Steve – I can only suggest you try to notice what your body is telling you to do – and have someone with you who is fine at altitude and can tell you if you aren’t thinking straight as that is lack of oxygen and you need to go down urgently. If you keep that at the back of your mind, you can simply enjoy the view!!
Thanks Jo. No really been at any great height yet so I’ll just have to be careful when the moment arrives.
It varies from person to person – and from time to time. I was fine the first time I landed in Quito (9000 feet) after a long flight, but the second time – after a short flight from the Amazon basin, felt definitely odd for an hour or two. Within a few days I could climb over 10000 and, though I puffed a bit, I was fine. Driving up into the Rockies – so ascending at car-speed – I made it to 11000 and then found gasping as I walked across a car park. Climbing Kilimanjaro, I got the headache at 14000, and stopped at 16000 – it’s the very arbitrary nature of it that can make it so hard to deal with.
Is there a particular height that is the trigger point for altitude sickness?
Altitude sickness can affect anyone regardless of age or fitness. Even though you have successfully coped with being up high once, doesn’t mean you will be OK another time…
my guide said I’d be bonkers to go on
Good for you for listening to that advice & turning back. I watched a celebrity prog’ who tackled Kilimanjaro for charity and it did seem to be the fitter ones that struggled. The rather rotund and sedentary Chis Moyes (I think that was his name) seemed to be unaffected by the altitude and just plodded up.
I don’t know if Everest base camp is the same
My Nephew seemed to be there for some time, weeks even. They seemed to go on daily hikes (weather permitting) going to the next base camp, coming back, going again & staying there, hikes at that level before moving on.
I have also tackled Kilimanjaro – and knew, at 14,000 feet, that I was going to struggle (I could manage the altitude headache – but you need at least 4000 calories a day to cope with the walking, the altitude, and the cold – and I completely lost my appetite). At 16,000 feet – so 6hrs, off the top – my guide said I’d be bonkers to go on, and said it in such a way I knew he might try to stop me if I didn’t agree.
Of our group, only 50% made it to the top – and they were mostly men in their 30s who had walked steadily all the way. A young man who had bounced around 2 days earlier was taken down in a hurry when he was hopelessly sick. A PE teacher and marathon runner didn’t get up. All of us wobbled.
I know they get people up and down the mountain in four days – which isn’t really long enough to acclimatise (there’s only a limited number can sleep up there, and so they need as many as possible on the mountain to make as much money as possible). I don’t know if Everest base camp is the same – I know when I did a bit of Annapurna I could take my time, provided I ended up where I needed to be to sleep. But I went with one guide, not a group, and there are many more stopping places.
I love mountains – and I love being high. But I do know that the wonderful feeling of ‘being on top of the world’ on a mountain is illusory – and shortage of oxygen can feed that. I’ve always had wonderful guides who were prepared to tell me when I was being daft, and to take me downhill if I needed it.
A few years ago a friend’s daughter did the Base Camp walk there, and she was surprised to find
that it appeared to be the young, fit and active who suffered more from altitude sickness than your
average ‘Sunday walker’.