New Zealand is famous all over the world for boasting some of this planet’s most breathtaking natural scenery. The landscape all over the country is incredibly diverse – from lakes, beaches and coastline to glaciers, volcanos and dramatic alpine terrains.
If you want to take it all in, heading over to Wanaka in the South Island is a pretty good first step. Wanaka literally has it all – natural beauty, epic hiking, mountain biking, skiing in the winter and of course, delicious local cuisine to fuel all of your adventures. Wanaka is also home to Mount Aspiring National Park – a stunning park known to be a hiker’s paradise with both short walks and long hikes featuring mountains, glaciers, river valleys and alpine lakes.
Take a look at the view outside our window when we visited Wanaka a few years back:
Not a bad view to wake up to every morning!
Our trip to Wanaka included the Siberia Experience, which is a perfect way to explore some of the diverse wilderness in Mount Aspiring National Park. The Siberia Experience starts with a flight over to the hiking site, which is an experience in itself! The scenes from the small plane are spectacular and dramatic, featuring jagged alpine valleys and waterfalls. You then land in a sort of grassy clearing which is literally a remote valley up in the mountains.
Heading out on the Siberia Experience!
I found the whole experience quite quiet and peaceful but just exhilarating at the same time, especially since it felt so remote and was so different from my everyday surroundings.
After landing, the adventure side of it then really started for us, as we had to cross the Siberia stream to get to the path. The river was freezing cold and actually reached above the knee with water, following a few days of rain.
Getting ready to cross the river!
After crossing, you have a long(ish) hike (roughly 3 hours) which takes you across open tussock flats and native rainforest. The whole time, you’re completely surrounded by the incredible alpine landscape.
Unfortunately for me, it was during the early part of this hike as I was trekking through some tall grass that I managed to sprain my ankle quite badly! I must have missed a step as I cut through the grass and later found out that it was sprained in three different places. As you can imagine, it was quite painful and I couldn’t actually put much weight on it so unfortunately had to cut our trip short, which was very disappointing! The next step of course was finding a way to get to the hospital – a tough feat given how remote we were. Luckily, an American family had noticed me go down and one of the guys (a firefighter apparently!) carried me to a helicopter that was set to leave shortly. The whole situation was very dramatic and although quite painful at the time, the injury and emergency liftoff just added to the adventure of trekking in the New Zealand wilderness. Although I do deeply regret missing the rest of Siberia Experience, which would have included the remainder of the beautiful hike followed by a boating trip through a glacial mountain river!
Injury or not, exploring a bit of Mount Aspiring National Park and enjoying the (first half!) of the Siberia Experience was truly unforgettable. I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a bit of adventure and immersion into breathtaking natural scenery – maybe just wear some supportive shoes and make sure you’ve got an American firefighter with you…just in case…
Altitude uses PNOE Metabolic Testing to provide a complete picture of your cardiovascular and metabolic function. The accuracy of the test results allows Altitude coaches to determine precise health and fitness metrics like VO2 Max and Resting Metabolic Rate. These metrics serve as a foundation for coaches to create workout and nutrition plans that can help you achieve your goals.
Find out how PNOE compares to your Apple Watch when it comes to measuring caloric expenditure:
What is Metabolic Testing?
Metabolic tests measure the rate at which your body burns calories and uses oxygen during rest or during different activities. Some of the data from these tests includes:
Resting Metabolic Rate – the number of calories your body burns at rest.
Metabolic Efficiency – the number of calories your body burns during exercise.
VO2 Max – the max amount of oxygen your body can use during exercise.
2. Why do I care about Metabolic Testing?
Understanding these values helps guide specific and individualized nutrition recommendations to help you fuel your body for training and peak performance, as well as for reaching your health and body composition goals.
Outdoor sports and adventure travel fans all know about the popular go-to destinations. Mountain biking? Head to the Alps. Trekking? Try New Zealand or the Inca Trail in Peru. Rock Climbing? The national parks of the US never let us down.
One place you may not have heard of for adventure sports is in the mountainous state of Minas Gerais in southeastern Brazil. Pico da Ibituruna is a national park and mountain that can be found on the banks of the Doce River and hovers over the city of Governador Valadares.
The adventure sport options you’ll find there are numerous – from hiking and mountain biking, to climbing, abseiling and gliding. And the stunning green landscape is a great backdrop as you get your adrenaline rush.
To get to the beautiful views though, you need to first overcome the 17 km climb. And with a summit rising 1123 meters above sea level, the climb up Pico da Ibituruna – Pico – is a reasonably challenging one. Let’s look at what makes that climb worth-it:
1) Free Flight:
Pico da Ibituruna is one of the best places to practice free flight. Thousands of enthusiasts come here from all over the world, dotting the sky with the colours of hang gliders and paragliders. The site has a free-access flight ramp, but does not offer instructors or equipment. So, if you are going to Pico with the intention of flying, you need to go with your own equipment, with an instructor or look for companies that offer this service in Governador Valadares.
