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Aclimating

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Aclimating

Postby Wandering Daisy » Sat Jan 23, 2016 9:47 pm

I had an interesting experience in December. We went to Peru for two weeks. No hiking because it was rainy season and tour was a "cultural" tour for my husband's Spanish Class. Anyway, we went from sea level to Cusco, got off the plane at nearly 11,000 feet and I was fine. Spent two days here. Then down a bit for a day. Then two days at 12,000. Did an afternoon 1-hr hike up to 13,000 feet. Then a drive on a highway that reached 16,100 feet. Got out and walked up a hill. I also did a very fast hike up about 1000 feet at Machu Picchu (3rd day at altitude). I slept fine. I did take one Advil a night, same as I do in the mountains here, for the first few days.

All the time I was no more out of breath any more then when I go from sea level here to 10,000 feet and hike in the same day. That is to say that I normally do well at altitude. One thing we did differently in Peru was constantly drink coca leaf tea. Every hotel has it out in the lobby, free to drink. It tasted like green tea. The locals swear by it. The other difference was that we were basically at the equator. I looked up the "atmospheric bulge" and there was no definitive study. I gather that there is about a 2000-3000 foot mitigation effect of being on the equator vs Alaska (for example 12000 feet in Alaska mountains is equivalent to 14,000 feet at the equator. I did not find anything about equator vs Sacramento latitude (we are quite a ways south of Denali!).

I really thought 16,000 feet would knock me out more than it did. Has anyone else had this experience?



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Re: Aclimating

Postby Fly Guy Dave » Sun Jan 24, 2016 8:17 am

The only problems I had is when I hiked up to 16K on Cotopaxi in Ecuador and it felt like someone was ramming ice picks into my ear drums. We got to the climbers refuge and I drank some coca tea and I felt better in almost no time. That really is amazing stuff. I was mostly in and around Quito when I was there, which is right at 10K and I recall getting winded going up stairs the first couple of days, but I quickly got over that. No problems sleeping or anything like that. I wish that coca tea was available here, but I heard that is isn't. What a shame.
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Re: Aclimating

Postby maverick » Sun Jan 24, 2016 2:49 pm

An interesting study from 2010 about the influences of chewing coca leaves at High Altitude: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3001837/
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Re: Aclimating

Postby Fly Guy Dave » Sun Jan 24, 2016 5:34 pm

Fly Guy Dave wrote:I wish that coca tea was available here, but I heard that is isn't. What a shame.


I stand corrected...by myself... http://www.cocanatural.com/en/default.asp?par=0_436
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Re: Aclimating

Postby Silky Smooth » Sun Jan 24, 2016 6:58 pm

Great to hear about your experience in Peru WD. Brought back memories from my trip over 8 years ago from Choquequirao to Machu Picchu. I remember initially getting off the plane in Cusco after being at sea level got to me a little bit. But after acclimating and hiking around I felt fine. Yes the tea is amazing and also chewing the leaves helps as well. Ran into some farmers during my hike and got some fresh leaves. Really good. Peru is a great place to get familiarized with high altitude. I recommend www.salcantay.com a great old school dutch mountaineer named Jan runs it. He has a lot of great treks and a lot of experience in Peru; great resource. Highly recommend him to anyone looking for a great adventure in Peru. Glad you had a good trip.
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Re: Aclimating

Postby freestone » Mon Jan 25, 2016 7:13 pm

From what I can see, Coca Cola Corporation is the only entity that can import the Coca leaf legally. I once talked to an old Navy Nurse who told me the most reliable relief for the seasick sailor was undiluted Coca Cola syrup. I told her that sounded disgusting, be she swore by it. Maybe it would also work to relieve altitude symptoms?
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Re: Aclimating

Postby Wandering Daisy » Mon Jan 25, 2016 10:16 pm

FlyGuy- that website is in Lima, Peru. Does that mean you can get something delivered here that is not legal to bring in through customs? I did not try to order anything. Since it is a "natural" food web site I think I will ask at my local supplement store if they know anything about this. I drink tea when I backpack, so why not just drink coca tea? I also like the stuff.

That medical article kind of lost me in the details. My take on it was that the coca blocked production of lactic acid?? or something else that saps energy when you exercise. Altitude problems is a matter of lack of oxygen. Somehow you have to get more oxygen uptake in your blood. More red blood cells works but that takes time. Some of altitude sickness is dehydration. Drinking a lot of coca tea definitely hydrates you.

I attribute more of my "acclimation" with the equatorial atmospheric bulge. The atmosphere is thicker at the equator, so higher pressure at the same altitude as farther from the equator. Since I did drink a lot of coca tea, I cannot say if I would have been the same simply drinking water.

A few people in our group also drank coca tea and still had some problems with altitude, but they were basically overweight and out of shape.
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Re: Aclimating

Postby Fly Guy Dave » Tue Jan 26, 2016 8:23 am

Wandering Daisy wrote:FlyGuy- that website is in Lima, Peru. Does that mean you can get something delivered here that is not legal to bring in through customs?


I read that customs seldom checks these kinds of packages, but in the off chance that the package is intercepted, the company will give a full refund. I would wager the local natural health food store would have some idea how to get some coca tea.

When I was in Ecuador, I was younger and in good shape and almost right on the equator and I still had minor issues with altitude (winded for a few days). I don't know if the equatorial bulge helped or not, but I've given up trying to predict how I or others will react to altitude since there are so many variables and exceptions. However, I do know how much the coca tea helped me when I was as high in altitude that I have ever been. Amazing stuff.
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Re: Aclimating

Postby oleander » Mon Feb 29, 2016 8:46 pm

I've always had a very average reaction to altitude, here in the Sierra, to 14k.

My reaction to Peru/Bolivia was not the same as yours! I did a similar itinerary (starting in Cusco), then spent a much longer time than you did at 13k and 14k (Lake Titicaca, La Paz, etc.). Nearly a month total at 11-14k. After that month, I felt great at 14k.

THEN I went hiking in the mountains NE of La Paz. Every day, we woke at 15k, climbed over a ridge at 16k, and descended back to 15k. I was more or less OK going over the 16k ridges. But waking at 15k every morning, I was always terribly nauseous and lethargic for the first hour. I could barely walk from my tent down to the lake and back for water. Our daily walking wasn't all that strenuous. It was the altitude that did me in.

There was something about the jump from 14k to 15k that tore into my body. I was always OK waking at 14k.

I drank coca tea for the entire length of that visit.
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Re: Aclimating

Postby Wandering Daisy » Mon Feb 29, 2016 9:44 pm

Sounds like a sleep associated cause of the altitude sickness. That is the only reason I can think that you could walk higher during the day and then be sick next morning. Perhaps you dehydrated a lot at night or were not sufficiently hydrated when you went to bed. Or perhaps you naturally get into really shallow breathing at night, something like mild sleep apnea or getting into an overly deep sleep. Or maybe you overdid it during the day and it caught up at night.

I am probably on the upper end of doing well at altitude. Although we did not hike at 16,000 feet, we did get out of the bus and walk around, and up hills and I felt fine. But that really was only half a day at that altitude so hard to say.

I am envious! You were so lucky to be able to hike and spend a lot of time in Peru. Our trip was way too short. I sure would love to go back and do a lot more.
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