Understanding Altitude

Expedition Base trip’s are designed so that you will acclimatise slowly and safely. Therefore, at the rate at which we will be moving and increasing height on any trip, the risk of AMS is low, especially below 4,000m. Once we reach 4,000m in altitude, it is common for people to have symptoms of AMS present themselves in different ways to varying degrees.

Essentially, AMS affects everyone in some way, and some people experience the symptoms more than others.

A very small number of people do start to feel the impact of altitude as low as 2,500m. But, even at 2,500m if people move too quickly they can find themselves a little short of breath.

When we ascend above 2,500m our bodies need to acclimatise to the decreasing amount of the oxygen available in the atmosphere.

Expedition Base trips are designed to have you ascending slowly and to give you enough time to let your body acclimatise.

Please walk slowly, steadily and relax. Enjoy the scenery and experience.

During your time at altitude, it is possible that you may experience some of the following symptoms, none of which should be ignored and all of which should be notified to your trip leader(s) or any accompanying doctor or other health professional:

  • headache
  • tiredness
  • disturbed sleep
  • confusion
  • dizziness
  • loss of appetite
  • nausea
  • shortness of breath
  • cough
  • heart palpitations
  • swelling of the hands and/or face
  • any type of discomfort you have not recognised in your body previously but which is concerning you

People acclimatise at different rates. It is recommended that on each day of the trip you take your time, go a comfortable pace and definitely not too fast, enjoy the experience and please let your trip leader know if you have any concerns or anything is causing you to feel stressed or uncomfortable.

Most of all, it is important to relax and walk at a slow and steady pace that does not cause you to breathe heavily or perspire significantly. A slow and steady pace, rather than fast-slow- fast-slow, is better for acclimatising well.

The impact of an increase in altitude is often not felt until the following day after you arrive at a new altitude.

Some people make the mistake of arriving at a particular altitude, feeling good, and then running around. Then, they wonder why they don’t feel so good the next day. Well, it takes some time for your body to ‘catch up’ and realise it is at a new altitude or for the impact to be felt. Remember that your body has the task of adapting to the lower oxygen concentration in the atmosphere whilst at the same time move you along the trail. So, the best thing to do is to move slowly at all times and not over-exert yourself. Let your body adjust slowly.

It is always good to let a guide set the pace on the trail and it is recommended that all participants stay behind that guide on the trail as he/she knows what he/she is doing and why, (and also knows where we are going!)

The symptoms listed above may not indicate the onset of AMS but they may be signs of something else. If you experience any of the above symptoms, it does not necessarily mean you cannot continue on the trip. It may just mean that some adjustments are necessary, some monitoring and maybe some additional rest is required. In addition, there are a number of things that can be done to manage AMS symptoms so that you feel more comfortable and minimise the possibility of your symptoms getting worse, such as ensuring you are well hydrated. We have several other options that we can apply, depending on how your symptoms present themselves.

Our trip leaders have extensive first aid training and we urge you to communicate with the trip leader at all times should you believe you have any symptoms of AMS in order that we can effectively monitor your symptoms.

The only ‘cure’ for AMS is to descend. Please note that your trip leader has ultimate responsibility and may ask you to descend if your AMS symptoms persist or if it is considered that you cannot continue safely. Safety must come first.

We encourage you to read up on AMS and consult your health care professional, or ask us, if you would like to read more on AMS.

You are also encouraged to ask questions about AMS along the way on your trip to help you get to know your body and to recognise the symptoms yourself as well.