About High-Altitude Expedition

Kavitha Reddy, an adventure professional, is preparing for an Everest expedition in 2013 she has climbed Kamet (7,756m), making her wall versed with the dangers that altitude presents. Breathing exercises or yoga, trekking on uneven terrain with heavy weights for at least six to eight kilometers and swimming for two to three hours are just a few exercises that one should be fit enough to cope with everyday of the week.

Regular medical checks, including those pertaining to blood pressure, sugar and pulse, coupled with nutritious diet and an increased intake of liquids at regular intervals are also habits that have to be inculcated, explains Reddy.

But all this is just 5% of the battle won; the actual test comes when you start t5he journey to the summit.

A senior consultant in respiratory, critical care and sleep medicine, Dr.Avdhesh Bansal says- high altitude mountaineering poses several health hazards. The most common is frost-bite. With temperatures going below -27 degrees to -73 degrees Celsius, any exposed skin is prone to frost-bite. The condition, a reaction to extreme cold, is kickstarted when blood vessels in the skin contract to preserve core body temperature in conditions where normal blood flow would lead to the body cooling dangerously fast. The second most common mountain affliction, painful though harmless, is "snow blindness”. The intensity of the sun’s rays can make you temporarily blind if you do not keep your eyes shielded with goggles.

For people travelling to high altitudes from the plains, it’s advisable that you gain only 1000 feet in a day. Usually, mountaineers acclimatize on the track to the base camp. Then they set up Camp I, sleeping and living there, and set up Camp II. As beach camp is set up, this process of "climbing high, sleeping low” is repeated so that the body acclimatizes to each hike in altitude before living at it.

Altitude sickness can quickly turn fatal if ignored. High altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE), which is fluid accumulation in the lungs, and high altitude cerebral edema (HACE) or fluid leakage in the brain follow from acute mountain sickness (AMS). There is no medicine to cure problems related to altitude, the best thing to do is to descend to a lower height. Some pills can aid acclimatization. Diamox thins the blood, increasing its oxygen-carrying capacity, but it is a preventive rather than curative drug. The Gamow bag is also used. This bag is an air-tight inflated chamber in which the person is put. The concentration of oxygen molecules makes the air in the bag equivalent to that a lower altitude. So the person is instantly transported to a lower height, with more oxygen-rich air. This a great help, especially as ignoring AMS leads to certain death. 

Rajeev Sharma, an Everest summiteers in 1993, was aptly cautious. Discussing his climb, Sharma emphasized that there was no threat to his life whatsoever. "I went for the expedition only after being experienced in high altitude climbing,” he says. "I kept to a strict diet. I gained every meter patiently till I was sure of my body’s capabilities.”

So if you are planning a high altitude expedition, remember that slow and steady is the only way to do it.

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Posted : The YoubulkSmart Team! - Sun, Jul 15, 2012 3:52 PM. This article has been viewed 10591 times.
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