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#30372 - 03/16/13 04:43 PM How long does acclimation to high altitude "last"?
NoUglyOneYet Offline


Registered: 02/09/13
Posts: 69
Loc: San Diego, California
The friends that we plan to hike Whitney with on the 4th of July (permit allowing, of course) can't drive up from San Diego till the 3rd of July. They're suggesting that we acclimate on San Gorgonio the previous weekend. All the data I can find online explains how to acclimate once we head into higher elevations, but not how long those effects will last once we return to sea level. Is our friends' plan a reasonable one?

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#30376 - 03/16/13 07:00 PM Re: How long does acclimation to high altitude "last"? [Re: NoUglyOneYet]
Bee Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 1261
Loc: Northern California
Unfortunately, how long acclimatization lasts falls under the category of every "body" is different. Some people -- such as myself -- find that a good night's sleep is more important than actually battling it out "at elevation" the night before (so that I have a nice comfortable pace up the hill with no effects, whilst the "acclimatized" person wanders up the hill sleep deprived with a headache)Sleeping at Gorgonio the weekend before might help, as many claim that the benefits of elevation will last 5 days or longer. The second most important factor if one cannot sleep at elevation (probably the first most important, but many will disagree)for acclimatization is a good night's sleep before the hike.
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#30382 - 03/16/13 10:43 PM Re: How long does acclimation to high altitude "last"? [Re: NoUglyOneYet]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7235
Loc: Fresno, CA
Spending some time above 8000 the week before can't hurt (and higher is better). There are people we have seen who have hiked every weekend, and that seems to keep them acclimated well enough.

I often tell people that driving directly up to Horseshoe Meadows at 10k and spending the first night by the car is a good idea. There is usually space there, as the rules say people can only stay one night.

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#30388 - 03/17/13 11:05 AM Re: How long does acclimation to high altitude "last"? [Re: NoUglyOneYet]
George Offline
Woodsy Guy

Registered: 10/22/09
Posts: 202
Loc: California
Well, it can't hurt but I don't think it'll do much good. If memory serves, you reach about 80% of acclimatization after maybe 2 weeks (I think increase in red blood cells and other changes). I've found the most important advantage is to spend at least one day before a trip at altitude of at least over 9,000. Horseshoe meadow is a very good suggestion.

In my graceful old age, I'm now spending 2 nights at altitude prior to going into the backcountry for the season. Even though I don't suffer from altitude sickness (headache, nausea, HAPE etc.) I've found I feel a lot better on the first day doing that.

So the one night the week before won't have any lasting effect to the following week but if you can work in one night at Horseshoe, you'll be happier on the ascent.

g.
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#30389 - 03/17/13 11:30 AM Re: How long does acclimation to high altitude "last"? [Re: Steve C]
Harvey Lankford Offline


Registered: 11/10/09
Posts: 989
Loc: Richmond, Virginia
Originally Posted By: Steve C
Spending some time above 8000


8000 meters ! that's the Death Zone

just teasing Steve, I know we are talking feet here


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#30390 - 03/17/13 05:33 PM Re: How long does acclimation to high altitude "last"? [Re: NoUglyOneYet]
dbd Offline


Registered: 11/09/09
Posts: 200
Loc: San Diego
If you haven't all been making regular 10 hour hikes to over 10,000' in the previous months, will you do better on Whitney if you hike San Gorgonio the week before? Probably so. Will it be because of physiological adaptation of your bodies to altitude? Probably not.

Dale B. Dalrymple

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#30391 - 03/17/13 06:08 PM Re: How long does acclimation to high altitude "last"? [Re: dbd]
wbtravis Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 1239
Loc: Corner of Jack Benny and Roche...
I agree with dbd. I have found having experience going to a particular elevation more helpful than I acclimatization. I can go to Sierra after year or two and not feel hammered by it because I know what to expect and how to compensate. I do not wall out at 11,500' like I did when I first started going to the Sierra.

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#30395 - 03/18/13 07:52 AM Re: How long does acclimation to high altitude "last"? [Re: NoUglyOneYet]
Bob West Offline


Registered: 11/13/09
Posts: 780
Loc: Bishop, CA, USA
This article has a lot of useful information, including how long altitude acclimatization lasts:

http://www.bodyresults.com/e2deacc.asp

Medical research (and my personal experience) indicates that a few days spent at high altitude provides little, if any, acclimatization benefit. One needs to live at altitude for a considerable length of time (weeks, months, years) to gain any significant accclimatization. Sleeping at Whitney Portal for a few nights doesn't really help the process, except perhaps psychologically. WBTravis' advice is helpful, in that several hikes to altitude will give you some idea on how your body is going to react to altitude on Whitney, and then allow you to adjust accordingly.

Don't fool yourself into thinking that a couple of days on San Gorgonio is going to help your acclimatization before you head up Whitney. It might help with your overall physical conditioning, but will not help you acclimate to altitude. As WBTravis indicated, hiking to high altitude several times will, however, give you experience regarding how your body is going to react to high altitude; then, you might have a better idea of how you are going to perform on Whitney and make the necessary adjustments.

