Summiting Everest in World Record-Breaking Time ft. Roxanne Vogel

Summiting Everest in World Record-Breaking Time ft. Roxanne Vogel

Authored by Zhill Olonan and Geoffrey Woo • 
August 7, 2019
 • 76 min read
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"So much preparation went into [the expedition], and to get back and realize that we made this crazy 14 day thing happen against all odds...honestly, I didn't think it was going to happen even when I was on the mountain, and then it all came together with one hour to spare."

Roxanne Vogel, Nutrition and Performance Research Manager at Gu Energy Labs, shattered the Mount Everest climbing record.

Her journey, timed from the moment she left and returned to her doorstep in Berkeley, took two weeks. Normally, it takes two months.

An enthusiast for all things human optimization, from experimenting with the ketogenic diet to sleeping in a hypoxia tent, Roxanne spent months preparing & training for the expedition. Host Geoffrey Woo explores her background and motivations, her training hacks & nutritional strategies (which included the use of H.V.M.N. Ketone) and what it was like to look down on the world from 29,000 feet above.

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Transcription

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Roxanne, welcome to the H.V.M.N. headquarters and it's really an honor to speak to the world's fastest ascent and descent of Mount Everest. Congratulations.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Thank you so much. It's really great to be here.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

So to re underline that accomplishment, it would be helpful to get a sense of, I think all of us know that Mount Everest, tallest mountain in the world, definitely a feat to climb and survive and not die I mean and unfortunately I think the day that you summited folks where I mean perished. But it'd be helpful to get a sense of what the typical timescale looks like and why, what you did in, in terms of climbing and returning back home and within two weeks, how much of the improvement. How much in I guess the standard deviation or the or the difference, how big was that magnitude?

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah, so standard Everest expeditions are usually in the range of about two months, anywhere from, you know, maybe 50 days up to 70 days, kind of depending on weather and everything. And that's just how it's always been done because you have to go and spend a certain amount of time on the mountain of acclimatizing to high altitude and you do multiple rotations up the mountain and come back down and rest and cover and then push further up the mountain and so on and so forth. So most tours will do, you know, two or three rotations up and down the mountain before they actually make a summit attempt. So that's why it takes so long. And you're by doing this mitigating kind of the chances that you'll get altitude illness, or cerebral edema, or pulmonary edema, things like that, that can be potentially life threatening.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

So you quartered that time?

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah, I mean there have been other groups and so for instance, the group that I went with through for logistics is Alpenglow expeditions and they operate on the north side from Tibet and they've kind of pioneered this rapid ascent protocol where they have cut the time essentially in half. So they are doing trips now in 35 days. So all of their members who climb with them get a pre acclimatization protocol before they even leave wherever they come from. And they use hypoxic tents and essentially kind of pre acclimate before they hit the mountain. And in that way cut the time in half. And so I contacted them to find out more about the system and it kind of spun out of control from there because I'm a big science nerd and I was fascinated with the technology and wanted to try it out. But yeah, so we went even more aggressive than that. We were like well if it can be done in you know a month or so then why can't it be done in a couple of weeks? And that's how we got on this journey.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Yeah. So for folks that might not be as be aware of the mountain or mountaineering, could you describe, and I think people know base camp, there's like camps in between the summits and base camp. I know even getting to base camp, some people you know kind of is an accomplishment cause it is still quite high there. And you're describing like the typical protocols on like people, you know, go up to base camp and camp one and come back down. Can you describe like the typical path? And just get a baseline of, you know, if folks that are listening that want to do Everest, what could the typical experience look like?

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah, so the standard route is traditionally through Nepal. So what happens is people generally go and they'll fly into Katmandu and then they'll take a smaller flight into this town called Lukla, which is, I believe it's just below 10,000 feet or so. It's maybe 9,000 feet. And from there they'll start at trek for about 10 days, which will take them progressively higher up to base camp. And base camp is about 17,000, 17 five it just depends on the year because it can, you know, shift a little bit in location and that's where you will essentially start your Everest bid from.

So once you get to base camp, you spend a lot of time in base camp. It's like a small village. So there's tents, there's generators. So you have, you know, electricity and things like this here. And then you'll start going up to higher camps. And on the south side there are usually four camps in place. So camps one through four and then most people will again make rotations up, so they'll go up to like camp two, come back down, rest at base camp, maybe go up to camp three, come back down, rest at base camp and then go all the way up to camp four and then make a launch at the summit from Camp Four.

And so, you know, Everest is 29,000 feet I believe camp for on the south side, and I could be wrong on this because I climbed from the north, but I believe camp four at Everest is at about 26,000 feet. I could be a little bit off there. But yeah, so you'll, you'll essentially ascend about like 3000 feet on summit day and then come down to a lower camp. So that's why it does take so long. And on the north side, it's kind of similar, but you don't have the trek into base camp. So you can actually drive to base camp there. It's about the same height. So about 17,000 feet.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Right.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

So like when I landed, for instance, we drove straight to base camp and so I got off the plane and was at 17,000 feet the same day. It's pretty high.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Yeah.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

And so we went up to as high as camp two and then we kind of launched our attempt from there. So because we were on a very short timeline, we skipped camps and just went straight for the summit. So it was a very long summit day on our side. But a similar kind of strategy if you were to climb it from the north, you know there's a base camp and then higher camps.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Yeah, yeah. I mean it's fascinating. Again, starting at 17,000 feet, I mean that's three miles up and I just know that, you know, when people go skiing and it's your at like you know, Tahoe or something. I mean that's probably what, like five to 8,000 feet up and people get altitude sickness there. So you're double that instantly.

Before getting to the technicals of the, of the trek it might, I think it might be interesting to just step back a little bit and understand a little bit of your backstory in history. I mean obviously one doesn't just wake up and decide to ascend descend Mount Everest in two and make a new world record. How'd you get interested initially into extreme physiology? Extreme mountaineering, extreme sports. When did you realize you maybe had a talent or interest in this?

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

It's really pretty funny because I grew up in San Diego, California, so I was a beach kid. My family is not very outdoorsy and I was kind of, you know, the apple that fell way off the tree and they still wonder to this day they're just like, what happened? But honestly I think the way it started was when I was doing my undergraduate degree and I studied abroad in Peru. I went and did the Inca trail and we did a trek to Machu Picchu, which was the first time I'd ever been up to like 14,000 feet. We went through this pass and you know. I kind of fell in love with the whole outdoors thing and trekking and eventually that led to me wanting to do the base camp trek to Mount Everest on the south side. So I went and did the trek to, you know, 17,000 feet through Nepal and I was there and I looked up and saw Everest, saw the Himalaya and I was just like, God, this is amazing. I need to be climbing these mountains and not just kind of walking around them.

So at that point I was supposed to come back to, I was living in North Carolina at the time. I was supposed to come back and do my graduate work there at ECU. I had East Carolina, sorry, I had you know, a full ride scholarship. I had a assistantship position and I was all set to start in the fall. This was during the spring. And instead of doing that, I came back, decided to move to Colorado to be near the mountains and start training and climbing and basically changed my entire life to just focus on this one thing. And it was climbing. I didn't know at that point that I would eventually come back and climb Everest. That wasn't like the plan, but it just kind of progressed from there.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

I mean that's pretty, I mean that's pretty drastic to switch. I mean we just moved to Colorado. I'm sure you've found like a different graduate position. You had a scrambled to make that happen I presume.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Well, you know, I didn't actually have a plan in place. My friend live there and so I went and you know, crashed with her for a little bit. You know, did some digging around. Eventually ended up getting a second bachelor's while I was there.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Wow. So you were just, Oh, I want to prioritize my climbing skills over your academic path.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah, and eventually things fell into place and I did get my master's degree, albeit it was in Texas, which is kind of a long story. But yeah, at the time I didn't really have a plan for my education. I was just like, this is what I need to be doing. Something in me was like, you need to go and pursue this passion. So I did.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

That's fascinating.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

So I mean it's ... So like Everest necessarily wasn't the goal, but you knew you wanted to be sort of a explorer, climber, mountaineer and Colorado's a good place to build up a base level of fitness and experience.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah, exactly. Just something within me was like, you know, it's corny and you hear the quote all the time, like the mountains are calling and I must go. But really that's how I felt.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

That's interesting. Was there any specific moment? I mean you said it wasn't necessarily Everest that was calling, it was just any like mountains, I want to climb these things.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah. I was like, what do I need to do to start climbing high mountains? Like I was really fascinated by the high peaks, by the altitude I had done really well with altitude and you know, being at base camp 17,000 feet was the highest I'd ever been, and I felt great physically. And I was like, there's something to this because a lot of other people I was looking around at people I was trekking with and they were getting sick and they felt terrible. And I was like, well maybe I like have a knack for this altitude thing. And again, I'm kind of this physiology nerd going back a few steps. Like I was supposed to be studying exercise physiology in Grad school.

And so, you know, part of me was also fascinated by like what is the science behind this? How do I adapt better than some other people and why is that? And so, you know, the nerd in me also wanted to kind of figure out what was happening and going to Colorado, I was not only at altitude in Denver, you know, that's a mile above sea level. But I had access to 14,000 foot mountains, which you don't really get anywhere else.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Right. So what were some of the intermediate mountains or accomplishments you did? I presume you didn't just go from Colorado to Everest, so what was your path to getting enough confidence and preparation and realization that yeah, you could go make a world record here?

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah, it was kind of just like a gradual build. And I also come from a, like a training philosophy background. Like I've been a personal trainer, strength and conditioning coach, things like that. So I knew, you know, the progression had to make sense. It had to be moderate and you had to, you know, build on skills and things like this.

So I started with, you know, the Colorado fourteeners, which are essentially mountains that are 14,000 feet. You can hike or walk up. And from there I went and did Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. So it was 19,000 feet. So again, the highest I'd ever been felt great. It's mostly a walk up, a hike. Then next mountain I really started training for was Aconcagua down in South America, which is just under 23,000 feet. So it's the highest you can get outside of the Himalaya.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Okay. And did you have to do like ice picks for that one?

