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Interview: Adrian Ballinger Talks Rapid Ascent

As soon as Adrian returned from his successful #K2no02 mission, we caught up with him for an interview. We asked him all about pre-acclimatizing with Hypoxico and how the Rapid Ascent program plays into his climbing career.


Q: How does pre-acclimatization with Hypoxico work?

Adrian: “The Hypoxico system allows us to pre-acclimatize at home which is an essential part of our Rapid Ascent and Lightning Ascent systems for climbing big mountains faster than we used to be able to.

Essentially you’re in a tent and the system takes oxygen out of the air and replaces it with nitrogen. We can breathe nitrogen without any ill effect but the lower level of oxygen mimics what we feel at altitude. It forces our bodies to start making changes to be able to better survive at higher altitudes- what we call acclimatization.”


What system works best for you?

“The system that works for me is a Hypoxico generator connected to a head tent. It’s exactly what it sounds like- it’s a tent that just goes over a pillow and you slide your head into it at night.

I like it because the rest of your body doesn’t get too hot and isn’t uncomfortable but you’re getting the full effect of the hypoxico system while you breathe. Also, the nice thing about the head tent is that it’s possible to get it to higher altitudes because you’re having to de-oxygenate a smaller space.

I use the mask if I’m traveling but I find it more uncomfortable compared to the tent. That said, the mask is perfect to use while I’m training on a stationary bike or on a treadmill.

The full bed tent is convenient if you like to be in your tent watching movies or working during the day – things like that. If you don’t share your bed, or if your partner is pre-acclimatizing too, the full bed tent might be ideal.”


Q: What’s it like being in the tent leading up to your expedition?

Adrian: “Honestly, not everybody loves it. You’ll generally be in a tent between 4 weeks and 8 weeks depending on the advanced level of the expedition. Basically:

  • – 4 weeks for a 6,000m peak
  • – 6 weeks for Cho Oyu
  • – 8 weeks for Everest

It’s really important to take the time you need in the tent seriously. You need to spend at least 8 hours a day in the tent. That could be sleeping, if you sleep 8 hours a day. If you don’t, then you are going to need to prioritize other time in the tent as well.

When you’re in the tent, it’s really important to raise the altitude slowly so that you never get sick or really feel altitude symptoms. But people do feel things like occasional difficulty sleeping, occasional nauseousness or a headache. Those are warning signs that your body is acclimatizing, so they’re not bad things necessarily. The key is not allowing them to start to affecting your sleep quality or your recovery from the the physical training that you’ll be doing to get ready for your trip.”


“I’m one of the weird ones that actually really likes the tent. The generator that’s part of the system creates this fantastic white noise that I sleep really well to and you’re just in this safe little bubble.”


Q: How much time can you knock off an expedition by using Hypoxico?

Adrian: “Pre-acclimatizing can take off 30-50% of the total expedition time, so it’s a really significant difference. A trip like Aconcagua instead of being 23 days long will only be 12-14 days long. A trip like Everest that is normally ~70 days long will only be ~35 days long.

These times aren’t just for extreme athletes, these times are for our average climber who is willing to put the work in, willing to train hard physically and utilize the tent very specifically following our instructions. It really makes a huge difference on each trip.

This year, for the first time, we ran a Lightning Ascent expedition on Everest where one of our climbers climbed Everest in 14 days door-to-door, USA-to-USA. It’s incredible. The Hypoxico System is a really important part of doing that safely.”


How has Hypoxico helped you accomplish your goals?

“In my climbing and my guiding career I have seen Hypoxico training make both myself and my clients stronger on the mountain. Overall, I’ve been more successful on my climbs because when you get into the mountains, you’re not battling acclimatization. Your body can get used to all the other challenges of the mountain- the big hard days, sleeping in tents, and the possible new bugs or bacteria from being in a foreign country. Since you’re not battling the altitude, your body can handle the elevation better and ultimately be more successful on the mountain.”


Scope view of our 2018 Rapid Ascent teams heading up to the summit


For more information on our Everest Expeditions or any of our other international expeditions check out our website. For any questions call our office at 877-873-5376 or send us an email