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Does anyone have any suggestions for high altitude panic

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Re: Does anyone have any suggestions for high altitude panic

Postby Jim Davies » Fri Mar 15, 2013 5:08 pm

Wear ski goggles when it gets very windy. It's amazing how much difference that seems to make in your perception of wind speed.
Some people are afraid of heights. Not me, I'm afraid of white blood cells.

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Re: Does anyone have any suggestions for high altitude panic

Postby TomPierce » Fri Mar 15, 2013 5:49 pm

Georgia: If you're already living in Durango, and camp around 10K before you climb, are fit and have been up above 14K a few times...I struggle to see how this is likely to be a physiological issue. Maybe, but it sure doesn't fit the mold.

So maybe it's an anxiety reaction. I agree with SilverLynx that when I get into a tight spot, taking a step back mentally for a moment and breathing deeply seems to calm me down, helps me focus. Typically when I'm getting stressed it's leading on pretty steep terrain, well above my last piece of protection, on questionable rock. Sometimes I'll actually say aloud one of my favorite movie quotes (from Apollo 13): "Let's work the problem, people." It reminds me that when it's sketchy, my focus narrows, I get the classic tunnel vision, and solutions are occasionally readily available just not apparent to a stressed mind. Step back mentally, realize you are in control, look for solutions.

As for the wind thing, fully agree with Jim that good wind gear (a hood, fog-free goggles, etc.) will calm the mind as well. Just my two cents.
-Tom

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Re: Does anyone have any suggestions for high altitude panic

Postby nyker » Fri Mar 15, 2013 9:30 pm

All good comments here - read these posts also..

viewtopic.php?f=1&t=39211

While I don't get panicky, I occasionally feel "very-off" suddenly, and think it may have to do with some combination of electrolyte imbalance or alkalosis at high altitude...I notice that during such times, the cold affects me more and seems to make it worse...then often, it quickly disappears and I feel fine... whether its nerves or body chemistry, going slower usually helps regardless as it taxes your body less, even if you are in tip top shape. I figure, if you need to climb something that fast due to trying to beat the clock due to conditions/weather/daylight, then you probably should wait and do it another day anyway...

Good luck in your search for an answer. Always tricky to figure out the body.

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Re: Does anyone have any suggestions for high altitude panic

Postby elhombre » Sat Mar 16, 2013 6:54 am

The first sign that your body is getting lower oxygen levels is anxiety. Being in the EMS, I see this with people with COPD, asthma, and other acute breathing problems. You just may be "lucky" in that it effects you more than others. Some people talk about pursing their lips so it causes them to have to force the air out on exhalation. It may help some. Just make sure your not hyperventilating because you can blow off too much CO2 and cause more anxiety. The technique we use is breathe in for a 4 count, hold for a 4 count, then exhale for a 4 count. If I can get a patient to do this, it always calms them down.

I bet the wind is just another environmental stressor that may be the additional thing to push you past a certain controllable point. Just the fact that you are recognizing the anxiety puts you ahead of a bunch of people. I have seen and listened to others biting the heads off each other on the mountain not realizing that it is due to the anxiety welling up inside themselves.

If you have stupid money to spend, maybe buy yourself a finger pulse-ox machine and watch what your oxygen saturation does while climbing. It would be cool to hear the results of how you feel and the numbers you see.
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Re: Does anyone have any suggestions for high altitude panic

Postby susanjoypaul » Sat Mar 16, 2013 7:32 am

High winds can cause anxiety due to the positive ions they carry, and that you inhale, when you're hiking in it. I found this out after a bit of research, because I knew that, for myself, it usually wasn't the heat, or the cold, or the distance, or even the terrain that contributed to a particularly trying hike - it was the wind!

In short: High winds carry positive ions, which make you feel bad, while moving water carries negative ions, which make you feel good.

Examples:
- The "foehn" winds of Austria and Switzerland have been cited as "mitigating factors" in criminal proceedings :justkillme:
- One of the greatest producers of negative ions is Niagara Falls :iluvu:

Incidentally, "feng shui" literally means "wind water," the yin and yang of the ion world. It's why followers of feng shui put those little waterfalls in their homes and yards. Here in Colorado, we just have to go for a hike: There are nearly 500 known waterfalls in our state - that's 500 opportunities to feel great :-D

Not sure if it helps, but to stave off anxiety, I wear a buff over my nose and mouth when hiking in the wind, and try to avoid hiking above timberline altogether in high winds anymore. Frankly, it just pisses me off.

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Re: Does anyone have any suggestions for high altitude panic

Postby GeorgiaTyler » Sat Mar 16, 2013 8:18 am

All this hiking talk is really giving me the itch to get up on top soon.. Thanks again for the positive feedback, I will def try some of these techniques mentioned, this was very helpful and I'll report back in a few months when I get up high. Thanks again guys.

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Re: Does anyone have any suggestions for high altitude panic

Postby Dancesatmoonrise » Sat Mar 16, 2013 9:16 pm

Fascinating.

