MAMMUT® presents: the biggest peak project in history – "The Zuitas™" did it!

24-25/08/2012 – Mt. Civetta (3220 m), Via Ferrata “Alleghesi” (III-/AD-), “Viva Mexico Cabrones” (VII+/VIII-). More on
Our tour has been selected between more than 2000 other projects and we have been one of the 150 teams that took part in the biggest peak project history fully supported by MAMMUT®!
The Zuitas™ are:
  • Alessandro “Ale” Santuz
  • Nicolas “Conne” Bellomo
  • Alberto “Ray” Vianello
  • Enrico “Gere” Geremia
  • the mountain guide Andrea Vanni.

The name of the team recalls the most famous quote from Emilio Comici: “Perché Zuita? Perché la incanta!” (tr.: “Why Civetta? Because she charms!”, where “Civetta”, the name of the mount, means “Owl”).
All the other posts about the project:

MAMMUT® presents: the biggest peak project in history – "The Zuitas™" wait for better conditions.

These are bad days for Italy. The weather has something insane: the South is totally at the mercy of the weather, tons of snow are falling since the beginning of February and thousands of people are in serious troubles. Up North, though, the conditions are embarrassingly dry and the low quantities of snow are not a suitable aid for a winter ascent of Monte Civetta (for the forgetful or the new followers, here you can find the description of the tour). Our Mammut official guide explained that “the weather forecast for the next two weeks and the current conditions (windy snow and ice) do not permit the climb in a safe way”.
Total amount of snowfalls @ 1900 m – Monte Civetta.
The snow amount is really poor, but the risk of spontaneous avalanches remains considerable in the exposed areas over 2000 m (never forget to take a look at the avalanche survival curve in any case).
Air temperature @ 1900 m – Monte Civetta.
It seems that we can’t do anything else but waiting for better conditions (and hoping for some additional snow to help us in the ascent). The team will continue his training in any case (have you ever tried to run at 4000 m?) and all the updates will be published here.
In the picture below you can find today’s weather forecast for the next 15 days: the red line shows the mean temperatures in the last 30 years at around 1500 m, while the other lines show the various predictions of  the different mathematical models (left “y” scale, [° C]); the very low curves are the predictions of the precipitations (right “y” scale, [mm] of rain or [cm] of snow).
Weather forecast for the next two weeks (GFS model).
Don’t forget to take a look at the official team’s page for further details.
The Zuitas™

Running at 4000 m: the hypoxic chamber (altitude training).

Have you ever thought about training at altitude? If you are a runner with passion for mountains, probably the answer is affirmative.
But what’s altitude training?
Wikipedia says that “the basic concept of living or training at altitude is to cause the body to adapt to the lower oxygen content by producing more oxygen-carrying red blood cells and hemoglobin. This improves the athlete’s ability to perform work, because more oxygen is available to the working muscles”.
Why is there less oxygen at high altitude?
At sea level the air contains around 20.9% oxygen. On the top of Mount Everest (8848 m), too. Why do we say, then, that there’s less oxygen? The difference is all in the air pressure: at sea level there is a pressure over our heads equivalent to 10 m of water. At 8848 m this pressure is equivalent to around 3.5 m of water. The percentage of the oxygen is the same, but being the pressure lower, the molecules are less compressed and, thus, more distant from each other: there are few molecules of everything in the same volume. That’s why the oxygen intake is lower, if the respiration rate is the same.
Does this kind of training really improve performance?
Apart from the cool thing of running at 4000 m even if your city is at sea level, the results of hypoxia (lack of oxygen) training are not clear. As Prof. Dr. Joachim Mester said in his speech titled “Altitude training: on myths and methods” (you can find the pdf here), the analysis of more than 100 international studies in the last 40 years show:

  • “practical experiences and also controlled studies indicate performance enhancement effects, other do not;
  • acute and chronic hypoxia induce well-known physiological effects in gas exchange, hematology etc.;
  • performance enhancement may occur; it is, however, in onset, magnitude and duration very individual;
  • re-adaptation to sea level is quite rapid, the duration of positive effects is scientifically unclear;
  • the effects of all options live high/train low – train high/live low are not sufficiently proven;
  • criteria for individual input (training load at altitude) are often insufficient: High-low responders, early-late responders.”

One thing is for sure: training at altitude (simulated or not) is hard!
I tried two different conditions in three different session. The first day (06/01/2012), the chamber was simulating the 4000 m conditions: 12.2% oxygen (18.0 °C the temperature, 41.5 % the humidity). The workout consisted in:

  • Warm-Up (2.50 km @ 4’35″/km);
  • 1×1000, 1×800, 2×400 @ 3’40″/km, 2’30” recovery @ 7’30″/km;
  • Cool-Down (1.0 km @ 4’15″/km, 1.0 km @ 4’35″/km, 1.0 km @ 5’00″/km).

And here you have the HR graph:

HR acquisition of the 4000 m training (06/01/2012).
The second (09/01/2012) and the third day (11/01/2012), the chamber was simulating the 2500 m conditions: 14.8% oxygen (18.5-17.0 °C the temperatures, 72.5-60.5 % the values of humidity). Both workouts consisted in:
  • WU (3.00 km @ 4’35″/km)
  • 4×1000 @ 3’30″/km, 2’00” recovery @ 7’00″/km
  • CD (3.10 km @ 4’35″/km).

