with the help of ergoHI² to the peak of Kilimanjaro

ergoHI² and the respect of high altitude

Michael Fichta keeps himself physically and mentally fit with mountain running. On New Year’s Eve 2023, the 63-year-old from Salzburg climbed the 5,895-metre Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Out of respect for the stresses of high altitude, Fichta prepared himself in an ergoHI² cabin from JFJ Health & Sports. The simulation of the altitude showed him the physical limits to be expected with reduced oxygen supply. His body adjusted perfectly to the extreme conditions as a result. 

“You get to know oxygen shortage under laboratory conditions in the ergoHI² cabin – it’s a completely identical feeling. Everyone could and should do it to prepare. You then know what to expect. That it is quite normal to struggle for breath and that you can get a headache. It simply gives you security when you have already experienced it. It took away the uncertainty of how my body would react to the altitude,” Michael Fichta reports.

“186,000 metres of altitude in one year”.

Mountain running is the Salzburg native’s great passion. “Speedy mountain walking with walked sections, where it makes sense, suits me. I do the 100 metres in altitude in six or seven minutes when things are going very well. Flat routes have become too boring, they don’t give me anything any more, and it’s no fun coordinating. On the mountain it’s always a bit different. The weather, different steepness, you can go different variations, the ground; it’s more challenging in general.” In 2022, Fichta completed around 186,000 metres of ascent – more than 200 times of which were on his local mountain, Salzburg’s Gaisberg. 

“Staying healthy with endurance sports”.

Michael Fichta has long been closely associated with endurance sports. For the Austrian Ski Federation, he accompanied the Alpine World Cup team as a fitness trainer for ten years from 1993. In 2002 he moved to the Canadian Ski Federation as head coach for fitness. In 2009 he returned to Austria and the ÖSV, where he is now mainly responsible for operations and logistics. “Endurance sports help you stay healthy not only cardiopulmonarily but also mentally. I wrote my diploma thesis in 1986 on alternative medicine through endurance. I think I know quite well from theory, professional experience as a sports scientist, as well as from lived practice, what happens in the body during endurance sports and what is important.”

ergoHI² cabin in the flat

In 2022, he made the decision to put the Kilimanjaro project into practice “lege artis”, i.e. with proper, profound preparation. “So I planned this project with the aim of being perfectly prepared for the altitude stresses to be assumed – getting up per se is what everyone does, Kilimanjaro is a business model and thrives on people getting up – but how, that is the question! Through JFJ I got the opportunity to put an ergoHI² cabin in my flat. I then simulated sleeping at an adjustable, increasing height during the nights. With each night you become more relaxed about the situation. You notice that your body is doing something to cope with the decreasing oxygen. The release of oxygen into the cells is facilitated, in the long run the blood volume seems to increase and ideally more red blood cells would be formed.”

Alone through a starry, windless night

On 25 December 2022, the adventure began. Michael Fichta flew to Tanzania. The first stage followed two days later. The starting point was the gate at 1,870 metres to Kilimanjaro National Park. On the first day, they started from here and climbed to 2,700 metres, the following day to 3,700 metres. After an acclimatisation day at 3,700 metres and another overnight stay, the ascent continued to 4,700 metres. And in the night from 31 December to 1 January, the ascent of the summit finally took place – 1,200 metres in altitude to Uhuru Peak at 5,895 metres. “I was allowed to leave the group after a lengthy discussion with the guides, walked the last stage alone through a starry, windless night and was at the highest point, the “Uhuru Peak”, at sunrise. I then descended about 300 metres, rejoined the group there and then we climbed back up to the summit together. I felt great, no headache, no nausea, no altitude sickness symptoms – nothing except for the symptoms already known from the ‘hypoxia chamber training’.”

Still ready to perform despite double strain

“Almost everyone can climb Kilimanjaro. It is not difficult from an alpine point of view, the guides set the pace of the group and orientate themselves responsibly, controlling the walking pace, on the weakest. They take regular breaks and are equipped with oxygen cylinders and other high-altitude rescue equipment in case of an absolute emergency. I am glad that none of our group needed this help. Personally, despite my much faster walking pace and having done the last 300 metres of altitude double, I felt exceptionally well and still able to perform.”

“You did something extraordinary”

The Kilimanjaro project has left deep, positive marks on Michael Fichta’s life. “The summit experience is extraordinary, the excellent weather was of course the icing on the cake.  You are at an altitude where planes fly; the Untersberg in front of my office in Salzburg is 2,000 metres high, on Kilimanjaro I was two times higher up. It’s a completely different perspective. You feel yourself so intensely, your thumping heartbeat, the high breathing rate – it’s tremendous. You feel like you’ve done, experienced and seen something extraordinary.” 

ergoHI² ROOM & ergoHI² CABIN

ergoHI² ROOM and ergoHI² CABIN from JFJ Health & Sports allow you to simulate altitude training under individually optimised, normobaric conditions. The ergoHI² ROOM is ideal for stationary training of teams in training centres. The ergoHI² CABIN still allows athletes to continue their individual training or altitude sleep on the move or at home.


ergoHI² high altitude trainings concept – sample picture

more articles

Scroll to Top