When it comes to pushing the limits through human endurance, there are few challenges greater than summiting the tallest mountain that exists above sea level in the world. That mountain is the famous Mt. Everest, located in the Himalayan Mountains of South Asia.
Mount Everest has a special charm and intrigue that entices climbers from all around the world. As it stands so tall and great in glory, you can almost hear the mountain say with sweet seduction, “Climb me.”
Climbers Celebrating on the EBC trek Photo by Deana Zabaldo
Few things in life grant the opportunity to reach a goal with such clarity of purpose. To listen to that seductive call to summit Mt. Everest starts to give shape to the intention of that purpose. However, the summit of Mt. Everest is no small feat (no pun intended). Once you’ve answered the call, the preparation must begin.
You don’t wake up one day and decide to go to Everest Base Camp and then get on your way immediately. Preparation to climb Mt. Everest can be anywhere from 6 months (this is extremely short) to 3 years ahead1 . Training is not only a physical conditioning - you must also have technical and mental training to embark on this journey. The daunting hike is dangerous and grueling, and not for the unprepared.
And because of that, the trek to EBC (Everest Base Camp) will be near the top of the list of the most rewarding quests you will ever do.
Prayer flags with Everest in the background.
So let’s get you started on the preparation for the EBC trek!
Because of its notoriously extreme conditions, training for the EBC trek is multi-faceted and complex. You have to consider the lack of oxygen, the lack of shelter, the wind, the vertical peak, and the slippery ridges.
The first part of your physical training can be broken down into sections.
Strengthen the heart and lungs through a series of aerobic and anaerobic conditioning methods. Aerobic means to condition with oxygen, Anaerobic means to condition without oxygen. Training with oxygen first strengthens the efficacy of your capacity for breath. Intertwine with short spurts of suspending oxygen intake so that your body and mind can prepare for the lower amounts of oxygen available on your trek.
Remember, you are responsible for carrying your backpack while climbing a treacherous mountain, and that backpack can way anywhere from 50 - 65 lbs.
Try some of these exercises:
For sustainable results, try a High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
In addition to carrying your backpack, you’ll need to prepare for the extra clothes and uncomfortable gear. To trek to the higher reaches of Mt. Everest, you will need Crampons, an aptly named shoe that comes equipped with steel spikes on the soles made for walking in glaciers and ice on mountains. This will automatically change your walking stance and ability. You can include wearing Crampons on your mountain hike training days to better prepare your body.
Mt. Everest is C-O-L-D. While in colder temperatures and atmosphere, the blood flow becomes more restricted as the blood vessels and arteries narrow3 . To prepare, include temperature training into your regime. Depending on where you live, this might be a bit more difficult to include, but it is vital. You want to be as prepared as you can be when you’re on your EBC trek, and not have unexpected and sudden health decay because of the shock to your system. While it won’t be perfect or exactly replicated, a simulation will give you an advantage.
Vietnamese Climbers on the higher reaches of Mt Everest Photo by Lasta Company
Additionally, because of it’s a vertical ascent, altitude training should be included. Many trekkers suffer from Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), which is a result of lack of gradual exposure or acclimatization to the low air pressure in high altitudes4 . You’re going to be on a steady uphill climb (which for many is difficult on its own without the considerations of low oxygen). Symptoms of AMS include headache, dizziness, nausea, and feeling exhausted. Again, depending on where you live, this may be an obstacle. Do your best to schedule in some time in higher altitudes for your training.
Frostbite and dehydration rank amongst the most debilitating conditions that you could possibly experience on the EBC summit.
Here’s an informative video on Frostbite Prevention, and how dehydration plays a huge role:
The time spent on your EBC trek is long and arduous. A climb can range from two to three weeks to complete, and the days are full of grueling hours and physical strain on your body, which creates a stress on your whole being.
Preparing your mind is a big part of your training. Here are few ways on how to do it.
One technique to help prepare the mind is meditation. Meditation trains the brain to stay calm during extreme highs and lows. Philosophically, this is called “equanimity,” or the status of feeling and being alright when external factors or the physical body are in stressful situations.
Walking meditation is a great method to create the synergy of mind and body in preparation for the EBC trek.
Stand tall, gaze downward to see where to go. Your hands can either be on your belly (right hand on belly, left hand on right hand), or clasping behind your back (as above).
Before you walk, repeat to yourself:
- Standing, standing, standing
Intending to walk, intending to walk, intending to walk
Start with your right foot.
Each action has its respective number that you repeat to yourself in your head.
When you stop, say in your head:
Stopping, stopping, stopping
Before you to turn, say in your head:
Intending to turn, intending to turn, intending to turn
Turn by leading with the right foot, turning right. Turn to the count 1-2-3-4. Be like Derek Zoolander - always turn to the right.
Once turn is complete, say in your head:
Standing, standing, standing
Intending to walk, intending to walk, intending to walk.
Keeps this going for 15 minutes. As the practice grows, you can add more time.
Another approach to walking meditation can be found here .
Climbing Mt. Everest is not just “good” or “bad.” The experience will be challenging, exciting, terrifying, overwhelming, exhausting, easy, difficult, rewarding, stressful, and calming all at the same time. The experience will be all encompassing and won’t be able to be described by a few adjectives. Perhaps it will feel like you’re on an emotional roller coaster as you go through your preparation, training, and ultimately your mission. That emotional roller coaster will most likely continue and become exacerbated when you introduce the elements that will challenge you. Your adrenaline will be high at times, and you will feel low at other times.
Through the constant emotional and physical challenges, remember to be kind to yourself. Your physical and mental training will help through the peaks and valleys, and you’re on this incredible journey! Compassion for yourself comes from reminding yourself that all things change, all things pass, and to not give up. Compassion also lies within sharing with fellow trekkers6 . If you see someone struggling, don’t leave them behind. Know that you're all in this together!
This is one of the most exciting and life-changing events that you may ever experience. Enjoy it! Breathe it all in, soak it in, smile, laugh, and most of all…live it up!