The countdown has begun. The replacement passport is winging its way to me. My Prusik loop tying skills are being practiced. My definitely authentic North-Face bag bought for five pounds in a Nepalese market is being stitched back together. Finally, my intense physical preparation is reaching its conclusion.
It’s extremely important to make sure you put on lots of weight before going into the mountains. I should make it clear that this advice comes not from any particular scientific knowledge, but rather from a passion for special fried rice and sesame prawn toast. Really quite an extreme passion. They cover the stuff in MSG to make it more addictive but I think that the salt and fat are doing a good enough job already. I think my body knows that I’m going back to the mountains and knows I need to be bigger. At least that’s what I tell myself.
I once met a guy in Huaraz who had lost 38kg in four months. He hadn’t even been trekking. Simply living at this altitude is a workout. That’s not to mention the calories needed to keep you warm when at low temperatures. One of the many benefits of being warm-blooded is that we can go to these cold places without freezing to a standstill. But we’ve got to keep our core body temperature at a pesky 37 degrees centigrade. To do this, the body can switch on sub-cellular organelles to burn through fuel to create heat, like revving your car on a winter’s day to warm the engine. Of course it can just revert to good old-fashioned shivering-like-hell.
Even walking around in the warm afternoon sun in Huaraz can leave you breathless. I use my ability to get up the steep steps by the hostel as a measure of how well acclimatised I am. It ranges from ‘dizzy-with-head-spinning’ to ‘wow-that-is-actually-still-quite-hard’.
It’s also important to remember that you’re going to need to do your best impression of a mountain goat pretty soon. And the stronger you are the easier it will be to get to the top. So, in the interest of making my life as easy as possible I have recruited a good friend who is definitely the strongest bloke I know. Apparently ‘metabolic training’ is the order of the day for the proceeding month. And so I return to my occasional pastime of pulling muscles I didn’t know I had. I have been reassured that I won’t be losing any weight, just as long as I keep on eating.
Now, where’s that menu?
By Sam Gibbons Frendo, 13 June 2014