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GEARING UP FOR HIGH-ALTITUDE TREKS

High altitude trekking is one of the most challenging and rewarding outdoor activities that you need to add to your bucket list. Trekking at high altitude with Indian Summits gives you a unique and unforgettable look at some of the most desolate places in India .

Like any extreme adventure, while you’re picking out the perfect camera to bring and dreaming of your quintessential summit sunrise, you’ll need to prepare accordingly and remember these tips for a successful high altitude trek.

The truth is, there’s no real way to train for high altitude other than being there yourself. So above all else, make sure you have the chance to acclimate, hydrate, and prepare for the time of your life with Indian Summits.

Do some general research on the differences between Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE), and High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE). Understand what a “sick person” at altitude looks like, and be prepared to take action if you or members of your team experience these symptoms.

  • AMS is the most mild form of altitude sickness and unfortunately feels very similar to a hangover. You may experience a headache, nausea, or feel exhausted. If you notice any of these symptoms, heed warning that they could predict a larger risk to HAPE or HACE.
  • HAPE occurs when liquid seeps into your lungs and feels like you just had the wind knocked out of you. You may also cough up a frothy foam, which means it’s time to turn around and descend as quickly as possible.
  • HACE causes confusion and incoordination. If your speech is slurring and you find yourself stumbling, you are close to death and an immediate descent is imperative.

Do some general research on the differences between Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE), and High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE). Understand what a “sick person” at altitude looks like, and be prepared to take action if you or members of your team experience these symptoms.

  • Visit your doctor Though you may think you are the picture of health, it would be wise to visit your doctor for a check up before you go. Explain that you are about to take on a high altitude trek, so you want to make sure there aren’t any underlying health issues you should be concerned about. Ideally, you should schedule this visitation before you begin your training so you don’t set yourself up for a disappointment a week before your trek.
  • Plan your trek well in advance Planning plays a very crucial role, as there is to be time given for preparation prior to the trek and also the availability for slots. Ideally, we would suggest 1 and half month.
  • Let someone know where you’re going. When you will begin the trek, when your scheduled end date is, and the exact route of the trek. Give them a number where they can reach you (Indian Summits base camp managers number), and let them know when you will get in touch.
    • This may sound scary, and in most cases, it will be for nothing, but it is better to be safe than sorry as nature can be very unpredictable.
    • If you are trekking from place to place each day, let someone in the town know when you will be arriving (Especially for Rupin Pass).
  • Arrive a day before your trekking is to begin. This will allow your body to acclimate to the reduced amount of oxygen in the air. During this time you can make sure all of your gear is packed properly.
    • During your waiting time, do some moderate exercise to get your body ready for the trek.
    • You can also enjoy a short vacation before your trek, enjoying the area around the starting point, and meeting some other people who might also be doing the trek.
  • Do your training treks with a weighted pack. 12kg at sea level is going to feel a lot heavier (try double) once you venture above 10,000 feet. You’ll be giving yourself a break in the long run if you stuff your backpack with water, weights, or other heavy objects when you train at home.
  • Biking is one good way to improve your cardiovascular fitness. If you are not training at higher altitudes, you can still improve your fitness by biking up hills whenever possible.
  • Go swimming Another excellent way to improve your cardiovascular fitness is to swim. An added advantage of swimming is that it forces you to control your breathing (since you have to hold your breath during certain strokes). Stick to strokes such as the crawl stroke (also known as freestyle), which will require you to keep your face in the water for a few strokes before you turn your head to breathe. Practice holding your breath for up to 5 or 6 strokes before taking a breath if you can.
  • Running If you have never run before, you will have to start out slow, but eventually you will want to work your way up to 3 to 5 days of training for 30 minutes to an hour each training session. During each session, you will want to train at a pace that keeps your heart rate at 70% to 85% of your maximum heart rate. You can calculate what your maximum heart rate should be by subtracting your age from 220. Therefore, if you are 20 years old, your maximum heart rate would be 200. Meaning that you should try not to ever let your heart beat faster than that. 70% of your maximum heart rate would then be 140, and 85% of your maximum heart rate would be 170. Thus, during your training, you will want to keep your heart beating between 140 and 170 beats per minute (BPM). A heart rate monitor is perfect for this. Typically, a heart rate monitor is a strap you can purchase at online or at sports supply stores. The strap wraps around your rib cage, just below your chest. The strap then, typically, reports your BPM to a watch that you wear on your wrist.
  • Run stairs and hills. The calf-burners and glute-tearers you feel when hiking and running work completely different muscle groups. Switch up your workouts by adding as much elevation as you can. Do sprints up steep hills or staircases. Stuck in a flat with no uphill training ground? Hit the gym and spend some time on the stairmaster. No matter where you are, there’s no excuse to not having the right physical preparation.
  • Get as high as possible beforehand. If you have easy access to a mountain range, slowly build your body up to higher elevations, gaining 1,000 ft. each training weekend. Starting small is also fine, too - doing aerobic exercises above 3,000 ft. will still adjust your body to working with less oxygen in your blood.

