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#118368 - 07/15/09 11:41 PM Backpacking over 8,000 ft.
300winmag Offline
member

Registered: 02/28/06
Posts: 1342
Loc: Nevada, USA
Any recommendations for training gear for those of us living at 2,500 ft. to help us aclimatize better to 8,000 to 12,000 ft.?

I recall there used to be an expensive, cumbersome and stupid-looking device that made you rebreathe some of your CO2 to make for "thin air" and replicate different altitudes, depending on adjustment. Maybe this would be OK on an exercise bike stand in the privacy of your own house but never would I be caught wearing it in public.

Eric
P.S.
I ask this B/C, when climbing to almost 12,000 ft. last Sunday I was forced to walk 1/2 as fast as my normal pace at 2,000 feet.
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#118370 - 07/16/09 01:04 AM Re: Backpacking over 8,000 ft. [Re: 300winmag]
CWF Offline
member

Registered: 08/22/06
Posts: 266
I've never heard of that before.

If expecting to be over 10,000 ft for a few days I train my cardiovascular system hard for a month or two prior, including interval training.

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#118372 - 07/16/09 01:20 AM Re: Backpacking over 8,000 ft. [Re: 300winmag]
Trailrunner Offline
member

Registered: 01/05/02
Posts: 1835
Loc: Los Angeles
No problem.

No prices on the website but my guess is this stuff doesn't come cheap. The old adage with altitude training was "sleep high and train low." A million years ago when I was training for the world cycling championships we lived at 12K' but drove down to a valley to train every day. This newfangled stuff allows you to do the equivalent without ever leaving your neighborhood.

Realistically, it's best to allow yourself some time at altitude before your trip if possible. Stay hydrated and stock up on ibuprofen.

Don't know what you're going to attempt but lots of folks who climb Mt. Whitney spend a night or two in one of the 8K+' campgrounds in the area and they claim that it helps. There is lots of good discussion on the subject here on the Mt. Whitney Message Board.

I think one important factor at altitude is one you have no control over.....your parents. Some people just adapt better than others. I have one hiking buddy who is a complete wreck over 8K no matter what he does. Other people waltz up Mt. Whitney with almost no ill effects. No one said life was fair LOL!!!!
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If you only travel on sunny days you will never reach your destination.*

* May not apply at certain latitudes in Canada and elsewhere.

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#118373 - 07/16/09 01:23 AM Re: Backpacking over 8,000 ft. [Re: 300winmag]
MattnID Offline
member

Registered: 06/02/07
Posts: 317
Loc: Idaho
Yah, I've heard of that machine. I know a lot of athletes use it since not everyone can go hang out in Colorado Springs all of the time. But that seems pretty extreme.

I live roughyl around 2,500 feet too, but as of yet I've yet to even really feel the change until 9,000 feet(believe it or not), and even then it isn't terrible for me. I'd like to think it was because I was born and lived in Colorado Springs for a while, but that was a long time ago. More or less, it has to be what I do concerning exercise.

I ride my bike 16 miles 4 times a week and go to the gym later in the day on those days as well. I run to the gym every once in a while and run once or twice a week regularly, as well as go to my dubbed "training hill" with a heavy pack and walk that up without stopping(1,000 feet rise in less than 1.5 miles) every once in a while. It's probably a little much but it works very well when I hit those higher elevations throughout the summer and into hunting season.

I will praise the bike riding to no end however. Last summer, when I was being busy moving and all of that, I coudln't do anything for my trip that would take me from 7,500 feet to 9,500 feet. So, about two weeks before the trip, I finally was settled in and had my bike and started riding it pretty hard for that last two weeks, five times a week at least. I was really worried I'd be sucking air when we were going with only 2 weeks of bike riding, but I was destroying hills the entire trip, even above 9,000 feet. But that's just me and my suggestions.
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In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.-Aristotle

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#118376 - 07/16/09 09:28 AM Re: Backpacking over 8,000 ft. [Re: 300winmag]
lori Offline
member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2801
I don't know of any reliable method other than spending a few days at elevation. Since I've never had a problem with elevation, I usually just drive to the trailhead. Good thing - I can't take Diamox. I'm allergic to sulfa.

