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Dealing with rapid altitude change?
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Chad Mason

Locale: Arizona
Dealing with rapid altitude change? on 07/18/2007 10:25:57 MDT Print View

Hello all,

I'll be doing a hike this weekend where, including drive time, I'll go from 1450' to 12,633' in under six hours. I've done it before, but suffered a wicked headache and nausea. Other than staying hydrated, are there any other tips to minimize the effects of the altitude?


kevin davidson
(kdesign) - F

Locale: Mythical State of Jefferson
Dealing with rapid altitude change on 07/18/2007 10:34:19 MDT Print View

An overnight camp near the trailhead before setting off on your hike, would probably help. Acclimitization is the single biggest thing you can do (and control). You are in good overall physical condition? Just sorting out other possible variables.

Even though altitude sickness can strike even people in good physical shape. Some people have a genetic propensity for either getting (or not getting) sick.

Christopher Chupka

Locale: NTX
Diamox on 07/18/2007 11:04:25 MDT Print View

I use Diamox when I got to Colorado for climbing/backpacking trips. Even as a child I suffered fairly dramatically from the effects of altitude. The Doc I have prescribed twice daily 250mg, this leads to the frequent urination, bad taste of carbonated drinks, and infrequent tingling sensation in fingers. Next trip I will try a twice daily 60mg dose which should alleviate all the negative symptoms. I live in Wichita Falls TX at an approximate 950 foot elevation and along with the Diamox and 1 days acclimatization I can function at 14000 feet.

The med really helps with headaches. There have been no side effects and Diamox is a relatively benign drug. The only behavior I have changed is increasing hydration at altitude which is a bonus anyways.

Graham Williams
(crackers) - F
Re: Dealing with rapid altitude change? on 07/18/2007 11:21:36 MDT Print View

i recently went from 0' to 13k+ in about an hour and a half. I spent about two hours at 13k and then descended.

traditionally, i've acclimatized like crap. This time, I had no problems at all.

I found that drinking a lot of water and eating a copious amount of real chocolate really worked the trick. I also spent 37 minutes acclimatizing at 9400'.

However, I believe that the greatest contribution to my improved acclimitization was from crossfit. Call me crazy, but it's something that a number of people I've spoken with have also noticed.

Have fun...

kevin davidson
(kdesign) - F

Locale: Mythical State of Jefferson
Diamox redux on 07/18/2007 11:53:06 MDT Print View

It's not a silver bullet---- it doesn't work right away, you need to do a regime.
and it has limitations in efficacy.

I've used this in extremely high altitude settings---in S.America and Asia.

I like the chocolate route...

Edited by kdesign on 07/18/2007 11:53:52 MDT.

Graham Williams
(crackers) - F
Re: chocolate on 07/18/2007 12:23:58 MDT Print View

the chocolate thing was interesting. the sage wisdom came from a fellow who's been there, done that and who supplies the packs that i make to some of his ambassadors. he basically recommended eating half a large bar of at least 60% cacao every 2 to 3 k feet of gain.

Who knows, but one trip up is not a result. My silly personal anecdote is that I ran around, did squats and pushups and burpees and for the first time in my life, no headaches, no dizzyness and no puking.

Then again, maybe I'm just slower ...

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: Dealing with rapid altitude change? on 07/18/2007 15:34:56 MDT Print View

Any other could try this before and on day 1,

John's Ten Essentials to acute mountain sickness prevention:

1. several days before trip: stop drinking caffeine and alcohol
2. one day before hiking: drink several glasses of water during the day
3. two hours before hiking: take one 325 mg aspirin every 4 hours for a total dose of 3 tablets
4. drink plenty of water
5. eat plenty of food
6. hike at a slower pace
7. take hourly rest stops
8. when get to camp, sit down and rest for at least 20 minutes before putting up shelter
9. avoid bending over with head below waist level while setting up shelter or while doing anything the first day
10. get at least 8 hours sleep the first night

let us know the results..on day two do as usual

Edited by jshann on 07/18/2007 19:17:13 MDT.

Rick Dreher
(halfturbo) - MLife

Locale: Northernish California
Re: Dealing with rapid altitude change? on 07/18/2007 17:04:32 MDT Print View

The following link has a thorough rundown, and seems to be up to date on the topic.

I was disappointed to read that ginkgo has been more or less dismissed as being any help; at one time it looked promising at fending off mountain sickness. Good hydration and not overdoing it the first or two day seem to be the most important parts of my regimen (not that that second bit works for a day trip!).

Rob Blazoff
(Genetic) - F

Locale: Out back, brewing beer in BPA.
Acclimitization on 08/26/2007 01:46:42 MDT Print View

To partially acclimate could take 6 or 7 days Full acclimation can take 4-6 weeks.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Acclimatization on 08/26/2007 17:27:02 MDT Print View

Lots of good suggestions here. Three others: 1) Don't hang around long once you summit. Immediate descent will help mitigate symptoms of the severe physiological stress you are subjecting your body to( a day hike application of the Russian climbing axiom that states 'climb high, sleep low'; 2) Pay attention to your breathing, by which I mean hyperventilate. According to McArdle, Katch & Katch in "Exercise Physiology, Energy, Nutrition, & Human Performance", hyperventilation and elevated heart rate are the primary initial responses to the progressive reduction in the partial pressure of O2 as you ascend. Heart rate adaptation is automatic, but you can control your breathing to some extent and compensate for reduced partial pressure of O2 by passing more air through your lungs; 3) Take primarily carbohydrates mixed in H2O to make a 6-8% solution for energy. There are a number of commercial offerings(Perpetuem by Hammer and EFS by 1st Endurance are two I have had experience with-IMHO EFS would work better for what you are attempting since it uses glucose as the energy substrate-nothing gets into your system faster-and also supplies a full spectrum of electrolytes, which Perpetuem does not). Good luck, sounds like an "excellent adventure".