Acclimating to Altitude 10,000 - 12,000 feet. | High Sierra Topix  

Acclimating to Altitude 10,000 - 12,000 feet.

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Acclimating to Altitude 10,000 - 12,000 feet.

Postby OzSwaggie » Fri Mar 02, 2012 10:04 pm

Hello All!
My partner and I are planning our trip to Sierra Nevada for August 2012. It's pretty well all scheduled now, we have permits, accommodation booked etc As we are in Australia, and this is our annual holiday and fourth trip to the Sierra Nevada, we are already very excited and training. (When you are in mid 40's, takes a long time to get in shape!)
I have a question about how long we should expect it to take to adjust to the altitude. On past trips, we have spent a week at 4,000 feet, then a week at 8,000 before venturing higher. This time though, we are flying into Mammoth (from our home at sea level!) then after only two days heading off to hike up to Tuolumne Meadows. We're allowing five days for this, with very low mileage days for the first few, so increasing sleeping altitude gradually around 1.000 feet per day as the books recommend. Then we're going back to Mammoth on the bus, to rejoin the JMT south from there, via Duck Pass.

I know there's a lot of individual variation, and we've had only minor issues with altitude in the past (headache, dizzy spells, out of breath ...) but what do people think of this plan? and can anyone suggest any way to make this adjustment easier?



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Re: Acclimating to Altitude 10,000 - 12,000 feet.

Postby oldranger » Fri Mar 02, 2012 11:44 pm

My guess is that 2 nights at Mammoth will set you up pretty well. 3 nights should be golden if you top out at less than 10,000 the next night. If you feel uncomfortable about the potential risks consider diamox (see one of the threads below). As you said everybody is different. Some can go from LA to the top of Whitney in a day and be fine, others like my wife (we live at 3,600 ft.) can spend two nights a Tuolumne Meadows before hiking and still not feel well (she doesn't get sick but gets a headache) after her third night she is fine. I can drive to any high TH, spend the night and be good to go for 11,000+. When I used to live at sea level I would get sick as low as 8,000 ft. if I didn't spend the night at the TH before starting out and up.

Mike
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Re: Acclimating to Altitude 10,000 - 12,000 feet.

Postby maverick » Sat Mar 03, 2012 11:44 am

Welcome to HST!
Everything OR said. Like the both of you mentioned everyone is different, and for some
going above 10000 ft or above there are no negative effects.
Know of some folks who start showing signs above 9000 ft, and by 10000 ft some severe
symptoms are showing and have to be taken down to safe altitudes.
Personally for altitude my regime to prepare is to be well hydrated days in advance before,
eat plenty of carbs starting 2-3 days ahead, and make sure to take it easy 2-3 days
before the start of the trip (no difficult workouts).

Here is a pretty good article on the subject: http://www.princeton.edu/~oa/safety/altitude.html
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Re: Acclimating to Altitude 10,000 - 12,000 feet.

Postby Wandering Daisy » Sat Mar 03, 2012 8:20 pm

Just saying "take it easy" the first few days leaves out a lot of detail on how you actually do that with respect to altitude! The key for me is keep my heart-rate steady and avoid exertion that puts a sudden stress on my heart. At altitude, once you get out of breath and the heart pounding in a major way, it is difficult to recover. Your muscles go into anaerobic metabolism and that causes altitude sickness. If you go slow and steady and let your pace be determined by your heartrate and always breath in rythem with a steady slow heartbeat, you can go all day. So "take it easy" refers more to a slow pace than a short day. In fact, I rather take few rest breaks and keep moving. Constant stop and go is hard on your body at high altitude. Rest breaks that are too long actually make you sluggish. This is the time to be the turtle, not the rabbit.
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Re: Acclimating to Altitude 10,000 - 12,000 feet.

Postby paul » Sat Mar 03, 2012 10:36 pm

I would guess you'll do fine. I live at sea level, and my usual plan is to drive into the mountains, sleep in the car somewhere along the road or at the trailhead at around 7000-8000 feet, then off I go. I can do the first night at 11,000 just fine usually, but I don't push it on the trail that first day, and I drink plenty of water ( which definitely helps me). I have followed the same program with a number of other people, and it works for them too. so I think 2 nights in Mammoth will set you up. You should definitely do some hiking while you are in mammoth - getting some exercise will help your body adjust.
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Re: Acclimating to Altitude 10,000 - 12,000 feet.

Postby OzSwaggie » Thu Apr 05, 2012 3:57 am

Thank you to all who responded. That's very helpful information. I've had minor effects from altitude around 8,000 feet last time, just dizziness and a feeling of great tiredness and feeling that I just couldn't get enough breath into me when climbing hills with my big pack on. Not pleasant; I have heard that exerting yourself at altitude then sleeping lower helps adjustment, so we had intended to maybe catch the gondola up to the top of Mammoth Mountain on our second day and walk around there for a while ...(without packs ...) is this a silly idea?
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Re: Acclimating to Altitude 10,000 - 12,000 feet.

Postby oldranger » Thu Apr 05, 2012 11:46 am

Great View! But doubt a couple of hours will impact your adaptation to altitude any more positively than hanging around at 8 or 9,000 ft.

Mike
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Re: Acclimating to Altitude 10,000 - 12,000 feet.

Postby WillieCash » Thu Jul 25, 2013 10:51 am

Lots of Hydration and caffeine early in the morning.

If altitude sickness sets in, a Viagra really helps believe it or not (for men and women)


Edit: Of course... talk to your doctor... blah blah blah
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Re: Acclimating to Altitude 10,000 - 12,000 feet.

Postby maverick » Thu Jul 25, 2013 1:47 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: Acclimating to Altitude 10,000 - 12,000 feet.

Postby OzSwaggie » Sat Dec 21, 2013 2:31 am

We used Gingko biloba which my naturopath md prescribed to prevent AMS and did fine with the two nights in Mammoth. But of course may be we would have been just fine without the Gingko, too, no way to know. (I think it thins out the blood and so helps prevent clots, which is good for flying , too. )

Just wanted to make an additional comment that we found coffee really helpful when we did experience symptoms of fatigue, headache and general low level yuckiness, on this and our 2012 trip... It was interesting to see in the article you linked to above, Maverick, that the stimulation effects of caffeine are considered helpful in altitude adjustment by the medical experts. It made me think of people in the Andes chewing Coca leaves, the stimulant helping them work at altitude. Good old coffee, definitely worth its weight in the pack!
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