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nssasser

rainier climb for geezers

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My husband (geezer of 62 years) and his wife (geezerette of 57) are planning a climb this summer with son of 28 years. Our son is an intermediate climber. His friend who is an advanced climber will also be with us. I would very much appreciate hearing from someone who has summitted being in this age range. We have both been fairly active on a regular basis for many years. I think that my main questions are what are the important factors to keep in mind and work on now for our age range, what were experiences with breathing as beginning questions. Would it make any difference that I grew up in the Montana mountains at 6000 feet for 18 years?

We have backpacked in the Wallowas, Cascades, and Crazies in the past.

Whatever anyone might comment about or books that you might recommend would be very, very welcome.

Thank you most sincerely,Nancy Sasse Sasser

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Dear Geezers,

How you acclimate is mostly due not to how well conditioned you are, but rather your physiology (how your body adapts to the change in pressure, partly by increasing red blood cell production).

The fact that you grew up at 6,000' makes little difference now since I am assuming you now live close to sea level like the rest of us! This also is a factor for ascending to altitude, since our bodies are adjusted to sea level pressures. If you lived at a high altitude now, you might indeed have an advantage. So basically your body can adapt, but the unanswered question for those who have not been to a high altitude (10,000'+) is how fast and how well will their body adapt! Below is how I first dealt with altitude.

I climbed to 20,320' after only being to an altitude of 6288' and I did better than most who have been higher. My parents have both been above 13,000' in Switzerland and had no problems adjusting to the altitude. They were not climbing, but my mom has severe asthma and has about one lung breathing capacity (I'm a diagnosed asthmatic as well). So, I know that I adapt well to altitude and I consider it a 'gift', one that I should be more thankful for (that means I should be climbing less ice and more big mountains!)

So I hope this at least helps encourage you. I can't tell your how age would affect your acclimation though, but I am sure if you look hard enough you will find some information on the web.

Good Luck and be sure to post a trip report when you return!

Dan E.

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Thank you, Dan, for the acclimitization info. What you tell us is encouraging. And answers a question we had about spending a week in Montana at the 6000' ranch prior to the climb. At present we live at 3200' in Idaho.

Good climbing to you also in the New Year!

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I believe that we adjust to altitiude exposure relatively quickly so that a week at 6,000 feet immediately prior to your climb would help, but if you then spent three days in Seattle just before heading to the mountain you would have lost much of the altitude advantage.

One way to avoid or at least greatly minimize the likliehood of having trouble with the altitude is to take an extra day at an intermediate level on the mountain on your way up. And such an itinerary will allow you to more easily climb one of the non-standard routes, and you may be able to find a high camp that you can have to yourself.

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Hey Geezers,

My dad climbed Rainier at age 61, 63 and then 65, the latter time a carryover of the summit and descent by another route. Age 61 was his first summit of the mountain, also.

I was with him on all three climbs, and I think what might be most important is to ensure that the young tigers with you are either not setting the pace, or are setting one with the full understanding that you will probably not have as much endurance, and that they need to be willing to set a slower albeit deliberate pace and take breaks as needed. (Or maybe you are faster than them?!?). Make sure you communicate this with your son or whomever sets the pace. If the other guy is really experienced, he might likely have a good idea how to accomplish an efficient pace that works for all.

In advance of your trip, my dad suggests that you mainly work on developing steady and high cardiovascular endurance- riding stairmaster, bicycle, and also, perhaps most important- frequently get out on long hikes that gain lots of elevation- as in 3000-5000 foot gains, which are low-altitude equivalents of the 2 4500 foot climbing days you will experience on Rainier. Work out your legs and stretch as much as possible too. If possible, make a trip or two to Camp Muir (if you live near enough), particularly not long before your climb, and this will help you to experience the effect of altitude and learn more about your ability to adapt. Or climb Mt. Adams, if you have time, which is even higher than Muir.

My dad always felt that going to Muir or otherwise up to altitude a week or two prior to his climbs helped him adapt. The one time he didn't, on the last climb, he felt ill from the altitude from 12k up, but still made it.