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Right. Yeah, so that was the first time I knew I needed to get some kind of like mountaineering skills.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Okay.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

And so for that mountain I did actually go and take a mountaineering course with this group called Alpine Ascents up in the north cascades, learned how to use an ice ax and crampons and camp and you know, glaciers and all of the sort of fundamental skills walking in a rope team and things like that. So yeah.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

That step, I feel like it's the chasm that most people never cross. Like walking up or hiking up Kilimanjaro. I think obviously it's like the tallest peak in Africa and definitely an accomplishment, but it's a walk up. You can hike up. And I think that's like, I think when did you know that you wanted to go and like, okay, I'm gonna like figure how to like do ice picks and ice, I guess ropes and all that. I mean that seems like a different level of, OK, like this is going to be like semi-professional level training, right? Like people that do that, it feels like it's definitely crossing the threshold of like, I'm a kind of an amateur fit person that's going to climb up Kilimanjaro on my two week vacation to, you know, figuring out like training courses for ice picks and all of that.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

It's, I mean it's a bit more of a commitment obviously like time and financial and all of that. And I think a lot of people who get into mountaineering either like their family's kind of into it and so they get skills that way just by knowing people or their friends are into it. Or they grew up in these regions where it's normal to go and climb and you know, be a little more technical, use ice tools and things like that. But I didn't have that background and I didn't have those acquaintances or at least ones that I felt like I could go and learn from and be really safe about it. And so for me, just signing up for a course and going by myself was the easiest way to do it.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Yeah.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

But yeah, a lot of people aren't gonna, you know, make that jump. But I knew I wanted to go higher and I knew the only way to do it safely was to get some proper skills so that I didn't hurt myself.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Okay. So 23K South America, how many years ago was that?

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

So that was 20 the end of 2014 and then we submitted in January of 2015. so I started this kind of trajectory of doing one big climb per year. So it started with Kilimanjaro in 2013 and then, you know, Aconcagua the year after that. And then once I was on that path, it was like, oh, well this is how you do all of the seven summits or the seven highest peak on each continent. And so I figured, well, you might as well just keep going with that. And so the next one after that would be Denali in Alaska. And that is definitely like not something you mess around with. Like that is a very tough mountain. Very harsh conditions. It's a long expedition. It's like three weeks on a glacier. You know, you get dropped off by this plane and you're not getting off until the plane comes back for you.

So it's a lot of gear. It's super heavy. You're walking over crevasses and you're pulling a sled. So I'm, you know, carrying between my pack and my sled, more weight than I actually weigh. So that was definitely one where I had to train my butt off for it. And it was after I summited Denali successfully in 2016 that Everest actually in my mind became a possibility. Because I know a lot of people who had climbed Everest already came to Denali and said Denali is actually a little bit harder than Everest. So you know, in my mind I was like, well, I can maybe do this.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Yeah. Which is, this very cool because you know, I don't have any mountaineering experience, but have seen some documentaries and stories around Everest and Sherpa. And it sounds like within recent years, it's become more of a tourist destination where folks aren't necessarily training, like, you know, building up that years of experience, just having Sherpa essentially pull them up. But it's not like you were very methodical in terms of building out actual skills and confidence to actually do it properly.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah. It, you know, it is kind of unfortunate and there definitely is that stigma of, you know, people go to Everest unprepared and get hauled up by Sherpa and things like that. But yeah, my preparation, I actually, I think one of the things I love most about climbing is the preparation part. And I love training and I love setting out a plan for myself, and executing it perfectly right? Like a very methodical. And so yeah, training became a part time job for me, especially for Everest. I was training more than 20 hours a week and I loved every minute of it.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Yeah. So 2016 Denali. So what was 17 and what was 18? Because this was obviously 2019.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah, so 2017 I went over to Russia and climbed Elbrus. So the highest peak there, and you know that one was, it's like 18,500 it didn't feel very super challenging compared to say Denali. Yeah. Hotels, Denali, Denali is just over 20,000 feet. So you know, not the highest, it wasn't higher than Aconcagua, but it's tough because it's, you know, really cold and weather and super heavy and you're just out on a glacier forever. But yeah, so Elbrus was 2017. and then 2018 I went down, so it's, it's Kinda funny, there are a couple of lists of seven summits and they differ in this one peak, which is down in the South Pacific. So one list says that it's the highest peak on Australia, which is Mount Kosciuszko, which is about, you know, 7,000 feet. It's a walkup. So I did that. But then there's another list that says, well no, it's not the highest peak on it on Australia. It's the highest peak on that, you know, tectonic plate.

So it's, it's Carstensz Pyramid, which is in Indonesia, which is a really cool, it's more of a rock climbing route. So it's definitely more technical. So I had to train separately for that and I did both of them in 2018 'cause I was like, well, you know, I don't want to be wrong, so I'm gonna do both.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Yeah.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

But it's, it's definitely like more of a rock climb. And then there's this, there's this notch in the ridge line up to the summit where it's like two or 3000 foot drop off. You're on these like wire cables. It used to be a Tyrolean traverse, which is like, you know, if you think of the movie cliffhanger and he's like pulling himself underneath the wire across now you just walk over this thin cable, but it's like super sketchy and blowing in the breeze and it's just like this really thrilling and exciting climb. And that one's about, you know, 16, 17,000 feet. But, so I did both in 2018 and that was down in the South Pacific. But really cool.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

You don't have any fear for heights?

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Oh sure. I do. I do. But you just like, I don't know. I'm ... People ask me a lot, they're like, how do you deal with some of these things? Like, you know, we'll talk about the daverse climb and there's this really crux part that's called the second step that's super horrifying. I don't know, I get to the worst part of a climb and for some reason like I just like my mind shuts off and I just act and I just move. So yeah.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Fascinating. I mean it's interesting to shutdown that primal fear in terms of like phobias or just like your physical danger. And I think that's easy for us to sit here and intellectualize. Oh yeah. Like it's, you just take a step. Like you just imagine you're on, you know, sea level. But there does seem to be an animal instinct when you're like super far up that you just cannot control. But it sounds like you either figured out how to control that or your response to that height is muted compared to other people. Do you think is a combination of both or you trained it up?

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

I mean I don't think I'm the type of person who's just fearless. I really don't. And I think I do have a normal amount of fear of heights.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Yeah.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

So I think it's something like, I did actually use some mental training strategies leading into Everest. You know, visualization techniques. And I would look at this part in the route, which I knew was gonna be kind of the most challenging part, the scariest part. And so I mentally prepared so that when I got there I was like ready to, to go for it. But, yeah.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Interesting. So let's talk about that. So we're up until the Everest climb and I want to talk about how you prepare and how you train for it. I mean, obviously I think when you talk about preparation, there's the nutrition component is obviously one massive lever and then the training component is probably the second, if not more important, but equally important lever. And then there's probably different little technological hacks. I know you've done, you know, you're mentioning hypoxic sleeping and all of that. So let's walk through each of those big categories of preparation.

But before entering that, I mean why was 2019 the time? I mean, it sounded like you've worked making your way methodically through each continent, knocking off, checking off the peak of that continent. Obviously you're sort of around the continents by 2019. Was it just getting confidence through your previous experiences that 2019 was the year that you're going to do Everest? It sounded like there was an opportunity to do this lightning ascent that was fairly timely, how'd that world record attempt for your first Everest climb come together?

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah, so again, I had been on this trajectory of about one mountain per year, and so, you know, 2019 was gonna be the year for Everest and why I didn't do Antarctica first. Actually, Antarctica is a lot harder and a little bit more expensive to get to, to be quite honest. So I was like, well let's just, let's just go for Everest in 2019. and you know, at that time I didn't, I didn't have a plan of trying to do like a lightening ascent or set a world record or anything like that. I was just gonna go and climb it doing kind of a standard protocol.

And I started working at the company I'm with now, GU Energy Labs here in Berkeley in 2017. and when I started working there, I was doing research on training for high altitude races because I was working with some of our athletes who, you know, train and compete in these races like in Leadville and things like that. And we installed a hypoxic chamber in our gym at work. And so that kind of got my wheels spinning and I started using the hypoxic chamber to train for different mountains. So I was also climbing kind of other mountains at the same time as like checking these mountains off my list. Like I would go down to South America and do some high volcanoes down there.

And so I decided to start using the hypoxic chamber to cut the amount of time I needed to be, you know, on expeditions. And so that's what kind of started this whole idea of doing Everest faster. Because I was finding that I could do other high peaks faster, like anywhere from 19,000 feet up to just under 23,000 feet. We did this climb down in South America, Oh host El Salado. So did that in like five days, which normally takes about 15 to 18. And so I was thinking like, if I can do this, then you know, I can at least do Everest and like half the amount of time, why not?

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Right.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

And so anyways, that's how we got to Everest in 2019. and I learned about Adrian Ballenger and Alpenglow that they were already kind of doing this technique on the north side. And so I contacted him and he told me he was looking for somebody to try a 14 day, that he thought it could be done.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Because they were doing like 35 days?

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

They were doing 35 days at the time, very successfully for few years. And at first I just kind of like laughed it off. I was like, yeah, you're crazy. Like good luck finding somebody. That was the end of the conversation. And I thought about it for a few days and you know, the nerd in me was just like, I wonder if it can be done. Like that would be so cool from a physiology perspective. Like just to see what happens to the human body if you try and do something that aggressive.

So I call him back and I'm like, well, what do you think about me? Like I can maybe do this. And he was like, yeah, why not? You've already like done, you know, similar things on other high peaks and, and yeah, absolutely. And so that's how we decided on the lightning ascent and then yeah. It was terrifying. And I had no idea if it would work out. And honestly, I thought maybe we had a 10 to 30% chance of success going into it. Legitimately that's what I thought our chances were.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

What was previous fastest ascent?

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

The previous fastest ascent was another gentleman who had worked with Adrian and he had done both Cho Oyu and ... Cho Oyu who is another 8,000 meter peak nearby Cho Oyu and Everest in the same season. But he had climbed, I think it was 24 to 28 days. So that was kind of like the nearest bar that had been set. So this was very, very aggressive.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

It's almost halving the previous world record in terms of speed?