I live at 4,200 feet, which helps with acclimatization until I reach about 10,000 feet plus. I worked for ten years at 8,100 feet, but returned home each weekday night to sleep at 4,200. The work altitude time was pretty much negated by sleeping at the lower altitude. People who live in high altitude towns like Mammoth Lakes, California, (8,000 feet Plus) have an advantage over the rest of us.

Notice from the article that acclimatization disappears quite rapidly upon descent to sea level.

My advice, for what it's worth is, if you have to travel from low altitude and then dash up Whitney, follow the basic rules (good physical conditioning, slow pace, ha ha, hydration, high carbo diet,...) of acclimatization, and descend if you start feeling ill.

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#30398 - 03/18/13 09:10 AM Re: How long does acclimation to high altitude "last"? [Re: Bob West]
wbtravis Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 1239
Loc: Corner of Jack Benny and Roche...
...and descend if you start feeling ill.

If people followed just this rule, most problems on the MMWT would disappear.

Summit Fever...don't catch it.

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#30405 - 03/18/13 03:46 PM Re: How long does acclimation to high altitude "last"? [Re: wbtravis]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7235
Loc: Fresno, CA
Acclimation is complex. Granted, it can take weeks living and working at altitude for the body to become fully acclimated to the point that blood tests and other measurable metrics stop changing. However, most people hiking Mt Whitney do not need to acclimate to that extent. They only need to withstand the effects of the altitude enough to be able to get to the top and back without undue complications.

So with that in mind, even a little acclimation can help. I also take Diamox starting the day before I hike, because it can help a little. (Just don't take too much!)

I can compare my experiences in the mountains... Without any acclimation, I can feel lousy, with no appetite after a single day hiking above 10,000 ft (If I descend, I'd be ok). If I remain at or above 10,000, that feeling will stick with me for several days. When I day hiked Mt Whitney, I could not touch food above Trail Camp.

But now, if I acclimate some: climb a major peak the week before, take Diamox, and spend two nights at Horseshoe Meadows, I can climb Mt Whitney, even spend a night on top, and not feel the altitude to a major extent.

The only other thing I cannot alter is the fact that I got worse AMS years ago. Not sure if AMS diminishes with age, or whether my hiking slower has an effect, or both of those. The sure difference, though, is that I never made any attempt to acclimate before hiking.

One last note: about 25% of the population can climb Mt Whitney and not feel the effects, without any acclimation. On the other hand, a small number can be hit like a ton of bricks, even with careful planning and acclimation.

People really won't know how their bodies will react until they actually go and hike. But it sure doesn't hurt to prepare as much as possible, and also to know what the symptoms are, and plan what to do if the effects of the altitude are to severe.

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#30406 - 03/18/13 04:43 PM Re: How long does acclimation to high altitude "last"? [Re: Steve C]
Harvey Lankford Offline


Registered: 11/10/09
Posts: 989
Loc: Richmond, Virginia
a favorite topic here

and one of mine, personally and professionally

tremendous personal variation makes hard rules hard. even within the same person it is hard. I have had AMS at 10,000 and 19,000. Different circumstances, not just the height.

I had an eye opening experience in Mexico in November 2012 that was different from my time there in 1997, and places elsewhere. This was the fastest I had ever gone above Whitney height without more lengthy staging

Leaving sea level Virginia one morning, flew/drove to 12,000 for the night. Next am climb on Toluca. Despite Diamox(that does not fix everything) I knew immediately at the trailhead I was slow. No headache or nausea ,etc, but at reaching 15,000 ft I was huffing and puffing and pounding, and turned around while the others (4 of whom also came from sea level LA) went to 15,500 top.

After then spending one night each at (in order) 12,000, 10,000 and 8,000 and watching it rain/ no hiking I became acclimatized. Drove to 14,000 hut of Orizaba and immediately hiked to 15,500 as if the symptoms of Toluca were imaginary. Later summitted 18,500

Scientifically: My cardiovascular status was no different in a few days, I had not yet made much more blood (max takes 3-4 weeks), I was breathing LESS hard and thereby not hyperventilating and did not shift my O2/Hgb curve beneficially leftward, and so the conclusion to me is that the mysterious, poorly understood metabolic changes at the tissue level had set in. Oxygen supply (assuming breathing plain air) is a combination of ambient oxygen pressure, oxygen pickup in the lungs, oxygen delivery by the blood, oxygen unloading from blood at the tissue level, and oxygen utilization at the intracellular level. All of the above are called into action on Everest, but on Orizaba I'd say most of my improvement in a few days was the latter two.

