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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 
on 
 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 
that 
 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 
easy.  

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!