Mountains

My father was an outdoor education teacher, both my parents are avid lovers of the outdoors. I compled a ten day mountaineering course in 2008 and have been getting high ever since.

Bhaktapur temple in Nepal

grey Bhaktapur temple in NepalWith all our shopping done Bish and I were driving to visit a major tourist attraction near Kathmandu called Bhaktupur in the Kathmandu Valley. I should properly introduce Bish, because we are spending the next 40 days in close proximity he will pop up again. Bish, (Andrew Bishop) and I went to University together, in that we spent a year at the same residential college along with 200 other horny, drunk university students. He has a warped sense of humour, one ‘must-have’ item on extended high altitude sufferings. Bish is a geologist who describes himself as a bipolar.

 

grey Bhaktapur temple in NepalHe takes tours at both the arctic and the antarctic where he explains the geology of the regions to camera toting guests, while stopping them from kicking Penguins. As I alluded to in my last post, Bish is a big guy. At 6 foot 4, he wears size 50 boots that have to be ordered specially and he looks ridiculous folded into the back of a Suzuki swift Thamel-taxi.

Our driver Arnil was happily chatting away while swopping in and around trucks, motorbikes buzzed around our little Suzuki swift like flies. Bish and I were hanging out the window giggling like little school girls and filming the chaos of Nepali traffic.

Pulling into the car park outside Bhaktapur Arnil introduced us to his ‘friend’ Robbie who fortuitously also happened to be a tour guide. I remember this trick from my 2010 visit here. Without much ado, grey Bhaktapur temple in Nepalwe thought ‘bugger it, when in Rome…’ Robbie gave us a wonderful 3 hour tour of Bhaktupur, explaining the significance of each temple and so forth. $5 aus saved us having to refer to Lonely Planet all day and provided us with a very thorough tour.

Bhaktapur is overrun with 300 year old temples covered in exquisitely detailed wood carvings all around the outside which hardly show their age. Clearly our favorite temple was the fertility temple which is covered in erotic carvings which would make Hugh Heffner blush.

grey Bhaktapur temple in NepalDespite the slightly pushy marketers, Bhaktapur is quite an amazing place. Robbie is a local to Bhaktapur as is his father and his father’s father. Taking us away from the  touristy part of town we saw locals drying their chick peas and beans on woven mats in the street. They have shady rest areas where people come to hang out, enjoy the quiet and share a game of cards. I was invited by a potter to try my hand on his wheel, literally a car wheel spun by hand, after attracting the attention of many fellow tourists I managed to make a little bowl which resembled a dropped pie.

Following this, Robbie took us to an art school. The paintings here are so detailed that most are done with one hair brushes. They mainly depict Buddha’s life and Samsara – the road map of reincarnation. Bish was quite taken by one particular painting and, following some half-assed bartering, he is now the proud owner of an authentic student-painted Samsara painting. These paintings are special, it takes between 3 and 30 months to complete one, from the detail in the paintings, you would believe it. The masters use actual melted gold in their painting and one mistake ruins the whole thing, start again!

Leaving Bhaktupur we struck out for the Monkey Temple, a tall Buddhist temple perched in the smog on a hill overlooking the Kathmandu Valley. The Monkey temple, in itself would be quite spectacular if you removed all the touts and the tourists sticking their big lenses in the Monk’s faces. Monkeys bounce from Stupa to Pagoda while orange-robed Buddhist monks bang gongs, or just sit and enjoy the view. We didn’t spend long here, just enough to enjoy the view, get sick of touts and become fearful of a rabid monkey attack. Tomorrow we are planning to spend our last free day visiting Boudhna and the cremation place. After this we will be out of civilization, away from showers, non-solar electricity and touts for forty days…and I cannot wait!

grey Bhaktapur temple in Nepal grey Bhaktapur temple in Nepal
grey Bhaktapur temple in Nepal grey Bhaktapur temple in Nepal
grey Bhaktapur temple in Nepal grey Bhaktapur temple in Nepal

Shona’s – your one stop outdoor shop in Thamel

Thamel is the tourist hub of Kathmandu. Calling Thamel ‘bustling’ would be a gross understatement … like calling global warming, “Slightly worrying”. In Thamel you will find rip-off North Face bags, Yak-wool socks, Indian embroiders, touts saying, “Hello, hash for you?”, fresh tourists pretending not to be intimidated, brightly coloured cotton everything, confused hippies that forgot to leave the famed 1970‘s hippy pilgrimage (Thamel-> Thailand) and food from all parts of the world. Due to Nepal’s proximity to India, the Indian food is easily the best.

