My wife and I just signed up for a guided hiking trip, through the Andes, to Machu Pichu. It's our first major hike, and our first high-altitude hike - elevations from 7500 - 15000 feet. About 40 miles altogether before we reach MP. We'll have three days to acclimatize at about 11,000 feet before we hit the high mark.
I would love to hear any advice that you can offer about hiking at altitude, and hiking in rugged mountainous territory. Our trip is in July. We're in our 50s, and in good physical shape. We have started a training regimen, but we live in NJ and won't have an opportunity for high altitude training.
Also, if anyone has also hiked in Peru, I'd love to hear your stories.
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
You came to the right place, one of the members here, balzaccom, did a trip there not long ago. If you look up his username he has a link to his blog you can check out, and he posted a link to his trip report and photos from there in a post in the "Trip Report" forum here.
I'm sure he'll respond too when he checks in again here, and offer any help he can provide, but that should get you pointed to some info now.
And, oh yeah, I'm jealous. Machu Pichu has to be on any hiker's list. You have to post a trip report with pictures here too. I'm pretty sure it's a requirement now that you're a member
As a flatlander, I really enjoy the mountains in Colorado. When preparing to go west, I focus on cardio. In the process my legs and back get a good dose of work too.
Altitude is a funny thing. I've been with groups where no one suffered any ill effects. I've been on trips with veteran hikers where all the sudden an experienced walker has suffered some icky-ness. I've not had a bad experience.
I drink a lot more water, try to rest very well, and eat sensibly.
This is what I do to prepare for 300 ft above sea level to 11,000 ft base camp: About 30 - 45 minutes from town, I drink a bunch of water. Really as much as I can... 32 ounces or so. Eat a nice dinner (no burgers)... drink more water. Go to bed early. Upon waking, drink a glass of water within 15-20 minutes upon waking. (It really gets your body going... and going and going... if you know what I mean.) And continue with the water all day. Not droning myself, but a healthy amount of steady fluids. Being from Memphis, I'm not used to the lack of humidity in Colorado, but I'm not sure about Machu Pichu.
Snacks help me drink more water. So I may only eat a very light meal, but snack throughout the day, thus helping me to drink more throughout the day.
When I get to the top of a hill... I stretch out my stride to help the legs, keep moving, and take a swig of water. I think you get my point...
Anytime you feel a headache coming... water and little rest. I think that leading groups, I've seen headaches as a sign more often of problems with altitude. But after a reminder to drink, most feel better after 15 minutes.
I sometimes even take aspirin because it helps thin the blood and thus circulate the oxygen easier throughout... I have no scientific proof that it helps me get up the hill faster or anything.
That's what I do. It works well for me and is a very general idea of staying on top of things. Sleeping at elevation is one of the old secrets of helping your body acclimate, so I try to do that as well when I can. Sometimes I can't until the first night on the trail... so be it. But coming from Memphis, a hill on the interstate can be serious elevation for me!
If true altitude sickness is an issue, so CAN get your doctor to prescribe you some of the altitude sickness medicine, but I have no idea how that would be handle while you travel internationally. I've had no experience taking the medication, but I know some who always carry it when going out west.
Hope that gives you some ideas! Have fun!
I always forget and make it more complicated than it needs to be...it's just walking.
Loc: Marina del Rey,CA
There are several threads here on altitude. Use the Search function to find them. Thinking that 3 days at 11K is going to acclimatize you for 15K is unrealistic, in my experience, which includes living at 11.5-13.5ft in Bolivia and going to Macchu Pichu.
You may not be affected, but on the other hand you might. If you are, take it seriously. I was hospitalized twice with what may have been HAPE (high altitude pulmonary edema). It has similar symptoms as pneumonia, so I'm not sure which it was, but both times required what I would describe as intensive care - oxygen and drugs.
Being in good shape or not, surprisingly enough, may not determine whether or not you are affected.
Don't get me started, you know how I get.
You can find a whole trip report on our time in Cusco and Machu Picchu on our website. And I'd be happy to answer any other questions.
We were there in April of 2011, and had a wonderful time. The trail actually starts at about 9K, then on the second day reaches about 14K, and then slowly (lots of up and down) goes back down to 8K for the ruins. And Cusco is about 10,600, as I recall. There are lots of great places to visit around Cusco, and a few days there is a great idea, even if you DIDN'T want to get acclimated.
I don't seem to have much trouble with those altitudes, and frankly my wife, who has sometimes struggled in the High Sierra, didn't really have much trouble either.
My daughter came directly from Buenos Aires and was in fine shape. Her fiancee---now husband--struggled terribly on the second day.
And read the Hugh Thompson books for a great background on this area. A Sacred Landscape is about all of Peru, The White Rock is specifically about teh Andes near Machu Picchu.
Both wonderfully good, educational, and entertaining.
WOW! JACKPOT! Thanks guys. I appreciate your responses, and your knowledge and enthusiasm about hiking. I am a relative novice, with only a backpacking trip to the Grand Canyon, and one in RMNP under my belt. Other than that, my wife and I have only done day hikes, and none above 11,000".
Balzac, I enjoyed seeing your blog, and hope to spend more time there. We're actually not hiking the "Inca Trail". We're taking a trip sponsored by (a noted Recreational Equipment Company), that involves staying in mountain lodges along the way. The total trek is about 40 miles. Apparently, there is one pass that is about 15,250'.
I did not. My wife took medication for it, had no trouble with altitude, but suffered quite a lot from the side-effects of the medication. WE both kep well hydrated and drank coca tea as well. I felt no effect from that either. My daughter came from Buenos Aires and had no trouble. Her fiancee (a soccer player in good shape) had terrible trouble.
And as for the food: Best avocados in the world, called Paltas. Beyone belief. And potatoes?> 600 kinds. Plus there are strong African and Japanese populations, so things like ceviche, seafood...spicy stews...