167-_DSC6649.jpgAs athletes prepare for altitude, there are many questions that begin to emerge. How long will it take me to acclimate? How do I limit the risk of altitude sickness? How will this affect my performance? These questions can create doubt and uncertainty in your ability. When this happens, it is best to listen to a voice of reason.

 

At COROS we have the privilege of working with one of the best athletes in the world above 18,000 ft. Luke Smithwick is an adventure skier who also summits the tallest mountains in the world. Having topped Everest many times, we were eager to sit down with him and talk altitude. 

 

Question: 

How long do you find it takes to acclimate to altitude?  Is it different the higher you go?  For athletes going from sea-level up into the high mountains, what is the best advice you can give? 

Answer:

Some of the best high altitude mountaineers on Earth are slow to acclimatize. We all acclimatize at different rates. Always approach altitude with a conservative acclimatization schedule, allowing time for rest and acclimatization days not only on mountain, but also on the approach. For extreme altitude (above 5500m/18,000ft), more time is required for the body to adjust. This is done using a climb high, sleep low method, “tricking” the body over time to create more red blood cells (to tolerate higher elevations gradually).

 

Question: 

Skiing can be a demanding sport! How do you train to be able to handle skiing while at altitude? 

Answer:

Most of my skiing is in heart rate zones two and three. I do interval workouts one day a week when training at home, which does help my body prepare for these short periods of time skiing while on long expeditions climbing.

 

Question:

A lot of athletes struggle with nutrition during their events. Adding altitude only makes things more complicated. What are some go to meals you eat or strategies you have discovered for yourself while above 12,000 ft

Answer:

I keep nutrition very simple at altitude. Instant mashed potatoes, chicken bouillon cubes (made into broth), and a lot of simple snacks. I’m on the go in the Himalayas basically for most of the year, so I make an effort to not get too set on any particular meal or regimen for fueling my body. Different foods are available in different areas, I go with what’s available. Treat your body like a truck, not a sports car. It should be able to handle changes and adjust when things aren’t going exactly as planned. That’s how high altitude mountaineering works, you need resilience and adaptability.

 

Question:

How do you utilize the VERTIX 2 pulse oximeter in your training or expeditions?

Answer:

I use the pulse oximeter for checking the physiological adjustment my body is going through at altitude over time. Acclimatization takes time. Each morning I’ll check my pulse and blood oxygen with the monitor. 

 

Question:

When training for your adventures, what is one of your staple workouts and why? 

Answer:

Muscular endurance workouts one day a week in the gym. Most of my training is outdoors in hilly terrain, running and ski touring. Training muscular endurance in the gym basically mimics the movements of high altitude mountaineering and skiing, but with added resistance. This enables the body to perform not only at a fairly high rate, but also for an extended period of time. 

 

Question:

How do you train your mind to handle the rigors and dangers of your activity? Are there any specific tips or tricks you use for training your mindset? 

Answer:

I meditate on it. I think about the cruxes. I visualize everything in my mind, and moving through each section. I always make sure that I’m psyched on a goal. If the psyche is there, everything else falls in place.

 

Between training for his sport, and having the tools needed to optimize performance, Luke remains one of the top athletes in the world above 18,000 ft. When planning your next adventure at altitude, be sure to have a similar approach and equipment to perform your best. While altitude can be a tricky factor for many athletes, we believe with the right focus, you too can explore perfection!

 

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