The mountain is a marvelous world, but you have to be careful and consider that if it’s still a place of adventure, it’s because nature is still powerful and it’s up to us to adapt to her.
The ascent of Mont Blanc (4807 m), Monte Rosa (4633 m), or Gran Paradiso (4061 m), the highest peaks in Europe, can be undertaken by anyone in good physical condition. However these races should not be trivialized, because depending on the altitude, the dangers due to the changes of atmospheric conditions can become suddenly very important.
These climbs require good stamina, altitude tolerance and training in basic safety techniques and progression to glacial terrain. This experience is acquired by the practice of high mountain races, and we advise you by participating in a preparation day.
Mont Blanc is not recommended for young people under 18 years old.
Loan, equipment rental, buying tips
During the preparation of your race, I can lend you some materials. I can also recommend some of my partners and personal equipment manufacturers for their know-how and the quality of their products
It is advisable to dress in “layers” successive, to adapt to the temperature of the moment. It’s the best way to fight the cold.
Warm clothing: over-trousers, technical jacket with hood recommended, polar fleece and underwear mountain, (underpants and T-shirt), hat, gloves or mittens of very good quality, warm socks, gaiters.
Glacier Glasses, and Ski Mask.
Gourd, headlamp, sunscreen.
Very good high-mountain shoes that do not grip too much.
Harness, helmet (this technical material can be loaned by your guide).
Crampons and ice ax. (This technical material can be rented at a sports shop). During the preparatory day, the guide will advise you according to the conditions of the moment.
Choose a bag that is neither too big nor too small: a volume of 45 / 50l will fit most of your needs for day races, or races for a Mont Blanc, Monte Rosa, Gran Paradiso.
Avoid bags with many external pockets or straps: these accessories are easily jammed …
Your backpack must be tight. Example of a good bag: the 35+ guide of the Deuter brand.
Weight is our “enemy” in the mountains: we must eliminate all the superfluous.
The following list describes the basis for any standard stroke.
Depending on the temperature conditions and the duration of the race, may be added or remove some objects.
Ask your guide + retail.
- light gourd or bottle of water (avoid the hoses that freeze at altitude! …) isothermal above 3500m
- a garbage bag in case of rain
- a knife
- toilet paper to write his memoirs.
- hat cap
- one on light pants
- small frontal
- short or long ice ax depending on the type of race
- Telescopic sticks
- your papers (CIF insurance card, FFME, identity, money)
- windproof jacket with hood (Goretex type)
- a spare T-shirt
- your glasses (preferably protection index 4) in case of snow or glacier race)
- a pair of thin gloves + a pair of warm gloves (ski type)
- your warm polar (the “second layer”)
- your sun protection cream and labial high index.
- Crampons (possible rental in store)
- Mountain shoes (rental possible in store)
- Helmet (your guide can lend them)
- Descender (your guide can lend them)
- Screw carabiners (your guide can lend them)
- Lanyards (your guide can lend them)
- Via ferrata lanyards (your guide can lend them)
- Harness with carabiner screw (your guide can lend them)
- A crust break adapted to transport at altitude.
The constraints of the mountain environment.
New to a particular world, mountaineers will have to adapt to several types of aggressions imposed by the change of environment.
Hypoxia or lower oxygen pressure in the air
A new physical activity
A change of climate or food
Hypoxia is an inevitable constraint: no simple technical means can replace the physiological adaptation.
The preparation, equipment and experience of your guide will however reduce the inconvenience due to changes in physical activity, climate, and food.
This is the initial phase that can be experienced during a climb by cable car or during a race in the high mountains. This acute exposure to hypoxia causes the body to increase its cardiac and ventilatory output.
These reactions are beneficial since they allow an increase in the amount of oxygen supplied every minute to the cells.
Acclimatization and acclimatization
If exposure to altitude continues beyond a few hours, the body initiates more economical coping mechanisms that will gradually take over from hyperventilation and tachycardia.
These mechanisms will only be effective if the exposure is progressive and sufficiently prolonged. All these mechanisms constitute the phenomenon of acclimatization which, once well established, leads to a state of acclimatization.
This state allows a native seaside subject to have physical activity at altitude. The speed and quality of adaptation vary by subject.
Physical performance at altitude
Living at altitude does not pose too much of a problem, but as soon as the body increases its energy expenditure as during an ascent, the lack of oxygen becomes a factor limiting performance.
