Rapid Ascent™ by Alpenglow Expeditions
First developed by Adrian Ballinger, Rapid Ascent™ is a unique approach to climbing big mountains across the world. This innovative program combines the relatively new application of hypoxic training with precise logistics and small team sizes to reduce the overall time spent away from home, while greatly increasing the chance of success on your international climbing expedition.
On average, Rapid Ascent™ expeditions reduce the time of traditional expeditions by 30% – 50%. A traditional expedition that might take 3 or 4 weeks time can now be done in 2 weeks, allowing busy climbers to follow their passion in the mountains, while maintaining the responsibilities of a busy life.
Introduction & History
Hypoxic training, also known as Normobaric Hypoxic Training, has been used by sea-level Olympic athletes to legally increase (legal, according to the international olympic committee) their hematocrit [the ratio of the volume of red cells to the volume of whole blood] levels to perform better in whatever their sport might be. Hundreds and hundreds of non-mountain athletes use these tents every year. This training was originally developed for mainstream athletics—like NBA basketball teams to use during the off season. NFL teams preparing for a game against the Denver Broncos at mile high stadium have also been known to use the system.
In 2011, Alpenglow Expeditions founder and CEO Adrian Ballinger first heard about the use of hypoxic training as an aid to endurance athletes who were looking to gain an edge in events like ultrarunning and triathlon. That’s when the light bulb came on. In 2012 he developed a relationship with Hypoxico Altitude Systems, and began using their tent and generator system for his own climbing endeavors. He quickly recognized the benefits of pre-acclimatization at home, and immediately found great success in his shortened high-altitude expeditions.
First Guide Service to Use Hypoxic Training at Scale
Once tested on himself, Adrian had a vision to bring this type of training and preparation to other climbers who were looking to attempt big mountains in less time. Alpenglow Expeditions was the first mountain guide service to create and lead expeditions in the Rapid Ascent™ style. After years of success climbing in Rapid Ascent™ style, Alpenglow prioritizes Rapid Ascent™ expeditions on mountains such as Aconcagua, Cho Oyu and Mt. Everest
In Partnership with Hypoxico Altitude Training Systems
Alpenglow Expeditions partners with Hypoxico Altitude Training Systems, to provide clients with hypoxic training equipment and programing for their Rapid Ascent ™ expedition. The equipment for hypoxic training consists of an altitude tent and generator system, both included in the cost of any Rapid Ascent™ expedition. The system is shipped directly to your doorstep a few days prior to the beginning of the pre-acclimatization schedule. The day before leaving for the expedition, climbers simply box the system back up and leave it out front of their home or apartment lobby for pick up the next day.
We use the term “pre-acclimatizing” to denote the process of using the Hypoxico tent and generator system at home. Avoiding traditional acclimatization in-country is the specific tactic that allows for a shortened expedition. By removing the time intensive process of in-country acclimatizing, climbers are able to move directly to base camps across the world that are generally above 14,000’/4200m.
We follow a normal climbing schedule that a team would follow once they are acclimatized, but often that acclimatization includes on-mountain rotations. We do not move any faster than other strong teams, however we do have the advantage of feeling fresh, healthy and strong and because of these positive factors we tend to move at a good pace.
Arriving into base camp healthy and acclimatized reduces the risk of getting sick with a gastrointestinal bug or respiratory illness during long treks. You also end up spending fewer nights in a tent prior to your summit push. This in turn means that we’re able to move efficiently up the mountain and feel better doing it.
Who Can Do a Rapid Ascent™ Expedition
Rapid Ascent™ is not just for high end athletes or climbers. Anyone with good fitness, some prior experience at altitude and a little discipline at home can reap the benefits of hypoxic training.
At Alpenglow, climbers who have prior experience at altitudes above 16,400’/5000m can join a Rapid Ascent™ expedition. We require prior experience at altitude so that you know what to expect when you are at altitude in the tent. If you do not have this altitude experience, we offer climbing schools in Mexico, Ecuador and Peru, which are all great places to start.
How Does Pre-acclimatizing Work?
The Hypoxico Altitude Training system is comprised of a generator and a tent. The generator does the heavy lifting and takes oxygen out of the air mixture in the tent by bumping the oxygen molecules out of the air mixture and replacing them with nitrogen molecules. We can breathe nitrogen without any ill effect and the lower level of oxygen mimics what we experience at altitude. Over a period of weeks, 4-weeks, 6-weeks, or 8-weeks depending on the expedition, this effectively clues our bodies to start making the necessary changes to be able to better survive at higher altitudes – what we call acclimatization.
The Hypoxico system allows us to pre-acclimatize at home which is an essential part of our Rapid Ascent™ and Lightning Ascent* strategies for climbing big mountains faster than we used to be able to.
*Lightning Ascent expeditions take the methodologies of Rapid Ascent™ and applies them to high level and highly experienced athletes, reducing the time it takes to climb high altitude peaks by another 20-30%.
8 Hours Per Day Over 4-8 Weeks of Hypoxic Training at Home
The overall length of pre-acclimatization time will vary from peak to peak, but for the duration of the acclimatization period climbers will spend at least 8 hours in the hypoxic tent each night.
For mountains in the 5000m – 7000m range we pre-acclimatize for 4 weeks. For “easy” 8000m peaks like Cho Oyu we pre-acclimatize for 6 weeks. For Everest or a more difficult 8000m peak we pre-acclimatize for 8 weeks.
What Else Does Rapid Ascent™ Entail?
Precise Logistics – pre-acclimatizing would be a waste of time if transportation isn’t ready and base camp wasn’t up and running. Our operations team located in our main offices work around the clock to insure that you have a smooth arrival in-country and that everything is ready to go when you arrive.
Experienced Guides – your guide’s high level of professional certifications and years of experience with Rapid Ascent™ is of the utmost importance. We hand pick all of our guides based on a combination of professional certification, high altitude experience and of course fun loving personality. We understand that a guide can make or break an expedition, and that’s why we put a high priority on employing the best in the business.
Pinpoint Weather Forecasting – as with any expedition, weather is one hazard that is out of our control. With precise forecasting at our fingertips, our guides on the ground are able to coordinate their team’s movements to take advantage of small weather windows increasing the expedition’s chance for success.