Mountain climbing is becoming an increasingly popular sport. Aside from the usual perils of climbing, there is another thing that both beginners and seasoned professional climbers should watch out for. Altitude sickness is a physical disorder that happens when the human body is deprived of oxygen at higher altitude levels. This is especially prone to happen if the human body ascends too quickly without giving themselves time to properly adjust to the change in the air, whether it be through self-propulsion or being lifted mechanically.
There are ways to determine if you are starting to feel the effects of altitude sickness. Some symptoms to watch out for include difficulty sleeping, headache, increased heart rate, dizziness, light-headedness, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea or vomiting, or even shortness of breath. At this stage, altitude sickness is still in its mild to moderate stage, which means intervention is necessary to prevent it from worsening.
The slower the ascent, the more time your body has to adjust. This will translate immediately into your body’s physical response to the air changes. On average, it takes a person 2-3 days to properly adjust to a major height difference. If you are traveling by plane or by motorized vehicle, you shouldn’t try to reach your destination in one day. It’s important to travel no more than a few thousand feet per day and take frequent rest breaks. If you are traveling on foot, it’s even more crucial to listen to signs of exertion. You should travel no more than 1,000 feet per day and rest a full day after an incline of 3,000 feet.
Calories count when you’re up high, so ignore the usual advice to avoid carbohydrates because you need the extra caloric intake. Bring along plenty of snacks like dried fruit, chocolate, string cheese, bananas, and granola bars. Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration, a major contributor to altitude sickness vulnerability. In addition to doing certain things in excess, there are also things it is highly recommended you should avoid, including anything that can aggravate altitude sickness. Some examples of things to stay away from include smoking, drinking, and taking any type of sleeping pills.
Go at your own comfortable pace. You aren’t in a competition with anyone other than yourself. Don’t overdo it beyond what you can sense you’re capable of. When sleeping at night, be aware that altitude sickness can creep up on you while sleeping and it tends to accelerate at night. For this reason, it’s wise to climb to a slightly lower altitude to sleep.