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#Chimborazo2015 Expedition Post 8: Sara’s Blog - The Calm Before the Storm

Published on October, 22nd 2015
By Greg Wells

Today we had a much-needed day of rest before we start our final ascent tomorrow. Gill, Greg and I performed another submaximal exercise test on ourselves to assess our readiness for the climb. As mentioned before, the submaximal test is designed to estimate maximal oxygen consumption (VO2max) based on the amount of oxygen breathed in, carbon dioxide expired, and ventilation. More importantly, we can use this test at different levels of altitude. The idea is that even though the test is identical during each performance, you are working closer to your maximum capacity the higher you are. We performed the test at sea level, when we arrived in Quito (2700m), and our first night arriving at camp (4000m). We wanted to do another test when we reached the summit at 6300m, but we realized this wasn’t going to be as feasible as we hoped. Apparently finding a place to perform a step test on top of a glacier after climbing for 10 hours isn’t ideal. Such is field testing. So we made the decision to do another test at 4000m before the climb to see how our bodies have adapted over the past week. We will perform an additional test after our final ascent, and then again when we’re back at sea level.


The results from this afternoon’s test were quite promising. We all had lower heart rate and lower lactate levels throughout the test. We also felt like we exerted less effort – very important when you’re planning on climbing a mountain the next day! This is likely due to the increased percent hematocrit in our blood and increased blood oxygen saturation (greater binding of oxygen to haemoglobin) that we’ve observed over the past few days. Our oxygen saturation levels are around 85% now – values similar to those we observed in Quito at around 2700m!). In fact, we all felt better today than we have yet. I guess adaptation works! Of course our true test will be how we feel climbing to 6300m so we shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves.

Now that our bodies are adapted, the only thing left is the small hurdle of getting up the mountain. We had a team meeting tonight to go over the plan for our ascent tomorrow. We’ll be starting at 11pm and climbing for 10 hours to reach the summit at around 9am (and then another four hours to make our way down the mountain). Along the way we’ll be climbing in loose scree, hard packed scree, and glacier for the final portion. We have four guides coming with us and we’ve chosen climbing teams of two for when we reach the glacier. The reason for this is that it’s easier to climb on the ice with only a few people attached to one rope, and if one team wishes to bail, they can descend with their guide while the others continue the climb.


There is the one tiny problem of weather, as a lot of snow is forecast for the next few days. While snow will help to soften the ice, climbing in a storm is not only difficult, but it is also dangerous. During our team meeting, we decided that we will try to climb tomorrow night, and if the weather is bad, we’ll try again the next night. All we can do is wait. We’ve done all the preparation we can do. Our training seems to have paid off, we’ve acclimatized, we’ve practiced using our equipment, and we’re ready to go. Hopefully we make it up the mountain tomorrow night but if the weather doesn’t cooperate we’ll just stick around here for another day! There are worse places to be.