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Right. Yeah.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Wow. Incredible.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

So you touched upon hypoxia training. That's a super interesting training paradigm. Can you describe what was your protocol there? I mean, would you sleep in this hypoxic tent? Would you do workouts or would you run on a treadmill in this hypoxic chamber? Did you try to stay in that chamber for, you know, bring your computer in there and work on your laptop in there. How long, you know, what'd you do with it?

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah, so we were very fortunate to have the hypoxic chamber installed. So we worked with this company called Hypoxico and they've been doing this in various facilities. They have them in like gyms and things now. So we had one installed in our, in our gym at work, at GU. And it's basically like the size of a laundry room, right? So it's not very big. It's, it's see through plexiglass. So you're in there and it feels like you're in a fish bowl and it goes up to about 11, 12,000 feet. So I started with that and I would spend, you know, maybe four hours a day in there working. I had a stand up desk with my computer. You could do workouts in there, but you know, I knew that wasn't enough. I needed to get as much time as I could and simulate at altitude.

So I contacted them and they set me up with a tent system that I could take home and put on my bed. So it really is like your bed goes inside the tent and then you're in a bubble while you're sleeping. And it simulates hypoxia by condensing the nitrogen content of the air so there's less oxygen in the air while you're sleeping. So I would try to spend a minimum of eight hours a night sleeping in hypoxia.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Which simulated altitude?

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

It could go anywhere from, I would start out gradually like 5,000 feet. So the height of about Denver, Colorado. And then by the end I was sleeping up to 19, 20,000 feet. So I wanted to get at least above base camp, you know? Equivalent. And you can definitely feel it and it, it absolutely impacts, you know, your sleep and your life and your social situation, whatever it may be. Luckily I'm single so it was not a big deal.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Folks come home, it's like oh what's wrong with your bed?

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Right. But yeah, I was trying to get between the tent and the, and the chamber at work, a majority of my day in simulated altitude. So you know at least 12 hours a day I would be in a hypoxic environment and it's kind of like living in a bubble or a fish bowl. Yeah, that was my life for three months before I left.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Wow, fascinating. So typically in Hypoxia you see decrements in cognitive performance, obviously recovery slows down, you're just that got, you're just not fueling your body with it, you know, the expected amount of oxygen. So in that three month ramp up period, I mean did you feel more sluggish at work? Did you feel, or you know, did you feel like your day to day life was impacted? Or did you feel like you adapted to that norm? And obviously it's some ramp up period, but you felt like work performance, physical performance as you're kind of training and working out was recovering pretty quickly?

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

You know, I definitely felt the side effects of it, especially as I got into sleeping at some of the higher altitudes.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Right.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

So I'd say above 14,000 feet simulated altitude, I could start to feel a difference in cognitive performance. Like I just would have a little bit harder time finding the right word. For instance, you know, just like a little bit slower in my thought process, I would be a little bit more fatigued during workouts it seemed, but I had done this all before, right? So I had done this for other climbs and so I kind of knew what to expect. So this time I wanted to get ahead of the game. And so I was really strategic with my nutrition and supplementation protocol to do everything I could to not only support recovery from my really hard training schedule, but to also support cognitive performance. And that was something I really wanted to focus on. So I was planning on collecting data on the mountain specific to cognitive function.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Yeah.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

And that's kind of how you and I got in touch just because I knew about the research around ketone esters. I had also been following a ketogenic diet for the previous four years leading into this whole expedition. So I knew some of the benefits and the and the supposed benefits for cognitive performance. And so at that point I not only was eating a diet that kind of supported recovery and cognitive function, but I also started supplementing with a ketone esters.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Cool. Yeah, let's talk about nutrition. But before then I know that as you're doing the climb, you were wearing this very sophisticated technical suit that's tracking all your biomarkers. I'm curious heading into the training, were you tracking heart rate variability, other markers as you're doing the ramp up period, into the actual attempt?

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah, absolutely. So with some of the previous climbs we had started using this app, HRV for training. So I always use that like every morning to track my heart rate variability and see, you know, where I might need to recover a little more before a hard workout and things like that.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

So did you see your HRV start compressing as you were going higher and higher in altitude, and then did you feel like, did that ever recover down to baseline as you got more acclimatized?

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah, so it definitely, like my HRV status definitely declines with, you know, increases in altitude that I'm sleeping at.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Right.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

So I could always see that no matter what, with each shift that I'd be using the hypoxic tents. And then when you actually get to real altitude, like it's, it's suppressed even further. Right? So your score is just not so great,

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

So it doesn't recover. You don't see some acclimatization where you HRV starts climbing back to normal?

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Not really because I'm always progressingly pushing the altitude a little bit. And then when you get to actual altitude you get, you know, not only the hypoxic stimulus but you also get a hypobaric stimulus. Right? So decreased pressure, which is another additional stress on the body. So like that pushes it even a little further into like a stress response mode. But yeah, so heart rate variability, I've been tracking for a long time. I track glucose both with a continuous glucose monitor at times. And then also I use like the little handheld. I'll track my ketones and my glucose.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Interesting.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

And then I also-

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

How does altitude effect glucose metabolism?

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah, it, it definitely up regulates the amount of carbohydrate you're burning and so it can definitely mess with your glucose levels. And so you know, sometimes you'll see like a higher fasting glucose response and things like that. Generally for me, mine stays pretty stable. But I also have been on like a low carb diet for a long time. And so my glucose levels are super stable, even though I'm wearing like the continuous glucose monitor and I'll even eat things strategically or take things strategically to see if it'll spike my glucose levels, but it really doesn't like I'm really pretty stable.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Interesting.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

So it's like rock solid at around what? I'm just curious in terms of like 80 milligrams per deciliter or?

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Fasting or?

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Yeah.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

I mean it'll be like in the high 70's and as high as maybe like 85 if I'm not recovered or something like that. Yeah. Like it's, it's pretty stable.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Yeah. Interesting. And then what are your ketone levels when you're, I mean, that's like, that's like decently low glucose levels.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah, I mean normally I think my fasting glucose levels are anywhere from like 0.6 to, you know, two.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Ketones. Fasting ketones.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Fasting ketones. Yeah.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Okay. So you're like nicely solidly in nutritional ketosis.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

And I eat a decent amount of carbs for, you know, for someone who does a low carb diet. Like I'll eat a 100 grams of carbs a day sometimes.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Yeah.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Mostly vegetables. But yeah.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Yeah. It makes sense. I mean you're burning so much calories. Like I think that's like one thing that folks that are maybe less sophisticated on a ketogenic diet don't realize is that if you're expending that much energy, you can maintain ketosis. When you're ramping up some carbohydrates. It's probably smart to do so.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Absolutely.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

To not start burning actual lean muscle tissue.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

That, and like I've been experimenting on myself for a long time, like n of one stuff. But I, and I work for a company that makes carbs for sports. You know?

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Yeah. Yeah.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

So I've experimented with up to taking in, you know, 300 grams of carbs during a really long run. Maybe I'm out there for like five hours on the trails and I'll bounce back right into nutritional ketosis within a couple of hours afterwards.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

So let's talk about nutrition. I mean obviously you have a science background with GU. Obviously you experimented a lot with the ketone esters that you know from, from our company. And it sounds like you've done ketogenic diets for the last four years. So did you change your diet? I mean, what, in terms of the ketogenic diet? Obviously folks are, some folks are doing more carnivorous versions of that. It sounds like you, and we talked a little bit beforehand, that's a little bit scary for you. I'm curious in terms of like your makeup of a ketogenic diet and did you change it for the Everest protocol?

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah, so I started messing around with lower carb diet in 2014 and then I went like full keto probably by like 2015 and then followed a pretty strict ketogenic diet up until 2017 I'd say. So aiming for less than like 50 grams of carbs per day.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Okay.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

And then I started working at GU, which is like the opposite, right? Like I was surprised they hired me cause I was like fully transparent with them when they were interviewing me. I was like, yeah, I follow low-carb lifestyle. With them when they were interviewing me. I was like, "Yeah, I follow a low-carb lifestyle. I don't do carbs. You guys make carbs. Are you sure you want to hire me?" But they did. So, anyways, I start working for them in 2017.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

And what was the initial goal for keto? Just performance, endurance? Or body comp or-

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

It was-

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Longevity? Health span?

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

I think it was a combination of longevity. I have a history, a family history, of diabetes. And I was just a little bit concerned about that. And also body composition. And, at the time, I was doing mostly weight training. And so I wasn't doing a ton of cardio. And so I didn't feel like I needed all the extra carbs. So I was like, "Well, let's give it a shot and see how I feel." I was working at a company called Muscle Pharm at the time, in Denver, and met some brilliant researchers there. Jordan Joy, who does a lot with ketogenic diet. And he's the one who kind of got me started on that. So I was like, "I'll try it. Science, sure."" And I felt great on it. And it was easy for me to kind of adhere to. And so it just made sense for me for a long time.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Yeah, okay.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

So, anyways, coming back. 2017 I start working at GU, carb company. And I start getting more into endurance and then ultra endurance, right? So really long trail runs, trail races, things like that. So I'm out there for hours on end. And I'm like, "I need to be taking in some carbs." You just do. And so my diet did change a little bit. I started eating more on like the vegetable side. So I did start eating more carbs overall, but they were generally from vegetable sources. And so that was kind of the Diet that I rolled into training for Everest with. So it's a really high protein. I really do strategize protein primarily because I want to recover and give my body the amino acids it needs to rebuild itself. And so I'd say it's a high protein, high fat. So probably around 50% of calories come from fat. And maybe 20% of my calories tops are coming from carbs, but mostly vegetables. Some fruit, not a lot, mostly just berries.

But, yeah, that was kind of what I started with going into Everest. I did change it a little bit because I wanted to focus really on antioxidant defense systems and things like that. So I started strategically trying to get more cruciferous vegetables in, lots of berries, dark chocolate. One, because I love it, but also like polyphenols and things like that. So I was very specific in that approach. I started eating more fermented foods, focusing on gut health.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Like kimchi, natto.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely. Kimchi and sauerkraut, I pretty much eat one or both every day. I love it. And we will ferment our own things. We'll make kombucha at work. We'll make our own kimchi and ferment hot sauce.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

That sounds... I want to make kimchi, that sounds fun.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah. Yeah. So all about the fermented foods. Focusing on gut health, not only just for digestive issues, but also for what it can do for your brain and cognitive function and things like that.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

How about your fat and protein sources? I mean, what were you primarily focused on there?

