Altitude Sickness

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BillCarlinOFR07
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Altitude Sickness

Post by BillCarlinOFR07 » Feb 23 2016 5:42 pm

REI has an "All Trails Connect" video about an attempt at breaking the MTB AZT thru-bike record but she got ill with what looked to me like altitude sickness. Has that ever been an issue for hikers from lower altitudes like, say, Fredericksburg Virgina (in the hundreds of feet elevation vice y'all being in the thousands) or will the drive across the country over 3 days take care of "acclimatization"?
When stuff happens, happen back!

Bill Carlin
Fredericksburg, Virginia

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DallinW
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Re: Altitude Sickness

Post by DallinW » Feb 23 2016 6:01 pm

The Arizona Trail doesn't really get that high for sustained periods of time. You'll hit a few spots near or at 9,000ft (highpoint is ~9,600ft), but by and large you're pretty low for the majority of the trail.

The 3 day drive probably isn't going to do much to acclimate you, you would need to stick to a single altitude, not bounce up and down. It can take longer than a week for your body to produce additional red blood cells to compensate for the higher altitude.

Your best bet is to let the trail acclimatize you. Climb high during the day, but sleep low at night.

If you're starting from the Mexican border you have lots of time to acclimate before you stay high for a significant period of time. You're not going to get severe altitude sickness by briefly hiking at a high altitude, it's sustained altitude that'll make you sick.

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JimAH
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Re: Altitude Sickness

Post by JimAH » Feb 23 2016 8:40 pm

Totally agree with DanllinW -- trekking in Tibet: worry about altitude sickness. Hiking in AZ: worry about dehydration (not altitude sicknesses). The AZT does traverse several sky islands (Huachuca's 9,089', Catalina's 7,800', Flagstaff 6,900') but none of them are high enough for long enough to result in a significant risk of altitude sickness. if you choose to take a side trip to the top of the San Francisco Peaks, you may get an altitude headache but you'll be drinking your second beer in Flagstaff long before any risk of an edema sets in.

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cavaroc
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Re: Altitude Sickness

Post by cavaroc » Feb 23 2016 8:43 pm

It takes about 4 weeks to be 100% acclimated to higher elevations and about 2 weeks to be 80% acclimated. I agree though - camp low when possible. If you're camping high, stay very well hydrated. I live at a high elevation and I see people get sick all the time typically just from simple dehydration and blaming it on the altitude. Also, before you leave, get in the habit of drinking plenty of fluids. The sooner you can get your body used to processing more liquids the better. Just don't drink so much that you *over* hydrate. As long as you're getting salts and electrolytes in there as well, you'll be fine.
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Sredfield
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Re: Altitude Sickness

Post by Sredfield » Feb 23 2016 8:58 pm

I believe a bigger concern is how much food you will need to hike all day, every day. I found I "hit the wall" after about 8 days and just didn't have the energy I needed. I upped the calories and carbs, but it took a real effort to keep eating enough.
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rcorfman
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Re: Altitude Sickness

Post by rcorfman » Feb 23 2016 9:41 pm

From Lael Wilcox AZT750 ITT Update: Flagstaff, AZ
Considering the pattern in the Tour Divide and again on the Arizona Trail, the likely diagnosis for her condition is exercise induced asthma, more accurately called exercise induced bronchoconstriction (EIB). In any case, Lael was clear to say that she wasn’t interested in riding her bike every day until she collapses in an asthmatic fit. She has been here before. It isn’t fun, and there are potential long-term health risks. A sustainable lifestyle is more important than a single fast ride on the AZT.
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BillCarlinOFR07
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Re: Altitude Sickness

Post by BillCarlinOFR07 » Feb 24 2016 3:32 am

Thanks, everyone, for straightening me out. I am still on the alert for that one, tiny but significant, show stopper that will torpedo this whole crazy idea and I thought this was approaching that. My refusal to fly, which obligates me to plan for 6 days of round-trip driving, is reducing my on-trial time as it is so it is good to know I don't have an additional expense of acclimatization time. What the hell do I know? I was leaning towards not camping high but from a perspective of not ending a day with a climb and to avoid making camp in the dark if getting slowed down by the terrain.

If it isn't obvious by now, I do overthink things but, rather than discourage it, have developed a habit of limiting it to up-front planning and recovering from derailments.

As an update to a previous thread called "sanity check", I am still on, and on hot, with the next decision point being after the 10 day AT hike thru SNP in late April. Camp-craft and being able to carry 10 days of food are the goals for that backpacking hike with my daughter. To address Sredfield's comment about eating enough, I have adapted to a lo-carb hi-fat diet that is dense in calories and also is pack-volume efficient. "Hitting the wall" was an unfortunate, but inevitable, part of that process to get the body to convert to fats & ketones as the go-to energy source. I have been doing that since 2014 and have gone through a number of physical and working schedule extremes and nothing has indicated a need to rely on carbs for fuel.
When stuff happens, happen back!

Bill Carlin
Fredericksburg, Virginia

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BillCarlinOFR07
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Re: Altitude Sickness

Post by BillCarlinOFR07 » Feb 24 2016 3:40 am

@rcorfman
I was going to try to follow up on her case to see if she got a diagnosis. I don't think there is much risk of my developing an EIB because I am assuming that would have showed up in triathlon competition. Sucking wind? Yes, but still able to recover on the move. Those events didn't involve a 40-ish pound pack, though, so this still falls under the "never say never" caveat.
When stuff happens, happen back!

Bill Carlin
Fredericksburg, Virginia

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