Altitude Sickness is a Jerk


Original Post
Mike Gilbert · · boulder, co · Joined Jul 2013 · Points: 23

I live in Colorado and want to do more mountaineering but altitude sickness wrecks me every time. I spent a month at 10k last year and it wasn't an issue. Backpacking at 12k and 14ers have both been problematic. Every time I get above 12k or so I get what feels like a migraine and usually ends up in a lot of vomiting. Any tips, witchcraft is encouraged!

Hamm · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2013 · Points: 5

Acclimate some more maybe? Go up above 10k ft and just hang out for a day or two at a time. Keep it casual so your body freaks out a little less. Or, build yourself a pressure chamber to sleep in and slowly decrease the pressure over a span of time until you're sleeping at pressures equivalent to 12 or 14k ft. Lets your body slowly build up white blood cells or something like that. If you're a pro athlete or competing in some sport I might discourage this though, might be a deal breaker for special training rules?

Christian · · Casa do Cacete · Joined Jul 2005 · Points: 1,485

Diamox

FrankPS · · Atascadero, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 275
Christian wrote:Diamox
Bingo. It's by prescription. Works wonders for me. For me, it prevents the headaches and nausea, but won't prevent shortness of breath.

Edit: Hydration and fitness play a role, but there's always the benefits of medicine, too!
MartinH · · Downtown Denver · Joined Apr 2009 · Points: 5

This may be an obvious one but hydration always helps me; I make sure to stay hydrated during the week, then drink at least 32oz's of water the night before and another 32oz's the morning of. Continue hydrating throughout your climb

Pedialyte has also become a staple in my night before rituals...

ChefMattThaner · · Lakewood, co · Joined May 2013 · Points: 248

You need to acclimate much more effectively, end of story. Yes drinking water helps your blood to carry more oxygen which helps decrease the symptoms of altitude sickness. However, this will never keep altitude sickness away if you have not properly acclimatized. Also prescription medicines may work, but you can forgot those, they can get dropped or lost or run out on longer trips. Not a recommended long term solution.

You need to climb slower, don't go from 5,280 ft to 14,000ft in a matter of hours. Sleeping overnight just below timberline helps immensely. Also you may have to start out your high altitude adventures with multi day trips. You might need to hike up to around 13k, hang out, eat lunch take some seflies. Then head down to below timberline. Sleep, drink lots of water, eat food even if you are not hungry. Next day don't try to set a speed record to the top. Stop halfway for lunch and take a break. Allow your body to adjust. It will eventually get better the more time you spend at altitude and you will be doing more peaks much faster. For now though it sounds like you need to crawl before you try walking.

FrankPS · · Atascadero, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 275
ChefMattThaner wrote:You need to acclimate much more effectively, end of story. Yes drinking water helps your blood to carry more oxygen which helps decrease the symptoms of altitude sickness. However, this will never keep altitude sickness away if you have not properly acclimatized. Also prescription medicines may work, but you can forgot those, they can get dropped or lost or run out on longer trips. Not a recommended long term solution. You need to climb slower, don't go from 5,280 ft to 14,000ft in a matter of hours. Sleeping overnight just below timberline helps immensely. Also you may have to start out your high altitude adventures with multi day trips. You might need to hike up to around 13k, hang out, eat lunch take some seflies. Then head down to below timberline. Sleep, drink lots of water, eat food even if you are not hungry. Next day don't try to set a speed record to the top. Stop halfway for lunch and take a break. Allow your body to adjust. It will eventually get better the more time you spend at altitude and you will be doing more peaks much faster. For now though it sounds like you need to crawl before you try walking.
A lot of people only have three or four days for the trip and want to go to altitude. So there isn't time for a long acclimation schedule. Spending the night at the trailhead helps, as does anything you can do to acclimate.

I have been using Diamox for years for my short trips and have never dropped, forgotten, lost or run out of the pills.
Daniel Winder · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2009 · Points: 70

The bad thing about Diamox is that you can't drink beer while you're taking it. It does work well though. Other than that, hydrate well, climb high, and sleep low.

Alicia Sokolowski · · Brooklyn, NY · Joined Aug 2010 · Points: 1,045
MartinH wrote:This may be an obvious one but hydration always helps me; I make sure to stay hydrated during the week, then drink at least 32oz's of water the night before and another 32oz's the morning of. Continue hydrating throughout your climb Pedialyte has also become a staple in my night before rituals...
+1 Pedialyte. I have actually grown to enjoy the taste, particularly grape, as my brain associates it with not feeling bad anymore.
Morgan Patterson · · CT · Joined Oct 2009 · Points: 8,712

HYDRATE,HYDRATE,HYDRATE,HYDRATE,HYDRATE,HYDRATE,HYDRATE,HYDRATE,HYDRATE,HYDRATE!!

