Prior to and during your climb:
- Avoid alcoholic beverages while flying and traveling to base camp
- Try to spend at least one night at the trail head (two nights would be ideal)
- Stay hydrated – drink lots of liquids, even before reaching base camp
- Prepare well for where you will get water on the trail and have the gear necessary to collect water and make it safe to drink
- Consider adding electrolyte solution (such as a sports drink) to some of your container to replace electrolyte losses
- If you are not hungry while climbing, you are probably not adequately hydrated
Pace and breathing:
- Start slowly during the first hour, and maintain a pace that you can sustain for 24 hours (if needed in an emergency) to reduce your early glycogen burn rate.
- Resist the competitive drive. It gets folks into trouble later in the day at altitude.
- Consciously work on breathing in time with pace and develop a rhythm of steps and breath. At higher altitude (for example, around 27,000’) your breathing ratio will change to 2-4 breaths for one step.
inReach: Assisting a Hiker Experiencing High Altitude Sickness
"They rose early the next morning to get to the trailhead and begin their 5-day hike. The group reached their first camping spot around noon at an elevation of about 10,700’.
"Karen said she got sick following dinner. She didn’t realize that this was the first sign of altitude sickness. Karen and her friends discussed the possibility of heading back, but they decided to see how she felt in the morning. Karen had brought supplemental oxygen, which she used that night, and she kept consuming liquids to stay hydrated and went to sleep.
"Karen woke before her friends to have a good breakfast and drink fluids with electrolytes. She decided to carry on with the hike, but in hindsight, she knows now that she wasn’t in the state of mind to make a sound decision.
"Her recollection of events is blurry from this point on. The group reached the summit of West Maroon Pass (at 12,500’) around noon. “I remember it was beautiful, but I started to decline. My friends told me I was stuttering and shaking all over,” Karen said.
"The friends took turns helping Karen climb down and carry her pack. Karen has no recollection of this portion of the journey, but as she descended, they reported that she began to feel better. Still, she was out of breath, so they kept giving her supplemental oxygen. Around 4:45 p.m., about 3.5 miles from the car, Karen stopped, went stiff, fell to the ground, hit her head, and began to vomit and have a seizure. "
Read the rest of this article to learn how the inReach satellite tracker and communicator helped save Karen's life.