If I could identify one factor that contributed most to folk’s chances of success on expedition peaks it would not be fitness or acclimatisation rate but their level of motivation. We are all pretty highly motivated when looking at a pretty picture of our chosen peak in the living room or chatting about it down the pub. The problem is that fatigue, de-hydration, weight loss, sun-burn, not to mention boredom and food fantasies, all erode our motivation to climb. As in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (where satisfying basic physiological needs is at one end of a spectrum and self actualisation is at the other) you’re less likely to dig deep and go that extra mile if you’re cold, tired, thirsty and hungry. To keep your motivation high you need to really make the effort to look after yourself….
Attending to ‘basic needs’! Climbing big peaks is all about keeping the show on the road (or you on the hill and, ideally, going upwards). Drinking, eating and sleeping are the 3 essentials and miss out on any of those and you are likely to be rapidly running out of steam. Remember that thirst and hunger are poor indicators of hydration and calorie intake. Basically, make a big effort to drink and eat even if you don’t feel like it.
Expeditions are long enough for the cumulative to matter so what you do on the trek in and approach can effect how you might feel on summit day. Be meticulous about applying sun cream and lip barrier as well as getting your hat and shades on (especially when above the snow line when a good tip is to apply lip cream every time you lick your lips). Keep on top of hygiene with constant hand washing and various modern alcohol gels will help you with this. Make the effort to adjust your clothing so you don’t get too hot or cold during the day, preferably with lots of ‘on the go’ adjustments that don’t require you to take your pack off. Do stay positive if you’re not acclimatising so well or get a cold. Expeditions are long enough to recover and get back on track – and people regularly do just that.