Dr. Paul Auerbach is the world's leading outdoor health expert. His blog offers tips on outdoor safety and advice on how to handle wilderness emergencies.See all posts »
Climb High, Sleep Low
Understanding that it's not uncommon to see manifestations of acute mountain sickness (headaches, fatigue, nausea, poor sleeping) or high altitude pulmonary edema, which is a form of fluid in the lungs (shortness of breath, decreased exercise tolerance, cough, low grade fever) at altitudes as low as 8000 feet above sea level, we were very aware of how fast we ascended, and our sleeping altitude. Many people show their susceptibility to high altitude illness in their sleeping patterns, with disturbed sleep being a manifestation of a poor breathing response to low concentration of oxygen in the thinner air at high altitude.
So, we were careful to sleep at the lowest altitude that was practical for our journey, and to never ascend more than 1000 feet a day. If anyone felt poorly in a way that might represent high altitude illness, we slowed the pace of hiking and ascent, and considered the need to stay at that altitude for an extra day, or even descend if the symptoms were severe or appeared to be worsening. Fortunately, everyone was in good shape, and our group only suffered a few headaches and one episode of moderate mountain sickness.
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