Apart from the climb up to the summit, which is a couple hours’ hike along a marked trail, you can also get your hiking fix at Vale Silvestre. This is an ecological park found on the return from Pico that offers trails for all-levels. There’s even activities such as kayaking available there if you want to keep your heart rate up and try something a little bit different!
3) Climbing and Abseiling:
Pico also offers some of the best climbing and abseiling in Brazil. The best known trails are Via do Ralf and Via do Catão, both about 400 meters high. To get down, the most popular trails are Rapel da Santa and Rapel do Mirante.
Looking for another way down the mountain? Try ziplining. This options offers quite the adrenaline rush and one one of the most incredible ways to enjoy the landscape, second only to free flight.
5) Mountain Biking:
You can also boost your adrenaline (and your quad muscles) on the numerous mountain bike trails. The mountain descent from Pico da Ibituruna is one of the most challenging in Brazil, so remember to be very careful!
With the colder weather and snow starting to fall, our reaction is often to get on Google and begin the search for warmer winter getaways. While some of us are inclined to kick back on a beach for a couple of weeks and sip margaritas, others are a little more restless and like to take on an adventure trip where they can travel different terrain day-to-day and push boundaries mentally and physically.
Not sure what you’re feeling? We’ve compiled our top 5 list of adventurous destinations based on your preferences for you to dream about while sitting in icy snowstorm traffic.
For Hikers: The Canadian Rockies. No matter the season, there are incredible hiking trails in Banff, Jasper, and Kootenay National Parks. While more challenging than what’s typical in Ontario, there are both shorter and longer routes that range in technical ability. If you’re a cold weather bear, pack up your snowshoes or cross-country skis and rev up your off-season cardio training by tackling some longer trails for a few hours. Don’t forget the bear spray!
For Trail Runners: Montenegro. If trail running is your jam, you cannot miss the 1200-mile-long Via Dinarica Trail that runs through six countries from Slovania to Macedonia. The Montenegro portion is arguably the most scenic as it includes both interior and coastal sections. Quickly growing in popularity, this Mediterranean gem is not to miss.
For History Buffs: Sri Lanka. Recently making its way onto the adventure tourism map, Sri Lanka has been working furiously to improve its infrastructure since the end of the civil war in 2009. This stunning country boasts both road and off-road cycling, whitewater rafting, trail running and hiking, safari trips and surfing. For history buffs, the many ancient ruins and Buddhist temples are perfect destinations for an easier day.
For Ultra Marathoners: Chile. The Atacama Crossing Ultra Marathon is part of the 4 Deserts series and consists of an unsupported 250 km and 6 stages. If you’re just interested in testing out one segment of the 4 Deserts series (which also includes Gobi March in China, the Sahara Race in Egypt and The Last Desert in Antarctica), this is the part to do. With salt flats, sand dunes, river crossings, packed earth and hard grass, this experience is hard to beat.
For Cyclists: Morocco. Take on the Sahara in Morocco by bike this winter – Morocco’s pleasant climate through the Canadian winter is a welcome change. One of the most common paths is through the Atlas Mountains to Jebel Sahro with a stop in Marrakech. With a fair amount of climbing, most guided trips are between 7 and 10 days and can accommodate intermediate to advanced riders.
How to Prep for Your Trip.
Remember, your body is great at doing whatever it’s been practicing. If you’re taking on a multi-day trek or tackling a location higher in the mountains, your body is going to need some preparation. We usually recommend giving yourself at least 12 weeks and ideally closer to 16 to allow your heart, lungs, and cardiovascular system to improve efficiency and endurance, and your physical body to improve its strength and resilience to different terrain and to withstand repeated days of activity. It’s important to choose activities at home that closely mimic what you’ll be doing. So for example, if you’re planning on a multi-day hike, you’ll want to be getting out for a few hours on back-to-back days preferably on natural terrain. Alternatively, if you’re going biking in a place that has actual mountains (as opposed to our Ontario “hills”), you’ll want to be doing hill repeats in a place with as big a hill as you can find, or even better hit up a cycling class with a climbing focus. Of course, if you’re travelling to somewhere at altitude, you’ll want to prep your system for performing in conditions with less oxygen as the same amount of work will feel substantially more difficult if you’ve never practiced it before.
