Is it More Important to be Mentally or Physically Tough For Everest?

800px Mt. Everest from Gokyo Ri November 5, 2012 Cropped

The spring Everest season may still be a couple of months off, but it is approaching rapidly at the moment. In order to get us ready for the start of what should be another interesting and exciting year on the Big Hill, Alan Arnette continues his pre-season coverage with another excellent blog post about the experience of climbing the tallest mountain on the planet. This time out, he asks the question of whether or not it is more important to be mentally or physically tough.

Alan, who has been on four expeditions to Everest, shares his own personal experiences as he wrestled with the sometimes overwhelming mental and physical challenges. Those experiences helped him to understand what it takes to climb an 8000 meter peak, which goes well beyond simply putting in the work in the gym. He says that it isn’t about how strong you are, but about how well prepared.

He also talks about how important it is to keep your body in balance when climbing at higher altitudes. It is a precarious equilibrium with not pushing yourself too hard that you kill your chances of reaching the summit, but still moving at a fast enough pace to safely make it up and down in the allotted time. Your heart and lungs help to keep the body moving, but your mind must overcome self doubt and indecision in order to continue going up.

Everest junkies will find Alan’s break down of each stage of an Everest climb to be very interesting. It mentions all of the major milestones of a summit push from the South Side, and indicates the specific challenges that they present. For instance, he says that the trek to Everest Base Camp in the Khumbu Valley is one of the best parts of the climb, as you enjoy a leisurely walk through the Himalaya. But later, when you’re on the Lhotse Face, you face a real test of determination in getting up that impossibly vertical wall. He offers similar insights on the Khumbu Icefall, the Western Cwm, the South Col and all of he other important steps up to the summit.

We’re now about two months away from the start of the teams gathering in Kathmandu. At this point, most are still working on their physical and mental training ahead of the start of their expeditions. Alan’s blog postings leading up to the beginning of the season continue to bring excellent insights into what an Everest climb is all about, and while most of us will never be able to attempt such a climb for ourselves, we can get a better understanding of what the climbers go through in these stories.

Kraig Becker