High altitude treks can be adventurous as well as dangerous at times. Being on a considerable height from the ground, you need to be extra cautious about your safety. While walking amid the high mountain ranges is a thrilling idea, but it’s not as comfortable as it seems to be from a distance. Not only safety, there are several other things that you need to keep in your mind. High altitude treks come with their own set of inherent risks among which the most common is altitude sickness. But need not worry, because Acute Mountain Sickness is preventable if you follow some basic instructions. So above all, high altitude treks require a lot of planning and knowing what you’ve signed up for.
Study and evaluate the risks of high altitude trekking
One thing is for sure, high altitude trekking is not a child’s play. Before heading out on one, study and know about Acute Mountain Sickness which mountaineers usually suffer at high altitude. Apart from that, there are cases of High Altitude Pulmonary Edema and High Altitude Cerebral Edema that can make you very sick. However, there’s no need to panic since these conditions are preventable. For the worst case scenarios, you need to learn about the basic symptoms of these altitude related conditions.
It is the mildest form of altitude sickness. The feeling is almost similar to hangover. People experience headache, nausea, tiredness being on a high altitude. If you feel these symptoms or notice it in one of your trek mates, it is a red flag. AMS might aggravate to HAPE or HACE.
HAPE or High Altitude Pulmonary Edema is when liquid gets inside your lungs. Under this condition, the person feels like they cannot breathe. They also cough up foam. Please note that this condition is serious and it is not advisable to continue the trek if any of the trek members develop the symptoms.
HACE or High Altitude Cerebral Edema is even more serious. It causes confusion and incoordination. The person with this condition will develop slurry speech and they might even find it hard to maintain their balance. Immediate medical intervention is required in this condition.
Make sure that you’re fit enough to carry out this trek
Take a weighted backpack and train beforehand
It would be unwise to start the high altitude trek without any training before. It’s not an easy task to carry weight on your shoulder while ascending. Even 20 kilograms would weigh heavier on high altitude. It is advisable to train with heavy backpack on your back, before heading out for a high altitude trek.
Do stairs and inclined plane exercise
Do as much workout before you start your trip. Train with stair treadmills or an inclined one with weighted backpack on your shoulders. Do sprints up steep hills or staircase. Right physical preparation is the key to having a successful and problem-free high altitude trek.
Increase the height of your treks gradually
If you’ve never been to a difficult trek, it is not advisable to start right from the high altitude trek itself. Start with lower height treks and increase the elevations gradually. Do aerobics at a height of 3000 feet from the ground. It will also help you acclimatise to the hilly environment. Your body will gradually begin adjusting to low oxygen levels in your blood.
Eat and drink more than usual
Your muscles burn more calories than usual when you’re on a high altitude. Hence, you need to drink and eat more than usual when on a trek. If you’re on a diet, you need to ditch that during high altitude treks. Load yourself with sugar and carbohydrates-filled snacks. You can eat candies, chocolate and other high-calorie treats to meet your energy requirements.
Don’t rely on sunscreen
Sun rays on high altitudes are more direct than in plains. The normal sunscreen won’t work at the high altitudes. If you want to save yourself from the painful sunburns, buy a total face protection gear. Apart from that, also carry a water-resistant suit and extra hand warmers, socks to guard your body against the extreme conditions of the mountains.
Carry first aid
Prepare yourself for the worst and carry a first aid with yourself. It is recommended to carry Diamox if you’re trekking above 8,000 feet. Also, stack on some ibuprofen, cough drops and indigestion pills in case things get tricky.
Make sure you don’t have any underlying illness
Don’t be overly brave to go on a high altitude trek if you have a lingering illness. Before heading out for the trip, make sure you pay a visit to your doctor for routine checkup. If you’re not feeling during the trip, don’t ignore the signs. Drop the journey and return home immediately. Even a headache or a minor chest pain can be symptoms of some underlying sickness.