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

So I started eating a lot of salmon and tuna. So I'll probably have one or the other every day, really trying to get some Omega-3s. Again, helping with inflammation and brain function. I try to nowadays and, when I was doing full keto, I was eating a lot more red meat and even things like bacon and stuff as a lot of keto-ers will do. But, nowadays, I've really kind of moved away from that. Not because I think it's bad, per se, but I just have started focusing more on seafood and poultry and eggs and things like that. So that's primarily where I'm getting my protein from. I'll try to get 30 grams in each meal. I always do a post-workout recovery protein and that's generally going to be a whey hydrolysate. So my masters research was on different protein sources and how they're digested, absorbed, and utilized by the body. And whey protein hydrolysate is-

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

The quickest uptake.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

... By far superior in my mind. Yeah, quickest uptake.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Versus casein or-

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Okay.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah. So it's a fast-absorbing. And, because it's already partially digested essentially, it crosses the intestinal barrier faster than intact, fully-intact protein. So even faster than just a whey isolate. And there are bioactive components to some of these peptides, these little shorter amino acid chains that are broken down, that confer health benefits beyond just helping rebuild tissues. Things like hypertension and just all sorts of things. So hydrolysates are fascinating and that's, again, what I did my master's work on. So very partial to whey protein hydrolysate.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

So, cool. So you had a seafood-heavy, ketogenic diet, or a low-carb diet coming into the Everest attempt. And then did you change that going into that? Like the three months ahead of time? Did you start thinking about doing fasted workouts? Or did you think about periodizing your nutrition? Because, obviously, when you're climbing there's depression of appetite. Some of these concerns that happen in hypoxic environments. How did you start varying nutrition as you got closer and closer to the attempt?

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah, so really interesting actually. I started in December working with a group called Uphill Athlete. And one of our sponsored athletes, his name is Steve House, started this company with his coach who is Scott Johnston. And so I reached out to them. They train all of the best mountaineers, alpinists, climbers in the world. And I figured, if I was ever going to hire a coach, this was the time. Right? I wanted to have everything in my arsenal so that I could make this successful. And so I reached out to them, started training with them. And they had me do a lot of fasted training. And for me, coming from a sports nutrition background, working for a sports nutrition company, we make products to eat while you're exercising. And they're telling me like, "Okay, go out for five hours and don't eat anything." I was just like, "What the hell?"

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Torture. I mean, it's tough. I've done some fasted workouts. It's not fun because you're just like... You start tired.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah. But, yeah, so I did it. I did everything they told me to do. They said, "Jump." I jumped. And I got into these fasted workouts. And it was gradual, it wasn't like they told me to go run five hours fasted did the first day. But I actually found that it wasn't bad. I was doing just fine.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

It makes sense. I mean, you were keto-adapted at a time. Right?

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Eating a ketogenic diet. So your fat oxidation was probably just nicely in flow.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

But I was amazed at how much better it got. Above and beyond just being fat-adapted from being on the low-carb diet, I have... We have at GU Energy, we have our own physiology lab which I have access to a metabolic cart. So you can measure your metabolism, see what kind of calories you're burning, how many calories you're burning, no matter what you're doing. And it's portable, which is really awesome.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

So, what was your RQ coming in? Or did you do respiratory quotient and start test your crossover points?

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Exactly. So I would test periodically. So I started testing before I was training with them. And then at a midpoint and then right before I left. And the results were mind-blowing. I was so impressed. Before I was a pretty good fat burner. My crossover was at a good point, pretty far to the right if you're looking at the graph. Right? It was decent. And I felt like, I always felt like, it should have been better. Considering I was a low-carb dieter.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Right. So, okay, let's break it down a little bit. So there's two components. When we talk about RQ, respiratory quotient, it's the ratio between CO2 expelled and O2 coming in. And that's a good marker for what you're burning in terms of fuel. So a 1.0 RQ is carb-burning, 0.7 is fat burning. So where'd you start off with and then what'd you end up at?

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah. So, I think, the actual number was something like 0.78 or something. And then, by the time I got to the midway point, so this is like March I test myself, it was 100% fat burning. So I was at like 0.7. Sometimes you would go below 0.7 and I was just like, "Is the cart broken? What is happening here?" So even up to a really high intensity. So we would do this ramp protocol where I'd be walking on a very steep incline at a steady pace, but we would just keep ramping it up. And I would get up to you know 21%, maybe, during a normal test. And I had been testing for years, because I have access to this equipment at the lab. By the time I was at the midpoint I was adding levels to the test, because I was still 100% fat burning. You know what I mean? I was just like, "I'm not even tired yet. What is happening?"

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Incredible.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

So crossover points, typically, when you go from fat burning to lactate burning, which is typically a way to measure VO2 max. And then some percentage of that is when you start seeing some crossover points. So it sounds like your crossover point to VO2 max was basically-

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

I didn't hit a crossover point.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Okay. So your VO2 max was still 100% fat burning, basically.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Well, it wasn't 100%. but it was like... So the crossover, you're burning 50/50.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Right.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

So, when you hit that crossover point, your body is burning 50% of its calories from carbs, 50% from fat. And then it goes exponentially higher into carbohydrates the higher the intensity you push. So I never actually hit a crossover at that midpoint test. And I was just like at 25% incline, because we have a treadmill that goes up to 40%, straight up basically. And I was just like, "Okay, well I guess the test is over."

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

And you felt like you were 100% effort?

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah. I mean-

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Or as close to 100% as possible?

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

It was close. My heart rate was at 183 or something like that. It was pretty high.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Wow, that's pretty... That's fascinating. So you're basically at... It was like maximal load.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

And you were still predominantly fat burning.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

That's cool.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Very cool.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

So really cool results from the fasted training. That's what I attribute it to. And also it's just being fitter. I got so much fitter. When I went into the training with them in December, I had spent the entire summer that year running ultra-marathons every three to five weeks. I was just trying to get a bigg aerobic base, because I knew I'd be training with them and I wanted to be super fit. So I thought I was pretty fit going into it, but I got so much fitter training with them. I just couldn't even believe it. And so a large component of how much fat you're able to burn as an athlete is actually just your aerobic training status. So just being fitter makes you a better fat burner. There are things like you get more mitochondria so you have a greater capacity to burn. More factories to burn fuel in. So all of these things kind of contributed to it. But I think the fasted training not only did it make me a better fat burner, but in the end saved my butt. I'll get into that story later. But, yeah, it was... I'm really glad that they did it that way.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Yeah. So you mentioned ketone esters and other supplements. So how did ketone esters incorporate into your routine? What did other supplements, I imagine there's... Were you strategically using carbs, GU stuff, other people's stuff? I mean, how did all the other things come into play here?

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah, so I definitely see carbohydrates as a strategic supplement. So, for instance, GU products I would use kind of strategically if I was doing a high-intensity workout. Maybe taking a gel or something before, something really intense. Things like that where I know I'm gonna have to tap into carbohydrate burning. So definitely using GU products during the training. If you walked into my house, you would see there's just a whole shelf of supplements, because I've been doing supplement research for a long time. That's been kind of my area of specialty. So I'm always looking for what can help with recovery, what can help with performance. And the ketone ester, specifically, I had started using. One of our athletes, Jeff Browning, was actually who introduced me to you all. He was using GU products and ketone esters.

And, at first, the marketing team and the group that oversees kind of our elite athlete program, they came to me and they're like, "Well is it okay if Jeff uses the H.V.M.N.? Is that a competitive product?" And I was like, "No, I don't see it as a competitive product." Even the way you guys talk about it is like, "Yeah. Use the ketones, but also use carbs along with it. Because it'll actually drop your blood glucose levels." So I was like, "No, no. It's totally fine." And then I really wanted to talk to you guys anyways, so that's how we started our relationship. But, yeah, I knew that it would put you into a rapid state of nutritional ketosis. And I was already always kind of in nutritional ketosis, so I didn't feel like I needed it for that purpose. But mostly for the cognitive things we've already talked about, but also for recovery. And then that paper came out about how it-

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Yeah, Peter Hespel in Belgium, yeah.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Can help with offsetting some of the overreaching symptoms and things like that. And I was like, "Well, I'm training my butt off. And so I absolutely should try this for recovery as well." And so I did. So I'd start using it strategically, even after workouts, to kind of promote recovery and prevent overreaching. But I really wanted to use it on the mountain for the cognitive effects. And so that's why I came to you and asked if I could bring it up Everest, essentially, and do some testing with it. And I really feel like it makes my brain just work better at altitude. Absolutely.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Yeah. I think we have some actual unpublished data there. I mean, I think it's a paradigm that's super interesting, the cognitive performance aspects of ketone esters. So I'm curious to get a sense of, maybe talking about the nutritional component of your ascent. You mentioned something about being super fat-adapted was important. I want to hear that story. And then, too, it would be interesting in terms of, yeah, what was that cognitive effect? Or what was your subjective experience with ketone esters or other products on the ascent?

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

So I'm very fortunate in that I work with research and development at GU. And so basically anything that I can dream up in my mind, almost anything, they can at least help me kind of put together a rough prototype of it in the lab that we have. And so, for Everest, I actually did come up with a bunch of custom products for nutrition. So we came up with a custom Everest bar, which is a very calorie-dense but predominantly fat. So it was a lot of coconut butter, macadamia, cacao.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Sounds pretty good.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

It was delicious. Oh my God, it was so good. So we came up with a custom Everest bar. We came up with a custom drink mix kind of based on our Roctane line, which is carbohydrates and electrolytes and amino acids. So protecting your muscles as well, but also adding ketone salts to that. Basically I was looking to put ketones anywhere I could get them in addition to using the ester. And then we also did a custom gel with some added ketones to that. So all of these things I took up the mountain. Again, I was very fat-adapted so I knew I could handle a decent amount of fat. Even though, at altitude, you tend to shift more into a carbohydrate-burning state. It's a more efficient fuel source than burning fat, so you just kind of do. Your body prefers it. So I was definitely doing carbs, in the drink mix and the gel. But I had this bar that when I was moving kind of slowly between camps, I'd be carrying 35, 40 pound packs so you're not moving super fast. And, at altitude, you're one step, one breath. It's slow progress.

