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Altitude 101 - OutdoorPlaces.Com

 Altitude Basics - Page Three



There are a number of things you can do to help you improve your performance at altitude and reduce your chances of the onset of altitude related illnesses. 

Some common sense rules when visiting places like the Black Hills of South Dakota, Yellowstone NP, Grand Canyon NP, and Denali NP will assist you in making your experience much more fun.

Drink plenty of water.

Keeping your system hydrated is very critical because high altitude exposure dehydrates the system. This can be complicated even further in arid regions like the Grand Canyon. 

Water assists your body in flushing toxins, which is critical as the body is under stress when at altitude and it's ability to dispose of carbon dioxide through the breathing process is diminished, especially above 8,000 feet. Remember that if you feel thirsty, you have waited to long to drink.

summitIf you are visiting or climbing in an area over 6,000 feet, you should try to spend at least one night at the 6,000 to 7,000 foot level to adjust to the altitude.If you are visiting an area like the Grand Canyon, or Yellowstone NP, you should spend three days adjusting to the altitude before doing serious physical activity.

The first day should be spent resting (a good day to take in features like Old Faithful) and drinking fluids. The second day should be spent doing some light activity to assist the body in its adjustment, and the third day should be your first attempt at serious physical activity.


Try to increase altitude gradually, no more then 2,000 feet in a day from 6,000 to 14,000 feet, and no more than 1,000 feet a day above 14,000 feet. You should never camp for extended periods of time above 14,000 feet unless you are with an experienced team of individuals who have been at altitude before.


Avoid the consumption of caffeine, alcohol, and simple carbohydrates like sugar. You should also avoid heavy meals and smoking. Caffeine, alcohol and simple carbohydrates effect your body's ability to metabolize and can bring on AMS symptoms or make them more severe. Remember, caffeine and alcohol can remain in your system for some time and should be avoided 48 hours before traveling to higher altitude. Small and frequent meal of protein and complex carbohydrates can help keep AMS symptoms to a minimum.


Although physical condition plays only a minor role in your ability to handle higher altitudes, trying to be in peak physical condition is beneficial below 14,000 feet.


Children under two years of age should never be brought above 10,000 feet. Watch your children carefully for signs of AMS, as they are less likely to complain about specific symptoms, but are more likely to become cranky or irritable.


Listen to your body. If your breathing reaches a point where you can no longer carry on a normal conversation, stop and rest and perform at a slower pace once you have recovered your breath. If you can not catch your breath, assume you have AMS and seek treatment accordingly.
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