“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.” – John Muir
This quote describes the exact emotions of an avid traveler who is fascinated by the thought of climbing the mountains and impatient to soak in the view from up-up and above. Mountains are such nature’s gift to mankind; a symbol of magnificent beauty in true sense. For people, these snow-capped Cinderella have always been mysterious and there’s no shortage of people trying their hardest to climb to the top. And this haste and exhilaration becomes the reason for their cares to drop off; they fail to acclimatize and the result? A.M.S and in worse cases, Death!
Acclimatize? What does it mean?
Acclimatization is the process by which your body slowly adjusts to lower oxygen levels. Climbing a mountain is no joke. Your climb is mostly steep, it takes a lot more than your muscles for balancing and moving forward step by step as the altitude rises.
Hypoxia is a condition that affects people at altitudes of over 3,000 meters. Hypoxia basically means that your body is now exposed to air with very low levels of oxygen. At this stage, your heart steps in to handle the damage and breathing rate get faster. This is sufficient to increase the amount of oxygen in the body for only a limited period. After a short while, this adaptation wears out and increased heart rate starts posing significant and deadly risks.
Here’s when acclimatization works wonders. It is a biological process in which more number of red blood cells are created to increase the flow of oxygen in the blood. This makes it possible to manage the heart rate and regulate hyperventilation as well.
Progressive ascent is the key!
When it comes to acclimatizing properly, none can determine the fixed amount of time. Everyone is different and different people acclimatize at different speeds. Thus, no solid rule works for everyone but there are some rough sets of guidelines one must follow. Below are some tips that can be useful to aid proper acclimatization:
- One must prefer to walk over using a vehicle or flying too high altitudes as driving or flying will force the body to ascend too quickly, without giving it a proper time to acclimatize.
- It is important to be well-hydrated throughout the climb to improve your journey as air pressure causes dehydration. But also, avoid being over-hydrated as it may dilute your body’s sodium levels and can prove to be deadly.
- Every morning during the journey, monitor your pulse and see if the heart rate improves. Also, no headaches, good sleep, and a good appetite are all signs of acclimatizing well.
- Once you have crossed the 3,000-meter mark, go slowly. It is not recommended for climbing more than 500 meters to spend the night.
- Going higher during the day is fine as long as you take proper breaks. Take rest days to allow your body to catch up but avoid sleeping during the day.
- Carry a small oxygen kit.
- Consult a doctor and keep some preventive medication for AMS in case of an extreme emergency.
- Eat lots of carbohydrates and keep your body warm.
- Never hesitate to express if you start feeling unwell. Remember, AMS hits a perfectly fit person and a pot-bellied person with the same effect.
Poor acclimatization is an invitation to AMS
AMS stands for Acute Mountain Sickness or High-Altitude Sickness is the negative impact of high altitude on your health. Hikers, skiers or travelers who travel to a higher altitude can develop AMS. Caused by rapid exposure to lower amounts of oxygen at higher altitudes, symptoms of AMS vary from mild to deadly depending on the level of altitude and necessary acclimatization methods. Let’s get to know the categorization of altitude levels and the directly proportional severity of AMS. Based on these altitudes, AMS develops from mild to severe.
Mild acute mountain sickness starts to develop as you ascend from 2,500 meters and above. Severe cases of acute mountain sickness may cause more intense symptoms and can eventually affect your heart, lungs, muscles, and nervous system. For example, swelling of the brain can cause confusion and fluid built-up in your lungs can cause shortness of breath. Acclimatizing as good as you can, keeps the dangers away from your journey.
Failing to acclimatize properly takes you into the dangers of AMS.
You should always maintain a log and monitor your vitals at regular intervals to keep track of how you feel while traveling and be honest while sharing the details with your group. As a group, you can all make collective decisions on when to go up, when to take rest and when to push yourselves. In times like these, everyone’s well-being and happiness are equally important. Hiding your discomfort in fear of being criticized might push you to your limits and might very well turn out as fatal for your most important bodily systems. Understand that some people tend to acclimatize slower than others and need to be dealt with a bit gently. The most important thing to focus on is your vitals; is your health improving? If you don’t feel good, it’s best to walk down a couple of hundred meters to sleep. You must give your body extra time to acclimatize. The key is to acclimatize, acclimatize and acclimatize. It is the only thing that’ll save you from acute mountain sickness.
Unfortunately, though, we also have enough ill-informed and ignorant bunches of people who just want to climb mountains for the sake of popularity and aspire to do it quicker than the standard duration planned. And in addition, we have many operators, who, despite being aware of AMS, ignore all the red flags just for the lure of easy cash. So, it’s our genuine request for all of you mountain-lovers to be extra careful, perfectly aware and properly acclimatize while you are on your way to living your dreams!0