He's in great shape, but what really helped him each time was having the right pace set for him on the climb. At his age, he says, he merely needs to stop a little more often, but with the right endurance training done consistently he can go all day at a decent, slow, steady pace.

Good luck and have a great climb this summer.

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Ditto the recommendation to take three days to do the climb. We did the Emmons last year, with an overnight in Glacier Basin (?) at 5,500', then up to Schurman at 9,500, summit and back to the car on the third day. We actually had a 4th night booked at Schurman, but wanted to get off the mountain and away from high camp...

Also, leave yourself enough time to get up and off by noon... Due to the conditions on the route last year, we left at 12:30 and returned by about 11.

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I guided my Dad up when he was 63. We did two nights...drive from Seattle to trailhead and approach to Schurman. My Dad hit the wall about 750 ft (vertical)from camp and in retrospect that was the hardest part for him. We then spent the next day lounging and doing crevasse rescue and self belay stuff near camp. Up at 2 am and to the summit. He didn't carry a pack. We were also prepared for another night if need be but we went all the way down. He really loved the huge long otter slide down the interglacier! I told him to train but he didn't. He's in pretty good shape though.

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DP's got the formula! Climb high enough the day before that you will be able to spend most of a day lounging at high camp, drinking plenty of water and eating real food. There are those who advocate the one-day push but, in my experience, most parties who arrive at their high camp late in the day do not summit.

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okay, okay, Holly, you got me. Of course I meant 'guy' generically! Know what I mean, dude? oops...sorry. wink.gif" border="0

[ 12-27-2001: Message edited by: W ]

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Nothing to add, really. I would just echo the advice from MattP and others who suggest that if it's within your scheduling possibilities, plan to spend a couple of days camped in the 7-10,000 ft elevations before your summit bid. This made an enormous difference for a buddy of mine (not in his sixties but older than me by a decade). After many attempts, he couldn't seem to get more than a thousand feet above camp without getting sick, even though he was extremely fit. Then he acclimatized for a few days at 7,000 feet before one Rainier summit trip and he reported that it felt like hiking Mt. Si (a Seattle-area, low-elevation training hike).

[ 12-27-2001: Message edited by: pope ]

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I read a Rainier trip report where they went up Friday evening after work. Left Paradise around 8-9 and got to Muir around midnight. They left for the summit at midnight the next day. This allowed them all day saturday to acclimatize, an extra 1/2 day compared to hiking up to Muir saturday a.m.

-Ted

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My opinion is that it is quite possible to hurt yourself even at the relatively low elevations we have in Washington. Conditioning has nothing to do with it. Sleep at sea level, drive to Paradise (5,000') and hump 50 pounds of gear to Muir (10,000') all in the same day sometime. If you don't feel at least little queasy you're a mutant (or lucky). A couple in England maintain this set of documents on the subject of altitude and acclimatization. High in content, low in images Really nice work.

Steve & Judy's Altitude & Acclimatization Page

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I've worked as a mountain guide for the last few years and have had the experience of guiding a number of people in their sixties.

Every opinion on this page is excellent. Taking time to acclimatize at Muir or Sherman is an excellent idea. There should not be any rush if you really want to get the summit. Wait until summer when we have long periods of high pressure and then take three or even four days to do the route.

The other thing to think about is what kind of experience you want to have on the mountain. Do you want to just make the summit using the last vestages of strength or do you want to enjoy your trip? Most people want to enjoy their trip. By having too short a time frame and by not putting in the excercise work prior to the trip, you are dooming yourself to a painful experience.

The most important thing you can do to prepare is to get a solid cardio workout at least five times a week until your trip. My experience is that most people do not understand what this means. Run, do stairmaster, do practice hikes with big packs. Put in a minimum of forty minutes a day - more if you can.

It's interesting that while guiding one discovers that certain people you'd expect to be strong are sometimes quite weak, and vice versa. The people I'm referring to as being weak are those that are athletic but not outdoorsy. Let me clarify. I've seen marithon runners have a very hard time. They are not used to the pack. Then on the opposite end of the spectrum, I've seen people who work in an office all day that hike on a regular basis succeed.

The point to this is that crosstraining is very important. Don't forget to get out with that pack as much as possible.

