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Climbing Major Mountains - For the Rest of Us

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Jon Faller, a 40-year-old CEO, is in pretty good shape (he formerly played on the Satellite Tennis Circuit in the Northwest United States) and has an above average activity level compared to other men his age.

His passions in life include just about anything outdoors, including surfing, skiing, cycling, running, soccer, windsurfing and mountain climbing.

Last year, Jon went on a guided mountain trek of Kilimanjaro using the guide services of Alpenglow Expeditions. Adrian Ballinger, CEO and one of the lead guides, met Jon through a mutual friend in Lake Tahoe.

Like Jon, there are hundreds of people every year who prepare themselves mentally and physically to climb mountains such as Everest, Kilimanjaro, and Ama Dablam.

To get an idea of what it takes to prepare for a climb up Everest or for any other advanced trek, here is a sample of the things Alpenglow (and other guide services) expect you to do before even hitting basecamp:

1. Mental preparation. This isn't just something they tell you to do on your own. Alpenglow has a specific regimen of mental exercises they give their clients. Without giving away the secret, this practice alone sometimes weeds out people who just wouldn't cut it mentally on the mountain.
2. Money. Ok, so this might weed out "the rest of us"; these trips are expensive. Mr. Faller said about his trip, "My friends and I are lucky to be pretty well off financially. You have to be able to pay for the type of top quality logistics that Alpenglow put together for us." Not only the cost of the trip, but also how you handle it are major considerations." According to Adrian, "American dollars are still the easiest way to carry money. Be sure you carry clean, new bills and have some smaller denominations. Carry your money and important documents in a hidden waist pouch under your clothes."
3. Aerobic conditioning. At the minimum, Alpenglow recommends an exercise regimen that includes a minimum of three one-hour workouts per week (biking, running, swimming) along with going on a few long hikes as you get close to your departure date. Doing exercise programs like Insanity, P90X, Crossfit workouts and other high intensity interval training are great to add a little variety to your regimine.
4. Acclimating to increased elevation. Alpenglow was the first guide service to offer a 30-day ascent of Mt. Everest. In the past, it was recommended that you stay for 2-3 weeks at Base Camp, which has an elevation of 17,575 feet. If your body didn't get too sick from decreased oxygen, you would be allowed to hike to Everest. Alpenglow uses Hypoxico tents (normally used by professional athletes such as Michael Phelps) to simulate the decreased oxygen levels normally found at higher altitudes. These tents allow anyone to acclimatize to increased elevations without leaving their backyard.

So you might say to yourself, "I'm in great physical condition, I have the resources, I have the mental capacity, and I'm ready to hike Everest." Your next consideration should be that you have to put your life on hold for about 60 days. With traveling and preparation time plus the actual hike itself, you will be cut off from most modes of communication during much of that time.

That time commitment alone may be the straw that breaks the camel's back for most of us. Don't be fooled though- many of "the rest of us" are itching to hike a major mountain. You just want to be sure that you're realistic about it so that you can experience it properly. In the end, it really is all about the experience. And just between the two of us, one I'll keep dreaming about doing.