Typical acclimatization protocols for summiting Mt. Everest involve sleeping and hiking at successively higher altitudes for more than 45 days. Prolonged exposure to hypoxia on the mountain increases the risk for Acute Mountain Sickness, hypothermia, accidents and non-successful summits. Reducing the time of exposure could decrease this risk and improve summit success.
PURPOSE: This study examined the efficacy of a pre-trip acclimation training protocol for completing a novel 14-day rapid ascent of Mt. Everest.
METHODS: This was a 12-week case study design examining nutrition, exercise training and hypoxia exposure from a single healthy experienced female mountaineer (Age 33 yrs) preparing to summit Mt. Everest. Pre-post measurements of body composition via DXA, heart rate (HR), SpO2, sleep quality, hematology (hematocrit & hemoglobin), graded exercise test, and nutritional intake values were analyzed.
RESULTS: Simulated hypoxia gradually increased from 1800 to 5800 m over the 12 weeks (13.9 ± 0.9 hr/day). Over the 12 week protocol hypoxia tent HR increased from 52 to 64 bpm and SpO2 decreased from 93 to 77%. Lake Louise AMS symptoms were mild at 0.5 ± 0.6 on a scale of 0-3. Blood Hb increased from 13.3 to 17.6 g/dl and Hct from 42.9 to 52.5 % from baseline to summit day. Body mass (61.6 to 52.5 kg), body fat (26.6 to 15.3%), fat free mass (43.2 to 42.7 kg), and fat mass (16.4 to 8.1 kg) decreased over the 12 weeks. Fat utilization increased and carbohydrate utilization and blood lactate decreased across absolute workloads post-acclimation. Average daily energy intake was 1902 ± 18 kcals which consisted of 1.8 ±0.3 CHO g/kg/day, 1.9 ± 0.2 FAT g/kg/day and 2.4 ± 0.2 PRO g/kg/day. In addition, 7 days of intermittent fasting during light exercise days (16-20 hrs) and 25 sessions of post-exercise 20-40 min sauna exposure occurred during the 12-week period. On May 10, 2019 (Day 1) the subject traveled from San Francisco to Everest Base Camp (5200m) (Day 2). The subject spent the next 7 days acclimatizing at altitudes of 5200-7500 m. On May 22, 2019 (Day 12) the subject successfully summited Mt. Everest (8848 m) and arrived back at the airport in Tibet on Day 13, arriving back in San Francisco on May 24th.
CONCLUSION: A 12-week pre-acclimation protocol at sea level successfully prepared the subject to summit Mt. Everest in 14 days.