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Acclimating

FAQ and threads for those just starting to hike the Colorado 14ers.
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Re: Acclimating

Postby Diver Mike » Fri Feb 04, 2011 11:57 am

I was wondering if anybody else does it like me?
I drive from Nebraska, approx 1250 feet above sea level, arrive to trail head or vicinity 9-12 hours after departure from home, start hydrating heavy, get very little sleep the first night, climb the next day. First day ascents have been Elbert, Longs, Missouri, Belford, and Huron. Had to turn around one time on a Longs attempt when we were carrying packs for an overnight at the Boulderfield, least in shape person of our group of late 30's to late 40'as age group.
We usually climb another peak that is in the vicinity the next day, so far no problems. Your results may vary.

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Re: Acclimating

Postby OmahaAdam » Fri Feb 04, 2011 12:03 pm

So far, my MO, being a fellow Nebraskan living WAY too far from CO: Drive to Denver area, crash at friend's. Day 2 drag said friend to trailhead/campsite, set up, sleep. Day 3-?? climb. Day of last summit, return to Denver and eat ribs at Brothers post haste. Return home.

So, I suppose a 2day acclimation. I wouldn't mind hastening that to get more climbing in w/less time off work.

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Re: Acclimating

Postby summitstep » Fri Feb 04, 2011 12:26 pm

I come from Ohio . We drive non stop and hit a trailhead first thing the next morning. So far, no problems, but we take a slow and steady pace. This year we plan to do the West Slope Trail on Bierstadt as our day 1 warmup. We have done the Summit Ridge Trail on Evans, and that peak also has a nice little workout from Summit Lake up the Northeast face; 2 miles RT and 1,420 ft gain. Just enough to get your lungs working and still top out over 14,000 to admire the view. You sound pretty fit, so I don't think you need worry. Water and pace always work for me, and I'm no athletic specimen. However, I hike constantly at home, putting in up to 20 miles and always carry the same pack load I carry in Colorado. I find whatever hills I can and keep going up and down to work the legs. Can't replicate the altitude, but you can the workout. Good luck and have fun! \:D/
"In this high country that we love, trails are steep. We climb each mile, breath by breath, and at the threshold of pain, bliss overtakes us."

"It's called CRAZY. And somehow, when you are bent over your poles, staring at your boots- heart heaving and trying not to cough your lung onto a rock= you look up...and you are looking down over all those beautiful mountains....and you wouldn't want to be anywhere else."

"For all the richness of normal, everyday life, it is good sometimes to trespass high in the sky, and live with uncommon intensity, experiencing something that gets close to the sublime."

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Re: Acclimating

Postby 14erkid » Sat Feb 05, 2011 8:07 pm

I like the idea of staying @ Leadville. I have stayed the night at Leadville the before a 14er hike and it helps a lot.
"Don't take life seriously because you can't come out of it alive."
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Re: Acclimating

Postby DeTour » Sat Feb 05, 2011 8:52 pm

Three pages and 28 posts on acclimating, and nobody mentions Diamox? I thought there was a consensus that it's a viable option that really helps. We took it last year, coming from 600 feet, and agreed it helped. Family doc had no qualms about prescribing it, said he does routinely for people going to over 12000 feet. Drug interaction warnings and side effects were surprisingly minimal. You start taking it about 3 days in advance; we stopped taking it after a couple days in CO, didn't even use the full script.

One of several threads touching on this topic:
http://www.14ers.com/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=25482&hilit=diamox

In four years of climbing 14ers, we've suffered on our first one every year, and never had problems after the first 14er. Our agenda has generally been something like this:
> The day we fly in, we've always gotten to a motel at 7500-8500 or so - Estes Park, Lake City, Westcliffe.
> We climbed relatively "easy" 14ers the second day two years. Last year, we dialed back and hiked to a high camp at 11,900 feet the second day, then climbed Lindsey on the third day.

Even though the overt symptoms of altitude sickness have generally been gone after our first 14er, I know we were far from acclimabed. I really noticed last year that I felt much stronger toward the end of our week in CO.
when you come to a fork in the road, take it.

