Everest / Alpine Expeditions

So, How Do You Train to Climb Mt. Everest, Living in Houston, Texas?

By Keith Cowing
Scott Parazynski
March 1, 2009
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As a former resident of Colorado, I once had a distinct advantage popping up mountains in the Rockies and elsewhere. Running and biking and climbing outside of Denver (beautiful Evergreen, CO) gave me a head start on the acclimatization process. As a lowlander with a home perhaps 100 feet above sea level in Houston, Texas, I now have to use a slightly different strategy to climb strong in the high mountains.

Note that there’s a significant difference between acclimatization to altitude, which takes varying amounts of time depending on what altitude you started from, and fitness at altitude. I have to accept that it’s going to take me a bit longer to acclimate to EBC coming from Houston than it would traveling from Colorado.

It will take me a few weeks to build additional red blood cells to enhance my oxygen carrying capacity here on Everest. To reduce the symptoms of Acute Mountain Sickness and speed my acclimatization, I also use small amounts of a medicine called Diamox: it makes sleeping at altitude more comfortable, and generally reduces headaches provided I stay well hydrated up here.

The real secret to success up here is fitness, and more specifically mental toughness. I exercise at a wonderful fitness center in Houston, shockingly called The Houstonian. The foundation of my training for Everest comes from spin aerobic training, set to great music, and my gym has some of the best and meanest instructors on the planet.

One such instructor is named Anabelle: she probably weighs no more than 100 pounds dripping wet, and yet she and her colleagues terrify me into working well beyond my comfort zone. I’d often do 2 or even 3 back-to-back spin classes on a weekend day, and as many as I could fit in during the work-week. When able, I’d also climb stadium steps at nearby Rice University until my legs began to scream at me. Throw in some weight training and core work (to protect my back, in particular), I arrived in Nepal in pretty solid shape. I recognize that in the coming weeks I’ll lose some of my lean muscle mass from the hard work and thin air, but I’d never be able to attempt Everest without such a foundation.



Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA Space Station Payload manager/space biologist, Away Teams, Journalist, Lapsed climber, Synaesthete, Na’Vi-Jedi-Freman-Buddhist-mix, ASL, Devon Island and Everest Base Camp veteran, (he/him) 🖖🏻