Monday, June 05, 2017

Everesting: some numbers

If I plan to climb the equivalent of Mount Everest, it's important to lock down Everest's official height as well as the height of my building's staircase from the B1 level to the 26th floor, which is the highest floor reachable by elevator (my building actually has 28 floors, the top two being non-habitable utility floors with water tanks and such).

According to Google, Everest stands 8848 meters tall, or 29,028.87 feet. Let's stick with the meters figure since it's nice and neatly rounded (which is a bit suspicious, but whatever).

Tonight, I did a bit of measuring for my staircase. I wasn't about to measure every single step from B1 to 26, so I counted the steps from B1 to 6, which is the floor at which the number of steps per floor suddenly evens out. I also took random measurements of step height, which seemed to increase slightly with every floor. From B1 to the first floor, for example, the average step height was 14.5 cm, but by the sixth floor, that height had increased to 16.5 cm. Here are the stats I gathered:

B1 to 1: 36 steps, 14.5 cm avg. step height
1 to 2: 27 steps, 15.5 cm
2 to 3: 27 steps, 15.5 cm
3 to 4: 32 steps, 16.0 cm
4 to 5: 40 steps, 16.0 cm
5 to 6: 18 steps, 16.5 cm

All the floors after that measure the same as 5 to 6. B1 to 1 is four flights of stairs, nine steps per flight; floors 1 to 3 are three flights of stairs each; floors 3 to 5 are back to four flights mainly because those two floors are occupied by our building's gym and swimming pool, thus making those floors taller than average; for the rest of the staircases up to the 26th floor, it's only two flights per floor, nine steps per flight.

Calculating the staircase's approximate height, then, is a matter of mere arithmetic.

B1 to 1: 36 × 14.5 = 522 cm
1 to 3: 54 × 15.5 = 837 cm
3 to 4: 32 × 16.0 = 512 cm
4 to 5: 40 × 16.0 = 640 cm
5 to 6: 18 × 16.5 = 297 cm

6 to 26: 297 × 20 = 5940 cm

That's a total of 8748 cm, i.e., 87.48 m.

That doesn't seem very high, but let's go with that figure. So if we divide Everest's height of 8848 meters by 87.48 meters, we get 101.143 times up the staircase. If I go up the staircase three times a day, twice a week—i.e., six times a week—I can "reach the summit," so to speak, in 17 weeks. That's a rather long time, being a third of a year.

Not being a patient man, I'm now thinking that I want to include the staircase work I'll be doing during my creekside walks as part of this total. This means I'll need to count up and measure the creekside steps as well. Those steps are, on average, taller than the steps inside my building, so if I were to guess that there were 63 steps, on average, per staircase, and if I were to do 28 staircases per creekside-walk session, that would be 1764 steps. At an approximate average of 17 cm per step, the total height climbed would 29,988 cm, or 299.88 meters. If I did that three times a week, that would come out to 899.64 m. If I added six trips up my building's staircase to that figure (three times per day, twice a week), that would mean an additional 262.44 meters per week for a total of 1162.08 meters per week. Divide Everest's 8848 meters by 1162.08, and you get 7.614 weeks—a much more reasonable figure (this is assuming 5-day weeks, mind you: creekside walks on MWF and staircase-climbing on TR). In terms of calendar days, 7.614 times 5 equals 38.07 days, so if I were to set a goal for my Everesting, it would be to do everything within 38 calendar days.

But how does this compare to what actual climbers of Everest do? How many days does it take the average climber to scale Everest? This FAQ site says the average climb takes 6-9 weeks:

The entire climb takes six to nine weeks. The first week is used to arrive at base camp with a trek from Lukla for the south or a drive from Katmandu or Lhasa on the north. Next you spend three to four weeks going up and down the mountain to establish camps with food, fuel and oxygen. The average time from arriving at Base Camp to reaching the summit is 40 days. On most climbs it is the Sherpas who are doing the heavy carrying so you are acclimatizing your body to the high altitude. However you are still carrying a 20-lb. to 30-lb. pack with personal gear. The acclimatization process cannot be rushed. The summit push is about one week and then another 4 to 6 days to get home.

This puts my numbers close to actual climbers' numbers. To make this even more realistic for me, I'd need to do my Everesting while wearing 20-30 pounds of extra weight. I'm looking at some weight vests ranging from 9 kg to 20 kg that are available online via the Korean site GMarket. I'm leaning toward the 20-kg vest, not because I actually want or intend to wear all 20 kg during my walks, but because I'll have the luxury of adjusting the weight downward if I want, then moving the weight upward again if I need a greater challenge. The one thing I won't be able to simulate, for this Everesting project, is thin air, but because I'm still quite out of shape, despite having just walked across South Korea (in what was, admittedly, a mostly horizontal trek), I imagine I'll still be breathing hard as if I were at high altitude.

My gym sessions begin this coming week. I'll write about those in more detail once I have a better feel for what it is, exactly, that I'll be doing. My thinking right now is to go six days a week, dividing my sessions into (1) arms/shoulders, (2) upper body/core, and (3) legs. I can do each of those sessions twice a week. I'll start gently, with machines, then move to free weights, then move, where possible, to bodyweight exercises like good ol' pushups, crunches, planks, and pullups. If I can do my first pullup by the end of this year, I'll be ecstatic.

So there's my update on the exercise front. I've finished off all the rest of my MREs, so I no longer have those to distract me. I'll be working on finishing off all my Soylent over the coming weeks, which won't be pleasant, but which must be done for the good of the realm.


John from Daejeon said...

Those climbing to the summit on Everest aren't climbing the total height of the mountain. These slackers are "flown" into base camp which is already over half the elevation to the top where they spend a lot of that time just acclimating to the environment. I think only Aussie Tim Macartney-Snape has done the sea to summit route in just over three months and without supplemental oxygen. Even his first jaunt up Everest a few years earlier was quite an amazing feat.

You will be starting at sea level and will end up doing the entire elevation of the mountain, just without the lack of air and extreme cold. You could wait until January. It'll be plenty cold then. But be careful, while you won't be facing high winds and deep crevices, taking a bad step on stairs can also be devastating to one's body. I found this out the hard way.

Who knows, you might have just stumbled upon a great new way to exercise in South Korea. All you need now is some elderly people selling food, drinks, and climbing supplies at a couple of way points in the stairwell.

Kevin Kim said...


Reader Paul Carver sent me the following by email (edited):

"Anyhow, while reading your blog tonight, "Everesting," I saw you'd noted there was no way to simulate the thin air on Everest. I don't know if you've seen the Korean film "Everest" released in late 2015, but in that film, when the climbers trained in Korea, they used to climb Korea's diddy mountains while wearing a mask and snorkel to reduce oxygen intake and increase exertion. Something to think about as long as you don't mind looking like a prat."

Yikes. I won't be doing that, but my hat is off to those guys. And my hat is off to Paul as well: he just did the same Gukto Jongju route that I did, but from Busan to Seoul, and on a bike.

Kevin Kim said...


You'll also have noted that the site I quoted said that you can either trek (i.e., walk) or drive to base camp, so some folks do, in theory, start at wherever the foot of the mountain is.