By: Blonde One
In true Blonde organisational style, I did my homework a little before heading off to Morocco and researched altitude sickness. I did not look too deeply as, you know what it’s like, psychology takes over and you start to think that you have everything on the ‘possible side effects’ list! I wanted to be informed enough to have some useful information but not so informed that I scared myself! I very fine line, I think you’ll agree? My research did not, however, prepare me for what I was faced with. I did not fully appreciate how significant, or severe it could be. I knew that nosebleeds were a possibility but I wasn’t ready for so many nosebleeds. About half of the group, me included, suffered with nosebleeds. In some cases they were quite frequent and in some cases quite bad. Good job we were ready with the tissues! Altitude and acclimatisation also had an impact on menstruation but the less said about that the better! On arrival at Basecamp (3200m) there were many tears that needed mopping up and headaches that needed dealing with. Altitude can and did have an impact on morale and mood. The whole group really felt the change in air quality as the steps up to the refuge needed taking slowly. Before bed that night we all took an anti altitude sickness drug, Diamox. This is a slow release drug that aims to help with the symptoms by opening the vessels to allow more oxygen to be absorbed. It comes widely recommended and we will never know how much it helped but I’m sure it did help. The pins and needles and increased need to wee were a small price to pay! Sleep was a bit illusive that night for us all. There were many reasons for this but the main ones were altitude and apprehension! As we began our ascent the breathing of us all became more laboured. Our asthmatics had the inhalers to hand. Headaches increased and hands began to swell in some cases. From my own experience, I found out first hand what altitude can do to you. At just over 4000m I felt as if someone had a plastic bag held over my face. It was terrifying! The air just would not get into my lungs. There is definitely some psychology involved as mind over matter played a part but the physical effect was undeniable. The slipping and sliding soon started as some began to lose concentration.
Even upon returning to our hostel at 1800m the effects were still evident. Coughs were common, headaches still in existence and upset stomachs occurred. The effects of altitude have been longer lasting than I imagined too. Several of the group still have coughs and colds, perhaps as a result of the increased mucus at altitude and certainly my lungs didn’t quite recover for a good few days.
Was it worth it … oh my goodness, yes!