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Too Big to Climb?


Original Post
Brian Kohl · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2017 · Points: 0

Hi All,

Newbie to the forum here.  Looks like a great place to engage others who are avid about climbing. 

I have long held a desire and fascination to summit Denali and am putting together a plan to try and make that happen in 2018.  My main concern isn't about being in psychically good enough shape when the time comes as I am in relatively good shape as I spend a great deal of time hiking in the back country with heavy loads, sometimes in winter and deep snow.  I would also undertake an expedition specific fitness regime to prepare, which I have already started.  That aside I am concerned about my size being a detrement at high altitudes.  I am 6'5 and between 225 - 230 when In good shape, is this too big to actually climb high peaks like Denali and Foraker?  Anyone out there aproximately that size have experience successfully doing these climbs?

I have done a bit of hiking above 14,000' and didn't experience any ill effects.  I have also camped for many weeks above 10,000' without feeling anything but winded on occasion.  Yet I am fully aware that this isn't even close to being at 17,000' to 20,000' on expedition but they are the only data points I have at the moment.  

Jordan W · · NC · Joined Mar 2017 · Points: 0

Your physical height and size should have very little impact on how you perform at high altitudes. From what it sounds like, you do pretty well at altitude... I know a lot of extremely fit people that feel like absolute death once they get around 12k-13k feet... It all just depends on the person really. The only difficulties you may encounter would be at any of the techincal rock and ice climbing sections (I don't think there are any of the East Buttress though). I'm 6'3" and about 180lb, and I'm not the best rock climber in the world, I only climb at 5.10 and I start to fall apart when it gets really overhanging and I suck at bouldering... I still have fun though on my slab climbs and stuff though haha, You just gotta find what fits you and work on it... I've done a lot of hiking/climbing in Colorado above 13k-14k feet and I've always felt pretty good, being from sea-level... I'm doing Rainier in July and have been training pretty steadily since January, so not quite a Denali expedition, but so far so good.... Hardest part is finding good fitting gear for us bigger guys and boots... Hope to do Denali sometime, once I can throw that much money to the side and take a month off of work. Might be worth checking out Rainier and other glaciated peaks before jumping straight to Denali, while the East Butt is a technically easy climb, it's an extremely physically demanding endeavor, and lots of hauling sleds and load to various camps.. You gotta love the suffering to do that haha. Good luck on your ventures! Hope to get there myself one day!

Jordan W · · NC · Joined Mar 2017 · Points: 0

Dean Potter was 6'5" though as well so I guess we don't have too many excuses haha

grog m aka Greg McKee · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2012 · Points: 70

If you are serious about it read and join this thread:

https://www.mountainproject.com/forum/topic/108760240/new-alpinism

It starts discussing the book but evolves in to some serious training talk. You physical size should not impact success. 

Colin Weserstein · · Highlands Raunch · Joined Dec 2016 · Points: 0

It's no accident that the most successful alpinists tend to be of average height and definitely on the lean side. Consider that with increasing weight comes an increasing demand on the calories required to move that mass up the mountain. You could conceivably be large enough, despite being fit, that all of your effort must be devoted to hauling food, preparing it, then eating it, never mind the demands made on your lungs to oxygenate that mass.

However, you shouldn't let your large size prevent you from having fun in the mountains and there are benefits to being big. Tossing pipsqueak guides like javelins, comes to mind.

highaltitudeflatulentexpulsion · · Colorado · Joined Oct 2012 · Points: 35
Ain't That Rich wrote:

It's no accident that the most successful alpinists tend to be of average height and definitely on the lean side. Consider that with increasing weight comes an increasing demand on the calories required to move that mass up the mountain. You could conceivably be large enough, despite being fit, that all of your effort must be devoted to hauling food, preparing it, then eating it, never mind the demands made on your lungs to oxygenate that mass.

However, you shouldn't let your large size prevent you from having fun in the mountains and there are benefits to being big. Tossing pipsqueak guides like javelins, comes to mind.

There is a happy medium somewhere. At 135, I have to extremely diligent with my calories after the first few hours or I bonk, sometimes really badly.

Larger muscles means more glycogen, a larger body means a larger liver (more glycogen if you're trained, otherwise meaningless), and a larger body also means more fat usually..If I  need a 40 lb pack to keep fed and you need a 50 lb pack, who's carrying more?

Like I said, there is a happy medium somewhere. It's not stick man nor is it Santa Claus. Good luck.

Garret Nuzzo-Jones · · Salt Lake City, UT · Joined Feb 2012 · Points: 1,448

Go climb Pico De Orizaba this winter. I'm about 6'4" 240 lbs and in halfway decent shape. I climbed Orizaba in January of this year to get a taste for bigger peaks. It's logistically pretty easy, not technically difficult and has relatively few objective hazards. It's also beautiful and a good challenge. After climbing Orizaba I seriously question whether I want to climb anything higher.

BigB · · Red Rock, NV · Joined Feb 2015 · Points: 340

No, your not too big. 

Jordan W · · NC · Joined Mar 2017 · Points: 0
Garret Nuzzo-Jones wrote:

Go climb Pico De Orizaba this winter. I'm about 6'4" 240 lbs and in halfway decent shape. I climbed Orizaba in January of this year to get a taste for bigger peaks. It's logistically pretty easy, not technically difficult and has relatively few objective hazards. It's also beautiful and a good challenge. After climbing Orizaba I seriously question whether I want to climb anything higher.

What makes you say that? 

Alicia Sokolowski · · Brooklyn, NY · Joined Aug 2010 · Points: 1,045

My husband has a couple of inches on you at 6'7. He has done some reasonable peaks, including Ojos del Salado, 6,893 m (22,615 ft), so he has been up around where you plan to go. From being out with him, I would say size has little to do with how you acclimatize. 

I would say his primary issue has been finding gear that really fits. He'd love to buy a pair of Nepals, but they don't come big enough. He is generally left with having to wear heavy plastic boots, and those are still hard to find that are big enough. Sleeping bags are also an issue. You might think of getting one custom. Mummy bags don't really work when they are stretched tight. You need a couple of inches to allow your body heat to circulate. Circulation is something to aware of in general. Taller people can be more susceptible to frostbite. Wearing tight shoes can exacerbate this by restricting blood flow. Anticipate some swelling at altitude and leave room for your Darn Toughs. Wear good gloves, and keep an eye on how all your digits are doing. 

I hope you have fun up there!

Brian Kohl · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2017 · Points: 0

Thank you all for the advice.  It is good to know that my size alone isn't a limiting factor.  I had not thought about getting a custom sleeping bag, that does make sense as for my normal hiking I had a custom quilt made as the bags never were comfortable or seemed to work well.  Also I was unware of the feet swelling at altitude, good thing I had not started buying gear yet :)

David Morgantini · · London, United Kingdom · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 5

Don't know about mountaineering as I don't do much, but generally the technical difficulty of the high mountains isn't that hard.  ie: you're rarely going to be climbing harder than 5.11 in the high mountains unless you're an absolute beast.  I am 6'4" & weigh 240lbs, I can climb 5.11 on slightly overhanging terrain. Assuming you learn/know how to mountaineer and are fit enough (climbing and base fitness) you'll be fine.

Garret Nuzzo-Jones · · Salt Lake City, UT · Joined Feb 2012 · Points: 1,448
Jordan wrote:

What makes you say that? 

Shit's hard yo. I like my air like my women: A little bit thicker.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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