But so, yeah, I took all these custom products up there to test and those worked out really well. I took the ketone esters, so I was taking about one or two bottles a day. And so I would just kind of take... I was actually dividing the bottle up. So I was taking like partial doses as I was moving throughout the day. So I'd take maybe 10 grams at a time, if you look at the little markers on the bottle. I'd take about 10 grams at a time while I was moving. And, yeah, subjectively I would take that and feel like I could just think more clearly. I did notice I hit base camp at 17,000 feet and we walked up to 23,000 feet before we started using oxygen. And, as I got progressively higher, it was like things slowed down. And above, I guess, maybe 19,000 feet I started feeling like I was walking in a dream. Or I was outside my body watching myself walk. Or like things were in slow motion. So I would take the ester and feel like things got a little bit more clear, a little bit more sharp. Like colors seemed less muted, things like that.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

You went behind your eyeballs again?

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

You weren't playing a third-person RPG anymore.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah, it's wild. It really feels like you're just outer body. So I did all the subjective kind of it and I was like, "Wow, this is really helping." And even I was with my guide, Lydia Bradey, who's the first woman to ever summit Everest without oxygen, super badass lady. I gave her a bottle to try and she was just like, "Wow, this is incredible. I feel really sharp right now."

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Nice. Yeah.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

We're sitting there at like 20,000 feet. I have a video of it, it's pretty funny. She was just like, "This is awesome." I'm like, "Yeah, I know. It works." But we did take this, or I did take this, cognitive function test system with me. Which is like... It almost feels like you're playing little brain games. If you've ever done Lumosity or whatever that app is. So you can test reaction time and decision making and things like that. So I did take that up the mountain. Unfortunately it only made it to about 21,000 feet advanced base camp before it started kind of getting a little wonky on me. I think it didn't like the cold and the altitude so much. But we have that data. And so it'll be interesting to look at it once we have the analysis in, how that actually reflects when I took the ketone ester versus when I didn't.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Interesting.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

And what altitude we're at. So that'll be exciting.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Yeah. I mean, it's super cool subjective experience. I mean were you... In terms of objective measure, it sounds like you had the cognitive tasks to track. Were are you targeting a level of ketosis as you were going up the mountain? Or was it just... I mean, I don't know if you wanted to fingerstick yourself at 25,000 feet up in the mountain. But was that something that you were targeting or something that you were tracking?

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

I wouldn't say I was targeting anything in specific... Going into it I was super ambitious. I'm like, "I'm going to collect all this data. I'm bringing all this equipment." I did bring my handheld ketone meter, the Keto-Mojo, so I was looking at ketones and glucose and hematocrit and hemoglobin. But yeah, as I got higher, I was just like-

I don't want to carry it up there with me. But, yeah, I would be in sustained nutritional ketosis for the most part when I was testing. And, obviously, when I was taking the ketone ester. I think I have a picture where it's like three millimolar, three point something. So, yeah, and I always felt better when I was right after taking the ester. Versus not taking it then I'd feel a little bit more foggy and things like that. And then you get to 23,000 and you put oxygen on and so you're just like, "Wow, colors are real. Snozzberries taste like snozzberries. Things are great." So, yeah. Then it Kinda all shifted once you get oxygen on.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Cool.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

And then we touched a little bit on fasted training. Any other specific techniques that you were implementing? Were you doing, I don't know, high-intensity interval training? Sounds like you're doing some visualization across certain important passes. Anything else in terms of interesting techniques or tips or best practices for our listeners?

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah, around the time I started working with the fasted training and working with the coaches. And so they had me doing a lot of these muscular-endurance workouts. Which are both in a gym setting there's like, it's plyometric-based, you're wearing a weight vest. So it's getting your legs used to taking like an eccentric load, essentially. It really hurts after the fact. It's the kind of workout that you get really sore from. So that was some of my training. And then doing really heavy loaded carries up and down hills. So a 1,000 foot hill and they had me... I was in Mammoth for the last three weeks before I left to get actual altitude. I found this ruck sack, so it's like a snow gully, and I was basically just making laps up and down that with 65 pounds. It was like suffer fest.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

In a backpack?

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

So it was just like rucking.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Exactly. So lots of that kind of-

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

65 pound ruck up 1,000 feet mountains, or hills.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah. And they'd be like, "All right, go for two hours." And I'm like, "Okay." And a stair machine, a lot of times.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

That's badass. I mean, that's tough.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

It wasn't easy.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

That's top-end military level. I mean that 65 pounds is a lot.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah, it's more than half my body weight.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

I mean, you're not a big person. I mean, you're not a huge person. I mean, that's crazy.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

I know. I would check with them. I'm like, "Really, guys? We're doing 65 today?" They're like, "Yeah, go get it tiger." And I'm like, "Okay."

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

I'm was thinking some of the special operators are probably only like 50 pound rucks. I mean, you're... And those are big dudes.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

And the thing is, on Everest, you're not carrying that much weight ever. This is just to make me tough as nails. And it worked, I felt bulletproof. And, when I wasn't in the mountains, I would have to do stuff like that on stairs at a gym. Which was, oh my God, I can't tell you how much time I spent on that stair machine. They actually put a sign on it at one point, probably about a month before I left. And it said, "Please limit your use to one hour at a time. Thank you." And I was like-

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

That's for you.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

"That's definitely me."

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Yeah.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

That was definitely me.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

So were you just like wearing a 65-pound ruck on that StairMaster?

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yes.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

For like three hours?

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah. I'm pretty sure people just thought I was insane.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

I'm just picturing it.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

This lady in the corner with half her body weight-

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

They're like, "That girl."

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

... On her back. Just on there for three hours straight.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

People started coming up and asking me. They're like, "What are you training for? Because you're training for something, obviously." I'd be like, "Oh, just a mountain. Some mountain I'm climbing." Yeah, I don't want to give it away. But, okay. So, aside from the training, one thing I implemented with all of this Everest lead up was intermittent fasting and just time-restricted feeding. So being really strategic about that. And I got the the Zero app to kind of track my fasting. And I wasn't doing anything super aggressive, but I wanted to shut it down at least 12 hours a night was my goal. So a 12-hour every day, at least. And then, on my kind of recovery day, I would do more of an 18 to 22 hour fast. So just using that as a way to give my system time to repair itself, essentially. And I still do that now. I actually... I really enjoy it. I was eating dinner at like five o'clock at night every night.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Yeah. I mean you're also... That means, when you're eating, you're probably eating a lot at a time. I mean, because you're doing what? I think you said around 20 hours a week of training? And this is like very heavy training. And you're constricting your eating window. So I'm sure you had pretty big meals.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

I mean, I would try to get the calories in. On days when I would have a five-hour feeding window it was tough. I would just be like, "I don't know if I can get a couple thousand calories in, even."

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Exactly.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

So I, in the process, whether it was from... This is still open to debate. Whether it was from the training, whether it was from the time-restricted feeding or whatnot, I lost 20 pounds.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Wow.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

And, again, I was never a big person, ever. I maybe started at like 130.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Got down to 110?

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Wow.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

But the craziest part is, right? So, when you lose weight, generally about 25% of weight loss comes from lean mass. So from like muscle, right? Or connective tissue? 95% of my weight loss was fat. I lost only one pound of muscle out of 20.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Wow.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

And I strongly suspect that it was not only diet and being fat-adapted and the fasted training and all of that, but I think it was also some of the hypoxia. So living in the tent and the chamber does things. And I've been looking into this research. Now I'm going into my PhD work, but seeing how hypoxic environments actually up-regulate fat burning.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Interesting.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah. So it was really fascinating.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

It probably kicks off some growth hormone or something to retain that lean muscles tissue. Some response to the hypoxic environment probably, as well.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah. So that's a definitely an area of research that I'm super interested in now. And, yeah, we'll see.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Man, so you were just like a super-ripped-

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Lean.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Super-strong.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Person just powering through tons of workouts and eating massive meals when you're eating.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah, it was crazy.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

I mean, were you worried about injury? I mean, that's... I mean, in terms of overreaching, that's like you were pushing your body hard.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Right. And, yeah, I mean I got down to... I was also measuring, via DEXA scan, my body composition and everything like that. Again, I didn't really lose any muscle. Which was awesome, because I needed it.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

So what body fat percentage were you, like 10?

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

No. For women it's a little different. Right?

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

I was going to say, yeah.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

So women have 12 to 13% is essential fat. You need that or you can't reproduce and things like this.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Right, right, right.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

I got down to 15.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Okay.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

So it was super lean. And even my coaches were like, "Go eat a hamburger, for real. You need to eat some more." But, yeah. So the leanest I'd ever been, the fittest I'd ever been. The best fat burning I'd ever experienced. Everything was like... It was like all systems go. And I was ready. Right? And the thing is, the way I was doing this attempt, you have to wait for the weather to be right before you head out. And you don't want to mess that up because then you're not going to get this two-week, door-to-door ascent.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Right, if there's a storm up there then you've got to wait it out and you're just stuck.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Right. So I'm fully-trained and I'm ready to go. And I'm like, "I need to get out there." And Adrian and Lydia, my guide, were already on the mountain. Right? So they're in Tibet. And this is... They get out there in mid-April, I believe. And my departure window tentatively was set for May 1st. So May 1st rolls around, I'm ready to go. And I'm sitting here in Berkeley. I'd been in Mammoth for three weeks just to get some actual altitude. I came back ready to go. Bags are essentially packed. I mean, all my stuff is on the floor when I say essentially packed, but. And they're just like, "The weather is really bad here. Things are not looking great."

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Yeah, I remember when we were talking, or trading emails back and forth, and it was like you were just waiting. Like, "Okay, weather is not good. I'm just kind of twiddling my thumbs waiting."