Your trip will be much more enjoyable if you’ve properly prepared as you’ll be better equipped to avoid injury and more importantly spend time enjoying your surroundings rather than being so physically taxed that you can’t even lift your head off the handlebars. (Unless, of course, that’s the purpose of your trip!)
Lauren Roberts is a Registered Physiotherapist and Founder of The Running Physio in Toronto. For more information on her team, the clinic, and for more great blog articles, visit www.therunningphysio.ca.
By this point, you’ve likely scrolled past your fair share of social media pics backdropped by the mysterious Peruvian city in the sky—aunts and uncles communing with shaggy llamas, friends clambering up dirt paths, workmates teetering on a stone outcropping, peering down at the ancient city.
Machu Picchu is one of the most visited tourism destinations in the world. On average, it attracts close to 1.2 million visitors a year and was voted one of the new seven wonders of the world in 2007. The site has become so popular that the Peruvian Ministry of Culture, in an attempt to preserve the site, has had to set a limit of 2,500 tourists entering the citadel a day.
The site’s popularity, however, significantly underplays the effort it takes to get there. At nearly 8,000 ft. above sea level, Machu Picchu is perched amongst one of Peru’s highest mountain ranges. Meaning whichever route you take to reach the Inca Citadel, you’ll have to deal with some major altitude adjustments.
Before embarking on your Inca adventure, check out these potential pitfalls to ensure you’re prepared for the trip.
The most pressing concern when ascending to high altitude—defined as any height above 8,000 ft.—is altitude sickness. This occurs when the body doesn’t have enough time to adapt to decreased air pressure and oxygen levels. Symptoms include dizziness, fatigue, shortness of breath, and loss of appetite.
While not everyone who hikes to Machu Picchu will be afflicted by altitude sickness, those who are may see their Inca adventure come to an abrupt end. To prevent this from happening, take Diamox one to two days before starting your hike. The medication helps reduce symptoms and eases the adjustment to altitude.
It’s also a good idea to take the hike slow. Your body needs time to acclimatize to the altitude. To help with the acclimatization process and to make sure you have enough energy, keep yourself well hydrated and fed throughout the hike. The porters cooking your meals should help with this, but it’s still a good idea to throw a hydration pack in your bag and some high calorie snacks.
If you do start to experience symptoms, stop and rest for at least a day. If they don’t go away, it might be time for you to turn around.
Choose a trail, any trail
There are many ways to get to Machu Picchu. The most popular is the Inca Trail, a four-day, three-night hike through lush cloud forests, ancient Inca ruins, and majestic Andean peaks. In 2002, however, the Peruvian Ministry of Culture introduced permits for the trail, limiting the number of people to 500 a day (approximately 300 of those permits are allocated to cooks, porters, and guides, leaving only 200 for tourists).
To hike the Inca Trail, you have to book it months in advance. It isn’t a particularly long hike, spanning only 40 kilometres, but it is straight up some steep Andean paths. The trail hits its peak at Dead Woman’s Pass (named after the crests that resemble a woman’s supine body) standing 13,828 ft. above sea level.
If you weren’t able to secure a permit, don’t worry. There are other options. The Salcantay Route is much easier to book and just as scenic. Taking anywhere between five to eight days, this mule-assisted hike passes by the 20,500 ft. Mount Salcanty, one of the most sacred peaks in Inca religion.
You pass Mount Salcanty at an altitude of 15,000 ft. before plunging into a subtropical cloud forest, eventually passing the ancient Incan ruins of Llactapata, nearly as rewarding a sight as Machu Picchu.
If you’re looking for a more moderate hike—one that involves a train—try The Lares Route. Taking between three to five days, this trek leads you through the Lares Valley, home to Peruvian locals who still practice Inca traditions like raising herds of llamas and weaving cloth. Along the way, you pass by the 18,000 ft. Mount Veronica and a number of high-altitude Lakes. The trail ends near the Ollantaytambo ruins, only a short train ride away from Machu Picchu.
Dress for the weather…all of it
The higher you ascend, the more the air pressure decreases and the further apart the air molecules spread, causing the temperature to drop. Yet, in the case of Machu Picchu, you may also experience a scorching midday sun that has you sweating through your jacket. To deal with the swings in temperature, wear layers. This way you can shed them as you hike.
When you book your trip, be wary of the time of year. End of November to beginning of April is Peru’s rainy season. Many of the trails are closed between these months, but in case you do manage to book a hike during this time of year, bring a waterproof rain jacket and tent fly. You never know when you might get caught in a downpour. Starting each morning’s hike soaking wet is a surefire way to catch a cold.
Get in shape!
This one should be obvious, but if you’re going to attempt a four-day hike at high altitude make sure you’re physically prepared. You don’t want to be the person gasping for breath after the first couple hours. Not only will it ruin the experience but it will hold back the group.
