Although there is a variety of
altitude hazards to your health and many ways to prevent and cure -
especially by knowledge and sense - there is one single important
discovery that we would like to share with you.
It has totally altered our own performance in climbing
as well as our well
being in altitude. It is very simple yet crucial Ė it is the drinking of
The lack of oxygen at altitude cause your body to need
more red oxygen carrying blood cells. Each new blood cell will pick up
oxygen from the air and hurry it to your tissues. Your spine will
therefore soon start to produce this new blood.
The drawback is that the new blood cells will make your
blood very thick. You will see it clearly if cutting your finger - the
blood is dark and syrupy.
Thick blood means slow circulation and the blood unable
to reach your finer blood veins - the capillaries. The oxygen
transportation will be slow and inefficient with that.
When your tissues donít get warm blood to heat them -
they will start to freeze. You suffer frostnip.
The cells in your body begin to collect fluid. Your lung
fills up and you drown in your own body fluid (HAPE). The brain swells
The body will collect water from everywhere it can -
your intestines for instance. As your bowels donít get enough water to
make the waste soft you canít get rid of it (it is small and hard as a
rabbits and really painful).
Water ends up everywhere in your body, except were it
should be Ė in the blood. Your muscle cells donít get oz and you climb
slowly and heavily.
All these altitude symptoms happen because the fluid
balance in your body is messed up.
is a very simple way to keep the blood nice and thick with the precious
oxygen-providing red blood cells intact, and still happily free flowing
to all the tiniest corners of your system: WATER!
You need around 4-5 liters of water at altitude to feel
great. Simple as that. Drink. Drink, Drink!
The best way to check that you are well hydrated is to
check your urine. You need to drink until itís almost white.
Itís not of much use pumping your blood full with oz
when climbing on oxygen support, if it still canít get anywhere due to
A well-hydrated climber with NO oxygen support can actually perform
BETTER than a dehydrated climber ON oxygen. Obviously, being well
hydrated and on oxygen, will be your best bet.
We rid us of headaches, hemorrhoids, edema, fatigue -
everything, just by drinking! Try to drink 1-2 liters, 1-2 hours before
the climb and you will feel a dramatic difference in your climbing
camp - donít just lie to sleep, take the time to melt snow and drink
another two liters. At night, drink another. You wonít believe the
difference. In the morning, you will be up and ready to go, instead of
the usual headaches, fatigue and all the other altitude pains.
In the past two years we have stayed at C2 for prolonged
periods, at C3 without os and previous acclimatization there, still
climbing fast for C4 and the summit. At the summit we stayed one hour
without oz, leisurely climbed back down to C4, made transmissions and
complicated technical work in the meantime - and felt great the whole
time! Tina didnít even wear gloves once all the way from BC to summit
It was a big change to our first years, when "normal"
liquid intake (2-3 liters at the most), left us struggling and suffering
throughout most of the
climbs. Drink and be merry. Donít drink and you'll end up fighting a
battle with altitude.
If you climb in a commercial expedition, drinking might
prove more easily said than done. Two burners and one of them probably
failing, to be shared between three climbers. Not enough gas, and a
decision to take turns cooking whilst the others might not share your
view on the amount needed, could turn the task of getting enough liquid
into an impossible one.
We recommend that you bring a spare burner for your own
personal use (the Titanium very light weight stove for instance: "Primus
Alpine Titanium" 95 g/3,35 oz/3000 W/ approx US 150) and really be on
your leader's back to provide plenty of gas. Youíve paid some serious
money for the services - they can afford one extra sherpa to supply
enough of the important things to everyone!
Finally - remember that coffee, tea and chocolate are
diuretic and wonít do the work well. Count in only 50% liquid value with