From the outside, Shona’s Alpine seems to be just another Thamel shop. The dusty shelves are packed to overflowing with sleeping bags, socks, shirts, down jackets and everything you need to survive the Himalayas as a trekker, mountaineer or cliche’-nirvana-seeker. However, Shona’s has a huge point of difference, one which attracts people in the know in droves.

Andrew and Shona from ‘Shonas Alpine” are like Willy Wonka and Pacha-mamma respectively to outdoor shoppers. Andrew is a skinny, pony-tailed chap from England who is extremely passionate and knowledgable about outdoor equipment. With every item sold, Andrew offers advice and, invariably, anecdotes about when he used the same gear, “One winter I was climbing in the Khumbu, no one was about, and I was solo-ing these lovely lines around Pangboche…anyway, what was I saying? Yeah, I only took one change of clothes!” Shona is a short, serious looking Nepalese lady who efficiently matches explorers with the gear they need with a big smile.

Shonas Alpine is a climbing institution. For a retailer to flourish in such a competitive, and flooded, market as Thamel they must have a noticeable point of difference. While watching Shona systematically deck out a nervous American lady for her first ever trek, it dawned on me what their big point of difference is: trust.

grey Shonas   your one stop outdoor shop in ThamelThey do not mess about with pricing, goods are worth what they’re worth. They will not bullshit you to sell an extra sock. I saw Shona question American-lady if she really needed more than one shirt, “They dry in ten minutes, wash it at night…” They intimately know the products they are selling. From her perch behind the counter, Shona had this first-timer totally kitted out, and had explained the benefits of Merino over poly-propylene, in less time than it takes for Abbott to lube up, and anally rape Australia’s Environmental policy… sorry, sorry, I don’t know where that came from. I’ll leave it alone, Promise! Anyway, Shona’s, trust. A valuable commodity in this tout-ridden suburb.

The reason that Andrew and Shona know their products so well is because they manufacture most of their inventory. It is easy to picture Andrew dancing around a factory upstairs with a bunch of smiling Sherpas labouring at sewing machines, all of them singing, “Ooompa, Loompa, Doooboodee Dooo, I’ve got a lovely Down suit for you”

I still distinctly remember in 2011 when I nervously went to buy a down suit. Andrew took one look at me, pulled a suit seemingly out of his sleeve and had me try it on. He explained why they designed the crap flap the way it was (the zip around your bum for number 2’s), why the hood was made to close how it did (being able to breathe) and why they only come in fluorescent orange (snow is white!) Sweating in the suit like a fat McDonalds employee I asked about sleeping bags, again seemingly out of his sleeve, came two bags, a three and a four season. Their brand is Alpine design, even though not a ‘big’ name quality is assured. Their assurance of quality comes from the fact that most commercial expeditions, and almost every sherpa, use them. If it is good enough for experts, it is certainly good enough for me.

grey Shonas   your one stop outdoor shop in ThamelMy fellow expeditioner, Bish is a tall chap. At 6 foot 4, he has trouble finding gear to fit his frame. When Bish asked Andrew about a sleeping bag, Andrew said, “Yeah, no worries, we have one,” turning to a staff member, “can you run upstairs and grab that XXL bag?” A few minutes later Bish was the proud owner of a massive and warm sleeping bag, which cost him $80aus. You can pay upwards of $400 for it’s equivalent in Australia. I was a bit disappointed that all I needed were a few more pairs of socks. When I asked Shona for some trekking socks her eyes flitted to my boots, “Size 43, Khumbu Valley right?” Not surprisingly my socks are perfect, not too hot, merino to avoid smelly feet, and the perfect size. They might be last year’s design but I’m pretty sure that Merino wool has not evolved too much since 2012. Trust.

So, if you ever come to Nepal to trek, climb or do anything outdoorsy, and assuming you are not aroused by brand name gear, I strongly suggest you arrive a day earlier with an empty rucksack and a few dollars in your pocket. Throw yourself at the mercy of Andrew and Shona. They will see you right.

*Disclaimer* Due to my evangelical gushing this may seem like a sponsored post. It was in no way sponsored, they are just that good.