Checklist of things to carry…

  • Rucksack/Day pack
  • Duffel back with personal gear
  • Garbage bag (preferably micro-polythene disposable bags)
  • Sleeping bag
  • Waterproof, high ankle hiking boots or gumboots to wear over hiking/trekking shoes
  • Trekking pole
  • Seven pairs of thermal, thick wool and synthetic socks and seven pairs of liner socks
  • Fleece pants/Inner thermals/Quick-dries/Waterproof outer pants
  • Fleece jacket/Windproof jacket
  • Raincoat/poncho
  • Thermal inners, both lower and upper
  • Good waterproof outers
  • Wool hat that covers the ears
  • Long-sleeved thermal shirts/light fleece shirts for trekking
  • Two pairs of fleece/woolen inner gloves
  • Outer synthetic water-proof gloves
  • Bandanna/Scarf
  • Sunglasses with UV protection
  • Lip protection + Moisturizer with high SPF
  • Two water bottles, preferably with insulated cover
  • Headlamp/flashlight with spare batteries - cold kills batteries
  • Camera with spare batteries and memory cards - cold kills batteries
  • Lightweight toiletries, including hand sanitizer
  • Thermos
  • Ear plugs
  • Personal first aid kit, including medicines for high altitude sickness

IMPORTANT NOTES -

  • 1. Pack extra clothes. On a trek, the weather can vary greatly. At higher altitudes especially, temperature can fluctuate greatly. Therefore, try to be prepared for several scenarios. Have long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, a hat, and a pair of gloves that will protect you from several potential weather scenarios.
    • Consider the time of year as well. If you are trekking in the summer, be prepared for higher temperatures, but be aware that temperatures can still drop below freezing at night. During the winter, be prepared for potential freezing temperatures, as well as snow.
  • 2. Don’t forget sunscreen. The sun’s rays are more powerful at high elevations, so make sure you have plenty of sunscreen to apply to any skin that will be exposed during your trek.
    • Make sure to choose a sunscreen that has an SPF of at least 30.
    • Remember that the sun can still affect you even if it is overcast.
  • 3. Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes. Just like sunscreen protects your skin from the harmful rays of the sun, sun glasses protect your eyes. Without them, you will likely be very uncomfortable trekking all day if it is sunny and/or snowy.
    • Squinting into the sun for a long time is likely to give you a headache.
    • Snow can be very blinding, especially when it is sunny.
  • 4. Bring a hat. If it is winter, make sure the hat is warm. In summer, the hat will be mainly to protect you from the sun.
    • If you have the space, pack a warm weather hat and a cool weather hat. That way you will be prepared if the temperature drops significantly.
  • 5. Pack a sturdy pair of trekking boots. Probably one of the most important things you can pack is your trekking boots. Don’t try to break in a brand new pair of trekking boots on a long trek. It could leave you with painful blisters. Instead, opt for a pair you have already been using, who’s comfort and sturdiness can be relied upon.
    • If you don’t have any trekking boots, and have purchased some new ones for your trek, be sure to break them in before the big trek. You should be wearing the boots you want to trek in during your training so that they will be broken in, and you will know that you can comfortably wear them for several hours.
    • Don't forget to pack plenty of fresh socks. In the winter, make sure the socks are thick and warm. In the summer, make sure the socks are designed to wick the sweat away from your feet.
  • 6. Pack protein rich and fast digesting food. Many outdoor stores sell dehydrated food packs that you can carry with you.
    • You could also pack food such as protein bars, chocolates, dates, dry fruits and other high carbohydrate foods. These may work fine if you will only need to have a snack along your trail. (Observe weight that you'll be carrying at the same time)