I fly from CT every year to ski Silverton and within a day I'm usually hiking at 13k feet. Only way I can do it is drinking gallons of water before and during my trip.

crackatoa Spiesbach · · Boulder,Co · Joined May 2014 · Points: 70

What is the conversion on $13,000.00 feet to meters?

FrankPS · · Atascadero, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 275
Michael Spiesbach wrote:What is the conversion on $13,000.00 feet to meters?
Funny. At first when I read this, I wondered WTF you were talking about. Then, I read the post above yours. Well-done, sir.
Taylor-B. · · Valdez, AK · Joined Oct 2009 · Points: 3,060
Morgan Patterson wrote:HYDRATE,HYDRATE,HYDRATE,HYDRATE,HYDRATE,HYDRATE,HYDRATE,HYDRATE,HYDRATE,HYDRATE!!
Flash HAPE!
Morgan Patterson · · CT · Joined Oct 2009 · Points: 8,712
Michael Spiesbach wrote:What is the conversion on $13,000.00 feet to meters?
hahaha u got me on that one! nice catch!
Hamm · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2013 · Points: 5

13 000 feet = 3 962.4 meters
http://www.onlineconversion.com/length_common.htm

At 13000ft, the standard barometric pressure is 64 kPa (478 mmHg). This means that there is 63% of the oxygen available at sea level.
http://www.altitude.org/air_pressure.php

This one gives a slightly different result, but the output values have options for those of us that can't do quick conversions from kPa or mmHg to atm or psi very readily.
http://www.calctool.org/CALC/phys/default/pres_at_alt

Buff Johnson · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2005 · Points: 1,145
Michael G. wrote:I live in Colorado and want to do more mountaineering but altitude sickness wrecks me every time. I spent a month at 10k last year and it wasn't an issue. Backpacking at 12k and 14ers have both been problematic. Every time I get above 12k or so I get what feels like a migraine and usually ends up in a lot of vomiting. Any tips, witchcraft is encouraged!
try resting for a while at treeline, let your pulmonary system adjust, and try some vitamin I. lighten up your workload & pace if you can.

if you're still having troubles adjusting, try some ed meds.
Ryan Watts · · Bishop, CA · Joined Apr 2013 · Points: 25

Everybody is different I guess but personally I find the key factors to be: hydration (more than you think), eating (just munch half a bar or some gels every few hours), and of course going at a reasonable pace / taking breaks so you don't ascend too fast or get out of breath.

If I keep am eye on those three things BEFORE I start "feeling it" I can usually avoid any altitude-related issues. Once I start getting headaches, etc. it's usually a sign I've been slacking on one of the above.

Stich · · Colorado Springs, Colorado · Joined Jan 2001 · Points: 1,470
Morgan Patterson wrote:HYDRATE,HYDRATE,HYDRATE,HYDRATE,HYDRATE,HYDRATE,HYDRATE,HYDRATE,HYDRATE,HYDRATE!! I fly from CT every year to ski Silverton and within a day I'm usually hiking at 13k feet. Only way I can do it is drinking gallons of water before and during my trip.
But not to the point of hyponatremia, right? Seriously, don't try chugging a whole gallon of water at one sitting. And keep up with salt intake.
Jan Tarculas · · Riverside, Ca · Joined Mar 2010 · Points: 808

Fly to peru and bring home bags and bags full of coca leaves. They chew those leaves up non stop and all day long. It helped me up to 14K ft hiking to machu picchu without issues

ChefMattThaner · · Lakewood, co · Joined May 2013 · Points: 248
FrankPS wrote: A lot of people only have three or four days for the trip and want to go to altitude. So there isn't time for a long acclimation schedule. Spending the night at the trailhead helps, as does anything you can do to acclimate. I have been using Diamox for years for my short trips and have never dropped, forgotten, lost or run out of the pills.
This is true, and I guess for people living at lower altitudes this is one of the best solutions. However, the OP mentioned he lives in Colorado and has easy access to high altitude. And for those that can acclimate with the traditional methods and remain self reliant, I think this is the best practice.

I apologize if I made it seem like prescription meds were not a good option.
matt c. · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 155

i found that watching what you eat while and before you are hiking/climbing really helps. Things that are acidic like coffee and some goos can really destroy me.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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