Tuesday, January 12, 2010

How to Acclimate: In General (Part 1 of 2)

I am beginning the fifth extended period (more than six weeks) at altitude (above 6000 feet) in my life and I realized that many of the challenges that once plagued me are no longer issues because I have experience to understand the acclimatization process. So here are a number of things you can do to ease the stress of going to a higher altitude.
  1. Do aerobic exercise before you get to altitude. Any amount of aerobic exercise you can do will be beneficial but a month or more will really help. I find running to be a really good conditioning exercise. Biking and swimming also help and cross country skiing if you have it available. This enables your body to transport oxygen better than someone who does not do aerobic exercise.
  2. Drink water! Most of the altitude sickness problems that myself and my friends have had I would trace to dehydration. You are breathing out more water in the dry air as well as sweat evaporating off of your body so you will not realize how much water you need to drink. The few headaches I have had at altitude all cleared up by drinking more.
  3. Ascend slowly. The traditional method is no more than an average of 1000 feet or 300 meters per day above 8000 feet or 2500 meters. By giving yourself an extra day to adjust to a moderate altitude before going to a higher altitude you can mitigate the drastic changes of a large altitude ascent.
Those are the most basic recommendations for adjusting to a higher altitude. Tomorrow I will address several of the finer points of adjusting to altitude.

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