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#127795 - 02/01/10 07:17 PM Acclimatization
George Offline
newbie

Registered: 11/28/09
Posts: 8
Loc: Ventura County
I'm planning to hike Mt. Whitney this summer but concerned about altitude sickness because I don't have time to acclimate for one to two days before the hike. If I spend a weekend at 10,000' and then go home and come back the following thursday night to Whintey portal to begin the hike early friday, will it help?


Edited by George (02/01/10 07:19 PM)

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#127801 - 02/01/10 07:40 PM Re: Acclimatization [Re: George]
idahosteve Offline
member

Registered: 11/05/09
Posts: 62
Loc: Idaho
Anytime you can get to altitude, it "helps", but you cannot make any assumptions that it will be a postive, or a negative. It seems that any time you go high, your body reacts in any number of strange and sometimes debilitating ways. As a long time climber, we basically were taught that the best way to acclimate was to be in the best possible condition you can be in before you go, demand of yourself that you monitor and stay hydrated, and pay attention to what your body is telling you. When hiking, listen to your body, and go at a pace that is steady, and doesn't put you into a gasping deficit! Drink, drink, and drink! I've also used aspirin with vayring degrees of success if you do get a headache. Sleep low if possible, and get an early start. I've done all these things and had success, and have done all these things and have lost my lunch (literally) Good luck and stay positive! Think of all the staggering hordes who make it to the summit regularly! wink wink!
_________________________
I dare you to move, like today never happened...
-Switchfoot-

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#127812 - 02/01/10 09:12 PM Re: Acclimatization [Re: George]
Jimshaw Offline
member

Registered: 10/22/03
Posts: 3938
Loc: Bend, Oregon
George,
As for altitude sickness remember it is brought on by exhaustion and that's one mean trail. You might not be able to go to 10,000 feet the weekend before and feel good up there, in fact coming up to 8,000' from sea level is a butt kicker. Whitney portal is around 8,000. You might consider going up as high as you can the weekend before, then dropping 2,000' to sleep. When you come up to for the hike, it might be better to spend the night around 6-7,000' and then driving up to the portal. You DO NOT want to start a hike going up that high feeling crummy in the morning, you want to be well rested and well fed and hydrated. Avoid high salt and sugar foods that can make you hold water as altitude sickness is related to cells holding water. Diamox, the drug for altitude is a very strong diuretic. Its a funny balance between being properly hydrated but not holding water.

I just about had to carry my wife down from the meadows at 10,500.
Jim
_________________________
These are my own opinions based on wisdom earned through many wrong decisions. Your mileage may vary.

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#127837 - 02/02/10 12:24 AM Re: Acclimatization [Re: George]
Paul Offline
member

Registered: 09/30/02
Posts: 778
Loc: California
What is your level of experience with altitude? Trying to predict how any one individual will react to altitude if it is your first time is nearly impossible, as there is so much variation from one individual to another in ability to acclimatize to altitude. If you have been at 12 or 13,000 several times previously, you can gauge your own ability to acclimatize - if not, you can only follow the general recommendations, which are normally to spend as much time as high as you can in the days before your hike, to be well fed, well rested, and, very important, well hydrated. A couple days at 10k a few days before might help, although my gut reaction would be that it would be better to spend those days at maybe 6 or 8k, as a gentler introduction for your system that might be more useful. The closer together you can get the weekedn and the hike, the better - by which I mean if you do that, don't come home sunday night and then go to wok in the morning - stay up there Sunday night and go straight to work from the heights - another night might help and you'd be putting yourself 12 hours closer to the hike.
It sounds like you're doing the one-day Whitney summit thing. Is that right?
On the hydration, you want to start drinking extra water a day or two before the hike. It really makes a difference. You want to be tanked up.
I would suggest looking at the info on the Whitney Portal Store forum: http://whitneyportalstore.com/forum/ubbthreads.php?ubb=postlist&Board=1&page=1

Lots of info there for you. Have fun!

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#127850 - 02/02/10 08:25 AM Re: Acclimatization [Re: Paul]
oldranger Offline
member

Registered: 02/23/07
Posts: 1735
Loc: California (southern)
Originally Posted By Paul

It sounds like you're doing the one-day Whitney summit thing. Is that right?


I did the one day Whitney summit thing. Felt great on top. On the descent, both my pardner and I tossed our cookies. Interesting experience.

