Altitude sickness death | High Sierra Topix  

Altitude sickness death

How do you prepare for the rigorous physical requirements of high elevation adventure? Strength and endurance are key, but are only part of a more complex equation. How do you prepare for changes in altitude, exposure, diet, etc.? How do you mentally prepare? Learn from others and share what you know about training in advance for outdoor adventures.
User avatar

Altitude sickness death

Postby overheadx2 » Thu Aug 16, 2012 1:47 pm

I just had a friend call and tell me that 2 weeks ago his young nephew died while hiking bishop pass. He didn't know the exact details, but told me that they had been hiking for several days and his symptoms progressively got worse. He had significant swelling, and had been very sick. They put him to bed in the tent on the third night, and he died that night. Just a reminder that while we are familiar with AMS and know what to look for and how to fix it, many new backpackers are not. As avid backpackers we often get asked advice about backpacking and most of the time I don't even think about explaining AMS. A simple reminder to folks taking the kids and friends as to what to look for and how to remedy the problem could save a life.



User avatar
overheadx2
Topix Expert
 
Posts: 418
Joined: Tue Mar 22, 2011 6:08 pm
Location: huntington beach
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: Altitude sickness death

Postby TehipiteTom » Thu Aug 16, 2012 2:09 pm

What a terrible thing to happen...I'm so sorry for your friend and the young man's family.

And this is an important reminder to us all.
User avatar
TehipiteTom
Founding Member
 
Posts: 814
Joined: Thu Aug 24, 2006 8:42 am
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

User avatar

Re: Altitude sickness death

Postby mbear » Thu Aug 16, 2012 2:32 pm

Horrible news and I am sad for your friend's loss. This thread really hit home for me since I recently had to blow off a 3 week trip after getting HAPE sleeping at Mono Pass on the third night.
Last edited by mbear on Thu Aug 16, 2012 2:41 pm, edited 2 times in total.
User avatar
mbear
Topix Acquainted
 
Posts: 24
Joined: Sat Jun 30, 2012 11:00 pm
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: Altitude sickness death

Postby maverick » Thu Aug 16, 2012 2:39 pm

Yes this is very sad, and a very unfortunate reminder to all of us about the
importance of being not only physically/mentally prepared, but being
knowledgeable in backcountry emergency situations.
Wish his family strength and peace during these hard times!
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
User avatar
maverick
Forums Moderator
Forums Moderator
 
Posts: 8038
Joined: Thu Apr 06, 2006 5:54 pm
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

User avatar

Re: Altitude sickness death

Postby no2haven » Thu Aug 16, 2012 3:55 pm

Very sad indeed, my condolences to you and your friend (and family).

Question: Although I'm sure most people just hike straight past them, do the trailhead signs mention anything about altitude sickness? I seem to recall that they mention a few common backcountry dangers in addition to the various wilderness regulations, but I don't remember anything about AMS. I'm sure many people don't know its a problem and some probably think its only relegated to Mt. Everest and other much higher peaks.
User avatar
no2haven
Topix Acquainted
 
Posts: 74
Joined: Wed Jul 06, 2011 2:41 pm
Location: Berkeley, CA
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: Altitude sickness death

Postby fourputt » Thu Aug 16, 2012 4:00 pm

This is a tragic reminder of the importance of being able to recognize HAPE or HACE (high altitude pulmonary|cerebral edema).

The only effective treatment is to descend ASAP, which is harder said than done when symptoms get severe.
User avatar
fourputt
Topix Acquainted
 
Posts: 64
Joined: Thu Aug 11, 2011 10:25 am
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: Altitude sickness death

Postby giantbrookie » Thu Aug 16, 2012 4:22 pm

This is such a sad story and it hits home for all of us. I was thinking of another angle on this, too, which is the part about hiking with children. I believe sometimes parents may not realize the severity of child's symptoms because many children have a tendency to make uncomfortable things seem worse than they really are. I have certainly been guilty of this. My son does not have a very high pain/discomfort tolerance, so one day, when he was complaining about his foot hurting while playing basketball I figured it was just because he was "soft". I told him that he was always complaining of aches and pains and at 10 he was much too young to have "real" aches and pains. He continued to play for several weeks until we noticed this funny swelling on his toe that didn't go away. Turns out he had a broken toe.
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/facu ... ayshi.html
User avatar
giantbrookie
Founding Member & Forums Moderator
Founding Member & Forums Moderator
 
Posts: 2439
Joined: Wed Dec 28, 2005 10:22 am
Location: Fresno
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: Altitude sickness death

Postby maverick » Thu Aug 16, 2012 4:22 pm

mbear posted some good info here just scroll down to the center of the page: http://www.highsierratopix.com/communit ... ams#p58570
This another thread that gives a lot of info: http://www.highsierratopix.com/communit ... ams#p10876
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
User avatar
maverick
Forums Moderator
Forums Moderator
 