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Terrible.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Right.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

The worst. Just sitting there and I'm trying to be at work and be focused and do my thing. But I'm also trying not to go crazy with training because I have to be ready to go at a moment's notice.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Yeah. Did you taper? I mean, I guess you just kind of were tapered off. You're like, "Okay, I'm going to just recover as much as I can."

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah. So my coaches were like, "Well, you're scheduled to leave anytime now so we're not going to do anything super aggressive, but you need to stay trained." So we just did some maintenance work and things like that. But it was the hardest. I ended up waiting until I flew out May 10th. But 10 days of just kind of sitting there and waiting for the call to get on the plane or book-

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

The longest week and a half ever.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Book my ticket. I didn't even have a flight booked. You know what I mean? I was just like, "What if they call me and I can't get a flight? What are we going to do? And I missed the weather window and then this doesn't happen." Like God forbid there wasn't a weather window. That was also something I was worried about. I was like, "What if we just don't get one?"

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Yeah. Well, you're just... You're still super-fit and jacked.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah, just go do like a bikini competition or something. I don't know.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Well, so okay. So let's talk about the actual summit day. Because I think it was actually a very interesting day on the mountain. A lot of our listeners and folks probably saw that viral Mount Everest photo where you had this giant queue of people up until summit. And I believe... And you mentioned at the beginning of the conversation, someone died on the mountain that day as well. So that made headlines around the world. And you actually summited that same day, but on the completely opposite side of the mountain and you were alone. Walk us through that story and what that day was like. I mean, the the emotional side as well as, I mean, the technical side.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah. You know it's wild because I didn't know about any of that stuff that happened on the South until after I came down. But the day that picture was taken with the crazy lineup, that was the day I summited but from the North. And so our summit attempt was... We, again, were having really bad weather. Even when I got there the weather had shifted. We were anticipating a summit day of around May 20th, which is why I flew out on the 10th. And then by the time I got there things had changed. And they were looking more at a May 24th, May 25th window. And I was like, "Crap, there's no way this two-week thing is happening. Might as well just get set in, get comfortable. I'm going to be out here for like 16, 17, 18 days. Who knows? If we get a window, because it was like super windy, super cold. And, because of that, the Sherpas who generally go up and fix the route, which means they put lines up so that if you slip and fall you don't go off the mountain entirely. They hadn't been able to get up to the top. And, on the South, they had already fixed the lines somewhere around May 14th. So people were able to summit before that.

But on the North side they weren't up. So nobody can climb without those being in place. And we were like, "This isn't going to happen." So we start moving up the mountain just because we want to be ready and in place when May 24th, 25th rolls around. We get up to Camp II, which is at about 25,000 feet. So 4,000 feet below the summit. And generally people will go up to at least Camp III and then make a summit push from there. And sometimes there'll even be a Camp IV, on the North side.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

So when you make camp, it's like an overnight stay.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Okay.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

So we get to Camp II and we see the possibility that, on the 22nd, there might be a small weather window that we could attempt to do if they get the lines put up in time. And the Sherpas were planning on going up and finishing on the 22nd but, prior to that, they had gone up and come back about five times unsuccessfully because of really bad weather and high winds. So we weren't sure if they were going to be able to do it.

And so the night we were thinking of whether we should go for the 22nd or not, Adrian gets on the phone cause he's at a different camp. Phone, I mean radio. He radios Lydia and I and he's like, "There's a small chance you could get the 22nd. This is the only way you'll be able to do this whole 14 day door-to-door thing. This is the only opportunity you have for that. But you'd have to start late, because you need to give the Sherpas time to make it to the summit that they're fixing the ropes. I can't guarantee that they're actually going to get there, because they've turned back so many times. And it's going to be a very long day because you have to go from Camp II all the way up and then all the way back down, instead of hitting Camp III. So it's going to be a late day, it's gonna be a long day, and you might not be able... You might get up there and they might turn around and you have to come back down and that will be your only opportunity. There's probably not going to be another chance for you to go back up after this. So, if you try this, it's risky. But it's up to you."

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

And it's like a one-shot. And the purpose of that is that they don't want you to try multiple summit attempts?

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Basically you'd have to recover enough time and that wouldn't be enough time to make that second push if we tried for like the 24th, 25th.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Because it's so exhausting to push.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

It's taxing.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Okay.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Exactly. Yeah, especially from Camp II. I's just so much more.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

And then what's the nuance with that late start. I mean, if you end up too late, is it just too frigid, too windy at night?

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah. Generally people try and summit around dawn. So five, six, seven in the morning.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

And it's-

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

The latest... Usually there's a hard turn around for most people climbing at like 10:00 AM. They want you to be coming back down already because bad weather comes up.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Okay.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Just like on any-

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

It's not for tourist reasons of taking a photo at dawn.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

No.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

It's just like you... Literally, it's too dangerous for you to start too late.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah, weather deteriorates the later it gets in the morning. So, generally, most people will have a hard turn around of 10:00, maybe 11:00 AM at the latest. They want you coming back. So we... And most of the time, in order to get that kind of timeframe, you have to start at 10:00 the night before or something like that.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Oh, wow.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

So, in comparison, we started at almost 2:00 AM. So very late start by Everest standards.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

So how'd you even time the sleep? Were are you sleeping? I mean-

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Oh God, no.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Was it just like, "I'm going to try to sleep at 6:00 and then the wake up at 2:00?" Or how did that even work?

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

So we had been just like consistently moving up and had moved camps like the three days prior with our packs and everything. So it was like 35, 40 pound pack carries for multiple hours. And so I was actually pretty tired even by the time we got to Camp II. And then we made the call that we were going to go for it. And it was already four in the afternoon by the time we made camp. And so I knew we had to leave really, really early. We just tried to rest as best we could. I didn't sleep at all the night before the summit. I was just like-

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Wow.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

I was too excited. I was too nervous. I just laid there.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

In your like sleeping bag?

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Just eyes open and being like-

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

And you're in the sleeping bag, but you've got a...

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

But I just, eyes open being like ...

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah. And you're in this sleeping bag, but you've got a mask on, so you can't really roll over. And there's people on the other side of me and you're like a little sardine. I was just like, oh my God, let's go. The night before you go to Disneyland.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Yeah. So before we gloss over it, so talk us through the decision. I mean obviously this was a big important decision, potentially life threatening decision that you had to make a decision on. I mean, was it an easy decision? Was it like, all right, I have this window, let's go for it? And was it back and forth?

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah, so Lydia and I were in the tent together when we got this call from Adrian. Again, he was at a different camp. So we're sitting there, and we were like, "Okay, give us a minute to think about it." And I think both of us knew immediately we had to give it a shot. I had done all this training for this purpose, this was the goal. Not that it had to be done this way, but I was like, you know, if there's ever a chance to do something that's never been done before, this is it.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

This is it, yeah.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Let's go for it. And yeah, I just knew we had to do it. So it took us two minutes really, and we were just kind of like, "Yeah, we're going to go."

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Yeah. Was there any consideration of mortality or risk?

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

I think in the back of my mind, going into the entire trip, I knew that there statistically was maybe a 5% chance of dying. Maybe a little more just because of the way I was doing it. But I had already accepted that at that point. I was like, eh.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

okay. So it was just like, all right, I already assume that this is a dangerous activity. I have a window, let's go.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Okay.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah. I didn't think that waiting would be any better of an option. I just figured, yeah.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Right. You're just camping up there being cold and slowly dying.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Deteriorating.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Yeah.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Exactly.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

It's not much better.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

I was like, let's just go.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Okay.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Okay, so you start at 2:00 AM, you were a sardine wide awake for eight hours, trying to rest as much as you could. Talk us through summit day.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yup. So it was myself, my guide, Lydia Brady, and two climbing Sherpa, Mingma and [Pisang 00:02:07]. And Mingma is a rock star and this was his 15th summit attempt. So he was kind of leading the charge, and then Pisang was heading up the rear essentially. So the four of us left, nobody else was climbing that day. Nobody else wanted to take that gamble. So we were the only ones climbing. There was the rope fixing Sherpa. They were at a higher camp already. So we knew they were somewhere up above potentially, we couldn't see them yet. So when we took off, it was just us, and it was really kind of peaceful. The forecast was for some decent wind and really cold temperatures. So I wore a bunch of extra layers under my giant down suit that I was wearing.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

What was the temperature? Negative?

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

I mean it was probably around zero, maybe negative 10 when we started. It wasn't that bad. And even-

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

The wind chill? Windy?

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah, there was definitely some wind. And I got some wind burn on the little bits of my face that were exposed, but it wasn't as bad as the forecast called for. So that comes into play later, but I ended up being way overdressed. So we started, we got up to camp three at about 27,000 feet, maybe a few hours later. And that's where some of, Adrian and some of his other team were.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

This is a couple of hours in?

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

I guess, again, sorry to interrupt here, but this is the middle of the night.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Right. Headlights.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

So I didn't really understand that people are doing this in the middle of the night. So you wore headlamps, visibility's low. You're just kind of making sure you don't step into a crevasse on accident.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah. Yeah. So yeah, most of the time when you're climbing high mountains, you're getting what's called an alpine start. So you're starting at 11:00 PM midnight, something like that. And you're climbing by headlamp for a good portion of the climb.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Okay. So nocturnal climbing is pretty standard, then?

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Okay.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah. So we're climbing through the night, and again, because we started late, we get to camp three, it's about three hours later. So the sun is starting to come out and we can actually see things, which was really nice. Worked out in our favor because then I only had to wear the headlamp for a few hours. Hit camp three about three hours later, keep going from there. You hit this ridge line, and then you're going basically along this ridge line, which is pretty exposed. That's where really bad winds can come up.