Georgia, after 42 calendar winter 14er ascents, I still get this symptom, as recently as yesterday. If that helps make it any better... Probably not. But FWIW, it's not just you.

I like what Jim said about the goggles. I rarely pack goggles unless I know it's going to be both blowing and snowing. Got to give that a try. I was worried about getting blown off the edge yesterday, and I know goggles won't help getting picked up by the wind, but might help being worried about getting picked up by the wind.

Susan, that's extremely interesting. I can't pour water over my head in winter, but perhaps how you cover your face is related to Jim's idea of wearing goggles. I'll have to try these methods. Do you have some reading references for the + and - ion theory? Thanks!

Of course, all the posts re: low O2 are hard to refute, and I personally feel the noise of the wind can be very distracting and anxiety-provoking. As to more typical symptoms of altitude and O2, I have some successful methods. As to the sound of high winds, I'd have a hard time wearing ear plugs b/c I feel I need all my senses in those situations. Still, logically, can't think of too much other than cracking, whoomfing, snow noises and axe and crampon sounds interacting with the snow that would be necessary to hear.

Perhaps I'll suffer the extra 4 oz for goggles next trip, and the 10 grams for a pair of ear plugs - and give these things a try.

Interesting thread.

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Re: Does anyone have any suggestions for high altitude panic

Postby susanjoypaul » Sun Mar 17, 2013 6:15 am

Dancesatmoonrise wrote:Susan, that's extremely interesting. I can't pour water over my head in winter, but perhaps how you cover your face is related to Jim's idea of wearing goggles. I'll have to try these methods. Do you have some reading references for the + and - ion theory? Thanks!

I think the buff really does help - not just to keep my face warm and the cold air out of my lungs; it does seem to mitigate some of the stress encountered in high winds. As for ion theory: I'm not a follower of metaphysical science, alternative medicine, or even feng shui, but I believe there's enough real science out there to support the theory.

Here are a few sources. You can do a search on "negative ions" or "positive ions" to find many more, but beware the sites that try to sell you negative-ion-making trinkets and machines. Duh.

http://www.amazon.com/The-Owners-Manual-Brain-Applications/dp/1885167644
http://www.atmos-chem-phys.net/7/2271/2007/acp-7-2271-2007.pdf
http://www.trivia-library.com/b/geography-features-the-foehn-swiss-wind.htm
http://www.webmd.com/balance/features/negative-ions-create-positive-vibes
http://www.nutritionreview.org/library/negative.ions.php
http://www.marksdailyapple.com/negative-ions-health/
http://www.wisegeekhealth.com/what-are-negative-ions.htm
http://dalimara.com/pages/negative-ions

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Re: Does anyone have any suggestions for high altitude panic

Postby GeezerClimber » Sun Mar 17, 2013 10:03 am

I think a lot of problems are caused when people fail to pace themselves properly. On my early climbs, I pushed myself and felt like crap by the time I summited. I then treated climbs like marathons, monitored my breathing and heart rate and made sure I was never at my limit. Once you have an oxygen deficit, it is difficult to get rid of it up high. If you do this, you may find (like I did) that your climbs are more enjoyable and you will actually be faster in the long run if you want to be.

Dave

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Re: Does anyone have any suggestions for high altitude panic

Postby jdorje » Sun Mar 17, 2013 10:37 am

susanjoypaul wrote:In short: High winds carry positive ions, which make you feel bad, while moving water carries negative ions, which make you feel good.


Sounds like the solution is to hike during thunderstorms!
-Jason Dorje Short

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Re: Does anyone have any suggestions for high altitude panic

Postby DeTour » Sun Mar 17, 2013 12:34 pm

Dancesatmoonrise wrote: Still, logically, can't think of too much other than cracking, whoomfing, snow noises and axe and crampon sounds interacting with the snow that would be necessary to hear.

... but isn't that a big part of the appeal? I haven't climbed in winter, but as a Michigan Yooper, I know solitude in winter. The beauty isn't limited to visual. The air, the crunch of your steps, the bite of the cold ... no other living creature in the entire world you can see, but you're not alone. And you're certainly not lonely.
when you come to a fork in the road, take it.

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Re: Does anyone have any suggestions for high altitude panic

Postby colorado yooper » Sun Mar 17, 2013 6:15 pm

DeTour wrote:
Dancesatmoonrise wrote: Still, logically, can't think of too much other than cracking, whoomfing, snow noises and axe and crampon sounds interacting with the snow that would be necessary to hear.

... but isn't that a big part of the appeal? I haven't climbed in winter, but as a Michigan Yooper, I know solitude in winter. The beauty isn't limited to visual. The air, the crunch of your steps, the bite of the cold ... no other living creature in the entire world you can see, but you're not alone. And you're certainly not lonely.


The feeling of hiking in the UP in the winter is the same at altitude as is the slim chance of getting rescued if some thing bad happens which always leads to a little anxiety on winter hikes in either location!
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