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Taking toddlers to high elevation

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Taking toddlers to high elevation

Postby schmalz » Tue Jun 04, 2013 11:01 am

Hey HST,

I'm curious from some of you parents how you approached going into the Sierra with your children. When I was at Onion Valley this past weekend, I saw a dad day hiking up with his 1 year old kid up the trail, which was a big surprise to me. I'd love to be able to start doing stuff like that with my son, and even some of my local dayhikes go above 9k feet. So, I'm curious what your experiences have taught you.

Southern California doctors don't seem to have much confidence in the subject.



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Re: Taking toddlers to high elevation

Postby AlmostThere » Tue Jun 04, 2013 11:29 am

I have seen a lot of kids out backpacking and hiking . It just kind of depends on how you prepare for things . I know that for kids who are sensitive to them , mosquito bites are a big deal . When I was a kid I would swell up like crazy whenever I got bit . But it didn't keep us from going out I had a lot of fun regardless .

I think taking them on a few short hikes and maybe an overnight car camping trip will give you a good idea of whether your kids at whatever age are ready for that sort of thing . Some kids just do not seem to enjoy it . Other kids really love it and want to go all the time . I pretty much lived out there between d the ages of one and 16 .

Not sure what to say about elevation . I never had a lick of trouble , and neither did my little brother .

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Re: Taking toddlers to high elevation

Postby schmalz » Tue Jun 04, 2013 11:32 am

AlmostThere - I'm talking about before the kid can even walk or talk much. I'm definitely going to be making the whole thing as pleasant as possible to make it a great experience for him so he wants to keep going, but the one thing I'm trying to get more info on is acclimation with kids that are 1-5 years old.
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Re: Taking toddlers to high elevation

Postby AlmostThere » Tue Jun 04, 2013 11:37 am

I know that I was up there as a baby and every year after that . And somehow that may explain a few things about me .....

The only thing I've read in an article on the subject is that the kids can be more susceptible than adults . But there aren't a lot of people who are susceptible at all . It's an occasional thing . I know that I have seen tourists on high passes with their little kids without having any trouble whatsoever .

It should be taken seriously only because it's so serious to have the symptoms at all in the wilderness . I think it's probably more often than not that people will have no problems even with their kids .


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Re: Taking toddlers to high elevation

Postby Troutdog 59 » Wed Jun 05, 2013 2:57 pm

I have to admit I never even thought about it Shmalz. My wife and have been taking our kids (two, boy and girl) from sea level to "the mountains" since they were months old. Started with car camps and a few cabin rentals in places like Mammoth, June, Tioga Pass Lodge, Courtright Res, etc. Followed with some day hikes with us carrying them into the backcountry at about 5 to 6 months. My sons first ovenight backpack was to Matlock Lake out of Onion Valley when he was 18 months old. He went in on moms back and some friends helped us spread out our load. He doesnt remember it, but we do and he had an absolute blast. I think it played a huge roll in why he likes the mountains so much now. Two kids killed the family packing until my daughter was 7, when we started doing group trips again. My son is an avid backpacking fisherman and goes often. My daughter is less involved, but loves the mountains and joins me on trips every few years.
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Re: Taking toddlers to high elevation

Postby maverick » Wed Jun 05, 2013 3:18 pm

HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
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Re: Taking toddlers to high elevation

Postby schmalz » Wed Jun 05, 2013 3:27 pm

Thanks everyone. Troutdog - Your stories have helped me feel better and I think we'll start taking the little man out next summer, or even possibly for a fall color trip with some light dayhiking this year. I was just at Matlock and was dreaming of sharing it with the family. It's such an easy hike! Trip report coming very soon :)

Mav - Thanks for the link but it mirrors what a lot of my research has netted. This sentence " The particular risks of exposure of children to high altitude have not been thoroughly studied" is a good indicator of how confident the medical community is about their advice.
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Re: Taking toddlers to high elevation

