test myself both physically and mentally. This came on top of four previous days of climbing above 13,000′, so with only one rest day, it was a good test of my overall fitness.
One of my measures of my fitness is my recovery time and how wasted I feel at the end of the day. I was very pleased that while tired, I felt strong after 11 and half hours of non-stop movement in deep snow.
Preparing for Alzheimer’s
While talking about preparation, I want to add a quick note on preparing for Alzheimer’s. I know I was totally unprepared for dealing with my Mom’s Alzheimer’s. One of the areas I was glad we had taken care of was living wills so as a family we knew what mom wanted in such a terminal situation – no tubes, no life support, let nature take it’s course.
Another area we had to do quickly once the of Alzheimer’s came was to create a Power of Attorney so we could take care of her fianlical matters. This included managing medical payments, taking care of the house and a hundred other small details. We could have been more proactive by adding our names to bank account and on the house deed earlier.
Finally, as a family, and it was just my brother and I, had to agree on the approach to caring for mom. This area has the potential to tear siblings apart. So my advice is to work hard to get everyone on the same page as early as possible so as to focus on your loved one and not the infighting.
I hope you never go through what we did but the reality is that in the time it took to read this section another person was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in the US. The crisis is real and gaining momentum. It is up to all for us to fight the disease and to improves support for caregivers. Please join me in this fight by clicking on this link.
Memories are Everything