Spending a day, ascending 1-2000 feet, spending another day sounds like the most often mentioned method.

http://www.princeton.edu/~oa/safety/altitude.html
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#118378 - 07/16/09 09:49 AM Re: Backpacking over 8,000 ft. [Re: 300winmag]
Pika Offline
member

Registered: 12/08/05
Posts: 1726
Loc: Rural Southeast Arizona
I think that the only way to adapt is to maintain a good overall level of aerobic fitness and to ease into any altitude gain as gradually as possible. It also helps to stay well hydrated for the first few days of a trip. Drinking alcoholic beverages should probably be curtailed over this interval as well. Resting for a day or two before starting the hike is also a good idea.

For me, aerobic fitness comes from cycling or fast walking at least an hour, six days a week and day-hiking once or twice a week in the 9,000'+ mountains around where I live. I almost always enter the Sierra from the east side so easing into altitude is not always practical so I just have to suck it up a bit.

I lived in Flagstaff, AZ (7000') for six years and though I don't think there is any residual physical benefit, I am certainly familiar with the effects of altitude. For this reason, I don't pay as much attention to them as I suspect I would had I never lived at altitude.
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#118380 - 07/16/09 10:58 AM Re: Backpacking over 8,000 ft. [Re: 300winmag]
finallyME Offline
member

Registered: 09/24/07
Posts: 2710
Loc: Utah
I don't know. I live at 5000' and when I went up to 10000'(last week), I didn't feel any different. confused
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#118381 - 07/16/09 11:07 AM Re: Backpacking over 8,000 ft. [Re: finallyME]
phat Offline
Moderator

Registered: 06/24/07
Posts: 4107
Loc: Alberta, Canada
Originally Posted By finallyME
I don't know. I live at 5000' and when I went up to 10000'(last week), I didn't feel any different. confused


Yes, but as has been mentioned, sensitivity to it is very much an individual thing. it's partly your fitness level and partly just you. I live at 2200 ft and regularly sleep over 8000, and I notice no ill effects whatsover (I sleep like a baby and feel just fine, no headaches). On the other hand I don't think I have *ever* slept at 10,000 - the rockies here just aren't that high..

The advice given so far is really probably the best. if you *don't know* how you do at altitude, work up to it slowly. Me? I'll go bashing up to 8 or 9 because I know from past experience that I'll do fine with it. Were you taking me up say, 11 or 12k, I'd probably not want to head straight up to that altitude, I'd plan my route so I slept a night or two at 8 or 9 before going higher. But again, it's an individual thing, and very much about knowing *your* body and how you react. You can mitigate somewhat by being fit, but it's still individual, and caution is the best course until you *know* how you react.
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#118383 - 07/16/09 11:30 AM Re: Backpacking over 8,000 ft. [Re: finallyME]
lori Offline
member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2801
I feel different at 12-14,000 if I am carrying a full backpack (for me, 25-30 lbs). I lose my breath easier and tire quicker. But no real problems otherwise.
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"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities. In the expert's mind there are few." Shunryu Suzuki

http://hikeandbackpack.com

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#118384 - 07/16/09 11:41 AM Re: Backpacking over 8,000 ft. [Re: lori]
jpanderson80 Offline
member

Registered: 07/28/06
Posts: 292
Loc: Memphis, TN
For those of us not used to elevation (Memphis, TN = 300ft above sea level)... I have found that some people respond differently from trip to another, even when at the same basic fitness level. I'm convinced that you can only train hard and then go for it. Breath deep along the way and enjoy your time.
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I always forget and make it more complicated than it needs to be...it's just walking.

