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Preparing for High Altitudes
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In many parts of the world, hiking involves climbing hills and mountains and for some people this hobby may cross over to full scale mountaineering. As the altitude increases, you need to take the higher altitudes into account and be aware of the possible risks. This article takes a look at how you can prepare yourself for higher altitudes and why you need to get prepared. If you are planning a hike to an altitude significantly above your home altitude, you should also read our article on Signs of Altitude Sickness.

In higher altitudes the oxygen level of the air is lower making your body work less efficiently. These are some important facts on higher altitude hiking:

  • People can feel the effects of higher altitudes as low as 6000 feet above sea level.
  • People differ in their tolerance for high altitude conditions and how their body reacts to the changes in air pressure and oxygen level.
  • There is no relationship between your overall fitness level and your tolerance to high altitudes. An improved fitness level might cause you to push harder and over exert your body which is one of the main causes of AMS.

Acclimating to higher altitudes and the need to do so differs per person. You will learn what your body needs by experience. If you have little or no experience with high altitudes, be sure to take extra precautions and if you experience no problems then you can try a shorter and/or more intense acclimatization process.

Here are some basic rules on acclimating to higher altitudes:

  • Begin at lower altitudes and hike steadily and slowly to higher altitudes. The acclimatization process can take over a week.
  • Your sleeping altitude is most important and make sure the difference in altitude between two consecutive camps is less than 1500 feet. You can reach higher altitudes during the day time but make sure your second camp is no more than 1500 feet from your previous camp.
  • If you drive or fly to altitudes higher than 10,000 feet, take at least 24 hours before you starting the ascent and acclimatization.

Again, if you are planning a hike to an altitude significantly above your home altitude, you should also read our article on Signs of Altitude Sickness.

One Comment

  1. Justin DavisJustin Davis
    February 27, 2011

    There is no relationship between your overall fitness level and your tolerance to high altitudes. An improved fitness level might cause you to push harder and over exert your body which is one of the main causes of AMS.

    - I think this is a silly comment. A person who is out of shape and requires more oxygen due to a weaker cardiovascular system would definitely feel the affects much sooner than someone with lower oxygen requirements, say, a marathon runner.

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