[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

[pct-l] I Have Returned, Howdy

> Can you tell us more about your experience?  

Yes.  I was 6 days into the High Sierras, and we had
(thinking we were conditioned enough to do so after
walking from Campo) been camping at 10,000ft + every
night.  Additionally, we had climbed Whitney one of
those days, hiking to the summit with only one rest
break and then having no choice but to hike all the
way down with no breaks after a storm moved in on us. 

I had caught the flu around Agua Dulce, several weeks
earlier.  Perhaps that predisposed me to developing
pulmonary edema.  Who knows.  It can strike
conditioned people and people who have ventured to
high altitude before, so there is no true way to
predict it.  One can only work to prevent it.  In my
case, I should not have been sleeping up so high.

The day after Whitney, a slight hoarse cough I had
been carrying since the flu, became incessant.   I
thought I was going to break a rib it was so hard. 
The cough was very dry -- no plegm.  However, there
was a strange, deep, crackling, wheezing noise that
you could hear beneath the sound of my vocal cords and
when I was breathing deeply.  

Next day we climbed Forester Pass.  I had no fever,
felt fine, but the coughing was now so incessant that
I could not rest at all, even at night.  I still
thought it must be irritation from the old flu.  

That night I made another mistake that may have
worsened it.  I got a bit dehydrated.  Next morning, I
was so short of breath, I could literally not walk up
Glen Pass.  We camped that day, resting near the trail
in the tent and trying to decide what to do.

By the following morning, I knew something was
dreadfully wrong.  In addition to the cough, I was now
near to hyperventilating just walking around camp. 
When we hiked up Kearsarge Pass, my face, feet and
hands became numb from the hyperventilating.  I was
blowing off too much carbon dioxide by breathing so
hard, and my blood was becoming basic.  Very scary
experience.  Hiking up that pass (my partner carried
my pack for me, so I had no weight on me) was the
single hardest physical thing I have ever done with
that edema.

There was no blood in my cough that I ever saw.    

The preventive medication, Diamox, can only be taken
before venturing to altitude.  The only recourse once
one develops edema of any kind at altitude is to
descend immediately.  I was told to end my thru-hike,
or at least stay at sea level for 6 weeks minimum. 
Going back up would be very dangerous.  If I had
recognized what was truly happening to me, I might
have been able to get through the high country by
choosing to camp below 9,000 feet.

I do agree that pulmonary edema is a possible threat
to anyone going into the Sierras.  It's unlikely to
severely affect thru-hikers and end a thru-hike;
however, I did see several other hikers coughing my
same cough in a milder form.  I read somewhere that
anytime a person ventures into high altitudes, the
lungs develop some level of rales, or pulmonary edema.
 Some folks aren't affected and it would take a
stethoscope to hear the rales, but others develop a
cough.  And still fewer develop the full-blown stuff. 
There are rare cases where cerebral edema kills
people, usually above 12,000 feet....but that is
another story.


--- ROYROBIN@aol.com wrote:
> about pulmonary edema.  It's a potentially fatal
> condition associated with 
> hiking at high altitude.  It is, literally, swelling
> (and bleeding) in the 
> lungs.  If you develop a "chest cold" and are
> spitting blood, you got it!  
> The only cure is to get to a lower elevation asap.  
> I had a run-in with it many years ago when I took a
> group into Desolation 
> Lake in Humphreys Basin.  I think the sudden jump
> from sea level to 11,000 
> feet, and poor conditioning, were part of the
> problem.  The good news is, 
> I've never had any trouble with it since on many
> visits to the high country.  
> So, I think it's something everyone should be aware
> of, but not a cause for 
> great concern for thruhikers.
> Can you tell us more about your experience?  

Do You Yahoo!?
Buy the perfect holiday gifts at Yahoo! Shopping.