Preparations For Rock Climbing In Peru

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Last year, I saw an epic slideshow put on by my friend Matt Spohn about a climbing trip to Peru. The slideshow's main feature was about the new high altitude lines he and his friends put up on their trip. While I was mesmerized by the entire slideshow, the part that held my attention the most was the sport climbing and bouldering they did in nearby areas in addition to the bigger walls. After doing some research on the least rainy months in Peru, late in 2017 I bought a ticket to travel to Peru in the summer.

In mid April, with just two months to go before the trip, I asked Matt if he thought it would be helpful to train in a high altitude room prior to going on the trip. He mentioned it couldn't hurt and new of a place in SE Portland where I could get some training done. The next day, after a very informative phone call, I began corresponding via email with the staff at Evolution Healthcare and Fitness. After a few exchanges back and forth, I was ready to drop in for a consultation and introduction to their state of the art high altitude training room. I met Brad and Eric who walked me through an impressive training facility and patiently answered all my questions and discussed ideas for training that I could do inside the altitude room.

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They recommended that I start right away as I was at just about the cutoff for seeing the best results in time for my trip date (2 months). They recommended coming 3 times a week for an hour a day in which I was to follow exercise routines that were medium to high intensity in order to get the best performance results. They showed me how to read a pulseoximeter to determine the percentage of oxygen-filled hemoglobin in my blood stream. For best results, I had to strive to keep the number lower than 96% but higher than 75% through rigorous exercise while in a room that simulated different altitude levels by using machinery to remove available oxygen from the room. 

With an epic trip just 8 weeks away and a new goal to achieve, I was beyond pumped to get started. 3 days a week for the next 8 weeks I would plan my days so I could carve out an hour in the altitude room. Elevation would range from 9,000 ft to 17,000 ft on any given weekday or weekend. For the first couple of weeks it was really difficult to notice any applicable results. The only thing I had to gauge my progress by was the percentage numbers on the pulseoximeter. What I did know for sure, is that an hour in the room beat me up pretty bad. I laid down on the floor a lot and considered life choices in between gasps for air.

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After about 4 weeks of training is about when I started to feel a difference in performance outside the facility. I first noticed it on day trips to Smith. I could hike with a full backpack up and down the crag with much less effort than before. I noticed I had more energy for the hill back to the parking lot even after a full day of climbing. At the beginning of the second month, I noticed I had to work faster and could began doubling up on workouts to keep the pulse oximeter below 96%. Now, just a days before climbing in Peru, I feel super strong and I feel like I have endurance for days (at sea level). I notice I can perform for longer amounts of time despite the burn in my legs or my forearms. I feel like it takes minutes to recover between hard burns on sport routes and boulder problems and so far I've managed to stay relatively injury free. My weight has been stable, my diet has been healthy for the most part, and all in all, I feel confident about my ability to do some really fun and challenging climbing at higher altitudes during my upcoming trip.

As far as the workouts go, I have my friend and training partner Cameron to thank for those. I basically took all his punishing kettlebell and core routines and made them harder by performing them inside the altitude room. With little more than a 5'x6' section of space in the back of the room, I trained relentlessly 3 days a week. Exercises consisted mostly of combinations of body weight movements, kettle bells, jump rope, sand bags, and boxes. With only 1 or two of these items in the room with me and different combinations put together by Cameron, I'd crush through 60 minutes of nearly continuous movement.

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If you're looking to add an edge to your climbing game please talk to the staff at Evolution Healthcare and Fitness. They are incredibly knowledgeable and kind and go above and beyond to make you feel welcome and provide an excellent training environment to help you reach your fitness goals. If you're interested in some of mine and Cameron's climbing and cross-training routines, stop by AntiGravity Equipment and talk with us. Let us know how we can help. Check back for updates on rock climbing in Peru!

Juan Rodriguez