Places to avoid Altitude sickness.

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Solace-seeker
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Places to avoid Altitude sickness.

Post by Solace-seeker » Fri Jun 15, 2018 2:42 pm

I've had problems with altitude sickness the last 3 times I went backpacking. I'm looking for a place to backpack, possibly at an elevation of 4,000 or 5,000 ft. with nice lakes and solitude. It seems 1 day isn't enough for me to acclimate at high levels. I'm open for suggestions at higher elevations but not higher than 7,000 ft.
Early June I spent 24 hrs. at Horseshoe Meadows acclimating (elevation 10,000) before hiking up Cottonwood Lakes trail, which isn't too difficult. I wanted to take it easy to decrease my chances of getting sick. After hiking for only 2 hrs. I set up camp and again experienced altitude sickness that night. In the morning I decided that was enough and headed back home one day early.
I'm open to any suggestions for a good place to backpack that would decrease my chances of suffering from the altitude. Anywhere in the Sierra Nevada. I usually like to spend 2 or 3 nights backpacking. I'm also open to suggestions to avoid altitude sickness in general. I have read up on the usual ways to avoid altitude sickness but any suggestions and experience would be appreciated.

Thank you Solace Seeker








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bobby49
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Re: Places to avoid Altitude sickness.

Post by bobby49 » Fri Jun 15, 2018 3:33 pm

I had led Sierra Club group trips for twenty years, and I concluded that about 80% of the symptoms that were initially reported as "altitude illness" actually came from plain old dehydration. Another person reported altitude illness on a backpacking trip, and it turned out that they had been fasting for three days!

Rather than suggestions of places, let me suggest medication. Diamox is a fairly well understood prescription medication that helps many people, so you should have a talk with your physician. It doesn't completely prevent altitude illness, but it just forces your body to adapt to high elevation quicker and more fully than it would otherwise. Many years ago, I requested a Diamox prescription from an older physician, and he was completely unaware of it. Fortunately, I had a printed article about it, so he read that briefly and then looked it up. About ten minutes later he was asking me how much dosage I wanted and for how many days. However, I was headed above 18,000 feet.

So, you might want to prepare yourself with information. Most of the younger physicians have heard of it now, and especially if they have contact with a travel clinic.

Backpackers who intend to use this for moderate elevation like 10,000 feet sometimes get by with a half-standard dosage. Only if they are going much higher, like 14,000 feet, do they go for the standard dosage.

I was on a climbing expedition where we were going very high. Of the climbers who were consuming Diamox, only one failed to make the summit. Of the climbers who were not consuming Diamox, only one successfully made the summit. So, it is not a guarantee of anything.

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Re: Places to avoid Altitude sickness.

Post by oldranger » Fri Jun 15, 2018 3:44 pm

My wife takes at least 3 days to acclimate and we live at 3600 feet. Best strategy for her is 1 night at 7,000 then 2 nights at 8600. Diamox helps but makes her lethargic. She did ok in Colorado a couple of weeks ago after 1 night at 4,000 feet then driving for several hours before spending the night at 9200 feet but didn't do anything strenuous. Best strategy is time. A couple of years ago I took a first timer on a 10 day trip and made him spend two nights in Mammoth then we spent a night at horseshoe meadow before heading out over New Army Pass. He did just fine. I know this makes it difficult for short weekend trips and cuts into your backpacking time. As bobby49 implied make sure to stay well hydrated!
Mike

Who can't do everything he used to and what he can do takes a hell of a lot longer!

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Re: Places to avoid Altitude sickness.

Post by TehipiteTom » Fri Jun 15, 2018 6:16 pm

You won't find nice lakes in the Sierra at 4,000-5,000 feet. If you want lower-altitude alpine landscapes, your best bet is going north to the Trinity Alps or Marble Mountains. Lakes are in the 6,000-7000 range, which is high for what you want but better than you'll do in the Sierra.

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Re: Places to avoid Altitude sickness.

Post by Solace-seeker » Fri Jun 15, 2018 9:10 pm

Thank you for your answers to my questions. I think I will try Diamox and make sure I am well hydrated. I will get the info on the medication before I visit a doctor. Thanks for the information on dosage.
I think the advice to take it slowly and acclimate in Mammoth is a good suggestion also. I like that Idea.
Thank you also for the suggestions on Trinity Alps or Marble Mountains. I will look into those places as possible future destinations!

I Cant thank you all enough. I was a little bummed about this altitude problem but now I am a lot more hopeful.
Solace Seeker

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bobby49
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Re: Places to avoid Altitude sickness.

Post by bobby49 » Fri Jun 15, 2018 11:16 pm

Solace-seeker wrote:Thank you for your answers to my questions. I think I will try Diamox and make sure I am well hydrated. I will get the info on the medication before I visit a doctor. Thanks for the information on dosage.
You want to talk some of these things over with your physician. Diamox is a sulfa drug, and some people know that they are allergic. Diamox has some mild side effects, but often these only show up after the higher dosages for a period of time. So, some people start by taking a half dose for a day or two before they go up in elevation, and then increase to the normal dose depending on how they feel. OTOH, I know one fellow who knows that he's got to have it in order to handle the elevation, so he takes double the normal dose. He's probably the guy who gets the worst side effects.

