Outside Tells Us What it Takes to Climb Everest without Oxygen

1280px Mount Everest

This year, more than ever, it seems that we heard a lot about climbers attempting Everest without the use of supplemental oxygen. Some were successful, others were not, but climbing the world’s highest mountain without bottled O’s has become the new high-water mark for experienced mountaineers. But just how difficult is it to ascend to such heights in such thin air? What do alpinists have to do to prepare for the attempt? Outside magazine has taken an in-depth look at what it takes to climb Everest in this fashion.

For this story Outside examines the #EverestNoFilters expedition of Adrian Ballinger and Corey Richards. For the second year in a row, the two men went to the North Side of the mountain to attempt summits without bottled oxygen. Last year, Richards was successful but Ballinger had to turn back, but this year Adrian finally completed the quest.

The duo shared their expedition on a variety of social media outlets, including the Strava platform, which keeps track of a variety of data from an athlete. That data is proving instrumental in learning just how they trained and what worked and what didn’t along the way. In the Outside article we learn that Ballinger focused his conditioning on running at a casual pace, covering about 6 miles (9.6 km) per day, but with a lot of vertical climbing. He averaged more than 3000 feet (914 meters) of vertical gain each day as he prepared for the climbing he would face in the Himalaya. Furthermore, he would often carry a 65 pound (29.4 kg) backpack to simulate his load on the mountain.

But, preparing for such a strenuous climb goes well beyond just physical conditioning. As we learned in an article last week, Ballinger had to change his diet significantly in order to be more efficient at higher altitudes. It also meant a shift in mindset too, with a more focused approach on the climb. For Adrian, who runs Alpenglow Expeditions, that meant taking a step back from those operations so he could dedicate more time to his preparation.

Obviously the results speak for themselves. Ballinger was able to finally nab that elusive Everest summit without bottled oxygen, and now anyone who is considering making the same attempt can learn from his experience. Needless to say, it wasn’t easy but the goal was achieved.

Kraig Becker