Harvey

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#30482 - 03/22/13 11:11 PM Re: How long does acclimation to high altitude "last"? [Re: Harvey Lankford]
Rod Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 660
Loc: Santa Clarita, Ca. USA
I bet blood doping would make acclimation easy.Packing in all those red blood cells and thus the increased O2. Never heard of hikers or climbers doing it but since it is not illegal why not? It obviously works for Bicyclists. Ask all the Tour de France winners including Armstrong. I wonder if Everest climbers do it? Even though I am sure it is rather expensive,it would be a drop in the bucket for those who pay 60-$100K to summit Everest.

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#30483 - 03/23/13 12:18 AM Re: How long does acclimation to high altitude "last"? [Re: Harvey Lankford]
Bee Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 1261
Loc: Northern California
A few years ago, I spent about 3 days at 12,000ft (slept at 4,000 & woke up and hiked to 12k for the remainder of the trip). I came home, and five days later, I drove from sea level & and dayhiked to 13k. Whilst on the summit, I noticed people acting strangely, stumbling around & carrying strange expressions (vacous) on the faces. I asked a couple of them to take my picture, but they seemed disconnected. I thought "crap, is there nowhere that I can go where I don't run into the nutcases??" It took me to halfway down the mountain to realize that everyone else on the summit had also tried to do a dayhike, and they were all zombied out from degrees of AMS. I lauged out loud, because I totally forgot that altitude bothers people! I do not know what the stats are for how long acclimatization lasts, but for me, I have been extremely lucky.
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The body betrays and the weather conspires, hopefully, not on the same day.

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#30507 - 03/23/13 10:19 PM Re: How long does acclimation to high altitude "last"? [Re: Bee]
nyker Offline


Registered: 07/26/12
Posts: 189
Loc: New York
Living at sea level, I always find it helps coming out a day or two before and spending some time (passively) at least 5000ft on one day, ideally up to 8000, then the second day pushing it physically up to above 12,000 before going for a 14er.

If I've been hiking to 13-14k a few times in the last 4-6 weeks, then I just spend a day at 8000 and try as Steve suggested to get some solid sleep the night before and keep hydrated, but you'll have to experiment what works best. I like to think my body acclimatizes faster each time due to some body memory.

Some days I do everything right, go slow, sleep and hydrate, eat accordingly and I feel like crap; other days, when I have no other option to stay a few days, I've flown in from sea level, driven straight up to a 14er on NO sleep and climbed fine. Go figure.

If you plan on using Gorgonio to acclimatize, I'd recommend climnbing it twice as day trips; the second time, sleeping at the summit to really help get you ready and then have a rest day or two in between your Whitney attempt. Remember it is still 3000ft lower, but it can be better than starting from 0ft and staying in Lone Pine only.


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#31773 - 06/12/13 02:23 AM Re: How long does acclimation to high altitude "last"? [Re: nyker]
NoUglyOneYet Offline


Registered: 02/09/13
Posts: 69
Loc: San Diego, California
Thanks, all. So far, we've only been able to do a couple of 10K'ers (Baldy & San Jacinto), and both my husband & I got headaches. We're hoping to make it to Gorgonio before our Whitney attempt in July. I have an appt with my dr next week to talk about Diamox. Any tips on that?

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#31775 - 06/12/13 05:57 AM Re: How long does acclimation to high altitude "last"? [Re: NoUglyOneYet]
Bob West Offline


Registered: 11/13/09
Posts: 780
Loc: Bishop, CA, USA
Here is a good article regarding Diamox:

http://www.basecampmd.com/expguide/diamox.shtml

Follow doctor's recommended dosage exactly; it is not a magic cure if you already have altitude sickness.
Drink a lot more water than you would normally.
Diamox makes beer taste strange - switch to wine...LOL

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#31780 - 06/12/13 08:45 AM Re: How long does acclimation to high altitude "last"? [Re: Bob West]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7235
Loc: Fresno, CA
That dosage of 250 mg twice a day is the upper limit of dosage for AMS. I have seen others say they got by on 1/2 to 1/4 of that level.

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#31786 - 06/12/13 02:18 PM Re: How long does acclimation to high altitude "last"? [Re: Steve C]
63ChevyII.com Offline


Registered: 08/07/12
Posts: 670
Loc: Colton, California
Originally Posted By: Steve C
That dosage of 250 mg twice a day is the upper limit of dosage for AMS. I have seen others say they got by on 1/2 to 1/4 of that level.


I was prescribed 250 mg twice per day. The pills are 125 each I believe. I break them and take 1/2 twice per day.

I have suffered mild AMS symptoms (headache) a few times. In my very limited experience, I'd say that rate of ascent is the most important factor for me.
  • Doing San Jacinto via the tram gets me every time, but I when I did C2C I didn't have symptoms.
  • I've done San G (higher than San Jacinto) 3 times (fish creek x 2, south fork), but no headache
  • First time I did Whitney, we spent time at Schulman Grove to acclimate. I summitted in 9 hrs with a headache. 2nd Whitney trip - no acclimation hike, only 3 hrs of sleep, summitted in 11+ hrs with no headache
  • I usually get a mild headache doing Baldy via Baldy Bowl/Ski Hut. The two times I did it via Bear Canyon, no headache

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