If you are here it means you want to know about high altitude and how it feels to be there. More than that, you want to hear how an amateur trekker felt for the first time in very high altitude in Nepal, during our 10 days Annapurna Circuit trek.
IN MEDICAL TERMS
The percentage oxygen saturation of haemoglobin determines the content of oxygen in blood. After the human body reaches around 2.100 m (7.000 feet) above sea level, the saturation of Oxyhemoglobin begins to decrease rapidly. However, the human body has both short-term and long-term adaptations to altitude that allow it to partially compensate for the lack of oxygen. Read more documented information about Effects of high altitude on humans * ( Source Wikipedia)
MY HUMBLE OPINION
Every step you take and every move you make it is perceived like you are in slow monition. It feels like someone had pressed the SloMo Setting from your camera and now it affects your reality. That is absolutely normal. Your blood and body needs to adjust to the rarefied atmosphere.
Because of the decreased oxygen level in the air, our breathing gets more alert and 90+ bpm while sitting it is a very normal heart rate when you are at 3500 m high. Normally would be a value around 60-80 bmp. Besides breathing faster and walking slower, my body reacted fully normally and did not notice any other changes.
If you want a good laugh just try to run a bit or climb faster a few meters and you will be out of breath in less than a second. The funny thing is, this weird SloMo feeling lasts a few days after you come back down from the mountains. It just feels something weird in the body and you are not sure if you are jet lagged, hungry or just re-adapting to normal oxygen levels. I totally suggest you take a day or two off and do not go directly back to your jobs.
Acclimatisation is the word used to describe the adjustments your body makes as it ascends. You should adjust your schedule so that after 3000 meters your sleeping altitude is no more than 300 meters to 400 meters higher than the previous day’s sleeping altitude. In other words if you spent the last night at 3200 m high, next one should be at maximum 3700 m. Usually when you start ascending after 3000 m it is recommended that you spend a whole day at the same altitude just to acclimatise. That means a free day with spectacular view when you get to do what you want!
Feel free to read more about acclimatisation on Himalayan Rescue Association (HRA) official’s website or visit one of their free seminaries when you arrive in Kathmandu.
HOW TO PREPARE FOR HIGH ALTITUDE
You can not really train your body in advanced to better high altitude, but there are some small tips to make your stay better
- use really good sun glasses with UV Filters. Not only that you are close to the sun the higher you get, the air gets thinner and you are much more close to the Equator. UV Index is VERY HIGH!!
- Protect your head: both from cold but from sun too. Even if it warms you up keep in mind the above mentioned reasons.
- Stay hydrated. Yes, that implies drinking loads of water (or as much as your body asks you to), but also consider of combining the water with juice, sugar, salts, so the body can absorb more of it at once. Do not worry that much about your sugar intake there, the next hill you will climb will burn it immediately.
- Eat garlic. I can not attest if this helps or not but the Nepalese say that garlic prevents from high altitude sickness.
TIPS FOR LONG HIKES
There are two options: 1) you hire a Sherpa to help you with your backpack or 2) you pack light. And when I say you pack light it means 8-9 kg including water, camera, sleeping back, essentials, cloths, meds etc. This will be all your belongings for one, two, three weeks depending what route you chose. Yes pack a detergent soap bar because here will be some hand washing involved. It might sound very crazy but believe me when you are up there every gram counts and a light backpack will make your ascends in high altitude easier. There will be moments when you will just want to leave all your belongings behind, because you moving is more important than having things. 🙄 Heard from a friend, it did not happen to me :😋 Yes, we did option 2 with 9 kg backpack.
If you take one of the high altitude treks in Nepal like we did with the Annapurna Circuit Trek, you will eventually see that the food options repeat themselves. Growing food above 2000 m can be really challenging. The soil is poor, weather conditions can get extreme etc. Most of your food will be rice and flour based. Locals found somehow a way to grow until really ridiculous altitudes garlic and cabbage. After 3 meals a days having rice and Tibetan bread a few days in a row, you will miss some food diversity or nutrients. My biggest craving after 7 days in the Annapurna Circuit was for fresh food and specifically fresh oranges. I remember going from “shop” to “shop” asking for fresh fruits or fresh juice. The only thing I could find was 20% natural drink with orange taste that had to do it for me there. In the city I would have never drank it, but up there was just priceless. Sugar on the other hand is rather available in many forms, so this will not be a problem.
Add some things you know you will eat if you have a few days at lower altitudes. Until 3500 m it makes really not much of a difference if your backpack weights 8 or 9 kg. In my own example, I would add a few more protein snacks and maybe 3 apples to have for the first week.
Thank you so much for reading my experience in high altitude in Nepal in our Annapurna Circuit trek. Like and share! Let’s meet on social media too: Instagram @smileyioana Pinterest
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