Three times I've guided families with a mother or father or both on the trip that are well into their sixties. On all three occasions the elder members of the family had trained so hard that the twenty and thirty something kids had a hard time keeping up. I found this quite inspirational.

Best of luck on your trip!

Jason

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I think many good posts have been made, but i would argue only one point. I think that spending that week at 6000 in montana prior to the climb would be very beneficial if it can be done. Taking several days to climb, as has been suggested, is probably more important, but if both can be done it will be that much better of a trip. My experience is that after trips to elevation of a week or more I usually retain some acclimitization for several days to a week. This will certainly make to trek to high camp more enjoyable and allow time there to be spent preping for the climb rather than recovering from the approach.

however its done you'll probably have a great trip

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Well, I summitted with my dad when I was 14 and he was 50. So we were on opposite extremes of our primes, but had a great climb anyway (repeat summit this summer if we can fit it in) but hey tell your son and his friend just to short rope you until a couple hundred feet from the top, then its all you. Hope you have a successful safe climb.

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I'm not claiming to be right here, but I've always heard that the 3-4 day appraoch can be detrimental on rainier.

From what I hear most people can aclimate by about 1000' per day. So an extra day will give you an extra 1000'. But that means you are still about 13K in the hole.

For many people the extra time at altitude just gets them sicker and more dehydrated. We're they to spend a week at 10K it would help them but an extra day just makes them sicker. Thus when they are ready to go up the time at altitude they are tired, dehydrated and have a little AMS.

Any thoughts?

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I have heard it said that a one-day ascent is beneficial because you can get up and back down before your blood chemistry is drastically altered by the effects of altitude exposure, but you are the first person I have ever heard to postulate that for minimizing alitude sickness a 2 day ascent might be better than 3 or 4 (did I understand you right - is that what you suggested?). I have made two 4-day climbs of the mountain and on both occasions I greatly enjoyed the trip and we summited with energy to spare. I have also climbed the mountain on 3-day and 2-day itineraries, and the effects of altitude, dehydration, and exhaustion were more pronounced with less time spent on the mountain. I haven't tried the 1-day marathon push. Aside from the issue of altitude sickness, I believe the climb is more enjoyable if one has time to thoroughly rest up, eat, and hydrate prior to the summit push and this will generally though not necessarily be easier with a longer itinerary.

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One of the things that I've done quite a bit of out here is spend time at altitude. I've hiked and/or climbed my way to 14k about 30 times and spent alot of time at 12K or higher on skis.

Everyone is different, of course, but in my experience going higher faster has always (significantly) aggravated the symptoms of altitude sickness, rather than preventing or alleviating them. As far as the body's responses to altitude go, I'm no Charles Houston or anything...but my understanding of the current medical consensus was that the physiological changes that occur at altitude are precisely what enable the body to adapt to the lack of oxygen at those heights, and that by skipping the rest days one is merely depriving one's body of the chance to adapt properly and increasing the odds of altitude sickness.

This may not matter for the folks who got lucky in the genetic lottery, but for just about everyone else(restatement of the obvious to follow shortly)... the odds of getting laid low by the altitude increase in direct proportion to the rate of one's ascent. For my part, even though I live at 6000 feet and can get to 14000 feet in a single day without too much discomfort, a night at 10,000 feet or so usually makes the process quite a bit more pleasant. FWIW I've also found that guzzling 4 liters of Cytomax and a downing a pack o' Goo every 40 minutes or so really help me at altitude also.

[ 01-18-2002: Message edited by: JayB ]

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Well I hope they arent going to be going up without any exposure to altitude on prior training climbs. Go climb Baker or Adams or Hood first, hell, all three. Spend the night high on the mountain, make it an enjoyable summit day and stay hydrated. Then take a 2 or 3 day ascent of Rainier, a possible second day at base at 10,000 never hurt anyone that I've heard of. The only problem is the time, memorial day is the closest 3-day weekend but too early probably. I was up there memorial day 2 years ago, 70 MPH winds and freezing temps enough to solidify my cliff bar inside my pack enough to chip my tooth. So take it easy on your approach but only after being exposed to high altitude recently and often in the season. Have a good climb.

-Murph

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