Later did a trip sleeping successively at Whitney Portal and Iceberg Lake - did not toss cookies - much better

Peter Hackett in Mountain Sickness: Prevention, Recognition and Treatment points out that the altitude at which you sleep is much more significant in achieving acclimatization than the altitude to which you climb.

Just remember that the cure for mountain sickness, especially the potentially fatal acute form, is to descend. Nothin else is as important.

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#127861 - 02/02/10 11:39 AM Re: Acclimatization [Re: George]
lori Offline
member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2801
There have only been a few occasions on which I've had symptoms of altitude sickness, and they might not have been related to altitude. I'm really happy about that, since I am violently allergic to sulfa based drugs and can't take diamox, which is really no guarantee cure, either.

altitude sickness

I lose my appetite sometimes, the first day out, but get it back the second day of a backpack regardless of elevation. Sometimes I have a headache but it's not the same as described in symptoms of altitude sickness, and goes away as I ramp up the snacking and drinking. We all live in an ongoing somewhat dehydrated state, I think - the way to tell is to think about what color your urine tends to be. If it's usually dark, and you're not diabetic/hypoglycemic, you're dehydrated a lot. Drink more water and keep practicing drinking more water. You will need to drink MORE than you expect in the Sierras, which are actually pretty dry and will dehydrate you rapidly.

Study up on symptoms and practice hydrating properly, and if someone walks up to you on the trail and asks if you are okay, talk to them about why they are asking. Hikers I've talked to have found people sitting on the side of the trail asleep and had to talk them into going down the mountain. Dehydration messes with your perception and judgment, altitude sickness makes you feel hung over.

And be willing to turn around. Watching people crawling up the switchbacks to Half Dome because they MUST DO IT is painful. You can always come back next year after preparing more. I'm doing whitney, if I do it at all, as a 3-4 day backpack - drop the car at Whitney Portal, ride CREST to Onion Valley, head out Kearsarge to link up with the JMT, and making the trip up the back side. That way I only have to see the day hikers killing themselves for the last two miles of the ascent, and the downhill walk to the car - and more importantly I will have spent quite a bit of time at higher altitudes and be ready to head up higher.
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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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#127881 - 02/02/10 04:42 PM Re: Acclimatization [Re: lori]
oldranger Offline
member

Registered: 02/23/07
Posts: 1735
Loc: California (southern)
You are following a sensible plan. The studies of acclimatization all indicate that it takes time, that one does best by ascending gradually, about 1000 feet a day if at all possible, and carry high and sleep low.

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#127888 - 02/02/10 06:17 PM Re: Acclimatization [Re: George]
skippy Offline
member

Registered: 12/27/09
Posts: 129
Loc: CO
This is an interesting discussion for me as I live in Colorado and have never had any real problems at altitude. I have witnessed it first hand in other people and it can be kind of scary.

I have climbed several 14'ers and I also compete in long distance bike races. One of the internet groups I belong to is all about the now famous (Lance Armstrong factor) Leadville Trail 100. This race is all about altitude as it starts at over 10,000 ft. and has about 14,000 ft of gain during the course of 104 miles of racing. The altitude during the race doesn't seem to be a big factor for me, but I have noticed that I don't sleep as restfully my first night at 10,000 ft. I live at 4,500 ft so this is quite a jump.

True altitude acclimation takes at least 3 weeks and as far as athletic performance goes (not necessarily applicable to backpacking) you will perform best if you just show up to race on race day. Spending a few days at high altitude will actually tear your body down and wear you out. You will not sleep restfully and your body is burning itself out trying to adjust to the thinner air.

As far as backpacking goes if you have the time to do it a slow increase is best as your effort level isn't nearing your anaerobic threshold. Go high during the day but sleep lower down. You won't be as beat down if you sleep lower down as you will sleep much better. The difference between racing and backpacking is huge unless you plan on blitzing Whitney in one big fast push.

No caffiene, no alcohol, and lots of water all seem to help. Good luck to you.

-Skippy

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#127916 - 02/02/10 11:10 PM Re: Acclimatization [Re: skippy]
hikerduane Offline
member

Registered: 02/23/03
Posts: 2123
Loc: Meadow Valley, CA
Where'd our newbie go? Course, it has only been a day. On my 50th, I went Portal to Portal in a little over 12 hours. I started early, drank water every 15 minutes, took half an aspirin before leaving and the rest half way to the top, snacked some on trail mix,(should have ate more), paced myself. Had to keep catching myself hiking too fast and then slow down. Killer on past Trail Crest, on the last bit up to the top, then the uphill return to Trail Crest. Piece of cake after that for me. Should have taken a longer lunch at the top and not worried that the few other folks at the top were all leaving. I stayed at the cg at the Portal for two nights prior and dayhiked the day before to Chicken Foot Springs by Horseshoe Meadow which turned out for the best as I got a blister and bought some stuff to cushion it. No foot issues there after. I have noticed in recent years, that with getting older, it sure is tougher at elevation now to do long mileage days. Getting up to Sky Blue Lake was tough this Fall, not a killer but none the less tough over New Army Pass.

