The Shay Rebellion | Christopher Shay

What’s Your Workout: Climbing the World’s Seven Summits

by Christopher Shay

The Executive

On her first mountaineering experience, Anita Jensen, commercial director for Skagen Designs in Hong Kong, got lost, threw up from exhaustion and lost nearly six kilograms over seven days.

“We were so naïve. We didn’t know anything,” she says of her and her partner’s trek up the 5,900-meter Mt. Kilimanjaro in 2006.

That trip was just the start of her climbing career. Two years earlier, Ms. Jensen, a 33-year-old Denmark native, spotted a sticker publicizing trekking the Seven Summits, the highest peaks on each of the seven continents: Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa, Mt. Everest in Asia, Mt. Elbrus in Europe, Denali in North America, Aconcagua in South America, Vinson Massif in Antarctica and either Carstensz Pyramid in Indonesia or Mt. Kosciuszko in Australia. Intrigued by the challenge, she decided she would climb them all.

“If there is a goal you can accomplish, then it becomes extremely interesting,” she says.

In 2007, she climbed Mt. Elbrus in Russia—this time with a professional guide and a group. On Aconcagua, two years later, she got a reminder of the dangers of mountaineering. While her group was hiking up, five people in a separate climbing team froze to death near the summit of the nearly 7,000-meter Argentine mountain. She says the group that froze got lost on the way back down the summit, after their guide got altitude sickness and became disoriented. “That can happen to anyone,” she says.

So why does she climb?

“You feel so alive,” she says. “You get a little bit addicted to being in a dangerous scenario.”

And the mountain scenery, despite minus-30 degree Celsius temperatures, is simply stunning: “The reward is looking out your tent with a frozen nose and seeing the most beautiful sunsets,” she says.

Ms. Jensen still has four mountains left on the list, but since her climbing partner broke his leg playing soccer last year, her trekking plans have been put on hold. She hopes to climb Australia’s highest mountain, Mt. Kosciuszko, when his leg recovers later this year.

The Workout

Ms. Jensen has a different exercise routine for every day of the workweek that combines 40-50 minutes of cardio with core work. Every Wednesday, for example, she bikes for 30 minutes, runs for 20 minutes on a treadmill, does three sets of 60 crunches and then does some yoga exercises to stretch and work her core. On Mondays, she bikes for 45 minutes, does her three sets of 60 crunches and then yoga poses. Each day she tweaks her routine to mix things up.

While cardio endurance is important for mountaineering, it needs to be paired with strong calf, thigh and gluteal muscles, Ms. Jensen says. As a climbing trip approaches, she increases the incline on the treadmill to get her leg muscles stronger.

In addition to her cardio and strength training, Ms. Jensen does yoga nidra, or “relaxation yoga,” every day for half an hour. She says yoga nidra helps her lung capacity when trekking: She’s more aware of her breathing, which helps her bring in as much oxygen as she can in the thin mountain air. “Even if you sit and breathe properly for five minutes, it gives you a lot of energy,” she says.

Every weekend, Ms. Jensen goes hiking in Hong Kong for at least 10-20 kilometers. Her favorite trail to get her ready to climb a mountain is the Lead Mine Pass near Hong Kong’s tallest peak, Tai Mo Shan, in the New Territories. The trail is about 12 kilometers, and she’ll run up and down the pass two or three times.

The Diet

Ms. Jensen says she carefully balances her diet to keep her healthy and full of energy. A typical day’s meals might be oatmeal or a two-egg omelet for breakfast; a muesli bar and fruit or a protein shake as a midmorning snack; meat, vegetables and rice for lunch; another snack of either a muesli bar and fruit or a protein shake in the afternoon; and fish and vegetables for dinner. She also makes sure to drink at least three liters of water throughout the day.

She admits to having a weakness for one food that isn’t so healthful: “I cannot say no to chocolate,” she says.

When she’s on a mountain, her diet doesn’t stray much from her normal intake, except that she snacks more on chocolate, nuts and muesli bars to make up for the calories lost while trekking.

Cost and Gear

Traveling the world to summit the world’s highest peaks is not cheap. Ms. Jensen estimates it cost her about 60,000 Hong Kong dollars (US$7,700) to climb Aconcagua, including the flight, hiking permits and fees for her climbing group. That cost doesn’t include the gear.

Ms. Jensen says a full kit for mountain climbing costs at least HK$5,000. She says the key for dressing for the mountain is to wear many layers for the varying temperatures. Instead of wearing one heavy jacket, she wears three or four layers of shirts made of a thin and quick-drying material, underneath a wind-resistant jacket. She will wear up to two layers of polypropylene, a sweat-wicking material, beneath her gloves.

Climbing mountains also requires equipment like crampons, which normally cost around HK$1,200; trekking poles, which—if one chooses light carbon-fiber ones like Ms. Jensen—cost about HK$1,500; an ice axe, which runs about HK$550; and goggles or glacier glasses, which cost at least HK$350. Ms. Jensen recommends spending extra money for a top-of-the-line sleeping bag—her Dreamcatcher sleeping bag put her back about HK$3,000. “For a good night’s sleep on the mountain, it’s definitely worth it,” she says.

Ms. Jensen works out during the week at either her gym in her apartment building, which costs HK$150a month, or a membership gym, which costs HK$333 a month.

Category: Article, Lifestyle


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