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#118387 - 07/16/09 02:38 PM Re: Backpacking over 8,000 ft. [Re: jpanderson80]
sabre11004 Offline
member

Registered: 05/05/07
Posts: 513
Loc: Tennessee
Yes, I live in middle Tennesee and I have to travel to get any altitude at all. The highest we have around here is around 6300 ft.(in East Tennessee) and I never feel any difference at that altitude, however with that being said, I might experience something different at 8-12,000 ft. I would probably do a little more training and walking and resting if i were to venture above 8000 ft...sabre11004... crazy
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#118394 - 07/16/09 08:54 PM Re: Backpacking over 8,000 ft. [Re: 300winmag]
ndsol Offline
member

Registered: 04/16/02
Posts: 673
Loc: Houston, Texas
A related question. What is the highest elevation you have camped out overnight?

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#118400 - 07/17/09 12:28 AM Re: Backpacking over 8,000 ft. [Re: 300winmag]
Jimshaw Offline
member

Registered: 10/22/03
Posts: 3938
Loc: Bend, Oregon
All,
oh boy I get to quote - There is no relationship between low altitude fitness and resistance to high altitude syndrome. You might think that being really fit at 2500 feet is great and no doubt it is, but you could be wiped at 6,000 feet - I've seen it happen.
Jim crazy
_________________________
These are my own opinions based on wisdom earned through many wrong decisions. Your mileage may vary.

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#118401 - 07/17/09 12:41 AM Re: Backpacking over 8,000 ft. [Re: ndsol]
Franco Offline
member

Registered: 04/05/04
Posts: 997
Loc: Australia
A mate of mine has been sick at around 11000' twice in the last year, both times he was suffering with a cold from the plane trip. In Nepal we started at around 4000' and went up very gradually.He was very fit (bikes and runs regularly and is only about 35) and drinks regularly from a bladder but he was one of three or four to suffer from altitude sickness, out of 20 or so.None of the locals were sick...
I never experienced that but have not been over 12000'. I think that the others were not used to that sort of hiking.
Franco

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#118404 - 07/17/09 03:07 AM Re: Backpacking over 8,000 ft. [Re: Trailrunner]
300winmag Offline
member

Registered: 02/28/06
Posts: 1342
Loc: Nevada, USA
I hear you Franco on the heredity & altitude adaptation thing. I've never had any problems with altitude except the aerobically, now that I'm 66. And that is still mainly down to needing more aerobic training. But, hey, ya lose roughly 1% of your lung function every year after age twenty, so they say, so I guess age does play a role too.

I DO take NO2 (General Nutrition Center's time released L-Arginine) and it does make a definite difference in upping my O2 uptake due to it's stimulation of the production of nitrIC oxide gas. It dialates capillaries, arterioles & vennules.
When I forget to take it at altitude I soon notice that I forgot it.

Eric
_________________________
"There are no comfortable backpacks. Some are just less uncomfortable than others."

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#118405 - 07/17/09 03:15 AM Re: Backpacking over 8,000 ft. [Re: ndsol]
300winmag Offline
member

Registered: 02/28/06
Posts: 1342
Loc: Nevada, USA
Last Saturday I camped at 11,000 ft. before climbing Mt. Charleston at 11, 930 ft. But as I said in a reply above, I'm 66 and I guess I don't have probably 1/2 the aerobic ability I had at 38 when I did the Canadian Ski Marathon. (XC skiing 100 miles in two days.)

Eric
_________________________
"There are no comfortable backpacks. Some are just less uncomfortable than others."

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#118406 - 07/17/09 03:22 AM Re: Backpacking over 8,000 ft. [Re: Jimshaw]
OregonMouse Offline
member

Registered: 02/03/06
Posts: 6370
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
Thanks, Jim! I was going to say the same thing but didn't have time to look up the references.

I also found out that what I was taught in my youth, that acclimatization, once achieved, lasts for many years, is another myth. It certainly doesn't last for 50 years!

This year I'm going into the Wind Rivers from a trailhead at 8,000 feet. The first night's camp will also be at close to 8,000 feet, and none of the succeeding nights will be more than 1,000 feet higher than the preceding night. This is supposed to be an acceptable alternative to climbing high and sleeping low the first few days.