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#127930 - 02/03/10 12:46 AM Re: Acclimatization [Re: George]
Steve C Offline
member

Registered: 02/02/10
Posts: 15
Loc: Ca
George, as people above said, every little bit helps. But you might try driving up to Horseshoe Meadows at 10,000 ft the weekend before, camping -- even TWO nights -- and hiking up there. Spending more than 24 hours that high would be especially helpful.

If you haven't tried this scenario before, you just won't know until you go. Altitude affects people to varying degrees. You may be in the lucky 25% who can go up without acclimating. Or you may be in the heavily affected group, and succumb just past Trail Camp at 12,000 ft.

Make sure you get some decent sleep before you start early Friday morning. (Take sleeping meds, use earplugs, etc.)

When you hike, like the others said, drink enough so you have to go at least ever two hours or so. And keep eating as you go up, especially early on. If you have altitude issues, the appetite is the first to go. So getting the calories in early is best. And pace yourself. Remember, the top is only half way.

If you are experiencing dizziness or nausea and are far from the top, turn around! Too many try to keep going, and then require help getting down.

Finally, if you have to turn around, don't sweat it. The mountain isn't going anywhere. You can try again a month or a year later, with more acclimatization time.

I'd like to recommend my favorite forum to you for Mt. Whitney: The newly formed WhitneyZone.com. Check out the Orientation Notes for Whitney First Timers, especially the Learn more about altitude section.

Good luck!
____________________________________________
WhitneyZone.com -- Mt. Whitney Hikers Association
_________________________
<-- webcam from WhitneyZone.com -- Mt. Whitney Hikers Association

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#127935 - 02/03/10 01:57 AM Re: Acclimatization [Re: hikerduane]
Jimshaw Offline
member

Registered: 10/22/03
Posts: 3938
Loc: Bend, Oregon
hikerduane
George didn't tell us how old he is. You suffer less from altitude (cerebral edema) after about age 40 to 50 because you brain shrinks a bit and so when it expands from water retention it doesn't squeeze its self to death by cutting off its blood flow.
Jim
_________________________
These are my own opinions based on wisdom earned through many wrong decisions. Your mileage may vary.

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#127957 - 02/03/10 08:52 AM Re: Acclimatization [Re: Jimshaw]
hikerduane Offline
member

Registered: 02/23/03
Posts: 2123
Loc: Meadow Valley, CA
Thanks Jim buddy.:)

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#127966 - 02/03/10 11:20 AM Re: Acclimatization [Re: Jimshaw]
lori Offline
member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2801
Originally Posted By Jimshaw
hikerduane
George didn't tell us how old he is. You suffer less from altitude (cerebral edema) after about age 40 to 50 because you brain shrinks a bit and so when it expands from water retention it doesn't squeeze its self to death by cutting off its blood flow.
Jim


Ha! Maybe that's why I've never had a problem with altitude - I've been told sometimes that I have a pea brain. wink
_________________________
"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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#127982 - 02/03/10 01:12 PM Re: Acclimatization [Re: Jimshaw]
Steve C Offline
member

Registered: 02/02/10
Posts: 15
Loc: Ca
Originally Posted By Jimshaw
You suffer less from altitude (cerebral edema) after about age 40 to 50 because you brain shrinks a bit and so when it expands from water retention it doesn't squeeze its self to death by cutting off its blood flow.

Is there a study explaining that concept, or is it someone's theory?
____________________________________________
WhitneyZone.com -- Mt. Whitney Hikers Association
_________________________
<-- webcam from WhitneyZone.com -- Mt. Whitney Hikers Association

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#127990 - 02/03/10 03:56 PM Re: Acclimatization [Re: Steve C]
Jimshaw Offline
member

Registered: 10/22/03
Posts: 3938
Loc: Bend, Oregon
SteveC
"The study published in the July issue of the journal Neurology, supports the "reserve hypothesis" -- that while more educated people have greater age-associated brain shrinkage, they are afforded greater protection from age-related mental impairment and possibly dementia."