Posts: 8038
Joined: Thu Apr 06, 2006 5:54 pm
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

User avatar

Re: Altitude sickness death

Postby ucangler » Thu Aug 16, 2012 4:25 pm

I am sorry for your friends loss.
User avatar
ucangler
Topix Acquainted
 
Posts: 57
Joined: Thu Dec 09, 2010 3:23 pm
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: Altitude sickness death

Postby mbear » Thu Aug 16, 2012 5:00 pm

maverick wrote:mbear posted some good info here just scroll down to the center of the page: viewtopic.php?f=34&t=8061&p=58570&hilit=ams#p58570
This another thread that gives a lot of info: viewtopic.php?f=9&t=1695&p=10876&hilit=ams#p10876


Don't mean to hijack the thread, but this description from your second post is somewhat close to the way I felt on my trip and I figured it might be helpful to discuss it:

Onset of bad symptoms on the third day is classic! People are OK on day one, though may have AMS like symptoms: headache, nausea, poor appetite, tired -- but they may not be any worse than anyone else in the party.

Day 2 they're slow. They may be significantly slower than the rest of the party. This is what you need to start paying attention to. Are they 20 to 30+ minutes behind and in otherwise good shape? (but be careful of rationalizing that they're "just in poor shape"...).

Night 2: they're having trouble sleeping. They may (?!?!) find it more comfortable to sleep sitting or propped up. Very bad sign. Fluid is significantly accumulating in the lungs. But don't depend on this as a sign.

The big sign is day 3. The person is very slow. They walk maybe 200 feet, stop, bend over and breathe; another 200 feet (or less). Stop and breathe. They are hurting. All of you are in trouble at this point. You need to:

(Everybody): Descend, Descend, Descend.

If at any point someone is slow to respond to answering questions, making decisions, hallucinating, stumbling -- ANY mental impairment, YOU NEED TO DESCEND IMMEDIATELY! Whatever time it is, you need to get down about 2,000 feet if possible. Even 1,000 feet is helpful. Someone's also got to go for help; whatever time it is. It's a difficult decision to make, but if you can't move the person down, you may have to leave them alone to get help. There's nothing else you can do for them if you can't get them down. Oxygen will help, but the only thing that will cure them is low altitude.


The first two days the appetite was great, ate really large meals, and I never had a headache, but by the third I think all I could get down was a power bar and a small bag of peanuts. Felt great dayhiking though earlier in the day. The trouble really started the 3rd night. As soon as I noticed the HAPE symptoms, I packed up and descended. Stuff like being tired from digging and using a cathole, heart beating fast at rest, dry cough and lungs feeling like I had something to cough up. I felt drunk and wasn't walking straight, and also needed to take 1-2 minute breaks to catch my breath every 100 feet or so on the return hike (luckily only 3.7 miles). I was taking steps maybe 1/3rd of my normal hiking stride also, and was making really lousy time. I really did feel a major difference getting back to the trailhead at 9800 feet vs where I was camping at 10,700 though. E.g., I'd get tired when walking with my pack (~40 lbs), but I could breath well at rest again. After hitching a ride to Tuolumne Meadows at 8600 feet I felt worlds better and was able to eat a decent sized meal. Enormous difference from how I was feeling at 10,700.

Had I not left when I did I know I would have been in serious trouble later on. I guess with kids, they're not going to know the things to really watch out for. Plus kids will sometimes ignore things bothering them to keep from disappointing everyone else, so I can understand why symptoms may not be apparent to others.
User avatar
mbear
Topix Acquainted
 
Posts: 24
Joined: Sat Jun 30, 2012 11:00 pm
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: Altitude sickness death

Postby ManOfTooManySports » Thu Aug 16, 2012 6:08 pm

This is not on the same scale, but recent research has indicated that ibuprofen can prevent some of the minor symptoms of altitude sickness (http://med.stanford.edu/ism/2012/march/altitude.html). We tried the regimen on our last trip and it seemed to help reduce the headache we often get the first couple of days.

I have not had serious altitude sickness, but I know people who have never had it before then get hit hard. I figure it's a bit of a roll of the dice each trip.

A few years ago we met a family coming down from Forester Pass who had a kid with obvious altitude sickness. We tried to counsel bailout options and pulled out the map to show them how do get to lower elevation and where to get a ride. "No, we're from out of state and this is our big trip." OK then....
User avatar
ManOfTooManySports
Topix Regular
 
Posts: 142
Joined: Thu Jul 14, 2011 3:58 pm
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: Altitude sickness death

Postby mediauras » Thu Aug 16, 2012 6:10 pm

Terrible! As a father of two young kids I can't even imagine the pain of that loss. I hope all are coping as best as possible.
User avatar
mediauras
Topix Acquainted
 
Posts: 94
Joined: Sat Apr 28, 2012 7:21 pm
Location: Oakland
Experience: N/A

Next

Return to Outdoor Boot Camp



Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 7 guests