Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Hidden Benefits of High Altitude Trips

Other secret benefits of high-altitude trekking or climbing.

At 5000m. On the slopes of Mt. Elbrus,
Caucasus, Russia
  1. Good night sleep (for good health). At least 90%+ of the expedition time (i.e.except summit day). The complexities of urban life made it difficult for us to sleep 8 hours or more. Even if one is ready to sleep – last minute check on twitter or facebook eventually meant losing another 30mins or more of sleep time. In a long trekking/climbing expedition – it is but normal to start bed time by 7pm or 8pm (which is late). And wake up at around 7am or later the next day. I normally sleep between 9 to 11 hours in an expedition! It’s just gadamn cold outside the tent haha! Centenarian’s primary health secret is – consistently sleeping at least 8 hours each night.

2. Maximum organ exercise (for stronger body). Some sea-level exercises or activities may not fully maximize organ’s function. Our genetic programming is set to ‘reduce unused anything’ (e.g. excess unused muscle is reduced) – so occasionally maximizing our body parts’ use help maintain if not strengthen them. Lungs for example – in the normal, daily urban/ work life, we don’t use much of our alveoli and ‘burst’ interval routines (ex. sprint runs) help in ‘exercising’ these alveoli in the lungs. (To illustrate, we can survive with only 1 lung but not perform in more demanding work or sports). The more our body parts are used – the more efficient or effective those parts would be. At high altitude, all our organs are challenged to their limits and thus making them strong. Heart, lungs, everything. Just don’t go over the limit.

3. Spiritual experience or a semblance of it. One can’t help but be awed by the beauty of nature. Solitary moments of contemplation are plenty when one is out and away for a long time - communing with nature, the invisible life all around, or with one's inner self.

4. Mental strength. The benefit of enduring suffering is toughness. Not just physically but mentally. Trekking or climbing long distance at high altitude environment is naturally difficult. Like soldiers who were subjected to extreme training and suffering to make them mentally tough – they don’t easily give up on difficult battle missions.

5. Basic life satisfaction. Trekking or climbing trips at high altitude last for weeks or months. Every trip is always a good ‘back to basic’ mode where one operates in the lower levels of Maslow’s hierarchy – focusing on simple and basic things such as shelter, food, water and simple fun. A good ‘time out’ away from chaos, dog-eat-dog society, cyber-loaded lifestyle and general complexities introduced by modern times. A good once-in-a-while reminder of who or what we are in this world.

High-Altitude Training
Alpine Mountaineering Intro-read

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