You have arrived in Nepal for the world renowned Everest Base Camp Trek. Your packing is done and you’re ready for the trek. You start your trek from Lukla, excited, and ascend higher up on your journey to Everest base camp. Your guide briefs you about high altitude acclimatization. You nod your head seeming to have understood the whole thing. But you are confused. That’s not a good sign!
So, what exactly is this thing all about?
Acclimatization at high altitude is simply getting familiar with the decrease in oxygen levels at high altitude. Basically, you are making your body used to less oxygen to avoid high altitude sickness. No proper acclimatization and there are bad things waiting for you.
How bad can high altitude sickness be?
You have started your trek and you are higher up on your trek. Below are some scenarios of high altitude sickness which are most probable to be seen as you ascend the oxygen deprived altitude.
- You are sick with headache, nauseous and feeling weak during the trek of your lifetime.
- You lose appetite and have trouble sleeping, while your friends are enjoying their food and are snoring.
These are mild symptoms and usually get better in a day or two.
- You lose your body coordination and the prior symptoms don’t go away.
- Your chest tightens and you have difficulty in breathing.
These are moderate symptoms.
- You cannot walk and fluid starts building up in the lungs and brain.
These are severe symptoms and require emergencies.
You are taken to a lower altitude, while your friends are going higher up the Everest base camp route, closer to Mt. Everest. If the situation worsens, you are taken by a helicopter to Kathmandu after all your sacrifices for your trek.
How do you stop this in the first place? Your answer is – high altitude acclimatization.
I hope you are getting the scenario here. It is important to understand the steps to acclimatize in order to prevent being sick with altitude.
Steps to follow for High altitude acclimatization.
Don’t ascend too fast
The general rule is that until 27000 to 3000 meters elevation you can ascend quickly. You won’t have a problem.
But after 300 meters, you have to ascend at a rate of 400 meters per day. Again, a 1000 meter climb in the trek will require a day’s rest to acclimatize. In the EBC trek, you will have to spend nights in Namche and Dingboche for adjusting to the altitude.
Namche Bazaar, the acclimatization spot.
Re-hydrate yourself to not dehydrate
Drink lots of plain water. Drinking water is available at all lodges along the Everest base camp trekking trail. You should drink at least 3-4 liters of water every day.
Carry oral re-hydration salts if possible and drink juice, soup when available.
Avoid smoking and alcohol
Smoking is known to have reduced the oxygen level in blood and you do not want yourself running out of more oxygen. Don’t smoke!
Alcohol dehydrates your body. You are losing water from your body during the trek and you need re-hydration, not dehydration. No booze! Keep that party thing for your last day in Lukla.
Increase your carbs
Choose high energy foods for your trek. Plan a diet so that more than 70% of your calories from carbohydrates. It’s all about using your energy for trekking after all. Oatmeal, pasta, rice, peanut butter are all available in the menu of the lodges. You can easily shop for energy bars, energy chews, gels in Kathmandu.
Mix your carb diet with some protein and fat to maintain the balance diet and help you recover from your trek.
The garlic soup is recommended by Nepali guides to avoid mountain sickness. Scientifically, garlic is a natural blood thinner. This will enhance a better blood circulation and oxygen flow into your body. So, ask for a bowl of garlic soup to your lodge host.
Diamox- the most famous used preventive medicine for altitude illness is sold in Lukla and Namche bazaar. What Diamox does is it allows you to breathe faster and speeds up the acclimatization process, so you won’t get sick with altitude.
Don’t over load your rucksack
An ideal weight to carry would be around 15 kg. You should not tire yourself too much. Hire a porter to carry your load or leave unwanted stuffs at the lodges in the preceding camps. It will be safe-no worries about that.
Understand your body
Different people will have varied level of high altitude acclimatization rates. You friend may get used to the high altitude faster than you. But that’s completely normal. Make sure you as well as your whole group is properly acclimatized.
Ask for a guide’s advice on the trek
Yes- you heard it right. Guides with years of trekking experience in the Everest region have tips and tricks to help you avoid being sick with altitude. Ask questions on the high altitude acclimatization and the Everest base camp trek difficulty level. Never hesitate to ask for advice whilst on the trek. It’s a free advice but an important one to keep you on track.
Lastly, keep in mind the worst thing that can happen to you if you get sick with altitude. All those hard work and patience for your most awaited EBC trek will go down the drain. But, worry not. If you follow the steps necessary for high altitude acclimatization, your dream of completing the Everest base camp trek will come true. I would love to hear your success story thereafter.
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You might also be interested in my next blog: Discover the Himalayas like never before: all about the famous Everest Base Camp Trek.