As you look at the huge peak looming in the distance you instantly want to conquer it. You think about slowly working your way to the top and seeing the surrounding land from a height of several kilometers. What you don’t think about is the altitude sickness that can stop you in your tracks.
But any guide would tell you that as you go higher, the amount of oxygen in the air decreases, leaving your body less of this vital gas to live on. It is very important for a person to acclimatize on time to avoid a headache, dizziness, fatigue, loss of appetite, shortened breath, and overall inability to handle the journey.
Here’s what you have to do to prevent this according to Altezza Travel African adventures blog.
You may be tempted to push yourself to the limit. After all, for many people, it constitutes the fun of conquering a mountain. You challenge yourself to a demanding thing that needs you to be fit, brave, and willing to do. Things you wouldn’t consider safe in your everyday life.
When you’re dealing with altitude, however, pushing yourself too far will not give you the satisfaction of making it to the mountain peak. Even if your willpower is strong enough to make another 500 feet during the day, your body may not be.
It’s not just about being physically fit, it’s about processing oxygen, something you can’t control. Your body needs to acclimatize to the height, and it’s not something that happens as you go. Once you’ve crossed the 8,000 feet line, don’t go faster than 1,000 vertical feet a day.
Another counter-intuitive tip is to go back a bit once you’ve reached a certain height. You may want to sleep at a higher elevation to make your body ready for the ascend the next morning, but it will only make matters worse.
Backtrack several hundred meters from the place you’ve reached and set up camp there. The oxygen level is even lower at night, so you’d be taking unnecessary risks during the night if you stay higher.
Trekking up the mountain is exhausting. You need every bit of energy to do it, so the earlier you hit the bed, the better. If you’re suffering from insomnia, which is a common symptom of altitude sickness, take melatonin to fall asleep faster.
Having more energy to go through with your day of climbing means getting more calories. You won’t find fancy foods on the menu. Your food intake will be as simple as it gets – a lot of grains, fatty foods, and dried meat.
Add some sweets and nuts to your diet. Your body will transform them into energy pretty fast, and you can keep them handy to have a snack on the go.
While you do need plenty of carbohydrates to go through a day of climbing, you don’t want to overeat. Going mental with your food means putting too much stress on your body. You don’t want to be busy digesting a kilo’s worth of rice you just ate when your primary goal is fighting against the lack of oxygen.
Being hydrated is essential to any type of hiking. When we’re talking about going 10,000 feet high and beyond, hydration is not just good to have, it’s vital. Wear a hydration pack, and sip on the straw while you ascend.
The next step is to take medications to help yourself on the way to the top. There’s evidence that Ibuprofen decreases the likelihood of altitude sickness, and you can find plenty of meds designed specifically for high-altitude climbs like Diamox.
Some of the high-altitude meds are taken preemptively, and some are reserved for treating acute symptoms. Whatever type you choose, consult with your doctor first.
Altitude sickness occurs because your body isn’t receiving enough oxygen to function. This means the easiest way to treat it is to get the oxygen you need. Carry an oxygen can with you, and inhale the gas through a mask when you feel the symptoms kicking in. For high-elevation climbs like Mt Everest, most people would need to take a few deep breaths of oxygen every 30 minutes.
High-altitude hiking is a difficult challenge. Stay safe during your journey, and use these 7 tips to make it to the top unaffected by altitude sickness.