On April 3, Matt Moniz will depart for Kathmandu, the official start of the most ambitious Himalayan expedition of 2014. Moniz and team will attempt back-to-back-to-back summits of three 8,000-meter peaks – Cho Oyu, Everest, and Lhotse – in less than 15 days. If all goes as planned, they will then ski down – the first-ever ski descent of the Lhotse Couloir.
"Triple 8" is an epic undertaking for any mountaineer, let alone a 16-year-old high school student. While other students are looking forward to spring break. Moniz is knocking out his last rounds of training with his expedition partner (and father) Mike Moniz, in Colorado where they live.
Moniz is the world speed record holder for the 50 U.S. High Points (43:03:51), including Denali. The feat earned him a National Geographic Adventurer of the Year designation at age 12. Moniz is also the youngest climber to summit Mt. Elbrus in Russia. Plus, he's done Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Cerro Aconcagua in South America, and has been to Everest Base Camp, twice.
The elder Moniz isn't worried about how Matt will fare in the extreme altitude of the Himalayas. He's worried that the thrill-seeking teen will get injured before he even gets on the plane to Nepal. "Now that we're about two weeks out, Matt's been restricted from the Winter Park ski area and sequestered from his teenage friends," says Moniz. "He likes to fly off things like cliffs. On skis. At 16, it's an urge he just can't seem to suppress."
Matt trains by ski mountaineering with his father at Berthoud Pass, a backcountry ski area near Winter Park, where the two can get up to 12,000 feet and crank out long traverses. On weekends, they sleep at 9,000 feet in Winter Park, and on schooldays, they sleep at home at 6,000 feet in Boulder. While the elevation is lower than what the Moniz men will experience in the high Himalayas (they'll be above 15,000 feet the majority of the time), it still serves to build their red blood cell count.
Mike Moniz, who has already summited both Everest and Lhotse, believes that long endurance sessions of 3 to 5 hours trigger a mitochondrial biogenesis that enables the body to be more efficient at extreme altitude. For endurance training, he and Matt use elliptical machines in their home gym. The goal is at least 1.5 hours daily, at 70 percent of maximum heart rate. "Dad watches Gossip Girl on the elliptical," reports the younger Moniz. "Actually, it's House of Cards," says the elder, laughing.
"We don't train for speed," Moniz explains. "I've seen Matt on the mountain with other 8000-meter climbers and few people can keep up with him. It's not because he's trying to go fast, it's just how his body has been tuned."