  • 7. Don’t forget insect repellent. Especially in the summer, there may be lots and lots of mosquitos and other bugs that may bite you in bugyals(meadows). Therefore, you should be prepared by having an insect repellent that you can apply to any exposed skin.
    • Be sure not to put your fingers in or around your mouth if you have applied insect repellent. Not only will it taste bad, it could possibly make you sick.
  • 8. Pack a first aid kit. You never know what will happen out on the trail, so it is good to be prepared with some of the basics. Kits are very small and light these days, so don’t worry about it taking up too much space.
    • Make sure that your kit contains the following: bandages, gauze, moleskin (to be used on blisters), pain medication, and allergy cream.
    • You should also consider packing Diamox in your kit. Diamox is a medication that is commonly used to treat symptoms of altitude sickness if, for some reason, you are not able to ascend slowly (which is the best prevention for altitude sickness)
  • 1. Stay hydrated. Before your trek begins, you should be well-hydrated. During your acclimation stay, you should be drinking 2 to 3 liters of water each day to prepare your body for the trek.
    • During the hike, keep a 1 liter bottle of water in your pack, and drink often to keep yourself hydrated. If there are stops along the way, refill your bottle, even if you think you won’t need it (Check water filling point well before starting off your day).
  • 2. Have snacks to keep your energy levels consistent. At higher altitudes, your body will burn energy more quickly, so have some snacks such as dried fruit and nuts to eat as a snack.
    • You will want the snack to be high in carbohydrates, so you can quickly replenish your lost energy.
  • 3. Remain aware of your physical condition. On a long trek, it can be easy to slip into a state where you aren’t really paying much attention to how you’re feeling physically. However, when you are hiking at high altitudes, you should remain aware of what is going on with your body, especially as you ascend higher and higher.
    • If you begin to experience nausea, a lack of hunger, a lack of thirst, or if you notice a headache, are feeling dizzy, having trouble breathing, or losing control of your coordination, stop. Tell another member of your trekking group. Don’t ignore these symptoms, as they may be early signs of altitude sickness.
    • Don’t try to tough it out. These symptoms may subside quickly with a bit of rest, but they could also turn into something more deadly if you aren’t careful.
  • 4. Focus on deep, even breathing. If and when you start to notice some shortness of breath, stay alert. Focus on taking deep breaths in and out, and make sure that the breaths are even. This will help you avoid over-exerting yourself.
    • If you feel that you are over-exerting yourself, stop and take a break for a few minutes to regain control of your breathing.
  • 5. Avoid sleeping at altitudes that are too high. You should not sleep at an elevation that is more than 1,500 feet higher than the elevation at which you slept the night before.
    • For example, if you slept at 6,000 feet the night before, you should not sleep above 7,500 feet the next night (Trek Lead at Indian Summits will take care of that).
  • 6. Be prepared to turn around. With high altitude trekking, it is important that you be ready to turn around and call it quits if any of your trekking group begin to experience symptoms of altitude sickness.
    • It may feel disappointing, but it is better to be safe than stuck on the top of a mountain with a person who is suffering from severe symptoms of altitude sickness.
  • 7. Take it slow. Don't rush your way out of a successful trip. Your body will naturally feel slower at high altitude, so go along with it. Nothing can truly prepare your body for the thin mountain air other than actually being there - so when you do get your change - take your time and enjoy the adventure.