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FrontRunner: Into Thin Air

Nancy Wong Bryan

To prepare his body for the stress of ascending Mexico’s Orizaba (18,700 feet) and Iztaccihuatl (17,340 feet) volcanoes in a five-day span last year, Explorers Club president Richard Wiese simply showed up for work. There, in his office at the Manhattan-based adventure and research society, Wiese confined himself to a 9-by-7-by-7-foot aluminum and vinyl altitude simulator from Hypoxico (888.666.6521, www.hypoxico.com) for several hours each day for three weeks. “The first few hours were very uncomfortable,” he says about his time in the low-oxygen chamber, which he set initially to approximate 10,000 feet. “But after about a week and a half, I felt I could sit there all day and not notice it.”

Hypoxico has been building altitude simulators since 1995, but its project with Wiese marked the first time the New York company had installed one of its units in an office. The simulator, which Hypoxico set up to envelop Wiese’s desk, enabled the outdoorsman to acclimatize for his Mexico ascents while going about his everyday business. In addition to the unit used by Wiese (beginning at $15,000), Hypoxico produces a smaller, tentlike system (from $4,000) that can be installed over a bed so users can acclimatize in their sleep.

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