Oscar Capelao knows better than the average guy what it is like to scale a mountain all the way to its peak. Having conquered Kilimanjaro in June last year, the next mountain on his to-do list is the great Mount Everest, for which he departs on Monday.
The Lounge sat down with the soft-spoken and thoughtful Capelao to pick his brain about what it is that calls him to the mountaintops. Arriving to our chat breathless from a 50km cycle, Capelao is putting in the last hours of training before taking off on his next adventure.
It was less than five months ago, that he decided that he would slay the mountain on a bicycle. So while everyone went on holiday in December, Capelao started Project Everest to get him ready for the challenge. The cycle will take him to Everest base camp which is located through the southeast ridge and sits at 5,380m high, on the south side of the mountain.
Mount Everest is the world’s highest mountain above sea level and is located in the Himalayas. Its summit point is 8,848m.
Training for Everest is intense and very necessary, especially if one is taking on the mountain on a mountain bike. Capelao trained every afternoon after work for short distances while the longer more intense distances were reserved for the weekends.
“I would probably do 50 to 60 to 100 k’s on the weekends. The base camp at Everest is close to the same height as Kili,” he says. “Although the incline is not that steep, you go up to 5,2km up, so you would be about 4km above Windhoek.” The Lounge asked about the danger aspect of tackling the mountain, especially by bicycle.
“It is dangerous, even with Kili; as soon as the human body goes above 3000m you’re hit with mountain sickness or altitude sickness and it does not discriminate. Old, young, male, female; it does not discriminate and the only way to deal with that is to go slow. You give your body the chance to acclimatise and to adapt to the differences in oxygen as you go up, because the oxygen level reduces, so you literally struggle to breathe.”
Scaling any mountain can be difficult if you are not mentally and physically prepared for what awaits you on the climb. That is why it is imperative to attempt the climb with a professional team who will assist and guide you before, during and after the climb. This is to ensure that your health and your psychological state is in good form.
The rule of thumb Capelao says is “do everything in slow motion. Even from a fitness level, you are not looking for marathon runners, you must just go easy. You have probably heard that they say in Tanzania ‘pole pole’, go slow. And that slowness gives your body the chance to adapt.”
The mental preparedness is something that has to be tackled individually. Reading helps a lot, especially when you understand how the climb can and has affected others who have gone before you. There is a clear, near spiritual experience that occurs when one summits a mountain and the effects it can have on your life is all-consuming, giving one the realisation that nothing is unconquerable and that no proverbial mountain is too high to conquer.
Capelao says he finds the challenge, the training and the guaranteed high, after successfully summiting a mountain or attempting some other adrenaline fuelled activity, a great way to de-stress.
“I have a very stressful job and I find it ideal as a way to break away, be cut off with no phone, no wifi, no text messages and recalibrate, because you are really off the grid. I have changed now,
I used to go on a normal holiday to some island or go watch Formula1 before; the mountain climbing I have gotten into recently. The guys who I do it with, they specialise in the 7 summits so they can take you to any peak on earth and it is because of those conversations that I am taking this trip now.”
Because Everest can be quite dangerous and is significantly higher and a more strenuous climb that Kilimanjaro, Capelao will on this occasion turn around at the base camp. The cycle up lasts 15 days with approximately four to five hours of cycling daily.
Clearly enveloped in memoirs, Capelao reflects on the spiritual experience his first climb presented, the change of scenery right before your eyes, and witnessing the sun rising from the other side of the peak to bid you your own personal good morning; this he claims makes “it is impossible for you to be the same as you were before”.
Having clearly gained a love and a respect for the peaks, the climb and the people who make it possible, we at The Lounge look forward to asking Capelao ‘how does it feel ?’
Until then, we wish this adventurous traveller a good and a safe ride up the side of the glorious Mount Everest. ‘Pole pole’