*Note* To find Shonas go to the Mountain Hardware store, walking back towards the thick of Thamel take the first left, it is about 150 meters down on the right, next to the famous RUmdoodle restaurant. If you get lost, and you will, just ask a local.

grey Shonas   your one stop outdoor shop in Thamel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

UPDATE: I found their phone number and email. If you try them, let us all know if it’s still valid!):  +977 1 4265120

Shonanandy@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Did you enjoy reading this? Why not check out my book by clicking on the cover below:

grey Shonas   your one stop outdoor shop in Thamel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Equipment for Mountaineering

grey Equipment for Mountaineering

Mountaineering gear

 

Recently I have been insanely busy with organising my book launch. Stupidly I have arranged it to be held a mere week after I return from Nepal. The last time I returned from an extended climb I spent one and a half months huddled in a corner of my Danish writing lair rocking backwards and forwards, being spoon fed energy rich food by my gorgeous (now) wifie and watching day time television… yup, those motivational poster photos come at a cost! (Note: I may have exaggerated a bit there…I mainly rocked forwards).

Anyway, so I have not gotten around to packing until last Sunday, which was a rainy day. I got a Skype message from Mal saying that, as I am arriving early, I will have to send my gear to Lukla ahead of the expedition. This sent me into a flurry of opening storage boxes, rifling through my outdoor gear, and trying not to dwell on how much money I have spent over the years on this stuff.

To give you an idea of the logistics involved in climbing, here is a quick summary of what’s going to happen with my gear:

  1. Arrive in Kathmandu
  2. Buy more gear and pack it into three different bags (Trekking&Kathmandu, Climbing Ama Dablam-more technical gear-and Climbing other mountains)
  3. I send my climbing Ama Dablam and climbing other gear to Lukla where someone (?) will look after it until we arrive.
  4. We fly to Lukla
  5. Climbing Ama Dablam gear is tied to a yak and sent up one valley to Ama Dablam base camp.
  6. Climbing other gear is tied to another yak who will follow us as we climb Mera Peak, Island peak, and then abseil down the Amphu Labsta pass towards Ama Dablam BASE camp (as they don’t have opposable thumbs, Yaks cannot abseil, he will have to go the long way!)
  7. Have a teary reunion with our Ama Dablam technical climbing gear.
  8. Climb Ama Dablam
  9. Have a cup of tea and a shower.
  10. Second teary reunion with wife in Australia grey Equipment for Mountaineering

I dusted off my packing list from Manaslu, made some adjustments, and came up with this comprehensive gear list for climbing Ama Dablam :

grey Equipment for Mountaineering

Mountaineering gear

Ben Gear List: 

Climbing:

  • La Sportiva Spantik boots
  • Crampons
  • Orange helmet
  • Harness (light)
  • Mitts
  • Ascender on short ropes
  • 2x Slings
  • 4x Prussic loops
  • Figure eight
  • Locking carabiner x3
  • Snap link Carabiners x3
  • Goggles
  • Socks – thick wool x2
  • Fleece balaclava
  • polyprop balaclava
  • Nalgene bottle (yellow-pee)
  • Nalgene bottle (clear – drink)
  • Toothbrush!
  • Petzal Reverso Belay Device.

Sleeping:

  • Therma-rest Pro-light
  • Therma-rest neo light (basecamp)
  • Sherpa brand 4 seasons sleeping bag
  • Sherpa brand 3 seasons sleeping bag
  • Polyprop liner (reactor)

Trekking (+/- climbing):

  • Big rucksack (Red!)
  • Gor-tec jacket
  • Waterproof pants (light)
  • Bib and brace pants (gor-tec)
  • Soft shell jacket
  • Primaloft jacket
  • Trekking shorts
  • Trekking shirt – quick drying
  • T-shirt or 2
  • Merino legs (200 and light)
  • Fleece pants
  • Softshell pants
  • Fleece Beanie
  • Gloves – Polyprop contact x 2
  • Sunglasses
  • Sun hat
  • Sunscreen
  • Head torch
  • Waterproof liner for rucksack
  • Merino underpants x5
  • Toiletries
  • Swiss army knife
  • Para-cord
  • 3 mtrs of 4mm climbing rope
  • Trekking poles
  • Towel
  • Coupla stuff sacks

grey Equipment for Mountaineering

Misc:

We will have the option of both 12v and 240v on the trek and then using the same system at BC as Manaslu + goal zero system at AD BC

  • Pelican case
  • Camera (+charger)
  • Memory cards
  • Go-pro (+spare battery)
  • Steripen (+batteries)
  • Solar monkey (USB charger)
  • Music player + earphones
  • USB battery charger (AA + AAA)
  • SPOT (+batteries)
  • Cables
  • Mac-book
  • Leatherman tool (small)
  • First aid kit (basic)
  • Aquaseal
  • Duct tape (Or Mal bringing?)
  • Drugs (See below)

