By: Blonde One
Mountain trekking is brilliant. It gives a sense of immense satisfaction after a hard, long slog up a relentlessly steep hill. It also reminds you that you are a tiny tiny piece of an amazing world.
One of the biggest challenges when climbing mountains is the altitude. It can begin to kick in at 2000 metres and steadily gets worse, the higher you go after that. Not everyone is susceptible to it at the same degree of severity, luckily for them, but if you are it can be horrible. I have never climbed above 4167m but every time I have felt the effects on my lungs of the thin air.
The symptoms of mild acute mountain sickness (AMS) can be a mild headache, dizziness, shortness of breath and lack of appetite. These symptoms do not mean necessarily that you should descend immediately, but are an early warning sign of some potentially more severe problems. Eating and resting, coupled with a slow ascent can help to alleviate the problems. As can walking higher and sleeping slightly lower.
The only control for a more severe AMS is immediate descent.
Extreme AMS leads to HACE which is essentially fluid on the brain. Along with its partner HAPE, fluid on the lungs, this can be fatal.
All issues linked to altitude are not to be treated lightly and if you are planning to trek at altitude I would strongly suggest you seek professional medical advice before you go. Medex is a great starting point and gives some fantastic information.