How To Prepare for High Altitude Hiking (Altitude Sickness, Precautions & Safety)

It is more difficult to breathe while walking at a high altitude (usually over 2,500m), where the air is generally thinner and has less oxygen.

It’s crucial to learn how to prepare for high altitude hiking ahead of the planned date if you want to accomplish it in the best possible shape. The accompanying risks become more acute as you ascend.

Alas, age, sex, or level of physical fitness have no bearing on whether someone may have acute mountain sickness; there are no known contributing factors.

Past suffering does not increase the likelihood of future suffering.

Knowing these risks exist, you should take steps to reduce any additional risks and prepare to get as fit as possible before your high-altitude hike.

7 Major Facts on How To Prepare for High Altitude Hiking

The more time you have to focus on your stunning surroundings rather than the breathtaking air, the more you will enjoy your high-altitude trip if you follow these preparation guidelines.

1. Consult a physician

To be sure you don’t have any pre-existing conditions that will prevent you from walking at high altitudes, consult your doctor before beginning a new exercise regimen.

Begin if you’re good to go.

2. Fitness training

To increase your aerobic fitness, your training should involve plenty of prolonged cardio. The amount of oxygen your body can consume at its maximum rate will increase with aerobic exercises like running, biking, and swimming.

This is crucial for a high-altitude journey because there won’t be as much oxygen available for you to breathe, and every breath must count.

Whatever style of cardio you select, make sure to incorporate hill training.

3. Any training hikes should gradually increase in length and altitude.

Even though it could be challenging to increase the height of your training treks, you should gradually increase the length and frequency of your walks.

On the day with the most walking on your trip, start slowly and work up to walking for about an hour less than is anticipated.

Do your longest training walk for at least two weeks before starting your high-altitude adventure to give yourself ample time to recover.

4. Learn the yoga breathing patterns

Even a brief exertion at a high altitude could leave you gasping for air. Yoga breathing exercises are a great technique to regain control over your breathing.

Developing a rhythmic breathing pattern and taking deep abdominal breaths can be helpful.

If it does occur, you may feel less worried on the walk the better prepared you are for how to handle it.

5. Learn to consume a lot of water regularly

Whatever you are doing, drinking water more regularly than usual is a good idea when you are at altitude.

Since there is less humidity at higher elevations, sweat evaporates swiftly and frequently without you knowing.

You lose more water through respiration at lower oxygen levels, perhaps twice as much as at sea level. Lower oxygen levels also make you breathe in and out more quickly.

Increased urination is another symptom of altitude sickness. This means you need to drink a lot more fluids because dehydration can disguise or exacerbate altitude sickness symptoms.

6. Insurance

Verify that your travel insurance covers the altitude you will be walking at. The occurrence of this is not always expected. Your maximum altitude can be found in the trip dossier.

7. Take your time adjusting

Driving or flying to an altitude-based starting point requires a rapid ascent; in this case, you should do very little during the first few days at your destination.

Get acclimated to moving at altitude and avoid overexerting yourself. If you do this, you’ll be in much better shape for the hike.

Precautions for Hiking in High Altitude

Outdoor Strategy

Cell service could be better and more present at many state park facilities. Tell someone who can be trusted back at camp or at home where you’re going and when you’ll be back.

If you are late returning, ask that person to alert the local police.

Go for a hike with a buddy or relative

The company in the great outdoors is enjoyable, and you may support one another in achieving your fitness objectives.

Don’t stray from the path

Never stray from the path or go inside a closed door. Cutting through switchbacks damages the trail by eroding the mountainside.

Additionally, going off-trail increases your risk of getting hurt or lost.

Be polite and follow trail protocol

If feasible, communicate with other trail users and move aside to cede when they approach you. If you want to pass, let those in front know.

Shoes

To help prevent injuries put on a pair of strong, comfortable shoes.

Carry Emergency Oxygen for High Altitude Hiking

Oxygen is vital for all life, but it becomes increasingly important at high altitudes. The air pressure at sea level is about 14.7 pounds per square inch (PSI).

Thus, this means that there are about 14.7 oxygen molecules for every square inch of your lungs.

But as you climb in altitude, the air pressure decreases. So does the amount of oxygen available for each breath you take in.

At 10,000 feet (3,048 meters), the atmospheric pressure has dropped to half of what it is at sea level and the concentration of oxygen has also dropped to half.

Therefore, every breath you take in only provides half as much oxygen as a breath taken at sea level.

And since your body needs oxygen to function properly, this can lead to problems such as altitude sickness.

There are several ways to combat the effects of low oxygen levels at high altitudes.

One is simply to take more breaks and rest more often when hiking. This gives your body time to adjust and acclimate to the thinner air.

Another is to hike slower than you would normally hike at lower altitudes so that your body has time to catch up with each breath.

Some people also choose to use supplemental oxygen when hiking above 8,000 or 10,000 feet (2,438-3,048 meters).

There are portable tanks that provide a steady stream of pure oxygen that can help alleviate some symptoms of altitude sickness.

If you plan on spending extended periods of time at high altitudes or summiting peaks like Mount Everest, then supplemental oxygen will likely be a necessity.

But for most hikers who stick below the treeline, taking some extra rest breaks and going slow should be enough to prevent any serious problems caused by lack of Oxygen.

