Key Skill: Acclimatizing
With an average elevation of 16,000 feet, Nepal is literally the roof of the world—with a mean of about 45% less oxygen than exists at sea level. Follow these tips to stay comfortable and avoid an early descent:
» Go slow. The single best way to combat the headaches, nausea, and fatigue known as acute mountain sickness (AMS) is to prevent onset altogether. Ascend at a moderate rate, averaging no more than 1,500 feet of net altitude gain per day (at elevations higher than 10,000 feet). If this proves unrealistic, take a rest day after a big climb, trying not to gain more than 3,000 feet over a three-day period. When possible, hike a short distance above camp, so you sleep slightly lower than the highest point you reached each day.
» Stay hydrated. Drink five to seven liters of water a day.
» Fuel up. You need a high-calorie diet, but eating can be a chore. At altitude, pack carbohydrate-rich foods like pasta and rice—these require less oxygen for the body to metabolize.
» Tap the medicine cabinet. Dexamethazone and acetazolomide, both steroids, are effective in preventing AMS, and studies have shown that Viagra and Cialis can minimize AMS symptoms.
» Do what locals do. Have a bowl of garlic soup. Nepali climbers slurp it up the night before a big climb. There is no scientific proof, but locals say that it aids in circulating oxygen through the body.
» Pressure breathe. On summit day, try this technique. Purse your lips and exhale forcefully and fully, like trying to blow out a candle at arm’s length. This lets more carbon dioxide in your lungs escape, allowing you to take in more oxygen from the thinner air.