I chose this quote because it uses the term "age-associated brain shrinkage".

There are many articles about this. It seems that older people may lose some neurons but have more complex of neural connections to make up for it. Essentially their brains become more efficient. Now don't ask for more references please.

Since I have moved up into the mountains and gotten older I no longer suffer altitude headache. I used to start to suffer as low as 5,000' when I lived at sea level. This put me on the bottom of the susceptibility bell curve.
Jim


Edited by Jimshaw (02/03/10 04:00 PM)
_________________________
These are my own opinions based on wisdom earned through many wrong decisions. Your mileage may vary.

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#128105 - 02/04/10 04:35 PM Re: Acclimatization [Re: Jimshaw]
Steve C Offline
member

Registered: 02/02/10
Posts: 15
Loc: Ca
It is interesting when you say "Since I have moved up into the mountains and gotten older I no longer suffer altitude headache."

And note what Skippy wrote above:
"This is an interesting discussion for me as I live in Colorado and have never had any real problems at altitude... I live at 4,500 ft..."

I am getting the notion that people living at higher elevations, even 4-5k, can more easily climb Fourteeners without experiencing bad AMS symptoms than people living near sea level.

From my personal experience, years ago I'd often go to a mountain cabin at ~5K on weekends, and would always find myself needing more sleep at first.
____________________________________________
WhitneyZone.com -- Mt. Whitney Hikers Association
_________________________
<-- webcam from WhitneyZone.com -- Mt. Whitney Hikers Association

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#128117 - 02/04/10 06:54 PM Re: Acclimatization [Re: Steve C]
George Offline
newbie

Registered: 11/28/09
Posts: 8
Loc: Ventura County
Thank you all for the input. I am little late responding because I am having difficulty logging in. Since I registered to this forum, this is the second time I am able to log in after numerous attempts of trying. I'm getting little frustrated with it, anyone having similar issue?

My plan is to hike to Hitchcock Lake and layover two days and then on our way out, summit Whitney. I am 47 years old and have had slight altitude sickness at Chicken Spring Lake at 11,200'. I've been to higher altitude before without any problems. I know why, we drove to Cottonwood Lakes Trail late at night and started our hike next morning. Both my friend and I had it but we got over it next morning. am I limited to the length of my post? now I can't see what I am typing.



Edited by George (02/04/10 06:55 PM)

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#128122 - 02/04/10 07:43 PM Re: Acclimatization [Re: George]
George Offline
newbie

Registered: 11/28/09
Posts: 8
Loc: Ventura County
Anyway, after reading suggestions posted, I wil spend prior weekend at 7000'-8000' and hike to 10,000' before my Whitney hike. Again, thank you for you responses and hope to report back after the hike.

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#128142 - 02/05/10 02:29 AM Re: Acclimatization [Re: George]
TomD Offline
Moderator

Registered: 10/30/03
Posts: 4963
Loc: Marina del Rey,CA
There are several threads here on altitude. While every individual is different, my answer to your question in no, it won't make a bit of difference. In my experience, which includes living at 11.5K for extended periods of time (3months to 15 months in the Andes), only an extended stay at alititude really works. A day here or there won't do much for you.

I've been fine at 7500k for a few days, but on the other hand, many years ago I almost died at 11.5K when I developed HAPE the morning after I got off the plane. Took about a week or so in a clinic before I recovered. Happened twice in two years, as I recall. First time wasn't as bad as the second.

Just monitor yourself, be aware of symptoms and go down if you start feeling bad. That is the only practical cure short of hospitalization or breathing off an oxygen bottle.
_________________________
Don't get me started, you know how I get.

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#128150 - 02/05/10 08:28 AM Re: Acclimatization [Re: TomD]
Pika Offline
member

Registered: 12/08/05
Posts: 1726
Loc: Rural Southeast Arizona
I agree with Tom on the acclimation effects of spending a day or so at high altitude; I don't believe that there is any particular benefit. I moved to Flagstaff (7000') in 1985 and lived there for six years. It took me several months before I adapted to the altitude. But, once I was acclimatized, I could go to 14,000' in Colorado and not suffer from altitude sickness at all. Since I left Flagstaff, the lowest I have lived is 3400' where I now am. I seldom notice altitude effects now but did when I was a lot younger. Perhaps there is something to the getting older hypothesis.

IME the things that will help you past the effects of altitude sickness are: fitness, hydration, diet and easing into it. Personally, I would stay away from medication.
_________________________
May I walk in beauty.