At the top of Mont Blanc a subject only has 70% of his sea level capacity.
The importance of hydrating in the mountains
In order not to transform the backpack into a tanker truck, without fear of the terrible “heat stroke” so much feared by soldiers in forced march, the old experienced guide has a well-honed strategy:
- give up any idea of performance, the mountain is not a stadium! ;
- adjust the pace of progression and clothing to avoid excessive sweating;
- take the time to take a break to remove the gourd from the bag, a privileged moment of conviviality.
- “Drink before thirst”, these are the commercials of the two major manufacturers of hydration pockets systems … If the message is sometimes disturbing, it is nevertheless clear: drink or weaken, you must choose.
Any practicing endurance or resistance sport must hydrate as soon as the duration of this effort exceeds thirty minutes, except to suffer from a decrease in physical performance. The practice of mountaineering or climbing is no exception to this rule because climatic conditions, generally hot (it is rarely – 2 ° C in Algeria, except at night, or in Libya), reinforce or increase water losses.
The body is essentially (for 2/3) water and the energy plant does not support the lack of water. However, our body loses about 2.5 liters of water at rest and sometimes much more effort, exposing itself to dehydration (or lack of water).
Any loss of 2% of the body weight, less than 1.5 kg for an individual of 70 kg, results in a decrease in physical performance of 20%! It is understandable that the climber who hydrates by compensating for his losses, gains considerably in relation to the one who neglects this state of affairs.
How does one lose water?
Dehydration: The drop in hygrometric pressure associated with hyperventilation increases water losses through the respiratory tract and promotes dehydration.
by breathing: the exhaled air with each respiratory movement is saturated with moisture; by perspiration: through the pores of the skin, even at rest; by sweating: under stress or in a hot environment, the armpits, the forehead, the back sweat profusely according to the intensity of the effort, the ambient temperature and individual variations.
What to replace lost water?
By pure water more or less added sugar in small quantity (50 g per liter) so as to constitute an isotonic liquid (of the same concentration as the liquids inside the body). Why sugar? Because it is the basic fuel of the cell. And, in such a situation, glucose, fructose or maltose are particularly suitable.
The optimum concentration of diluted sugar is 50 g per liter of water because it is close to that of the plasma (internal environment in which the cell is immersed): it is isotonicity.
What are the signs of dehydration?
- weightloss ;
- thirst for “late onset, delayed in time”;
- intense tiredness;
- dryness of the mucous membranes;
- loss of elasticity of the skin. If it gets worse:
- consciousness disorder “lethargy type”;
- fast and shallow breathing;
- pulse small and fast;
- arterial hypotension (less than 10);
Which gourd system to use?
Standard or insulated gourd or Camel bak?
Beware the typical Camel back systems have the disadvantage of freezing at altitude or very cold.
Preferably take an insulated flask above 3500 M.
For those who prefer to use a backpack with built-in hydration pocket of sufficient volume (2 to 3 liters) and with a mouthpiece. The two best-performing manufacturers in terms of price-performance ratio are Hydrapak® and Camel bak®, the first manufacturer to appear on the market. Both offer complete, technical ranges, including bags with complete devices.
In practice, only permanent hydration is the only way to compensate for losses and have enough reserves!
1 to 2 liters of drink being the minimum for a race in the mountains. (keep the champagne for the arrival)
A good evaluation of an optimal hydration is the proof of the existence of diuresis (every two – three hours, one wants to piss!), Proof of the conservation of an optimal blood circulation of the kidneys, therefore key organs of dehydration. Unfortunately not practical for you ladies.
Acute mountain sickness (MAM)
Acute mountain sickness is neither a curse nor a blemish. This is a sign of incomplete acclimation to altitude.
One out of two subjects has MAM beyond a certain altitude.
The disorders occur 4 to 8 hours after arrival at altitude and most frequently from 3500m.
The clinical signs are characterized by a set of disorders associating:
- Headache 96% of cases
- Insomnia 70% of cases
- Anorexia 38% of cases
- Nausea 35% of cases
Often dyspnea, dry cough, and sometimes dizziness are associated.
Even the best mountaineers can feel the MAM. If you feel any of these disorders your acclimation is incomplete.
3 RULES OF GOLD
- Do not climb too fast too high.
- Climb high enough to acclimatize.
- Do not stay too high for too long.
Your guide will advise you on the best technique for acclimating to altitude as well as the appropriate treatments to help you adapt.