Last year I went in from 9,000 feet and was over 10,000 feet the first night. 3-4-mile days were the best I could do for the first 3 days. After that I was fine. I'll find out if the new routine makes any difference.

While the article itself requires a BPL subscription, the forum replies (free) to the article are quite illuminating and well illustrate Jim's point: Forum replies to article on AMS in SEKI.


Edited by OregonMouse (07/17/09 03:34 AM)
Edit Reason: Additional info
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#118411 - 07/17/09 09:49 AM Re: Backpacking over 8,000 ft. [Re: Jimshaw]
Pika Offline
member

Registered: 12/08/05
Posts: 1726
Loc: Rural Southeast Arizona
Jim, I think there are two issues being confused here: acclimatization to altitude and resistance to high altitude syndrome (altitude sickness). I agree with you that there is no documented effect of fitness on a persons susceptibility to "altitude sickness". But, the OP seemed to be talking about acclimatization, not altitude sickness. And, from what I have read, and from what I have experienced, there is a definite link between a persons aerobic fitness and their ability to perform physical activity at altitude.

Acclimatization is the body's response to lower oxygen pressure in the atmosphere. The blood of a person adapted to high altitude has a higher red blood cell count and other differences that show up in lab tests. I have no idea what causes altitude sickness although I have read that there are similarities between it and migraine.

I had an interesting experience when I lived in Flagstaff. I had traveled to Washington DC and became ill there. I visited a physician who took a blood sample. When the results came back she was quite alarmed at some of the reported results, especially the RBC. When I informed her that my home was a bit over 7000' altitude she relaxed although she also said she had never encountered an altitude-adapted individual before.

I, too, have seen exceptionally fit individuals devastated by altitude sickness while far less fit individuals are just fine. But, altitude sickness aside, the fitter one is, the better they will perform at altitude.
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#118412 - 07/17/09 10:29 AM Re: Backpacking over 8,000 ft. [Re: Pika]
Cloudy Offline
member

Registered: 01/24/05
Posts: 185
Loc: Central California
I have alway been susceptible to altitude sickness - even as a child (as has my mother) so it seems that I may have inherited it from her side. I've noticed over the years that while my state of physical fitness makes a difference in the distance that I can hike at altitude, it seems to make little difference as to the onset of altitude sickness. I can usually detect my symptoms at around 8000' and have at times been in great shape and gotten really sick and other times I have been in crappy shape and haven't been too badly affected. Acclimatization is the only thing that has helped me so far.

I have a funny story to relate about physical fitness and acclimatization. Years ago, I had gone on my annual 10+ day solo trip into the Sierra and since I was doing sections of the JMT, I felt so good at the end of the trip that I decided to do Mt. Whitney in a day the next week. I started early in the A.M. and was basically dancing up the switchbacks with no problem! Somewhere around Trail Crest, I passed an athletic looking couple who looked at me in amazement. I forget the mileage but they told me they ran an amazing amount of miles per week and thought they were in great shape (the altitude was kicking their butts) until they saw me skipping past. They regarded me with awe when they asked "What do you do to keep in such great shape"? my reply was "nothing" - which was essentially true since I really don't do exercise... That was my one shot at being looked at as a paragon of physical fitness!

Alan

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#118413 - 07/17/09 11:22 AM Re: Backpacking over 8,000 ft. [Re: ndsol]
finallyME Offline
member

Registered: 09/24/07
Posts: 2710
Loc: Utah
Originally Posted By ndsol
A related question. What is the highest elevation you have camped out overnight?


I know for sure I have slept at 10,000. Nothing to brag about, I know. sleep
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I've taken a vow of poverty. To annoy me, send money.

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#118426 - 07/17/09 01:09 PM Re: Backpacking over 8,000 ft. [Re: finallyME]
Pika Offline
member

Registered: 12/08/05
Posts: 1726
Loc: Rural Southeast Arizona
For me about 17,000'. Didn't sleep real well as I recall. sleep
_________________________
May I walk in beauty.

