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Altitude Sickness...

FAQ and threads for those just starting to hike the Colorado 14ers.
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Altitude Sickness...

Postby ironman11 » Wed Dec 14, 2011 11:28 am

Hey guys and gals, my g/f and I are planning a trip to CO in March. We live at sea level. We will be staying in silverthorne and skiing at Vail/Copper for the first 3 days of the trip. We are wanting to climb quandary, this will be our first 14er, on the 4th day. Do you think 3 days at altitude will be enough acclimatization before the climb. If we are going to feel like absolute crap and be miserable then we won't climb it. I don't know if it makes a difference but we are both young and in great physical conditon, she a marathon runner and myself an Ironman triathlete. How many days should a normal acclimatization be before heading up a 14er? Any advice is appreciated.

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Re: Altitude Sickness...

Postby climbing_rob » Wed Dec 14, 2011 11:40 am

Chances are you'll feel pretty crappy, even after 3 days acclimating, but so what, climb as high as you can and maybe you'll be just fine, very hard to tell.

"Experts" claim that high altitude acclimation is not a function of fitness level, but I say BS to this; a major factor they ignor is that folks such as yourselves are nicely trained to ignore discomfort, hence are less prone to be bothered at all by the altitude effects. Plus, since you can move faster than most, you time exposed to the altitude will be less.

By the way, and you probably know this: this will be probably THE snowiest time of the year, so plan accordingly. quandary is a good choice for those conditions, as has been hashed to death on here repeatedly.
Last edited by climbing_rob on Wed Dec 14, 2011 11:43 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Altitude Sickness...

Postby climbing_rob » Wed Dec 14, 2011 11:42 am

woops... ignore this...
Last edited by climbing_rob on Wed Dec 14, 2011 11:43 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Altitude Sickness...

Postby steelfrog » Wed Dec 14, 2011 11:42 am

Get some diamox from your doctor and take as needed

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Re: Altitude Sickness...

Postby peter303 » Wed Dec 14, 2011 11:46 am

Day before test yourself on Loveland Pass. Thats a quick drive to 12K feet. See how you feel there.

You'd catch Hwy 6 from Keystone east to the pass. On snowing days the pass closes.

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Re: Altitude Sickness...

Postby Elizabeth37 » Wed Dec 14, 2011 12:01 pm

Fitness is part of it, but the Department of Defense wouldn’t be backing a study to develop a test for it if it was the only or main component. From what I’ve read genetics is a significant factor, which is what the study is looking at. I’ve done a bunch of marathons and an ironman too, so I’m in decent shape. I haven’t spent much time over 10K and once I hit about 13K I can’t turn my head without feeling like I’m going to pass out.

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Re: Altitude Sickness...

Postby emcee smith » Wed Dec 14, 2011 12:27 pm

Some interesting tips here. I stick with the idea that there is no rule, not even for the same person.

Waaaay back when, I flew to Denver from Tulsa (720'), then drove to the top of Evans in the same day and was noticably dizzy before I even got out of the car. Now, I can fly from Houston to Denver, hike to camp and summit a 14er the next day with no effects.

Drinking water seems to be a factor for me, plus taking the aspirin.

One cautionary note (specific to climbing_rob's comment) is to pay attention to your head/body. I have read and agree that there is a significant difference between pushing yourself running versus hiking a 14er. Any discomfort (headache/dizziness) should be checked against your ability to make it down safely.

Good luck!
"Chug a luggin up one side, glidin down the other, [I'm] a lover of the other side of the hill"

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Re: Altitude Sickness...

Postby awilbur77 » Wed Dec 14, 2011 12:31 pm

My brother came out from Boston during the summer and we drove from the airport directly to a campsite near Twin Lakes where we did a full day of white water rafting through class 5 rapids and then hiked La Plata Peak the next day. He had some headaches once we got above 13,000, but some Advil seemed to help. 4 days is plenty of time to acclimate in my opinion. You will still have it worse off than people who live here, but probably better off than my brother did.
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Re: Altitude Sickness...

Postby PolishPete » Wed Dec 14, 2011 1:06 pm

This is definitely a tough topic.

Here's my opinion on it, based on experiences that myself and friends have felt. We're from Chicago. Definite flatlanders.

Everytime we climb, we drive from Chicago, and either drive directly to the TH, or drive into town, hang-out for a few hours, then go to the trailhead. No acclimaztion at all. Drive, climb, drive.

First, taking Ginko 5 days prior to your arrival has defintely helped us. Continue taking Ginko while in CO. We also take one Ibuprofen every few hours while hiking, this also seems to have helped.

When we're out there, we can feel fine one minute, and like complete trash the next. You never know. It also hits each of us differently and at different times. Day one of hiking in, one guy can feel like crap. The next morning that person feels fine, but the strongest person from day one now feels like crap. You just never know.

Doing the Ginko/Ibuprofen has helped keep that from happening though. Maybe it's mental, or maybe it's a real help to the physical reactions...but it has helped.

I agree that it has a lot to do with your body chemistry/genetics. I also agree that your fitness level will help you overcome any alititude sickness not because it'll help stop it from occuring, but because you'll be better positioned to deal with it and continue on. My experience in hockey allows me to "know" my body, and know that I can work through the pain, where people who don't have that feel "pain", and say that's it, I hate this, I'm done. I am aware of my "wall", and work though the pain, and actually enjoy doing so!!

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Re: Altitude Sickness...

Postby greenhorn1 » Wed Dec 14, 2011 5:01 pm

ironman11 wrote:Hey guys and gals, my g/f and I are planning a trip to CO in March. We live at sea level. We will be staying in silverthorne and skiing at Vail/Copper for the first 3 days of the trip. We are wanting to climb quandary, this will be our first 14er, on the 4th day. Do you think 3 days at altitude will be enough acclimatization before the climb. If we are going to feel like absolute crap and be miserable then we won't climb it. I don't know if it makes a difference but we are both young and in great physical conditon, she a marathon runner and myself an Ironman triathlete. How many days should a normal acclimatization be before heading up a 14er? Any advice is appreciated.


Heading straight to Silverthorne? Make sure your hydrated well and don't try to take on too much IF you feel sickness come on. I'm from STL and when driving to Moab stayed the night at the Silverthorne Inn. I started feeling sluggish immediately. Then came the headaches and throwing up in the night. It only went away the next morning when we left town and headed down towards Grand Junction. I seem to get it worse than others - my mom was with me and she felt fine...
Choose only one master - Nature. Rembrandt

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Re: Altitude Sickness...

Postby justify429 » Wed Dec 14, 2011 5:19 pm

Not to sure on the facts but for me and a few friends. I have been strait from Houston and climbed the next day. It really to me just depends on the person. Also what works for me if you start feeling light headed try breathing differently it seemed to help me. But gl to you both no hurt in trying.

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Re: Altitude Sickness...

Postby tommycli » Wed Dec 14, 2011 5:22 pm

Personally, I live in Denver but still would not be able to climb without Excedrin.

I pop 2 once my head starts to pound, BEFORE i get the headache. It has a nice shot of caffeine plus acetaminophen and asprin. Just totally clears my head and keeps it clear for a few hours. Damn, this sounds like a commercial.

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