Drugs:

(As the token pharmacist I bring a lot of drugs)

  • Azithromycin 500mg x 2
  • Metronidazole 200mg x 21
  • Ciproflox 750mg x 14
  • Ciprofloxacin 500mg x 14
  • Paracetamol/codeine x 8
  • Amoxycillin875mg/Clav125mg x 10
  • Chlorpheniramine 2mg x 6
  • Diclofenac 25mg x 18
  • Diclofenac 50mg x 50
  • Ibuprofen 200mg x 14
  • Metoclopramine 10mg x 25
  • Temazepam 10mg 25
  • Cold and Flu, Day/night – 1 box 
  • Diamox x 90
  • Fucidin 2% Crm – 1 tube
  • Menthol foot powder
  • Clotrimazole crm
  • Throat lozenges
  • Gastrolyte
  • Alcohol hand wash

To buy:

Kathmandu:

  • Black diamond guide gloves from Shona’s like Mals
  • Ice ace
  • Venom Ice hammer
  • Lip balm
  • Sunscreen
  • Sleeping mat – foam
  • 6x Barrels for Mal
  • Poly-prop socks x3
  • Trekking, mid-warm socks x 5
  • Codeine (cough suppress)
  • Dexamethasone  (oral + intramuscular – AD kit)
  • Locking Carabiner x 1 more

Australia:

  • Batteries for steri-pen
  • Batteries for SPOT
  • Batteries for headlamp
  • Suduko book

Now, did you see how many electronic gadgets I am bringing? This is purely so that I can blog from the  wilds of Nepal, so, I would hugely appreciate any sharing, link-love or comments as we go.

 

grey Equipment for Mountaineering

 

 

 

 

 

Manaslu video

 

grey Manaslu video

Manaslu summit

 

So a mere two years since leaving Nepal, I have finally gotten around to uploading a video post about my climb with Mal. I’ll mostly let the video speak for itself, but below the link I have jotted down some explanatory notes if you’re interested. If you have any comments or questions, feel free to comment below.

Time tag

2:42 – Here I am explaining about my sunburnt tongue (from breathing/gasping with my mouth wide open due to a blocked nose); this is best avoided!

Up to summit push – We had a sound issue on our videos so there is no talking or sound. This is possibly a good thing, considering how much Mal and I were crapping on!

3:25 – Mal did most of the talking on the summit push videos … I was the mayor of ‘struggle town’ for most of the way up!

6:42 -  See my jacket? I am not that fat. I had my water bottle full of hot water stuffed down my front ‘cos it was nice and warm! **Science-nerd content** at higher altitudes water boils at a lower temperature than it does at sea level due to the lower pressure: Sea level = 100 degrees celsius, 4000 meters = 85 degrees celsius, 7500 meters = 75 degrees celsius. Read more here. I love that nerdy stuff!

7:51 -  See the guy using the toilet hole behind me as I yibber away?

8:24 - From here on I apologise for the language!

9:10 -  Mal is not mistreating our Sherpa, Sidi. Mal suffered some bad damage to his foot in Canada a few years back and his feet are prone to cold issues. Sidi insisted he help warm them up. I was in my sleeping bag behind relaxing.

10:16 - See the ice on the oxygen mask tubing and our jackets? This is our frozen breath. It looks nice and sunny, but don’t be fooled!

11:44 – Can you hear how I pause while speaking to search for words? This is because at 8160 meters above sea level your brain gets much less oxygen than at sea level, making you feel a bit drunk and really tired.

13:55 – Mal was a huge help on the way down. The night before this footage was taken I gave myself a bit of a fright and, that day, I was completely worn out and a bit shaky. It’s good to have great mates on this kind of mission.

Thanks for watching.

Altitude sickness prevention

 

grey Altitude sickness preventionIt is really hard to put into words how extreme altitude affects you but I shall try: Imagine waking at 3am inside a refrigerator with the worst hangover of your life. Inside the fridge is a treadmill. Run on this for 12 hours straight…with a plastic bag over your head.

Some of my most vivid memories were formed inside a high altitude torture chamber; climbing Island Peak (my first Himalayan mountain), trekking the Inca Trail with my parents, trekking parts of the Andes with a donkey and finally returning to Nepal to climb Manaslu, all involved various degrees of altitudinal discomfort. Don’t be put off though, I am going back this October for some more high altitude suffering with some good friends so it can’t all be bad news…right? Dealing with altitude can be seen as just a regular part of adventuring at the really good places.