Postby LMBSGV » Wed Jun 05, 2013 10:09 pm

With my son, it was similar to Troutdog. From the SF Bay Area we went to Tuolumne Meadows for car camping and day hikes at 9 months. He walked on his own for the first time at Tenaya Lake. The next year, we did the same thing and he climbed Lembert Dome (from the backside). The reactions of the other hikers to this 1 year, 9 month old on the top were pretty funny. His first backpacking trip was up Lyell Canyon when he was 2 years, 9 months. I carried him much of the way with his Gerry pack stuffed inside my old Kelty. We camped at the Ireland junction and had it to ourselves except for the bear who came through at dusk both nights. At the time, my son thought the bear was fascinating, but doesn't remember it now.
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Re: Taking toddlers to high elevation

Postby DoyleWDonehoo » Thu Jun 06, 2013 9:08 am

The way it was explained to me is that children are far more susceptible to altitude sickness than adults, and require more careful acclimation. The reason being it that the brain swells during acclimation and can cause altitude sickness, which can be accelerated by fatigue. In children, the brain is already a tight fit in the cranium, and as you get older the brain shrinks somewhat, which is why adults are less susceptible to altitude sickness. The remedy is good acclimation practices.
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Re: Taking toddlers to high elevation

Postby FeetFirst » Thu Jun 06, 2013 1:42 pm

I have a two and a half year old son and have taken him on one, short, overnight backpacking trip so far. The trip was in the 6-7K range and the elevation didn't seem to affect him at all. We were on a relatively flat trail that followed the shore of a lake and he walked most of the way which was about a mile in. One of my favorite trips so far.

He's also been on a handful of camping trips, starting around 5 months old, that were all at or above 7K and again no signs that would cause concern. During these trips my biggest concern is heat. When he goes down for a nap in the tent during the day, I constatly check the temp inside the tent to be sure it's not too hot.

I think the highest he's been is 9,300' (Round Top Lake, Mokelumne Wilderness) during a day hike when he was about one and a half. We were car camped at Woods Lake during that trip, which sits at about 8,200'.

I'd say start slow at a relatively low elevation (under 8K) and see how he reacts and go from there.
I'm still rather convinced that you can achieve more than you've ever dreamed of if you just lower your standards.
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Re: Taking toddlers to high elevation

Postby Wandering Daisy » Thu Jun 06, 2013 3:55 pm

I took my kids backpacking when they were babies. Kids in general, and particularly when they cannot talk, cannot or do not tell you when they are getting cold or over-heated or often even say anything when they are getting sick. It is hard to tell a tired kid from a sick kid. It is particularly difficult when you are walking and they are riding in the pack. They are not generating heat like you are. Their feet are particularly vulnerable. YOU have to check them often to be sure nothing is turning blue or their little faces are getting beat red from heat exhaustion!

My kids never had any signs of altitude sickness up to 10,000 feet, however we lived at 6,000 feet. On kid, did get car sick so the drive to the trailhead always involved puking out the window. In this case, we made sure she was not dehydrated when we started. Slow acclimation was a given because Mom and Dad's packs were too heavy to go fast! And most kids do not walk for the sake of walking to a destination until they are about 3 years old. When younger ones walk, be prepared to stop to examine every rock, flower and bug. We would be lucky to get 4 miles in a day. I had to bribe their way up many a hill with cookies.

Warning - taking babies and toddlers backpacking is REALLY a lot of work! It is best to have at least one adult for each child. Having a babysitter come along also gives parents a break. By the time they are about 5-6 years old they get some common sense and do not walk over cliffs and jump into water or run into the campfire. A really hard age is the "mouthing" age - usually under a year, when everything goes into their mouths.

Take them out, but go slow and make it their agenda so they enjoy it.
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Re: Taking toddlers to high elevation

Postby oldranger » Thu Jun 06, 2013 7:32 pm

#1 first bp at 7 months to Mattie and Virginia lakes for a week. Smiled all the time

#2 first bp at 1 month to Desolation, just one night but did great.

#3 First bp wasn't until 6 but went in horseback at 1,2,3,4. I have pics of him at 2 up at Colby Lake. He sure could get dirty and would climb up anything (down was another issue!).

I won't mention the time I followed #2 and #3 up the trail by 20 minutes or so and there were mountain Lion tracks on top of theirs. Whoops, I did. ](*,)

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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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