Altitude sickness death

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ManOfTooManySports
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Re: Altitude sickness death

Post by 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" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;). 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....








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mediauras
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Re: Altitude sickness death

Post by 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.

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kpeter
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Re: Altitude sickness death

Post by kpeter » Thu Aug 16, 2012 6:29 pm

A great tragedy. Hopefully we can all learn from it and maybe one of us will have the occasion to help someone avoid a similar tragedy in the future.

Question: I know that gradual acclimatization certainly helps general energy and comfort levels, but is there any evidence as to whether gradual acclimatization helps to avoid HAPE?

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Re: Altitude sickness death

Post by ucangler » Fri Aug 17, 2012 9:50 am

Everytime I go out to the Sierra's I do take Ibuprofen to relieve inflammation. So far, I believe it has reduced the headaches. From the Institute from Altitude Medicin, everyone's brain swells at least slightly and the anti-inflammatory properties of IBUP work like a charm.
http://www.altitudemedicine.org/index.p ... e-sickness" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

I usually take 600mg every 5 hours or so on the 1st day. To get a good rest, I take a benadryl to knock me out and quell any allergies I have from the natural antigens in the wilderness along with Ibuprofen for the prevention of further inflammation. The next day, I'm good to go fly fishing at 6am!

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Mradford
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Re: Altitude sickness death

Post by Mradford » Fri Aug 17, 2012 10:14 am

WOW, this is very sad to here and very scary. I have backpacked with kids before and they were suffering form AMS and we kind of overlooked it. Now i know better but back then i was very new to all of this.

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Re: Altitude sickness death

Post by DonDeadman » Fri Aug 17, 2012 10:37 am

Terrible news.

Now, this is one thing that I've questioned, and hope that this isn't the improper time to ask...

For those of you that have fallen victim to this: where (roughly) do you live? I come from a place that's all ready higher than most (5500 ft), so on my trip, I wasn't hit so hard (I think).
Do you think it's worse for people coming from places like LA or the Bay Area, where the elevation is significantly lower?

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Re: Altitude sickness death

Post by mbear » Fri Aug 17, 2012 10:50 am

DonDeadman wrote:Terrible news.

Now, this is one thing that I've questioned, and hope that this isn't the improper time to ask...

For those of you that have fallen victim to this: where (roughly) do you live? I come from a place that's all ready higher than most (5500 ft), so on my trip, I wasn't hit so hard (I think).
Do you think it's worse for people coming from places like LA or the Bay Area, where the elevation is significantly lower?
I come from San Antonio, Texas (~800 feet)

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Re: Altitude sickness death

Post by jfelectron » Fri Aug 17, 2012 1:18 pm

I recently bailed from a 10 day trip on day 3 due to what I think ultimately started as AMS but became severe dehydration due to inability to keep liquids down. I've never had problems with altitude sickness, which just goes to show that it can happen to anyone even if you think you are 'immune'. I camped my first night at the lakes on the East Side of Kearsarge Pass at ~10k. I slept OK and felt reasonable in the morning. However, I had little appetite and gagged on my coffee and vomited a little. I felt OK going over the pass, and my route had me descending down toward Road's End so I thought I'd be OK. Over the course of the very hot day (>90F), I had increasing trouble keeping fluids and food down. I descended all the way down to Road's End and bivyed next to the permit station. In the morning, I attempted to hike back toward Onion Valley but felt pretty awful. I continued to have limited success in keeping liquids down. I ultimately had to hitch out of the park to receive IV liquids in Fresno. I always force liquids the first days at altitude and this was no exception. I think with vommiting due to AMS and the heat I just couldn't keep up and woud up dehydrated. So the moral is that even upon descending, sometimes the effects of AMS can still prove perilous and force evacuation.

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zorobabel
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Re: Altitude sickness death

Post by zorobabel » Fri Aug 17, 2012 2:29 pm

How about this scenario?
Let's say you wake up with HAPE or HACE. Your car and fastest descent lie over a pass that is about 500 ft higher than your campsite; let's say 7 miles to the car - called the E route. You can also descent right away at a more moderate pace in the direction opposite of your car (called the W route) with the nearest human/trailhead in that direction being about 35 miles, that's if you have a map of that area. You have only 1 day of food left. What would some of you that have thought more (than me) about AMS do?
What if the pass is 1000 ft higher?

My thoughts - for short term, taking the W route offers the fastest cure for HAPE/HACE, but you end up walking a lot more, possibly X-country, while being at the least of your abilities. Food is not important yet, as you don't want to eat because of the sickness. By the second/3rd day of the W descent (if you don't brake a leg - XC and with no map) you will end up very hungry and possibly lost. SAR has no idea where you are. If you manage not to get hurt descending (which might be hard with HACE), chances of getting out OK are high.

The E route, might kill you in the beginning - ascent to pass, then descend to original camping elevation which might add 2 hours. In these 2 hours you would have descended to a safe elevation already by taking the W route. If this was your intended route (shared with rangers/family) SAR knows where to look for you. If you have to go XC, chances of injury are higher than the E route (we are talking about E Sierra right?)

If there's a trail for only one route I would choose the trail.
If there are trails on both routes I would choose the E route, over the pass, especially if I catch HAPE/HACE early.
If HAPE/HACE is advanced, I would crawl on the W route.
Note to myself, I should start to carry an extra map - for the route I don't intend to take :).

PS. There's also a 3rd possibility, descending W for one (or half) day, than going back E after feeling better. This could be the worst choice of the 3.

Thanks for reading the long post...

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Re: Altitude sickness death

Post by Cross Country » Fri Aug 17, 2012 8:31 pm

First a little background.
At 45 years of age I never noticed any altitude sickness on my part and had no recollection of being in the presence of it with someone else.
My sons (6yo to 16yo) reveled in being backpacking tough guys more that I ever did and actually liked "death marches". I never did.
On our 3rd trip ever (6 and 11yo) I took them over Kersarge Pass, their first time above 11K. They seemed to do fine hiking over the pass. Upon arrival at the lakes they both laid down in the tent and after a while informed me that neither of them wanted to eat dinner. They only wanted gatorade. They each slept about 11 hours that night and didn't eat until a light breakfast the next day. Although unplanned, that day was to be a layover day. The following day they were fine and we hiked down the short distance to Charlotte Lake.

That was pretty scary to me and from then on I monitored them very closely. It came up a few other times but because I was sensitive to it, it never caused a problem but was always a cause for alarm and caution.

One should always be willing to change plans when prudent.

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