In order to prepare for the hike, focus on cardio exercises like running, walking, and swimming. Try to introduce these exercises into your daily routine a few months before your trip. And if you really want to be prepared, come in for a workout at Altitude. We have cardio classes operating at 6,000 ft., 9,000 ft., and 12,000 ft. Machu Picchu will feel like a walk in the park after working out with us.
Imagine your worst hangover. Dizziness, nausea, loss of appetite, the deep desire to just lay down, wherever you are, and sleep. Now, imagine that instead of waking up in your bed after a night out, you’re three quarters of the way up a 12,000 ft. mountain, pushing yourself harder than you ever have in your life. You are experiencing the early symptoms of acute mountain sickness, (or AMS), commonly known as altitude sickness.
Altitude sickness is an illness that develops when the body doesn’t have time to adapt to the decreased air pressure and oxygen levels of high altitude—defined as any area 8,000 ft. above sea level. Symptoms include dizziness, fatigue, shortness of breath, and loss of appetite—wickedly similar to a brutal hangover.
In its most extreme cases, altitude sickness can develop into high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE), an accumulation of fluid in the lungs, and high altitude cerebral oedema (HACE), swelling of the brain due to a lack of oxygen. Jon Krakauer provides a chilling description of Ngawang Topche, a Sherpa on the 1996 Everest expedition, experiencing HAPE in John Krakauer’s book Into Thin Air. “Ngawang was delirious, stumbling like a drunk, and coughing up pink, blood-laced froth.”
Don’t let this scare you off your planned trip to Kilimanjaro or Everest Base Camp, though. HAPE and HACE are extremely rare. They typically occur when people ignore the symptoms of altitude sickness and continue to physically exert themselves. Just be wary that if you let altitude sickness progress to this level of severity, it can prove fatal.
To ensure this doesn’t happen, follow these tips on how to handle altitude sickness.
We get it. You want to be the first one to the top of the mountain. But it’s not worth it if your group has to drag you back down. Don’t turn your ascent into a competition. By not giving your body enough time to adjust to the lack of oxygen you’re much more likely to experience altitude sickness.
According to contemporary research, age, sex and physical fitness have no bearing on a person’s likelihood to be afflicted by the illness. This means that even if you’re one of the fittest people on the planet you can still be affected, especially if you’re racing to the summit.
Before even starting your climb, it’s a good idea to take two to three days to acclimatize to higher altitude. Avoid flying directly into high altitude areas, though. Travel to the destination progressively, acclimatizing as you go.
During the climb, take it slow. Enjoy the view. If you’re hiking with porters or Sherpas, follow their lead. They know the mountain well and will know when it’s best to take a rest. If you’re climbing alone, don’t ascend more than 500 metres a day. After every 900 metres, or three or four days of climbing, take a rest day to avoid overexertion.
Remember, it’s not a race.
Stay hydrated and fed
Dehydration is a major cause of altitude sickness. In part, because high altitude has a diuretic effect on the body, causing you to pee…a lot. And with all the hiking you’ll be doing, you’re going to sweat out liquids fast. Take some hydration salts with you and toss a hydration pack in your bag that you can sip on during the hike. It’s better to carry too much water than not enough.
And just to clarify, no, beer doesn’t count as a liquid. Alcohol dehydrates you and can accelerate the altitude sickness. Save the liquor for the bar. Instead, bring water or sports drinks like Gatorade.
Altitude also tends to rob you of your appetite, slowing down your digestion. To have enough energy to hike each day, eat more than you feel is necessary. Oatmeal is a good idea in terms of meals, especially if you add some nuts and berries. And bring snacks for the climb. Munching on a chocolate bar along the way may give you the energy you need to make it to the summit.
Treat Symptoms immediately
As mentioned earlier, if not treated, altitude sickness can evolve into worse illnesses like HAPE and HACE. If you are feeling the onset of symptoms, stop and rest. Wait a day or two until the symptoms have completely receded before continuing to climb.
Proactively, you can take Diamox one to two days before starting your climb. The medication reduces symptoms and eases your adjustment to altitude. If you’re still feeling the effects while climbing, try combatting headaches with ibuprofen and Tylenol. And promethazine can work wonders when feeling sick.
If you’re still exhibiting symptoms after 24 hours, turn around and start to descend. Once down at the base, the symptoms should dispel after two to three days. Don’t try ascending to high altitude again until the symptoms are completely gone.
Finally, if you’re experiencing symptoms tell someone. Your travel companions are there to help and will have clearer heads to assess the situation.
While it is a hindrance, if you monitor and treat the symptoms appropriately, altitude sickness should not be the reason you miss making it to the summit.