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Re: Acclimating

Postby search4meaning » Sun Feb 06, 2011 4:07 pm

I have read that it can take up to three weeks to fully acclimate, so any effort short of this is a compromise. That being said any effort to acclimate is better than none. Hailing from Michigan (elev. 665') I will try to spend as many days as I can cIimbing high and sleeping low. As mentioned in another thread, hydration is a key. While there is a school of thought that no medications should be taken to "climb unaided", I have used Diamox sequels during my first 14,000'er (Rainier). It left all three of us with odd taste, tingly fingers and toes and one of us still does not have great feeling in the his toes. We did summit, but I would not suggest Diamox sequels without careful consideration. I am surprised that no one has mentioned using either Viagra or Cialis. Seriously. I have two brothers that are MD's and they both suggested these. They work better than Diamox sequels with fewer side effects. This is for men - I do not know the effectiveness of these on women for climbing. (But guys... if you have an erection lasting more than 4 hours...) There are a number of excellent references available, but none at my disposal as I am at my office and they are at the house.

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Re: Acclimating

Postby strongmelon » Sun Feb 06, 2011 5:56 pm

search4meaning wrote:I am surprised that no one has mentioned using either Viagra or Cialis. Seriously. I have two brothers that are MD's and they both suggested these.


Dr. Strongmelon mentioned Viagra a few posts back.

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Re: Acclimating

Postby climbing_rob » Sun Feb 06, 2011 9:29 pm

Viagra is primarily a HAPE avoidance and treatment drug, and I don't believe it does squat for AMS or even general altitude acclimation. Not having read much of this thread though, perhaps I'm missing the gist of the discussion. Yes, my climbing teams also carry Viagra for the really high stuff in case of a HAPE occurrence (and Dex for HACE), but Diamox is our wonder drug of choice for a gentle nudging toward a bit swifter acclimation and avoidance of AMS. 60mg twice a day (about 1/4th of what is commonly used) works wonders and avoids the nasty side effects. Make sure though that you're not sulfa-drug intolerant.

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Re: Acclimating

Postby peter303 » Mon Feb 07, 2011 7:51 am

Motown Mike wrote:I have read what has been said here but I have some questions:
1. What happens in a FEW DAYS that makes people think that they are "acclimating" to the altitude?

I find its similar to donating blood. You get back to your "average" abilities in just a couple days. Forr example in my case, an hour training run.
But your "peak performance" (no pun intended) suffers for a month or more. For example, setting a new personal record in a 10K race.

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Re: Acclimating

Postby Wish I lived in CO » Mon Feb 07, 2011 8:18 am

DeTour wrote:Three pages and 28 posts on acclimating, and nobody mentions Diamox? I thought there was a consensus that it's a viable option that really helps....


Totally agree.

I see the OP has done Elbert, that should be a good idea of how you react to the altitude. If still unsure you can try acclimating for a few days, drink water, etc. first as the others have suggested. If fine then great! But if not, then in subsequent attempts I would not hesitate to try acetazolamide. It can get a bad rap from the "purists", but I really don't care what they think since climbing does not have to be a competition, but rather is simply for fun! It turns it from something to endure to a really enjoyable time.

I've tried a full week of hiking without acetazolamied - was feeling dizzy on day one and had headaches the rest of the week. When using acetazolamide (Diamox) on the next year's weeklong trip, felt great - hiked a 14er less than 24 hours after arriving from flatland, and felt great all week. Some people dislike the side affects, they were tolerable for me, well worth it for the benefits, but you'd have to try for yourself. You can try at home weeks before going to see how the side affects are for you, maybe try a half dose.
I look up to the mountains - does my help come from there? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth! Psalm 121:1-2

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Re: Acclimating

Postby Theodore » Wed Feb 16, 2011 2:05 pm

I've always done my trips in a very similar fashon to Diver Mike. Drive out to the TH, and get up and down before my body can figure out what is going on. KC is around 800ft, so I've seen 13,000+ feet of gain in 18 hours on a consistent basis with zero ill effects.

I stay as hydrated as possible and start that process a few days prior to leaving. Making a trip out there this weekend, so we'll see how it goes this time! Meeting friends in Wichita, then driving out and spending the night in Buena Vista. Then the weekends goals are La Plata and Yale if the weather cooperates. Back down to Kansas on Monday. All told it will be about 22 hours in a car, a total elevation gain of almost 20,000 feet and about 20 miles on foot. I'm usually quite tired for the few days afterwards, but that's about as bad as it effects my body.

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