That's where these features are called the steps, the three steps are found. So it's these rock cliffs that you have to scale, and that's a good portion of the route on the north side. And definitely the most technical part of the climbing on the north side is above 28,000 feet. So when you're at your worst, you have to perform at your best. And that's why a lot of people don't climb the north. So to step back for a minute, about one third the amount of climbers attempt from the north versus attempting from the south through Nepal. And there's a few reasons. So one, they issue permits more freely from the Nepal side, as we've seen. It's a little harder to get permits from the Chinese on the Tibet side. Two, it's a little bit more exposed. So that ridge line is very exposed.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

There's not a lot of protection from wind and from cold. So the weather can be a little worse on the north. And three, it's a little bit more technical higher up. So the worst part of the climbing is when you're at the highest altitudes versus the south.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

So you're the most deteriorated and it's the most technical. So it's a bad combination.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Right.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Or risky combination.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Risky combination. So anyways, we hit the ridge line and we're making pretty good progress. We figured it would be about nine to 10 hours to get to the summit from camp two. And we're kind of going along, and then we finally see the rope fixtures ahead of us and we're like, great, they're making progress. Go guys, go.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Lead the way.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Right. And at one point we even stop, and I think they sat down to eat something and we're like, okay, well just rest for a little bit so we give them time to get to the summit. But eventually we get to the three steps, which is these rock cliffs that you have to go up. There are some rickety ladders in place that they put attached by ropes, and you have to climb up those, which is the second step I knew it was going to be the hardest part of the climb, and it's maybe a 50 foot or something like that cliff. And there's three ladders that are attached by very precariously placed ropes. And so you're in crampons, you're in this giant down suit where you can't see your feet. Crampons are spiky metal things that helps you stick to a mountain. And then you're wearing oxygen, and you have your pack on with the oxygen canisters. So you can't really turn your neck. Visibility is terrible, dexterity is terrible.

You're wearing big puffy gloves. So it's really just hard to function when you're climbing these ladders. And so we get to that part. That was the part I had in my mind visualized would be the worst part of the climb. Turns out it wasn't. I mean it was tough, but we get above the second step, and then there's a third step, and that has just been fixed maybe an hour before we get to it. And there's really not a lot of anchors, which is an attachment point to the mountain. So just long expanses of rope that are not anchored to anything. And some of them are attached-

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Just a little flimsy rope.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Little flimsy rope, maybe the diameter of your finger, your index finger. And that's what's keeping you on the mountain in the event that you fall. So we get to the final snow slope to the summit, maybe 500 feet below the summit. The rope fixtures had made it up there. We knew they'd finished. So they were actually coming down as we were heading up, and they were surprised to see us, honestly. They didn't know that anyone was right behind them. So they come down and we're going up, and we're putting our weight on this fixed line, and all of a sudden the rock anchor it's attached to, which is on the slope up above us, just completely comes out of the snow-

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Holy shit.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

... and comes tumbling down the slope towards us. And so not only is our rope loose, but there's this giant rock coming down towards us. And then there's 10,000 feet of drop-off below. If we fall off this thing, we are going, and we're shock loading the line with the four of us on it, and that whole anchor system might blow. So it was a really just intense moment. And we got out of the way of the rock, we unweighted ourselves from the line, un-clipped, re-fixed the rope to something else.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

But after that I was like, we are the first people to be on these ropes. They just finished. Now I don't even trust the lines are safe. What if that happens again? So yeah, that last bit to the summit I was just on pins and needles, thinking that-

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

That's a jolt.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

If you weren't awake, you definitely, okay, wow.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah. So that was probably the scariest part of that-

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Wow.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

... climb, was just getting to that point and then feeling like that could have been it for us.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Yeah.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

That was a game over moment. If we hadn't gotten out the way and if we had, yeah. So anyways.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Was there a moment where like, I'm done? Like life flashing across, your history of life crossing your eyes? Or were you just more shocked? Were you just trying to survive, get out of the way?

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah, it was very-

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

What was going through your head?

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

... animal instinct, just get out of the way, move, and secure yourself to the mountain. So typically you'll self arrest with your ice ax and dig your crampons in, the points of your crampons into the snow slope so that you're stuck to the mountain. So it was very much that. Training just kicks in, and you just, you assume the self arrest or the arrest position. But yeah, it happened so fast. In reality, it was probably a few seconds worth of time. But yeah.

So anyways, we continue on from there and make it to the summit, and by the time we get there, the rope fixing Sherpas had gone down already. So it was just the four of us. And we get to the summit, and there's nobody else there. And I'm just like, what in the hell? There should be people here. At least from the south side, because I know nobody was behind us on the north. And there was no one. We looked down the south route and to Nepal, and there was nobody there. And I wasn't even thinking at the time, probably because of hypoxia and being tired, but it was pretty late in the day. It's almost noon at this point. And by then everybody had come and gone already. But for a moment I was just like, are we in the right place? Am I dead? Is this heaven? It's sunny, there's nobody up there. It's just us. It was this total moment of zen, to be pretty cheesy, but it was just perfect.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

That's incredible. I mean one, you had a near death experience. When you finally, I guess cross that last step, and it was the final steps up. Was it a moment of elation? Like I'm alive, I'm going to do it. And then actually being on top of that mountain. What did that, I guess if you thought you might have died, or if it didn't happen at that point, but what was your ... I mean that's months and months of hard training to accomplish that last step.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah, yeah. It's hard to describe, really. I think I was so tired, and to be quite honest, this was the hardest thing I've ever done. I talk about it and it's a short story when you're just explaining out loud. But I was exhausted the entire day. We had been moving with our packs. And by the time we got to camp three that morning, three hours in, I was like, I'm pretty tired. This is going to be a battle. My body was physically tired. And so yeah, the whole rest of that summit day I was just fighting fatigue. And the other thing that happened, which I didn't touch on yet, but this was the first time I was ever wearing an oxygen mask on a climb. And so there were things about it that I didn't realize, like it's really hard to take off. And if you're wearing any sort of head gear or helmet or hood or anything, you can't really pull the mask too far away from your face.

So it's really difficult to feed yourself, to get food in or drinks in. And because it was extra effort, and because I was so tired, I had all this custom nutrition and this whole plan in place of how many calories I'm going to get per hour and how I'm going to do it. I was just too tired to feed myself. And so-

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

It's too awkward to pull it off.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah, you can only get an inch gap maybe between your mask and your mouth. And so you'd have to slip food in. And I was just like, I'm too tired. And I didn't want to take my backpack off to drink my water. So that whole summit day ended up being-

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Fasted.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Pretty much. I got maybe 200 calories in and a half a liter of water in 16 hours. So I was exhausted.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Wow. Yeah.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

We got to the summit, and again, I was kind of just like, maybe I died, or maybe this is a dream. But yeah, it was a tough day. Because-

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

So it was almost a relief. It was like, I'm done. Or-

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

It was like, I'm halfway. I was like, holy crap, this is amazing, but I'm only halfway, and we have so much longer to go. And going down, I knew-

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

It's probably harder?

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah. Going down any mountain is where most accidents occur, where most people die, because they're tired and they're excited and they just want to get down, and they'd spent all of their energy getting to the top, and they don't save anything for the descent. So in my mind, I'm already calculating. I'm like, okay, we're halfway. I have to have energy to get back down. I'm exhausted. I haven't been eating, I haven't been drinking. And I see these clouds building, and in the distant horizon, not even distant, they were rolling towards us. And I'm like, the weather is changing and we need to get off this mountain. So I enjoyed the summit for maybe 20 minutes before I was like, we got to get out of here, and I'm so tired.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

So you're already calculating.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Okay, so you got 20 minutes up there.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

So you had 20 minutes of, maybe 10 minutes of enjoying it, 10 minutes of planning.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Right, right. But I was so tired. I didn't even take off my backpack. I didn't pull out my banner that I had planned. I was just, looking back, I'm like, dang it, I should've done that. But at least Lydia got some pictures of us and stuff like that. But, so yeah. So then I knew, you're halfway, you got to get back down, and I'm super tired, and I'm underfed. But surprisingly, I didn't feel like I was going to bonk. I was just physically, my body felt tired. Just fatigue, muscle fatigue and things like that.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

That must have been terrifying if you felt like you were bonked at the top. It's like, oh-

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Oh my God. Yeah. That would've been scary.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

That would be, yeah. Holy, yeah.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

So-

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Okay, so you didn't feel like you were bonked, but you were tired.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah. Physically tired, things just like clipping and un-clipping into the line was just exhausting. My fingers didn't even want to work with me. I was just like, oh my God, this is so much effort right now. But yeah, because of all the fasted training and everything and being so fat adapted, I never felt I was going to bonk, or mental energy wasn't there. So I think that's where the fasted training really saved my butt in this case. So I was very thankful afterwards that we had done so much fasted training. And now I know I have a whole new level of reserve that I didn't even know. If I can do 16 hours on 200 calories, I'm like, shoot.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Yeah, on top of being calorically deficit for all the days before even getting to the camp two.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah. Yeah. So pretty amazing stuff. So yeah, so that was summit day. We went back down, we got to camp two. By the time we got there, Adrian had wanted us to go all the way down to advanced base camp, which is at 21,000 feet. We got to camp two where we had started from that morning, and I was like, this is where we're stopping for the night. It was four o'clock in the afternoon. We had been on our feet for 16 hours moving. And I was like, this is it. Oh, I mentioned I had overdressed. So I had sweated through everything. I was way-

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Just sopping wet.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

So I'm wet and the weather's getting cold, it's turning into night, and I'm like, all this clothing is going to freeze, including my technology suit, which is tracking all of my biometric everything, so pulse oximetry and blood flow and breathing rate. I had to take everything off because it was wet, and then it froze overnight anyways. So we sleep for four hours, wake up again. We knew we had to get on our feet and move, because now the clock-

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Your clothes were all frozen? You literally had to break ice off your suit?

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

No, I mean I ended up putting some of those things just in my pack and then changing into-

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

And it thawed?

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

... borrowing some other layers from other people that were like ...

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Okay, okay, okay.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah. Anyways. So the clock is ticking. I'm like, we have to get out of here. Tomorrow there's going to be a car waiting for us at base camp. We have to move. So the next day we get up, it's a really early start, and we have 8,000 feet to descend in 20 miles or something to get back to base camp. So the next day ends up being another 13 hour day on our feet. Again, under fueled. I didn't really want to stop and eat or pause because I knew we just had to push. So I ended up doing another 13 hours on maybe a few hundred calories, something like that. So another long day. We get to base camp, car's coming for us two hours later, eight hour drive to the airport. 30 hours of travel later, I get to SFO Airport one hour before the two week timeline cut off. And that was it.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

That's incredible. And when you finally landed back at SFO, were you just like wow, did that actually happen? Were you like yes, I'm a badass? What did it feel like when you were finally done? I mean it sounds it was probably just nonstop, just traveling, going back. When did it hit you?

