Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Nepal, Altitude Can Kill

Sunset on Everest (middle) and Lothse (right) ©Solange Hando

In just a couple of months, the new trekking season will begin in Nepal and it's a good time to remember the dangers of altitude sickness. Above 3000 metres, this can hit any of us, regardless of age, fitness or experience, due to lower air pressure and oxygen levels.
Ignoring symptoms may lead to pulmonary or cerebral edema, both potentially fatal, the latter in a matter of hours, so if you'd like to see the sunset on the Everest range, make sure you look after yourself...

Namche Bazaar, Rest Day on Everest Trek ©Solange Hando

What can you do to prevent mountain sickness?
Climb slowly and take frequent breaks, even just a few minutes, to allow your body to acclimatise.
Drink plenty of water and avoid alcohol.
Whenever possible, sleep at a lower altitude than the highest reached in the day (it's all up and down).
Take a day's rest (2 nights) every time you gain 1000 metres.
Sleep in a lodge rather than a tent where you keep breathing the same depleted air.
Have a high calorie diet to boost energy levels, include garlic soup to thin out the blood.
 Diamox tablets might help but don't expect a miracle if you ignore everything else.

Looking across to the High Annapurna ©Solange Hando

What are the symptoms?
 Anything from headache and nausea to racing pulse, breathlessness, fluid retention (can't pass water) or sleep problems.
Worsening of the above, plus possibly dizziness, loss of balance, blurred speech, fever, cough, nose bleed, exhaustion.

Langtang Trek ©Solange Hando

What's the remedy?
In the early stages, rest for 2 or 3 nights,  follow all prevention measures and if there's no improvement, descend 1000 metres.
When things get serious, there's a Gamow pressure bag at the Pheriche clinic (Everest trek) if you're nearby.
Otherwise, your guide will probably save your life by carrying you down or call the rescue helicopter from Kathmandu.
Be aware that the helicopter will fly only in daylight hours and clear weather, providing your insurance covers such a service or you deposited the necessary cash with your agency in town.

Sunset on Everest ©Solange Hando

So keep well, keep safe and enjoy...
My favourite spot is up Kalapatar above Base Camp, where this view was taken.

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