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Altitude Sickness...

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

Postby Wish I lived in CO » Tue Jan 17, 2012 11:13 am

HighCountry_Tiger wrote:As for the CO2, it decreases in your blood. There is no debating that. As you ascend your breathing becomes more rapid meaning you "blow off" your CO2. As a consequence you progress towards a state of respiratory alkalosis (increase in pH). To compensate the body must excrete bicarbonate ions which in turn helps to decrease your pH. This is the purpose of diamox. Diamox will help your body more quickly reach a state of compensated respiratory alkalosis, not mask symptoms.

Your body also reacts to the hypoxia through vasocontriction of the pulmonary circulation in an attempt to match vent/perfusion. This vasoconstriction can cause pulmonary hypertension which can lead to pulmonary edema and HAPE. Cerebral circulation also increases and I believe the pathology is similar for cerebral edema.

Another compensatory mechanism is your body increasing its red blood cells (hematocrit). It does this by releasing EPO which "calls out" reticulocytes from your bone marrow. It also increase mature RBCs production but this takes about 30 days to complete.

In understanding this you can see how diamox will work. Note: don't take diamox if you are allergic to sulfa. Hydration is important. There isn't too much you can do to stop pulmonary vasoconstriction and unless you have EPO shots or a bag of PRBCs, you really cant increase your H&H. None of this is really about how athletic you are, but your body's ability to compensate.

I'm not in the medical field and don't understand all the terms, but this explanation is as good as I've seen regarding how diamox works.
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: Altitude Sickness...

Postby mstender » Wed Jan 18, 2012 12:47 pm

dmdoug wrote:No caffeine or alcohol - for the first couple days anyway.

If you are used to certain amounts of caffein and then you suddenly stop the intake you are asking for a headache. So get your fix. :D
"You may have passed time in happier ways, but there are other mountains to climb: you've never lived as you're living today - now is the time!"
Peter Hammill 1976

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Re: Altitude Sickness...

Postby nkan02 » Wed Jan 18, 2012 4:05 pm

I recently had an unpleasant experience of getting something that looked very similar to AMS - severe headache, nausea, etc. It turns out that I have an adverse reaction to Gatorade and similar electrolyte drinks. Drink pure water and go at a comfortable pace! I had an AMS on my very 1st 14er as I was trying to catch up with someone who was going too fast for my pace.
It has frequently been noticed that all mountains appear doomed to pass through the three stages: An inaccessible peak - The most difficult ascent in the Alps - An easy day for a lady. Albert Frederick Mummery, My Climbs in the Alps and Caucasus

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Re: Altitude Sickness...

Postby HighCountry_Tiger » Wed Jan 18, 2012 4:54 pm

I think the moral of all of this is everyone is different. I have gone from sea level to 14ers summit in 48 hrs and I drank plenty of booze and caffeine no problems.

You wont know how your body will react until you get here. Things you can do to reduce risk: drink plenty of H2O and if you want, get some diamox. Altitude sickness is unpredictable and very individualized. I have heard of people.where I'm from (@ 10000 feet) going to sea level for a few weeks then coming home and having symptoms.

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Re: Altitude Sickness...

Postby nyker » Mon Jan 30, 2012 9:44 pm

Coming from New York (the elevation on my floor in the building I live is about +150ft above sea level), I usually am pretty concerned about this. I actually thought about getting an altitude tent for my bed, though the $5000+ price tag was a bit of a deterrent.

Lots of good comments above. I've not resorted to taking Diamox or other drugs. One thing that I can say for sure is that my body does well if I eat about 25% less while at higher altitude and avoid fatty foods and refined sugars. 70% carbs seems to work better and then when done have a nice burger/steak or something, but having one hours before a climb would spell trouble (or the night before a 2AM start).

Hydrating is imporant as discussed. I've also noticed that if I am overtrained or lacking in sleep for several days in a row before coming out, my performance suffers and ability to acclimatize is lower.
It also could be in my mind, but I seem to climb better and faster in temps above 30 degrees.


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