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Danger at 10,000 Feet?


How much does an altitude of 10,000 feet affect a backpacker? I have hiked more than 5,000 miles on the AT, but the highest you get is a little over 6,000 feet. I am in my early 50s and still in decent shape, but I don’t know what to expect at a higher elevation.

Submitted by - How much does an altitude of 10,000 feet affect a backpacker?


Anyone coming from lower altitudes to 8,000 feet or more may experience headaches, unusual fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite, difficulty sleeping, and lassitude. Expect, also, that you’ll do some heavy breathing, even after you acclimatize. These physiological responses are discomforting, but not serious.

Here are a few thoughts on preventing altitude problems:
1. Above 8,000 feet, ascend no faster than your ability to acclimatize–an average of 1,000 feet per 24 hours of sleeping gain (sleep no more than 1,000 feet higher than the night before).
2. Drink plenty of water.
3. Eat plenty of carbohydrate-rich, low-fat foods.
4. Consult your physician about the uses of acetazolamide to prevent mild altitude illness. I think it’s better to take the time to acclimatize, though.

If you feel sick, do not go up until the symptoms go down, exercise lightly, and drink plenty of water. If the symptoms do not go down within two days, you should. People who do not acclimatize–meaning feel better–in two days might be developing a serious form of altitude illness.

If you don’t rush altitude gain, I think you can also expect to have a wonderful time.

1 Comment

  1. meanolddog

    I started hiking the High Sierra’s in my late 20’s and by the time I hit the 50’s I could tell my body had changed. One of my favorite trips was leaving San Diego drive to Bishop and make a left and drive to Lake Sabrina. A gain of 9128 feet in 8 hours. In my 50’s I could diffinetly feel the altitude especially breathing. So before moving on I would spend at least 24 hours camping a Sabrinia before heading higher. This also helped should I have forgotten to pack something and therefore could easily go back to Bishop and buy it. The next leg was the climb up to Blue Lake at about 10,200 ft. Again 24 hours to acclimate. 1000 feet of gain in every 24 seemed to resolve all my breathing and other physical issues. We often climbed to the top of Mt. Darwin at 13821 on day hikes and could surely feel the big jump in altitude but since we generally only spent a hour or so on top or just below it if their was too much ice and snow, we just had to breath deep and often. So my recomendation would be no more than 1000 ft. of gain in every 24 hours for a person in their 50’s. You can hike up higher but make sure you sleep lower..Drink lots of water, I do not recomend the sport drinks for I found out the hard way that the sport drinks did take away my thirst but left me a quart or more low which took a while for me to figure out as to the cause of my feeling so badly. so I started carrying a 1.5 liter plastic commerically bought bottle of water which I reuse time after time to make sure I get enough fluids. At dinner I make sure I drink the entire 1.5 liter bottle of water and then refill it.. Hope this real advice helps you. I’ve been there…

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