Monday, October 21, 2013

Where the voice is not heard: Climbing jargon explained

 Alpine style refers to mountaineering in a self-sufficient manner, thereby carrying all of one's food, shelter, equipment, etc. as one climbs, as opposed to expedition style (or siege style) mountaineering which involves setting up a fixed line of stocked camps on the mountain which can be accessed at one's leisure. Additionally, alpine style means the refusal of fixed ropes, high-altitude porters and the use of supplemental oxygen.
In simpler terms Alpine Style means carrying a very heavy sack. (30 kg per person on very limited food, suffices for 1 week)

The average Italian or Korean expedition to an 8000 meter peak n involves the hiring of between 100-300 porters (the most ridiculous ones hiring up to 600) to carry tons of gear up the Glacier and to their basecamp. There you have everything: from giant kitchen tents that serve three course meals, a weather monitoring tent and an intricately designed system of metal cables and fixed ropes for hauling gear to higher camps. The spectacle resembles a military operation. The plan is to “march” in, and “conquer” the mountain by “attacking” the high camps. Thousands of followers worldwide are following the mountaineers by reading blogs and webcasts.   

During all this hoo-ha no one will even notice the French couple that arrived with maybe a porter and a guide. They carried their own packs, cooked for themselves, got up and down the mountain before the siege-style expedition finished unpacking, and returned home to have a few beers in Chamonix. 
This is the antithesis to the traditional way of approaching Himalayan peaks. A light-weight and super-fast approach: the alpine style. Pioneered by mountaineering legend Reinhold Messner and perfected by Steve House and Vince Anderson’s week-long ascent of Nanga Parbat the style is as pure as it gets. - See more  


Effects as a function of altitude

The human body can perform best at sea level, where the atmospheric pressure is 101,325 Pa or 1013.25 millibars (or 1 atm, by definition). The concentration of oxygen (O2) in sea-level air is 20.9%, so the partial pressure of O2 (pO2) is 21.136 kPa. In healthy individuals, this saturates hemoglobin, the oxygen-binding red pigment in red blood cells.
Atmospheric pressure decreases exponentially with altitude while the O2 fraction remains constant to about 100 km, so pO2 decreases exponentially with altitude as well. It is about half of its sea-level value at 5,000 m (16,000 ft), the altitude of the Everest Base Camp, and only a third at 8,848 m (29,029 ft), the summit of Mount Everest. When pO2 drops, the body responds with altitude acclimatization.
Mountain medicine recognizes three altitude regions that reflect the lowered amount of oxygen in the atmosphere:
  • High altitude = 1,500–3,500 metres (4,900–11,500 ft)- Altitude of Gangotri 
(Altitude of Mont Blanc- Highest mountain in Europe. 15000 ft. In Himalayas, Base camp is established at this altitude. This may give you the relative scale.)
  • Very high altitude = 3,500–5,500 metres (11,500–18,000 ft)- 18K is Altitude of Kamet Advance Base camp
  • Extreme altitude = above 5,500 metres (18,000 ft) Most of the peaks in Indian Himalayas that I have attempted/climbed are in this range
Travel to each of these altitude regions can lead to medical problems, from the mild symptoms of acute mountain sickness to the potentially fatal high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) and high altitude cerebral edema (HACE). The higher the altitude, the greater the risk. Research also indicates elevated risk of permanent brain damage in people climbing to extreme altitudes. Expedition doctors commonly stock a supply of dexamethazone, or "dex," to treat these conditions on site.

Humans have survived for two years at 5,950 m (19,520 ft) [475 millibars of atmospheric pressure], which is the highest recorded permanently tolerable highest altitude; the highest permanent settlement known, La Rinconada, is at 5,100 m (16,700 ft). At extreme altitudes, above 7,500 m (24,600 ft) [383 millibars of atmospheric pressure], sleeping becomes very difficult, digesting food is near-impossible, and the risk of HAPE or HACE increases greatly.

Mountain Terminology

Glacier (River of ice) with Morraine deposit (Debris ):

Crevasses: Wide crack in the basin or glacier (Depth= Thickness of Ice sheet which can be 100ft to 500ft)

Bergshrund ( Large Crevasse that separates the mountain face from the basin)

Corniced ridge

Hanging Glacier

Seracs (Ice towers)

Front pointing with crampons:

Glissade and self arrest

Ice climbing

Belayer and climber

Expansion bolt- Bolt station.

Rope looped through the Carabiner in a Bolt

Jummaring (Asecnding on rope)

Rapelling (Descending on rope)

Mountain boots (With Crampons)

Seat Harness with Carabiner links

Basic info on Carabiners

Basic Jummaring technique

Johnny Dawes -World Class climber
(My friend from Meru Expedition)

All photos are courtesy of other blogs.  Used to create awareness of climbing terms to layman.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Pune Running- Run beyond Myself 6 October 2013

I have always wanted my family to witness the positive energy in a marathon crowd. The Event in Pune was the right opportunity..more so, as it involved no travel and the ticket cost was just right. I usually would not pay for 21 km run, (I prefer to run this distance solo). This event was for a noble gather funds for KEM Hospital. It reminded me of my Grandmother who spent her last days at the same hospital and my old climbing friend Dr Shashank Shrotriya who was always there, when I needed help.