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#128158 - 02/05/10 12:11 PM Re: Acclimatization [Re: George]
Steve C Offline
member

Registered: 02/02/10
Posts: 15
Loc: Ca
George, don't know why you would have trouble logging in. I use similar software on http://www.whitneyzone.com/wz/ and nobody complains. Be sure to check the "Remember me on each visit" box if you are always using the same computer. Then you never need to re-enter your username. Oh, and if you created a login username DIFFERENT than your displayed name, that could be the problem. You log in with the username, but "George" that shows in your posts may be different.

Regarding your acclimatization, I live at elev. 300 ft, and often drive up to Yosemite's Mt. Dana: Start at Tioga Pass, near 10K and hike to 13K the weekend before I do a high altitude hike. I am pretty sure it helps.

Your plan to hike to Hitchcock Lake bothers me. That requires starting at Whitney Portal at 8000 ft, hiking over the 13,000 ft Trail Crest, and down to Hitchcock at 11,600 ft. Unless you're packing super-lightweight, that is a superhuman feat.
____________________________________________
WhitneyZone.com -- Mt. Whitney Hikers Association
_________________________
<-- webcam from WhitneyZone.com -- Mt. Whitney Hikers Association

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#128166 - 02/05/10 01:27 PM Re: Acclimatization [Re: Pika]
Jimshaw Offline
member

Registered: 10/22/03
Posts: 3938
Loc: Bend, Oregon
When I moved to Bend Oregon at 3,800' (from sea level)feet it took about 6 weeks to able to do hard work without noticing any problem. I find it interesting that the same medical equipment is used here and normal people still show a blood oxygen level of 99 to 100%. I wonder if someone just moved here from sea level what it would show? 85%? I do not know how these things work, perhaps one of our medics does. Theoretically it takes one day per thousand feet to adapt, and it takes two weeks for your body to replace all of its hemoglobin, but what does that mean in reality?

Pika, sorry to here that Pikas did not get protected status...
Jim
_________________________
These are my own opinions based on wisdom earned through many wrong decisions. Your mileage may vary.

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#128174 - 02/05/10 03:37 PM Re: Acclimatization [Re: George]
Trailrunner Offline
member

Registered: 01/05/02
Posts: 1835
Loc: Los Angeles
If anything, a weekend at 10K' just before your summit attempt will be good for your confidence and it will add a little experience to your quiver. Go for it.

As for the physiological benefit......almost nil. In my bicycle racing days I was a guinea pig for some high altitude performance research. It takes a long time for your blood to adapt to altitude and a short time to lose the benefit once you go back down.
_________________________
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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#128189 - 02/05/10 05:20 PM Re: Acclimatization [Re: Trailrunner]
Pika Offline
member

Registered: 12/08/05
Posts: 1726
Loc: Rural Southeast Arizona
Trailrunner, the term guinea pig is officially politically incorrect. The proper term now is research participant. Doesn't that make you feel a lot more important somehow? grin
_________________________
May I walk in beauty.

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#128317 - 02/07/10 02:47 AM Re: Acclimatization [Re: Pika]
Steve C Offline
member

Registered: 02/02/10
Posts: 15
Loc: Ca
Guys, we all know that it takes weeks for our bodies to completely adjust to the altitude, where it compensates for the thinner air by increasing the red blood cells and iron level in the blood.

But the OP was asking what it takes to acclimate enough to prevent altitude sickness -- the nausea and headache problems that plague hikers who live at a low altitude and then hike somewhere like Mt. whitney, elev. 14,505.

Becoming acclimated to the altitude has numerous aspects. The one George is asking about is the altitude sickness part. But you guys keep talking about how long it took for you to feel like you had 100% energy output capacity. They're two different aspects of acclimatization.

The unpleasant AMS symptoms that people want to avoid, primarily nausea and headache, can be alleviated by spending one to three days at altitude before a hike.

The good parts from this thread point out the necessity to keep hydrated while hiking, and the idea that exhaustion also seems to contribute to the symptoms.

I hope George is still watching, since I'd like to suggest this: You might add an extra day to your plans, and hike to Consultation Lake the first day. Head over to Hitchcock Lakes on day 2. If at Consultation, you experience serious AMS symptoms, you can always just stay there, and if not, head over the pass.

IT would be better to be there one night to see how your body reacts to the elevation, so you could bail if necessary. And by the way, people have said fishing is great at Consultation. It should be good at Hitchcock as well.
_________________________
<-- webcam from WhitneyZone.com -- Mt. Whitney Hikers Association

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