Some people ask: "What's in it?"

That's a tough one. Acetazolamide is a carbonic anhydrase inhibitor. That doesn't help very much, does it?

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Re: Places to avoid Altitude sickness.

Post by rightstar76 » Sat Jun 16, 2018 6:12 am

Solace-seeker, you need a lake below 7000 feet so you can enjoy the mountains without getting sick.

One place came to mind immediately. In Yosemite National Park, it's Kibbie Lake which is 6500 feet. The trail there goes over a ridge and gets to about 7100 feet for a short distance. So almost the entire time with the exception of crossing over the ridge, you're under 7000 feet. You should have no problem with altitude.

About Horseshoe Meadow, I always felt sick because from Lone Pine, you gain altitude too fast driving on the road to 10000 feet. I didn't feel sick on the trail to Kibbie Lake because of the lower altitude. You could also camp the first night at Cherry Valley Campground at 4800 feet. It might help a bit as far as resting goes before your trip.

Info:
https://www.fs.usda.gov/attmain/stanisl ... cialplaces
Click on Stanislaus National Forest Emigrant Wilderness. Then click on Permits and see info pertaining to entering Yosemite from Stanislaus National Forest.

Also,
https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/stanisl ... ecid=14923
Pick your road. I've been on Cherry Lake Road but not the other one.

Good luck!

P.S. Drink lots of water and bring salty pretzels. It can get warm at the lower elevations. :)

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Re: Places to avoid Altitude sickness.

Post by Wandering Daisy » Sat Jun 16, 2018 8:24 am

It is not a good idea to immediately camp at 10,000 feet to acclimate! If you have altitude problems you have to go up slowly, like OR said. If you are talking a 3-4 day trip, I do not see a solution other then medications. Or you could go high dollar - there are some athletic training facilities that put you in a chamber to sleep that simulates gradual increase in altitude. Not very practical.

If you can do a longer trip, spend a few days camped at one of the lower campgrounds in Owens Valley. Do sight seeing, such as a nice hike down Owens River. Drive up to some of the trailheads during the day and then go back down and camp. Then go to another nice campground, like Convict Lake or Mc Gee. Then you would be ready for one of the lower elevation destinations, such as Pine Creek (First to Third Lakes, etc). On the west side, Yosemite is ideal. The valley loop day-hike is stunning, although full of tourists. Obviously, these lower elevation trips are not ideal for mid-summer heat.

Or go to the Marble Mountains, or Trinity Alps. There are some nice lakes with fish at relatively low elevations. Lost Coast is at sea level!

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Re: Places to avoid Altitude sickness.

Post by Solace-seeker » Sat Jun 16, 2018 3:36 pm

rightstar76 wrote:Solace-seeker, you need a lake below 7000 feet so you can enjoy the mountains without getting sick.

One place came to mind immediately. In Yosemite National Park, it's Kibbie Lake which is 6500 feet. The trail there goes over a ridge and gets to about 7100 feet for a short distance. So almost the entire time with the exception of crossing over the ridge, you're under 7000 feet. You should have no problem with altitude.

About Horseshoe Meadow, I always felt sick because from Lone Pine, you gain altitude too fast driving on the road to 10000 feet. I didn't feel sick on the trail to Kibbie Lake because of the lower altitude. You could also camp the first night at Cherry Valley Campground at 4800 feet. It might help a bit as far as resting goes before your trip.

Info:
https://www.fs.usda.gov/attmain/stanisl ... cialplaces
Click on Stanislaus National Forest Emigrant Wilderness. Then click on Permits and see info pertaining to entering Yosemite from Stanislaus National Forest.

Also,
https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/stanisl ... ecid=14923
Pick your road. I've been on Cherry Lake Road but not the other one.

Good luck!

P.S. Drink lots of water and bring salty pretzels. It can get warm at the lower elevations. :)
Thank you for your reply. I will check out those destinations. Really appreciate it!

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Re: Places to avoid Altitude sickness.

Post by Solace-seeker » Sat Jun 16, 2018 3:42 pm

Wandering Daisy wrote:It is not a good idea to immediately camp at 10,000 feet to acclimate! If you have altitude problems you have to go up slowly, like OR said. If you are talking a 3-4 day trip, I do not see a solution other then medications. Or you could go high dollar - there are some athletic training facilities that put you in a chamber to sleep that simulates gradual increase in altitude. Not very practical.

If you can do a longer trip, spend a few days camped at one of the lower campgrounds in Owens Valley. Do sight seeing, such as a nice hike down Owens River. Drive up to some of the trailheads during the day and then go back down and camp. Then go to another nice campground, like Convict Lake or Mc Gee. Then you would be ready for one of the lower elevation destinations, such as Pine Creek (First to Third Lakes, etc). On the west side, Yosemite is ideal. The valley loop day-hike is stunning, although full of tourists. Obviously, these lower elevation trips are not ideal for mid-summer heat.

Or go to the Marble Mountains, or Trinity Alps. There are some nice lakes with fish at relatively low elevations. Lost Coast is at sea level!
Thank you so much for the great suggestions Wandering Daisy. I will check out those destinations.

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