How to Acclimate to High Altitude Quickly

If you find yourself at a high altitude and are feeling the effects of altitude sickness, something you can do to help your body adjust.

First, it’s important to stay hydrated by drinking lots of water or fluids with electrolytes. You should also avoid alcohol and smoking, as they can dehydrate your body and make symptoms worse.

Get plenty of rest and eat healthy foods to keep your energy up.

Finally, try some over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen or acetaminophen to relieve headaches or pain.

With a little time and care, your body will adjust to the high altitude and you can enjoy all that the mountains have to offer!

Supplements to Prepare for High Altitude

When you’re planning a trip to a high-altitude destination, it’s important to take some time to prepare your body for the change in elevation.

One way to do this is by taking supplements that can help you acclimate more easily.

Some good options for high-altitude supplements include:

Acetazolamide

This medication helps prevent altitude sickness by reducing the production of carbonic acid in your body.

It’s typically taken starting one or two days before ascent and continued for the first few days at altitude.

Diamox Sequels

This extended-release version of acetazolamide can be taken once daily instead of multiple times per day.

It may be a good option if you have trouble taking pills multiple times per day or if you have kidney problems.

Dexamethasone

This steroid is sometimes used to treat severe cases of altitude sickness. It can also help prevent symptoms if taken before the ascent.

However, it can cause serious side effects, so it should only be used under the supervision of a doctor.

Taking these supplements can help you better enjoy your time at high altitudes by preventing or minimizing the symptoms of altitude sickness.

Important FAQs about High-Altitude Hiking

Is hiking at altitude good for you?

Both rock climbing and hiking are beneficial to our physical and emotional wellness.

Numerous studies have demonstrated the positive effects of altitude on blood pressure and blood sugar levels.

What is the fastest way to adjust to high-altitude hiking?

Before moving to a higher altitude, spend a few days there. Your body will have more time to become used to the lower oxygen levels.

Increase the altitude where you will sleep no more than 1,600 feet every day after you are over 9,000 feet.

How do you prevent altitude sickness when hiking?

Climb gradually.

Your body must gradually ascend for two to three days before adapting to the alterations. Eat carbohydrates. Drink lots of water.

What is considered high altitude for hiking?

High altitude is defined as being between 4,900 and 11,500 feet (1,500 to 3,500 meters) above sea level; very high altitude is between 11,500 and 18,000 feet (3,500 to 5,500 meters); and extreme altitude is anything above 18,000 feet (5,500 meters).

Does taking iron help with altitude sickness during the hikes?

Taking iron supplements can help you have higher iron levels. Trekkers frequently use them in high altitudes to aid with acclimatization.

Overly high iron levels, on the other hand (though less common), can harm the body in several ways.

What should you avoid in high-altitude hiking?

Altitude sickness symptoms can worsen while consuming alcohol, smoking, or taking drugs like sleeping pills.

Avoid drinking, smoking, and taking sleeping drugs when traveling to a higher altitude. Wait at least 48 hours before having a drink if you want to allow your body enough time to adjust.

How Long Does It Take Your Body to Acclimate to High Altitude?

It generally takes about 1-3 days for your body to start acclimatizing to high altitude.

During this time, you may experience some mild symptoms such as headache, loss of appetite, increased heart rate, and trouble sleeping.

These are all normal and should resolve on their own as your body gets used to the altitude.

If you have any pre-existing medical conditions, it’s important to speak with your doctor before traveling to high altitudes.

How Do You Train Your Body for High Altitude?

In order to train your body for high altitude, you need to first understand how the body reacts to altitude.

The body’s response to altitude is largely due to the decrease in oxygen availability at higher altitudes.

To acclimatize, or adjust, to the decreased oxygen availability, your body needs time to adapt.

The process of acclimatization typically occurs over a period of days or weeks and involves several physiological changes.

These changes include increased production of red blood cells, which help carry oxygen more efficiently throughout the body, as well as an increased breathing rate and heart rate.

Additionally, blood vessels may constrict at high altitudes in order to minimize fluid loss through sweating and urination.

What is Considered High Altitude for Hiking?

When it comes to high-altitude hiking, there is no one-size-fits-all answer.

The definition of high altitude can vary depending on who you ask, but generally speaking, anything above 8,000 feet (2,438 meters) is considered high altitude.

Above this elevation, the air is thinner and contains less oxygen, which can lead to a number of problems for hikers, including altitude sickness.

Hiking at high altitudes can be challenging and even dangerous if you’re not prepared.

It’s important to take your time acclimatizing to the thin air before attempting any strenuous hikes.

Once you’ve done that, though, there are plenty of amazing trails waiting for you to explore.

So what are you waiting for? Get out there and start climbing!

Final Words

Many people suffer the signs of altitude sickness, which in its milder forms can result in headaches, nosebleeds, shortness of breath, cough, recurrent, excruciating headaches, nausea, lack of coordination, and disorientation are far more severe symptoms.

Anytime you feel poorly, you should inform your guide. If the symptoms don’t go away after a day, you may need to descend because there is no way to stop the sickness from progressing at your current altitude.

All these can be prevented if you use the instructions in this article. Preparing adequately and keeping safety precautions in mind is crucial for a high-altitude hike.

Familiarizing yourself with how to prepare for high-altitude hiking tips will make your hike more fun with little or no issues.

 

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