How to train for Aconcagua?

Aha! I wish I had the perfect answer to this question. I’ve been hiking for pretty much all my life, but this challenge is on a whole new level.

Speaking on level I have a BIG problem. Sea level that is. The altitude of my apartment must be 6 m at most, my office might be at +10m with a push. This really does not help for a bid to climb almost 7000 m. But I do have a plan.

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Where I currently live, in St Andrews, Scotland. Pic taken last week.

Climbing Aconcagua is facing two challenges at the same time. First it’s a long hike. 21 days on average, hiking pretty much every day, carrying between 10 to 15 kg on our back (that is if you can pack light!). Second, it’s extremely high. So I have to take these two aspects into account for my training.

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The normal route day by day. From Aconcagua Trek Expeditions.

Cardio is the answer to the first challenge. There are many ways to increase your cardio capacity, and I found that cycling and running works well for me. I cycle every day to work, and run typically three times per week. I am hoping to run my first marathon this year in preparation for Aconcagua. As recommended by my brother, I joined my local Crossfit Box. They’re called Functional Fitness St Andrews and they’re amazing! I have survived to 9 sessions so far and am looking forward to doing a lot more in the months to come.

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My new addiction! Crossfit.

The second challenge is a lot trickier to address. In Scotland where I live, the highest mountain is Ben Nevis, culminating at a mere 1345 m… I miss my Alpine peaks! So over the summer I am hoping to spend more weekend bagging some munros (hills higher than 1000 m) and to organise one or two weekends in the French Alps to test myself at much higher altitudes.

Hiking Ben Macdui about a month ago.

But there are cheap ways to simulate high altitude. I’ve been a pretty big fan of the Elevation mask over the past few years. I used it in the weeks before climbing Kilimanjaro, wearing it while hiking in the French Alps. It looks like you’re wearing a gas mask, but all it does is restricting how much air you breathe. Pretty efficient especially because I only have the valves stimulating 16 000 ft, go big or go home!

Training in the Alps was definitely easier.