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

I mean, I don't even know if it's honestly even hit me. It was so fast in the grand scheme of all the preparation, the two weeks it actually took to climb it, that it didn't feel like it happened at first. And I came back, and you wouldn't have known. I didn't have ... Typically when people go and climb Everest, they'll lose 15, 20 pounds, even, a lot of it muscle mass. And they look beat up. Their face is all burned where the goggles weren't, that raccoon face. I had a couple of wind burn marks on my cheeks and a little mark on my face from where the mask was rubbing. But other than that, I didn't lose any weight. I didn't lose any muscle. I measured with a DEXA two days later. I looked completely normal. I felt completely normal.

I was tired, but yeah, you wouldn't have known I had just climbed Everest. And it was so fast, it felt like it didn't happen. But yeah, getting home, and my family had driven up from San Diego to surprise me at the airport, and some coworkers came to meet me. It was just like ... I'm not a crier, but I definitely had a moment where I just broke down crying. And I was just like, oh man, I can't believe, this has been crazy. And it was just so much preparation went into, and to get back and realize that we made this crazy 14 day thing happen against all odds. Honestly, I didn't think it was going to happen even when I was on the mountain, and then it all came together with one hour to spare. I even booked my ticket at base camp that night. And for some reason I got upgraded to business class, and so I was just like, wow, the universe-

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

The universe, yeah.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

... is working with me, man.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

That's a nice business class, that's a big long international plate, so.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

It's a good welcome home.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Totally.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

I mean it sounds like the recovery was actually pretty quick, but I mean that's astounding. I mean you're essentially under caloric for long periods of time there. But you felt like recovery, everything in terms of fatigue, injury, you came out spiffy.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah, I mean relatively unscathed. I was tired, but day two after I got back-

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Nothing sore. Just like-

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Not even. Right, yeah. And we descended 8,000 feet, and you'd think your quads would be sore from all of the downhill, and no.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

It seemed like a day hike. I mean that's a big hike. 8,000 feet?

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah. Yeah. I mean, a 16 hour day followed by a 13 hour day, and I was pretty good. And I started running again after I got back, maybe two days after I got back, and called my coaches that week and was like, "Hey, can we start training?" And they were like, "Can you just rest and chill out for a little bit?" They were like, "Maybe two or three weeks take off." I couldn't sit still. So, yeah, it was impressive how quickly I bounced back. And I really just got back into training-

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Wow.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

... right after I got back.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

A testament to your ... I mean a lot of your discipline, right? I mean you sound like, you're super fit. It sounds like that wasn't even taxing, it was mainly just a mental and a weather risk as opposed to a physical risk.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Well I think it's also the way we did it, too. Spending two weeks above 5,000 meters or 17,000 feet, versus spending two months. Your body is just not exposed to everything for as long. It's not exposed to hypoxia for so long. You're not exposed to other climbers and their germs. You're not exposed to foods that may not be prepared as well as they could be. I had many friends on the south side that same season at the same time, and for instance, one of them, he was there for seven weeks of his two month rotation.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Geez.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Getting ready to climb the mountain, and got pneumonia two days before at camp two, had to be evacuated by helicopter.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Geez.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

And that was it.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Yeah.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

And I'm just like, man, doing this faster is just so much better in so many ways. Your body doesn't break down as much. You're not away from friends and family that long. You don't have to take as much time off of work. There's just so many benefits to doing it faster. I'm not saying you have to do it in two weeks, but if you can do it in a month like they're doing with Alpenglow, yeah, save yourself some ...

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Yeah, I mean this is like the four minute mile record. You're going to just break people's minds. This is the new paradigm. Maybe people will follow your path here. Any lessons or takeaways from this journey, from this process, that either you are taking away as you move into future adventures, whether that's with other physical challenges, or through day to day civilian life at a company, any broader lessons you feel like the ... Your understanding of yourself, your understanding of how you can push your body to that. Did something change there, or was it just like, okay, this is another check list off of my bucket list of all the crazy things I'm going to do with my life?

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

I mean, so many things. I think I learned that I'm a lot more resilient than I thought, that I can withstand a lot more, suffering a lot more deprivation, a lot more everything than I even thought possible. And that my body is capable of doing pretty amazing things that I wouldn't have thought possible. And so I want to always push things further and see maybe where that line is, but there's always danger in that. But-

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Don't go into the full madness, right?

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Right. So I think that's one takeaway, is just the human body is incredible. And every time you do something where you're like, I don't know if that's possible for me, and then you'd do it, it's like, well what else is possible? So definitely it drives me to want to push harder, train more, find other crazy things to be part of, which there's always something in the works. But from a science perspective, the data I collected with the suit, the Astroskin suit that I wore, we actually did get IRB approval, and I'll be publishing that data later this fall, hopefully.

So working with researchers at CAL State Sacramento. And so I think getting that data and analyzing that data is going to open up new avenues and inform some of my PhD work. So just diving more deeply into extreme environmental physiology, and nutritional interventions, and where that interplay is and how you can optimize the body to withstand some of these environmental stressors, like heat or cold or altitude. So that's one of the big takeaways. It's just a renewed sense of fascination with it.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

I mean this is also just super cool. Just thinking about folks doing PhD or graduate work, what's the likelihood, or what's opportunity to have your own body be a hypothesis generating tool? It's pretty cool that this could help inform some of your research direction.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

And any early preliminary data, I know when we were talking a little bit beforehand that this is tons of data that you're collecting. Have you had a chance to get any insight or any particular direction that you're most interested in looking at?

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah, I think some of the pulse oximetry data, so looking at how much oxygen your blood is carrying. So I was able to monitor that continuously in real time from forehead sensor. I'm actually pretty blown away, and I was even comparing it with the fingertip variety that most people will use. Seeing the variation in what you're getting from the forehead sensor versus the fingertip sensor, and then just seeing how that changes over activity or over just the course of climbing the mountain and what it does at night is pretty interesting data. So I'm curious to see how that fluctuates with each of those different parameters. But I think that's one of the more fascinating parts of it. And of course-

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Oh, you mean like ketone esters are how your fueled, that could be interesting as well in terms of oxygen status, right?

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Right. Yeah, see what your nutrition supplement is. But I haven't even looked at the cognitive data that I collected below 23,000 yet, but I'm hoping that'll be some pretty cool stuff too. So using the esters and just increasing altitude and things like that. But there's just so much data. Downloading one of these files is taking days. I'm like, oh my God, how are we even going to sort through this? And I have a couple of months to get it ready in time for ACSM. But anyways, yeah, I'm excited.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Cool. So as we wrap up here, I know that, I always like to ask folks, if you had infinite resources and infinite population, what kind of study would you want to run? And maybe taking that a little bit tailored to your specific experience, was there any markers or any devices, if it could be completely invented out of nowhere, that you wish you had tracked or tracked better on your attempt?

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah. Wow. Gosh, I wish I could measure just everything and everything possible, but I would love to see what the impact is on the gut microbiome.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Interesting.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

That was one of the things I had wanted to do for this particular trip.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

What? Take poops on the mountain?

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Well, there's that. You can get cheek swabs and things. But yeah. So that would be fascinating to see how hypoxic stress changes the gut microbiome. I would love to look at some genetic components to adaptation. So looking at hypoxia inducible factor. Being able to look at that and see if the hypoxic tent system actually affects that at all, because it's not quite the same. So the hypoxic tents, it gives you lower oxygen, but it doesn't give you lower pressure. So it's not exactly a perfect mimetic of a high altitude scenario.

So there's some controversy over whether they actually work or not. And that's the scary part, too, is I'm going into this and I'm like, a lot of people think that this is all just not going to work, and that I'm going to get to 17,000 feet, and I could just pass out, and that can be the end of the trip. But from previous experience, I had a good idea it would work. But I'd love to be able to see and measure just some transcription factors to see if the hypoxic tents system touches some of these things that we know altitude effects. So that would be some great data to have.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Yeah, yeah. I mean that makes lot of sense. So I know that you mentioned that ... Well, I guess it's almost time to think about 2020, and I guess Antarctica is on that list. I mean, what other adventures are on your radar? And it sounds like Antarctica will be the last continent. And what's next after that? Yeah.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yup. So I mean I've already planned Antarctica, because that's just who I am. So I'll be heading down there in December, and I will summit in January of 2020. So that'll be my last of the seven summits. But along the way with this whole seven summits on seven continents thing, I've created other goals obviously and been climbing other peaks just not on that list. So started doing the highest volcanoes on each continent. So I'll be doing the highest volcano in Antarctica, also doing the South Pole. I'd like to head up and do the North Pole if I can before it disappears and becomes unreachable by land. You'll be swimming there eventually, pretty soon. Not too far from now.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Or just have your yacht pull up.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Right, haha! So there's always something in the works. And then beyond that, who knows, maybe the 8,000 meter peaks. K2 is the second highest mountain in the world, but by far more dangerous than Everest.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

It is more difficult, yep.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

And more difficult. And I probably would've never even considered that previously, but who knows. I think anything's possible at this point.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Cool. Well, how do we stay track? I mean, do you post updates on social? Anything that we should follow in terms of all your adventures?

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Yeah, I'm kind of bad about social media, but I do have an Instagram, so it's @RoxyMTNGirl, M-T-N Girl. And so I do post about adventures and things like that. That's primarily what I use that for. GU Energy, they usually support projects, and so there's always updates about my trips and things. So they even had a live tracking of this Everest trip, which is pretty cool. So GUEnergy.com, you can usually find updates about trips and things like that there. And yeah, there will be some exciting news coming out pretty soon about this Antarctica trip, so stay tuned.

H.V.M.N.
Geoff

Awesome. Roxanne, a really fun conversation. Thanks for doing this.

H.V.M.N.
Roxanne V.

Thank you so much for having me. This has been great.

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