My close friend and colleague Nitin Pandya was deeply involved in organizing this run.It was good that I stayed away from Organisation as I should not inflict my negativity in a positively charged group that had enough troubles of their own. (I had enough of mine.)

After release of my book, I had not run for a month. I was engrossed with painting as a diversion from my recent success. I was watching my friends perform. Retd Cmdr (Indian Navy) Jeetendran Nair (Jeetu) finishes 100km in 14 hrs. Nitin ran with him for 40km. My new friend Sriram had joined this splendid night run.
(I was reading “The Long Walk” that I had downloaded on my Kindle. This guy and his mates did crazy marathon distances every day? What was wrong with me?)
I remembered Juzer..”It’s all in the mind” My mind needed a revamp. I was out of my favorite sport for too long.

I took my family to collect bibs. This was the time, when they would witness a real marathon scene.
I was surprised by the efficient management that my Pune Running friends had ensured. I met Jeetu and he mentioned the plan for a 50km run. I was interested. I thought, I should use the 21 km run as a warm up.
Neel cooked Pasta (Whole Wheat) for dinner and we slept early. Woke up at 4AM and we reached the BMCC ground at around 5.15AM. I left my slippers in the car.
I was wearing my old T shirt that I had used on my 1st run with Pune Running. This T had seen lot of runs and it was apt to wear it to “Run Beyond Myself”. Afterall, Pune Running had witnessed most of my PBs.

It was good to feel the earth under my feet again. I was pleased to see the crowd. The event shall succeed, I say to myself. What about the traffic control? Again bit of negativity!!
My son Neel and I were with the PTC gang. Purushottam comes and gives me the regular hug..just like our runs in different cities. He is a great runner and my pace (nor my age) is a match but we marathoners share a bond. (He achieved 1:40 PB)

The 21 km run had started and we wriggled our way to the start point. Disciplined crowd. . No rush. I had decided to use some music. The drum beats deafened my Lipps Inc oldie “All Night Dancing”. I was surprised. No stampede! I did not have to watch my barefeet from getting trampled underneath flashy Nikes/ Reeboks. As I crossed the line..No beep.. Was my Timer working at all?

The Slope to Symbiosis was easy. I made my way to front  using the liberty of my Barefeet. (Shoes restrict movement. Barefeet is the best way to climb an upward slope.) I weaved my way to thinner crowd at front. The Traffic control is excellent. A sob comes to my throat as I notice the flawless event unfold before me. I know the tremendous pains that my friends at Pune Running have gone through to make a flawless event.

I seem to have chosen music well this time. Turkish drum beats accompany me to Pune University. I am relieved to see Neel join me. For a while we run together along and then he increases his pace..I am alone in my world listening to Kraftwerk “Tour de France”. The repetitive music is apt for long runs or for cycling.

“Good going Parag. I thought it was you when I noticed the bare-feet.” My friend Aditya accompanies me for a while and then I slip into my silent world. 

At 10.5km U-turn, I meet Jeetu, who is managing a water station and we have a quick hug. Friends at water stations mean a lot to me.
It keeps me refreshed and helps maintain my pace. After all the route is well known to me. This is where I ran my first Half marathon. Home ground?

Another water spot and I shake hands with Nitin. (I have not skipped my cup of water and Electrolyte at any spot till now.)

I see You Too Can Run lead the 3 hr bus. He shouts to me, “ Good pace Barefoot!”  and I shout back.
I meet Sriram who is also going on at a terrific pace. Neel has slowed down and looking for a loo. He finds one..There goes his PB I thought. He was going at a much better pace  than me.  I carry on and see a new crowd of 10km runners.
My pace has increased; with the new faces around and I tread on. I am finally on the long slope to Symbiosis. I recollect past Pune Marathons where I often walked uphill. I am in a different mood today and I jog on. I see Raj Vadgama controlling traffic. Guys from Mumbai are out to Pune to help with this long run. I feel overwhelmed with the support for Pune Running marathon. It has been a great run. I rush down the slope overtaking quite a few. I have not looked at my watch after 10km.
With the last few strides I entered BMCC college ground and crossed the line. I look at my watch. It is a feeling of Joy.
And guess who timed one sec before me? The Elite Sahara Ultra runner Michelle Kakade!

I have Won my race. It’s my Personal best of 2:05 mins. Neel's PB is ~2:06 (plus time in Loo).

The feeling of elation cannot be expressed by words. I beat my old record by 10 minutes. Just by maintaining my pace and Running (a little) Beyond Myself. Another PB with Pune Running. It would not be possible without the tremendous support from Volunteers, Team managers and the Sponsors/ Police who helped towards a Marathon (that I always wanted in my City). I am glad to witness this energy from a runners perspective for my friends at Pune Running.

Thanks to  Pune for joining this event towards marathon for the common man. Thanks to people outside Pune for their support! It was great to see Shivaji Park Runners, Bhasker Desai, Raj, Milind Soman and You Too Can Run. Milind Soman ran his first Barefoot Half marathon. A historic event for many of us!

Back at Home , Neel surprises me. "I am sure that I could have done a Sub 2 easily."
He plans to go Barefoot soon.