If you are like many high altitude hikers and climbers, the ultimate reward is successfully reaching the summit. That is why it is imperative that you prepare adequately before departing for the trek and once you commence the trek, do it correctly. We bring you here some of the pitfalls to look out for so you may prepare adequately.
In any high altitude hike, your greatest adversary is Altitude sickness. Altitude Sickness, also called mountain sickness is caused by reduced air pressure and lowered oxygen levels at high altitudes. In the early stages, it is mild and manifests as, light-headedness, fatigue, headache, loss of appetite, nausea/vomiting, increase heartbeat rate or Shortness of breath.
As you climb higher the atmospheric pressure decreases. When your internal body (pressure) does not adjust properly to the change in atmospheric pressure you may start showing signs of mountain sickness.
Also, the reduced atmospheric pressure causes the air to get thinner and thus have less and less oxygen. Less oxygen to burn means less energy for body metabolism. Again if your body is unable to adjust rapidly to change in available oxygen, you may start showing signs of altitude sickness.
Anyone, no matter the age, sex or physical fitness can develop altitude sickness. But from the above, you can see that someone who lives at a lower altitude is more prone to this malady if and when they are exposed to high altitude.
To lessen the chances of attack or to ameliorate the effects of an attack,
prepare your body (acclimatise) by climbing and spending time in higher altitudes months before the climb. If you live near sea level then travel to a location near the mountain days in advance of the climb. During the climb, ascend slowly taking, taking five-minute breaks with every ascent of 100m. If climbing past the 400m mark, stop for a day for every ascent of 600m. When stopping for the night, descend to a lower altitude when possible.
Be fit muscle wise so that your body demands less energy.
If you consider the trek up the summit as a one-off chore to complete and never ever to be repeated (bucket list), then you may want to change your attitude. Walk frequently to a point where you start to enjoy walking. Walking to the summit will entail walking uphill and downhill for up to seven hours a day for a number of days. Naturally, this can be tedious and boring. But if you enjoy the walk, you will not only like the trip, you will notice and enjoy the many breath-taking sceneries along the trail.
In the days running towards the hike, take a lot of fluids daily in order to start to hydrate your body. Reduce alcohol intake as it encourages water loss from the body through urination. Some people have a problem drinking while undertaking strenuous exercises. In this case, practise to take water while walking or running and at worst in the breaks between the long walks.
Exercises sufficiently to strengthen the muscles of both your external and internal organs. Walking, running, skipping a rope and doing squats will strengthen your lower body muscles, tendons, and ligaments plus the heart, chest and diaphragm muscles.
If you live or work in storeyed builds, the staircase is a godsend. Avoid lifts and take stairs instead. Cycle or walk to work. Swim frequently to give endurance to your lungs, improve breath timing and to boost your body’s ability to survive on little air. Swimming also helps your body learn to cope with changes in external pressure.
But go slow, very slow, on exercise during the last week of preparation to give your body time to recover.
During the trek, the body needs to burn more carbohydrate for energy than usual. Eat adequate starchy and sugary foods. Drink water. Your body needs it to create energy. Carry with you high energy snacks.
Humour and Sense of Adventure
Even with all the preparations, things will not go according to plan. Your rain gear may fail and you end up with soggy boots or food. The food may disagree with you and you spend as much time squatting in the bush behind boulders as on the trail. You may have to share accommodation with a snoring giant. Take the mishaps in your stride and find humour in the encounters.
Talk to the fellow hikers you meet. By all means, avoid being grumpy. If there is a bad smell following you around, the culprit is not your fellow hikers. It is you.
Any weight carried uphill, especially on summit-night/day can me monumental even if that weight is part of your body. Cut your body weight to your optimum weight. Also, pack light; have the bare essentials in your day bag. Water is heavy. Do not carry more than you will consume for the day’s journey.
Do not over assert yourself when walking; walk at your comfortable pace. Start off early so that you may walk slowly and stop to rest as necessary. At every stop sip some water.
On steep inclines, use short steps. Do not climb over150mm in one step. Zigzag uphill to lessen the gradient. It takes longer but you use less energy.
Acquire the correct attire for the hike. The mountain climate is capricious. It can change rapidly without notice. Please keep warm on the mountain as developing a breathing complication will definitely cut short your trip. Prepare for wind, rain, sun, hail, snow anything.
Break-in your gear. Boots, socks, day bag, underwear or anything that is likely to start pinching needs to be used by you in advance.