The art of indoor mountaineering

We’re starting to hear about a new discipline of mountaineering emerging from the depths of homes … indoor mountaineering. This new niche business involves a lot of determination, endurance and imagination. Ben Aldridge is one of the few Everest staircases of the season. Here is his shipping report:

At the start of 2020, I had plenty of climbing adventures on my agenda. I was especially excited about a trip in April – a mix of sport climbing, deep water soloing, and trips through Malaysia. However, the universe had other plans … instead, I found myself climbing Everest on my stairs. This is a twist that I did not expect! If you had told me that I would be spending my Easter vacation in my house, walking up the stairs eating my weight in salt and vinegar crisps, I would have laughed at you. Turns out that’s exactly what I ended up doing.

Due to the global Covid-19 pandemic, countries have been stranded all over the world. And rightly so! It is imperative that we all stay at home, support our health systems and save lives. That doesn’t stop us from wanting to go out and if you’re like me and love the outdoors, you’ll find that difficult.

So, in the spirit of adventures at home, I decided to climb Everest by my stairs. I wanted to make the most of the situation I found myself in and prove that adventures can happen anywhere. I was also slightly concerned about how my snacks got out of hand during the lockdown. I hope that intense exercise would thwart my increasing number of visits to the refrigerator!

Everest is 8,848 meters high and after doing some calculations and taking measurements, I calculated that I had to go up and down my stairs 2,137 times. Unsurprisingly, the experience lasted for quite some time. I kept a solid pace throughout, but it still took me 21 hours to complete the challenge. I did this for eight days and ended up burning 11,898 calories. For the last step of the ascent, I added an altitude mask and an extra kit to make it more “realistic” and to have fun.

One of the highlights for me must have been the interactions and exchanges on social networks. The sense of community was great and I even managed to recruit “virtual climbing partners”. Via Instagram and Twitter, an Everest expedition company offered me the support of a Sherpa, and the most 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 has some advantages… It is certainly an inexpensive activity compared to the real thing. An Everest expedition will cost you thousands of pounds and it is possible that you could fall into a crevasse. On your stairs, it won’t be a problem. Unless they break and you fall through them, but I think that’s unlikely. Notice my stairs creaked a bit at one point and I spent a lot of time thinking about it. You also won’t have frostbite, you won’t have to worry about queues and crowds (a real problem on Everest) and you will have stable weather throughout. I mean, do we even need the mountains anyway ?!

Calculate your own top step with the #GetOutsideInside ascension calculator

There are so many other challenges on our stairs and with a little creativity we can come up with new and interesting ideas. Climbing the Seven Peaks (the highest mountains on each continent) or completing the Three Peaks Challenge (climbing the highest mountains in England, Wales and Scotland in 24 hours) might be an enjoyable goal, although that exhausting. The combination of indoor camping / bivouac could add another weird layer to the experience. We have options that are only limited by our imagination!

Check #BMCLockdown camping competition:

At times like these, challenging to stay focused is more important than ever. The week I spent climbing Everest has passed and it has helped me have a fun goal to work towards. Staying in good physical and mental shape while in lockdown is extremely important and I think indoor mountaineering is a great activity to do so. Adventure can be found in the most unusual places and if we can find it on our stairs imagine how much our experiences and gratitude will be heightened when we can finally get back to the great outdoors! But until then, we must take inspiration from our immediate environment.

And remember, “It is not the stairs that we conquer, but ourselves. That’s what Sir Edmund Hillary said, isn’t it? Happy home adventure!

About the Author

Ben Aldridge writes on practical philosophy, comfort zones, sanity, and adventure. His first book How To Be Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable: 43 Weird And Wonderful Ways To Create A Strong, Resilient Mindset is an exploration of unique ways to step out of our comfort zones, face our fears and overcome our anxieties. Find out more on Ben’s website and on social media:
Instagram: @dothingsthatchallengeyou
Twitter: @iambenaldridge

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