Unfortunately the acquisition of the first training is pretty bad, but the data are very clear in the second graph.

HR acquisition of the first 2500 m training (09/01/2012).
HR acquisition of the second 2500 m training (11/01/2012).

When the oxygen percentage goes under 14%, things are really difficult: the recovery time appears to be far useless (actually it isn’t, but my body said the opposite), breathing is difficult and HR cannot increase (188 out of 195 bpm, that is my max threshold) or decrease (150 bpm the lowest value between the repetitions) too much. For values of oxygen around 15%, everything is much easier and you can carry on your workout without any particular problems, even if the paces are slower than normal (the recovery time starts to be useful!).
Obviously if you train at low oxygen percentage, you should being constantly monitored: the oxygen saturation in the blood shouldn’t go under 80%, to stay distant from hypoxemia risk (the use of a pulse oximeter, a device that uses a red and an infrared light to measure indirectly the oxygen saturation of the blood, is the easiest way to stay monitored).

Blood’s oxygen saturation monitoring right after the training session.

For the record, al the data have been acquired in the Himaxx Center for Altitude Training in Berlin (Germany). If you have any question don’t hesitate to contact me! Keep on training!

Here you can find a list of my running-related posts. Now shut down the notebook and have a run! 

Science and Training:

MAMMUT® presents: the biggest peak project in history – "The Zuitas™" are planning their tour.

It’s official: our tour has been selected between more than 2000 other projects and we are now part of the 150 teams that will take part in the biggest peak project history! From 10th to 12th February 2012 our team, composed by 5 of us plus a mountain guide, will attempt the summit of Monte Civetta (3220 m) from two different routes:
  1. the first team, composed by Alessandro “Ale” Santuz, Nicolas “Nikla” Bellomo, Alberto “Ray” Vianello and the mountain guide, will ascend through the “Alleghesi” route, that in summer is a via ferrata of medium difficulty (it’s classified III-/AD-), but in winter could become far tougher (if the conditions won’t be enough dry, the Normal Route can become a safest alternative);
  2. the second team, composed by Enrico “Gere” Geremia and another expert climber, will attempt the summit through the magnificent NW wall, through a route of outstanding beauty, named “Viva Mexico Cabrones”, opened from Venturino de Bona in 2001, counting just a summer repetition from Alessandro Baù and Enrico Marini and no winter repetitions.
The meeting of the two teams on the top will greatly celebrate the adventure, hopefully in the days planned (weather forecasts will make the final decision).
Mammut ( has provided us with a great clothing-set: GORE-TEX® Paclite Shell® 2-Layer Jacket (the Rainier Jacket), a pair of trekking pants (the Fiamma Pants) and a 30l backpack (the Taranaki 30), everything from the Summer 2012 collection.

We’ll also have the chance to record the ascent with this wonderful HD-GPS camera (the Gobandit GPS HD Action Cam), again provided by Mammut:

Stay tuned and visit our official Mammut page to know all the details!

Alessandro “Ale” Santuz 
Enrico “Gere” Geremia
Nicolas “Conne” Bellomo
Alberto “Ray” Vianello

MAMMUT® presents: the biggest peak project in history – PHASE 3 "The Zuitas™" team has been selected!

Thanks again to your fundamental support, the team has been selected! Now we can proudly dress our owl with the MAMMUT® logo and make her look at the top of our charming and massive mountain, the Monte Civetta! We have no official data, but we suspect that this is the first time MAMMUT® dresses an animal ;).

The new logo, after the selection.

For the forgetful people and for the new followers, the old logo appeared like that:
The old logo.
Thank you all again for the support and now…finger crossed for the climb! You can take a look at our team page by clicking HERE: you will find a detailed tour description and the profiles of the team members, together with the explanation of the project. The tour dates are being decided in these days, so stay tuned for the updates!

Bivacco Cosi (3111 m – Mt. Antelao)

The snow didn’t let us to go on top (3264 m) because crampons and axes were at home, but reaching the “Piero Cosi” Bivouac (in the Alps that’s how you call an unattended small structure used as an emergency shelter by alpinists) at 3111 m through the Normal Route has been both a great gratification and a good training for the next trip.
Here you can find the link to the photo album: Bivacco Cosi Web Album.

A small preview of the album:

Mt. Antelao (3264 m).

The first snow at 2900 m.
Alberto “Ray” Vianello.

The Bivouac’s plate.
The “Bivacco Cosi” (3111 m)!

Grivel crampons regulation bar for small size boots.

In this short video I show the procedure to reduce the lenght of the regulation bar on Grivel crampons, to fit the crampon to small boots. You just need to remove the bar, turn it 180° and replace it on the other crampon (in order to maintain crampon both right and left). The function of the regulation spring is to hold the front section in place, but it can be removed (after taking off the regulation bar) and replaced with a screw and bolt: this gives you an extra two sizes.

Crampons on snowboard boots

In this post I publish some pictures of the Grivel G12 crampons (New Classic binding) perfectly fitting on a Burton Ruler snowboard boot (video review of the boot HERE). Nice job for Burton’s team: Shrinkage™ reduces the boot’s overall footprint one full size, hoping we won’t see anymore those enormous ships we saw in last 10 years.

For those people who asked me, this is the video of a BSA tour I made with this combination of crampons and snowboard boots (the full review of the tour in my blog is HERE):