So why does altitude affect the normal functions of your body?

As altitude increases, atmospheric pressure drops, this means that less oxygen is delivered to your body with every gasped breath. After some time the body responds by producing more red blood cells (to transport the limited oxygen) in a process called acclimatisation. There are also some changes in how the body manages its fluid.

grey Altitude sickness preventionGeneral rules for altitude sickness prevention are as follows:

  1. Go up slowly. When above 3000 meters try not to sleep more than 300 meters higher than the previous night and take a rest day every 3 days, or for every vertical kilometre gained.
  2. Take planned acclimatisation walks. On a rest day climb about four to five hundred metres then descend and sleep at your original altitude. This shocks your body into making more red blood cells. It is a proven method and is how climbers can survive at extreme altitudes.
  3. Remember the old adage “climb high, sleep low” Don’t sleep on top of a high pass if there is a chance to sleep lower in a valley. It is the altitude you sleep at which tends to dictate your risk of altitude issues.
  4. Drink lots of fluids. One thing that many people don’t realise is that you will pee a lot at altitude, this combined with exertion and dry air sucking moisture out of your system can lead to dehydration. Maintaining good hydration levels helps the body to acclimatise.
  5. Be honest with yourself and your trekking partners. A niggling headache or slight nausea can be your body’s warning that AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) is just around the corner. Rest and take it easy if you are feeling poorly.
  6. Have an altitude profile to plan your trek or climb (see image below). This will help you to plan your altitude gains and to factor in rest days at clever intervals.
  7. Drugs. Some people use them, some prefer not to. Diamox (Acetazolamide) is a diuretic drug which is commonly used to treat and prevent AMS. It is generally only used if a person is going straight from sea level to around 3000 meters or if someone is planning to climb (and sleep) at more than 600 meter altitude gains per day. This drug speeds up acclimatisation but takes a day or two for the full effect so is not super helpful in cases of acute AMS. A dose of 125mg once or twice daily is commonly used to aid acclimatisation, starting 3 days before going high. Higher doses are commonly used in cases of acute AMS. More detail can be found in the footnote*.

AMS has stages, almost everyone who visits areas at high altitude will suffer some or many symptoms, I sure haveplenty of times.    The most common symptoms include: Headache, breathlessness, insomnia, nausea and loss of appetite. Keeping a close, honest track of these is very important in monitoring and managing your acclimatisation. There is a great worksheet here which helps in tracking and monitoring progress of symptoms.

If in doubt, descend and don’t push yourself too hard.

Below is the altitude profile of a climb to extreme altitude. It shows a lot of up and down done to shock the system into acclimatising as well as possible. Most treks to high altitude have available altitude profiles where you can plan rest days, acclimatisation walks and see which days to watch closely with regards AMS risk.

grey Altitude sickness prevention

(Reproduced with permission from Mal Haskins @ Speedfly8000)

 

HAPE and HACE

Many of the serious health issues that occur at altitude stem from water’s nasty habit of shifting location as we go up in the world. At sea level much of the body’s fluid spends its time helping out in our circulatory system, moving red blood cells and nutrients about and flushing away toxins. This arrangement is rather agreeable for survival. At high altitude the water can go where it’s not wanted or needed. The fluid not being where it is meant to gives rise to the symptoms many trekkers suffer at altitude. If too much moves to the brain or lung cavity it can cause serious, often fatal, conditions such as HAPE (High Altitude Pulmonary (lung) Oedema), and HACE (High Altitude Cerebral (brain) Oedema). Yes, Australians spell Oedema differently to the rest of the world, deal with it! The mechanism is similar to how ankles can swell on long haul flights but much more serious.

Don’t cancel your adventure just yet though guys, HACE and HAPE rarely occur below 8000 metres and only ever kicks in after you body has given plenty of warning signs. It can occur much lower at altitudes as low as 3000 metres but usually this is due to a rushed or non-existant acclimatisation plan.

I will not go into details here on treatment of HAPE and HACE, treatment involves rapid descent if possible, Adrenaline, Dexmethasone and oxygen given by qualified physicians.

HAFE 

HAFE is another uncomfortable part of trekking at altitude. Gasses expand at decreasing pressure, this also happens in the bowels. This expansion, combined with a trekking diet commonly high in carbohydrates can lead to High Altitude Flatulent Extravaganzas. There is no cure for HAFE. It can be managed by walking separately from the group from time to time and by leaving the tent open a bit at night.