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#118445 - 07/17/09 07:44 PM Re: Backpacking over 8,000 ft. [Re: Pika]
ndsol Offline
member

Registered: 04/16/02
Posts: 673
Loc: Houston, Texas
That's pretty neat. Where was that? Highest I've been overnight was the Boulderfield on Longs Peak in RMNP at 12,700.

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#118449 - 07/17/09 09:15 PM Re: Backpacking over 8,000 ft. [Re: ndsol]
Pika Offline
member

Registered: 12/08/05
Posts: 1726
Loc: Rural Southeast Arizona
On Denali, 1966.
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May I walk in beauty.

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#118453 - 07/17/09 10:17 PM Re: Backpacking over 8,000 ft. [Re: 300winmag]
Jimshaw Offline
member

Registered: 10/22/03
Posts: 3938
Loc: Bend, Oregon
Since I was one of those who lived at sea level and was kicked by 6,000 feet, I know how the low end of the bell curve feels. There is a distribution curve of people and how much altitude will affect you.
So a couple of observations/notes:
1) Getting exhausted is a really bad idea and one of the major things that gets altitude sickness going.
But altitude sickness has to do with oxygen partial pressure in your blood AND water retention in your cells "edema".
2) A low salt low sugar diet and drinking tea to keep the water from flowing into your cells will make you feel a lot better.
3) staying well hydrated gives your body lots of fluids to flush things out with.

I took diamox for years for altitude, it basically acted as a mil spec diuretic and I'd pee about 3/4 gallon after taking it. I would get "lung edema" where the cells in my lungs would swell up and start to hurt. I'd take two diamox tabs and in half an hour I felt better and could breath better.
WARNING if you do carry or borrow Diamox - if you take any aspirin containing drug, it could be your last. Never carry aspirin and diamox in the same first aid kit.

I'm camped over ten thousand a few times, once right after coming up from sea level. It wasn't fun.

It takes about two weeks to actually acclimate to a new altitude as it takes that long to produce the red blood cells required. All you can do is climb slowly, play high and camp low. A 1,500 foot drop in altitude is all that's required to "rescue" someone suffering from AMS. Acute mountain syndrome. What I'm saying is that you sleep maybe 1,500 feet lower than you hike or play at. The beying higher during activity seems to make sleeping 1,500 feet lower easier. And the one thousand feet per day sleeping altitude increase after to you to the "point" which is different for everyone.

Like if you go up to 8,000 feet the first night, then over a pass at 10,000, then sleep at 9,000 the next night, but of course, thats in an ideal world.

I found that once acclimated, if I spent a few days every other week at altitude, that I didn't suffer. Now I live at 4,000 and going to 9,000 feet I feel no pains.

AND, your brain does shrink a bit as you get older and if you notice that you don't get headaches at altitude after age 50, thats why - your brain has more room to expand inside your skull.

Jim YMMV crazy I think diamox is acetaminophen


Edited by Jimshaw (07/17/09 10:22 PM)
_________________________
These are my own opinions based on wisdom earned through many wrong decisions. Your mileage may vary.

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#118468 - 07/19/09 02:38 AM Re: Backpacking over 8,000 ft. [Re: 300winmag]
TomD Offline
Moderator

Registered: 10/30/03
Posts: 4963
Loc: Marina del Rey,CA
Eric, I remember that thing. I used to see it advertised in bike magazines, if I remember right-back in the 80's. I checked into getting one, but never did.

The only way I know to acclimatize is to gradually work your way up higher. I used to live at 11.5K and was as high as 16K. That jump wasn't too bad, but I'd been there quite some time. 13-15K wasn't that big a deal for us.

But, not properly aclimatizing can lead to all kinds of problems. As I have mentioned here before, I had pulmonary edema after returning to altitude after being at close to sea level for a while. My acclimatization was totally gone and it almost killed me. I was in college then, but probably not all that fit at the time.
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