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[cdt-l] Day hiking at high elevations
<< We're headed for the Rockies, and I've never been over 7,000 feet before.
Since I live pretty much at sea level, does anyone have any general advice
how to handle day hiking at elevations I'm likely to encounter (up to 14,000
feet)? It obviously isn't the same as the slow acclaimation to elevation
a backpacker can do. >>
People really vary in their tolerance to altitude but, if you're in good
physical condition you probably won't have anything but fun! Just take it
There are two things to be aware of, physically. First is altitude sickness.
Symptoms are headache, nausea, lack of appetite and, if you're staying
overnight, difficulty sleeping. Unless it's really severe, you can deal with
altitude sickness by slowing down. Travel at a pace you can maintain, and
take a break when you feel tired. It always amazes me how little air there
is to breath at 12K-plus!
The second problem is pulmonary edema, which means, literally, "swelling of
the lungs". It can kill you. If you get to coughing, like a bad cold, and
spitting blood, get to a lower elevation immediately. Fortunately, pulmonary
edema isn't likely to occur unless you're spending days at high altitude, and
is fairly rare even then.
I think most people experience some altitude sickness. Some aspirin or
Tylenol will usually take care of it. I've also had pulmonary edema (not too
severe) after a week above 11,000 feet, but I was not in great condition and
I smoked at the time. Not a good recipe for tromping around the hills! It
cleared as soon as I got to lower elevation. (And I haven't smoked for over
20 years now. That's made a noticeable difference in my physical well-being,
you can be sure!)
Okay, I've thought of a third thing to worry about. At high altitude, you
can sunburn instantly. Use lots of SPF-40 sunblock. Sunburn can put you off
the trail fast, so pay attention to that.
Bring a camera! Have a great time!