Sun Smart 

grey Altitude sickness prevention

Recent research has confirmed a long held belief that people get sunburn more readily at high altitudes. UV-B levels, the most damaging UV band, have been proven to be around 60% higher at 2500 meters than at sea level. Higher UV-B levels combined with snow reflecting the sun’s rays can lead to sunburn in some interesting places, like under the earlobes! I once ended up with a seriously sunburnt and swollen tongue after an extended climb at altitude. It happened after gasping with my mouth open for too long. I could hardly talk let alone eat properly and it was absolute agony. This is one experience I certainly do not want to repeat. It is crucial to cover up and regularly apply a high SPF (Sun Protection Factor) sunscreen while up high.

The dry air and harsh sun can lead to cracked lips so buy, and regularly use, a high SPF lip balm as well. I have a special top with a little pocket in the sleeve near my wrist which just fits a lip balm. Remember guys, it is not seen as dorky to use lip balm above altitudes of 2500 meters.

 

 

 

Above: The author being very sun smart after suffering a sun burnt tongue.

Altitude affects everyone differently. Some unfit people will spring along without an issue while some super-athletes can struggle at the slightest elevation. One person’s response to altitude can differ from trip to trip as well. Once I was in the Andes trekking at around 4500 meters and had to spend an excruciating 24 hours in my tent, curled in a foetal position with a pounding headache, nausea and no chance of descent; yet the next time I went high I got to 7000 meters before even getting a slight headache. The main rule is to be gentle with yourself and to descend if in doubt.

So, if you are smart, plan your height day by day and don’t push yourself too hard, you can have a healthy and most importantly fun time playing in the world’s high places.

Much more detailed information on this topic can be found here: Medex Book English Version and Guide to High altitude medicine

Thanks to Mal Haskins for his input into this post. Mal does loads of cool stuff in extremely high places. Check him out here: Vertical Resources 

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*Acetazolamide.

Action: This drug works by forcing the kidneys to excrete bicarbonate which leads to a slightly more acidic blood. Our bodies monitor levels of (the slightly acidic) Carbon Dioxide (CO2) by detecting the blood’s acidity. Making the blood more acidic fools the body into thinking that CO2 levels are higher than they actually are. This triggers an unconscious deeper and faster baseline breathing rate. By breathing deeper and faster more oxygen is taken in.

Acclimatisation: I eluded in the text above that a low dose of Acetazolamide can be used to aid acclimatisation. The normal dose is 125mg twice daily. This only speeds up normal acclimatisation processes, hence if acclimatising to a certain height normally takes 24-48 hours, Acetazolamide can reduce the time by 50%. Stopping the drug will not reverse acclimatisation, the rate will just return to pre-dose speeds. Being a diuretic or fluid pill Acetazolamide also ‘concentrates’ the blood, that is, less fluid in circulation means there are more oxygen carrying red blood cells in every millilitre of blood.

AMS While the mainstay of AMS treatment is rest and descent if possible, Acetazolamide can be used in higher doses to treat the condition. The dose is much higher than for prevention at 250mg every 4-6 hours. The diuretic effect reduces over the course of a few days (by which time you should be feeling comfortable again)

Cheyne Stokes Breathing: Gasping rapidly at altitude means the lungs are clearing CO2 faster than Oxygen is being taken in. As mentioned above, the body ‘listens’ to CO2 levels more closely than to oxygen levels when setting baseline respiration rate. Having the body clear CO2 so efficiently can lead to a drop in respiration rate to nil in some climbers during sleep (as the body reads a low CO2 level and assumes a relative high oxygen level). When the breathing stops during sleep a climber will wake up desperately gasping for air and rather upset about the while situation, not to mention tent-buddies waking to find a friend lying there peacefully not breathing! By artificially increasing respiration rate, a low (125mg) dose of Acetazolamide before sleep can counter this whole scenario.

Random fact: When you drink a carbonated soft drink whilst on Acetazolamide you can feel but not taste the bubbles (which are CO2 and acidic). I have no idea exactly why this is but guess it is due to the blood being more acidic, closer to the pH of the bubbles of CO2 and harder for the taste buds to pick up. It is a really, really weird sensation, try it if you get the chance!

grey Altitude sickness prevention

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This business partnership has expired.” Ben has no idea what adventures are in store when he sets out to discover what lies over that next mountain.

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