We are starting to hear reports of a new discipline of mountaineering emerging from the depths of people's homes...indoor mountaineering. This niche new endeavour involves a lot of determination, endurance and imagination. Ben Aldridge is one of the few early Everest stair-summiteers of the season. Here's his expedition report:
At the start of 2020 I had plenty of climbing adventures in the diary. I was particularly excited about a trip in April – a mix of sport climbing, deep-water soloing and traveling around Malaysia. However, the universe had other plans... instead, I found myself climbing Everest on my stairs. This was a plot twist I was not expecting! If you had told me that I would spend my Easter vacation in my house, climbing my stairs whilst eating my bodyweight in salt and vinegar crisps, I would have laughed in your face. It turns out this is exactly what I ended up doing.
Due to the Covid-19 global pandemic, countries have been in lockdown all around the world. And rightly so! It’s imperative that we all stay at home, support our healthcare systems and save lives. This doesn’t stop us wanting to go outside though and if you’re like me and love the outdoors, you will find this challenging.
So, in the spirit of stay at home adventures, I decided to climb Everest on my stairs. I wanted to make the best out of the situation I found myself in and prove that adventures can happen anywhere. I was also slightly concerned at how out of hand my snacking had got during lockdown. Some strenuous exercise would hopefully counteract my ever-increasing fridge visits!
Everest is 8,848 meters in height and after doing some maths and measuring, I calculated that I needed to climb and descend my stairs 2,137 times. Unsurprisingly, the experience lasted a while. I kept a solid pace throughout, but it still took me 21 hours to complete the challenge. I did this over eight days and ended up burning 11,898 calories. For the last stage of the ascent, I added an altitude mask and extra kit to make it more “realistic” and to keep myself amused.
One of the highlights for me had to be the interactions and exchanges on social media. The sense of community was brilliant and I even managed to recruit some “virtual climbing partners”. Via Instagram and Twitter, I was offered Sherpa support from an Everest expedition company, and the most overwhelmingly popular reaction was an unprecedented level of concern for my carpet!
Granted, all of this might not be as exciting as climbing a real mountain, but indoor mountaineering does have some benefits… It’s certainly an inexpensive activity in comparison to the real thing. An Everest expedition will set you back thousands of pounds and there is a chance that you could fall into a crevasse. On your stairs this isn’t going to be a problem. Unless they break and you fall through them, but I think this is unlikely to happen. Mind you, my stairs were a little creaky at one point and I did spend a lot of time thinking about this. You also won’t get frostbite, won’t have to worry about queues and crowds (a real issue on Everest) and will have stable weather throughout. I mean, do we even need the mountains anyway?!
Calculate your own step summit with the #GetOutsideInside ascent calculator
There are so many more challenges to be had on our stairs and with a bit of creativity we can come up with some novel and interesting ideas. An ascent of the Seven Summits (the tallest mountains on each continent) or completing the Three Peaks Challenge (climbing the tallest mountains in England, Wales and Scotland in a 24-hour period) might be a nice, although gruelling objective. Combining indoor camping/bivvying could add another bizarre layer to the experience. We have options that are only limited by our imagination!
Check out the #BMCLockdown camp out competition:
At times like these, it’s more important than ever to have challenges to keep us focused. The week I spent climbing Everest whizzed by and it helped me to have a fun goal to work towards. Staying physically and mentally fit during lockdown is extremely important and I believe that indoor mountaineering is a great activity for doing this. Adventure can be found in the most unusual of places and if we can find it on our stairs, imagine how heightened our experiences and gratitude will be when we can finally return to the outdoors! But until then, we need to look to our immediate environment for inspiration.
And remember, “It is not the stairs we conquer, but ourselves.” That was what Sir Edmund Hillary said, right? Happy home adventuring!
About the Author
Ben Aldridge writes about practical philosophy, comfort zones, mental health and adventure. His first book How to Be Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable: 43 Weird & Wonderful Ways to Build a Strong Resilient Mindset is an exploration of unique ways to leave our comfort zones, face our fears and overcome our anxieties. Discover more at Ben's website and on social media:
As the climbing walls, crags and mountains start to open, we wanted to say thanks to every BMC member who supported us through the Coronavirus crisis.
From weekly Facebook Lives and GB Climbing home training videos, to our access team working to re-open the crags and fight for your mountain access, we couldn’t have made it without you.
If you liked what we did, then tell your friends about us: www.thebmc.co.uk/join