Headache, lack of appetite, little energy, sleepless nights ... If you have ever been to the high mountains, you know that acclimatization is not really fun. How quickly you acclimatize varies from person to person and there is little you can do about it. Unfortunately I am rather poor at acclimatization. Last year at Peak Lenin (7,134m), the throbbing headache was regularly so bad that I could do little else than lie in the fetus position in my tent.
That is why we tried something new for our expedition to Khan Tengri (7,010m): hypoxic height tents (from Altitude Dream). In a earlier blog You can read that before the expedition began we spent four weeks in one altitude tent have slept that can simulate the altitude by regulating the amount of oxygen in the tent. Because of this we hoped that we would acclimatize faster on the mountain. This would make the total time on the mountain shorter, as well as the associated risks of developing altitude sickness lowers.
There were more reasons to arrive acclimatized at the base camp. First, because we would fly directly from sea level by helicopter to the base camp at 4,000 meters. That is a serious risk for developing altitude sickness. Secondly, the 'icefall' between camp 1 (4,200 m) and camp 2 (5,300 m) on Khan Tengri is exposed to crushed stone and avalanches. Normally climbers take an acclimatization tour of BC - C1 - C2 - C3 - C1 - BC before they start a top attempt. That means that you have to climb four times through this 'icefall'. We only wanted to climb through the 'icefall' once to reduce the risks, but that was only possible with sufficient pre-acclimatization. Finally, we wanted to increase our chances of climbing both Khan Tengri and Pobeda within our planning. Acclimatized arrival would mean a considerable saving of time and therefore the chance of the two succeeding
greatly increase climbs!
Since we all have a full-time job, it was not possible to acclimatize for two weeks in the Alps before our expedition, and so we tried these tents through the rental service from Altitude Dream. We had no idea if it would really work, but thought it was worth trying.
And did it work?
Last year, we reached the summit of Peak Lenin 19 days after arriving in base camp. This year, we were on the summit of Khan Tengri 10 days after arriving in base camp. Based on this alone, you can say that the altitude tent has worked. I even think we could have done it one or two days faster if the weather had been good. But the biggest advantage of the altitude tent is actually that we felt much better during the climb. Of course, we still had all the symptoms that one normally has when climbing a high mountain, but the difference with Peak Lenin last year was significant! After Lenin, I was totally exhausted, after Khan Tengri I was tired, but otherwise I felt fine and was ready for the next climb!
What has certainly played a role is our experience from last year. We knew much better what 'normal' is at these heights and what your body is capable of. This was a huge difference mentally. But also from a practical point of view we knew much better what to do and what not to do. For example, when you arrive at a new higher camp, you don't immediately start digging out a spot in front of your tent like a moron, but first relax and drink.
We were therefore very satisfied with the service of Altitude Dream and would definitely use it again!
Our climbing schedule on Khan Tengri
21/07 - 4,000m - Arrival in BC by helicopter
22/07 - 4,200m - C1
23/07 - 4,600m - Load carry to the icefall, then back to BC due to bad weather
24/07 - 4,000m - Rest day in BC
25/07 - 4,200m - To C1 and sleep there
26/07 - 5,300m - To C2 and sleep there
27/07 - 5,700m - Acclimatization trip to C3, sleeping in C2
28/07 - 6.050m - Climb to 6.050m and then back to C3 (5.700m) and sleep there
29/07 - 5,700m - Rest day in C3
30/07 - 5,700m - Bad weather day in C3
31/07 - 7,010m - Great day!
01/08 - 5,700m - Stuck in C3 due to bad weather
02/08 - 4,000m - Back to BC
Allert Bosch & Gijs Schuurmans - Project 5 Peaks