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El JP
01-07-2018, 06:25
Just a little something that has been at the back of my mind for the past week or so and i figured i would ask here.

Years ago when i finished a contract at Zion NP, i transferred to Grand Canyon South Rim and went from a little under 4000ft to 6900ft and felt a bit lightheaded and slightly strained working for the first few days. I had a similar experience when i left Las Vegas at 2000ft and headed up to work at Grand Canyon North Rim at 8000ft.

I've been in New Jersey at about sea level for quite a while now and just got to thinking about any noticeable feeling in going from heading out from this level to the Approach Trail and then on up. I know this might be silly as all hell but i just got curious as to weather anyone else might have felt something similar.

rocketsocks
01-07-2018, 07:34
When I stand up from tying my shoes I get light headed sometimes.

rocketsocks
01-07-2018, 07:41
But honestly, I think everyone’s different when it comes to acclimatization.

garlic08
01-07-2018, 07:57
I heard some flatlanders talking about the altitude when I was on my AT hike.

Traveler
01-07-2018, 08:05
Everyone has a different tolerance to altitude and the effects of air pressure changes. Though the level of oxygen in the atmosphere remains fairly constant at just under 21%, air pressure changes with altitude can make it seem less, which is called the "effective oxygen" level. A lot depends on how quickly one makes the transition from one altitude to the next, say from sea level to 4,000 feet. Additionally, a lot depends on physiology, hydration, diet that day, rest, overall physical condition, speed of ascent/descent, weather, load being carried, and other things.

FWIW, though I have not heard of anyone experiencing symptoms of altitude effects under about 5,000 feet, it may happen with some people depending on their state of health and the factors above. My guess, however is making the trek you outlined should not present a problem. If you start to feel oxygen starved, slow your pace or take a break with some water. Slowing down tends to fix a lot of things. As you gain trail legs any of these effects will be less likely over time.

illabelle
01-07-2018, 08:09
This question comes up now and then. People who've dealt with serious elevation (above 10,000 ft) always say that AT elevations are of no concern unless someone is ultra-sensitive. Maybe you're one of those?

peakbagger
01-07-2018, 09:08
There is a pretty well documented effect in the whites where the air quality is worse up on the ridgeline then down in the valley during hot summer conditions. AMC and the observatory both have documented this. Not sure if this is the case down south.

moldy
01-07-2018, 09:40
Your body adapts to altitude. You have the correct balance of red and white blood cells to nourish your body with oxygen and food so you can thrive in New Jersey. Trek to Mt Everest and you will feel a little weak. The method used there is to have you chill out for a week or more at base camp before you start a series of hikes up as far as advanced base camp for a day to two then back to base camp repeated several times before ever heading to the top. All this while white blood cell counts are going up and up as your body attempts to save you. Getting back to reality here, the 7000 foot level is as high as it gets on the AT and most people don't notice anything. Some people claim some sort of sensitivity as in shortness of breath. We are all slightly different. Some say it's more psychological than anything at such a low altitude. They say that as many as 25% of people who make the hour long drive to the top of Pike's Peak at 14,000 feet feel bad until they get to lower altitudes.

HooKooDooKu
01-07-2018, 09:49
Yeah, what Moldy said.

I live at an elevation of about 500 feet. When I hiked the JMT starting in Yosemite Valley, I didn't notice any effects from altitude until the trail stated getting somewhere around 9,000 feet.

Coffee
01-07-2018, 10:23
Very individual but I've typically started to notice symptoms over 9000 feet and then only when coming from near sea level within 24-48 hours. A couple of ibuprofen and lots of water usually leaves me ok the next day. This has only been an issue in the high Sierra (JMT/PCT) never in the lower elevation mountains of the east.

Hikingjim
01-07-2018, 10:51
I can't see it being an issue for the start of the AT for you. You're just not high enough and you will sleep around 3k or 4k feet, which isn't much
I can see the constant 6900 ft that you mentioned making you more tired and taking a bit of acclimatization.

For hiking, around 8k - 10k seems to be the point where it makes more of a significant impact on people and requires a bit of acclimatization to feel better. I know 2 people who just can't hack it over around 8k feet at all, regardless of acclimatization. They have tried diamox (I think that's the name of it) and other strategies and still are pretty useless over 8k and have to descend

Venchka
01-07-2018, 11:41
There are folks who complain about anything and everything on the internet.
Like:
"I have a Zero degree sleeping bag. I freeze in it at 30 degrees."
"I got off the plane in Denver and thought I was going to die."
Take it easy at first. You'll be fine.
Wayne

JJ505
01-07-2018, 12:58
I've heard it's theoretically possible to get mild altitude sickness at 4000 feet. I live in Albuquerque (which is at 5500 feet plus or minus--Denver and ABQ are roughly the same altitude). I have had people come to ABQ who have said they don't feel so good the first day or two until they get acclimated, however I don't think I noticed it that much when I moved here (dryness but not altitude). I think it starts bothering me around 8500 or 9000 feet.

Coffee
01-07-2018, 13:17
Someone I know claims to have gotten "altitude sickness" in Denver but she was not there to hike but rather to partake in certain recently legalized activities which I suspect had more to do with the issue than altitude...

Harrison Bergeron
01-07-2018, 14:04
The only thing I noticed was that none of my carefully-tested "Knorrs" meals worked on the trail because they boiled at a much lower temperature and therefore never reached a high enough temp to soften the pasta or rice in a reasonable amount of time -- particularly the rice versions.

I switched to Mountain House at the earliest opportunity and never had another problem. They seem to be designed for high altitude cooking.

KCNC
01-07-2018, 14:10
I went skiing in the Rockies for the first time several years ago. We flew in to Denver and spent the night to help "adjust" before heading to higher elevations. (We were skiing at Winter Park and staying in Estes Park.) One member of our party started exhibiting symptoms of altitude sickness without partaking in any strenuous activity. I got winded a bit quicker than usual, but after 3-4 days didn't really notice it.

JJ505
01-07-2018, 16:32
I'm pretty sure the two people I know that got somewhat altitude sick in Albuquerque were otherwise not too healthy.

El JP
01-08-2018, 02:50
Thanks for the answers. I figure that a 20 hour train ride and a day in Gainsville might be helpful to sort out any minor issues. When i worked the Canyon it took about 4-5 days before all was normal again. In terms of physical effort, the work i did would have been much the same as what i'm planning for the first two days, the Approach trail and Hawks Mountain Shelter. The plus part now is that i can pause whenever i want rather than the full bore nonstop workplace.

Siestita
01-08-2018, 04:49
"...Getting back to reality here, the 7000 foot level is as high as it gets on the AT..."

Moldy, where on the AT does the elevation reach 7,000 feet? Clingman's Dome is the highest point in the Smokies, and apparently anywhere on the AT. My ATC Databook lists it's elevation as 6,643 feet. And, none of the AT shelters up in Smokies are higher than 5,920 feet (Tricorner Knob and also Icewater Springs).

AT high points in Southwestern Virginia are considerably lower, for example Buzzard Rock on Whitetop Mnt. is 5,080 and Rhododendrum Gap 5,440. Obviously, some AT mountains are very formidable in other ways, but rarely if ever do they generate altitude sickness. The 6,288 foot summit of Mt. Washington deserves great respect even though it seems low by western standards.

Siestita
01-08-2018, 05:26
"Thanks for the answers. I figure that a 20 hour train ride and a day in Gainsville might be helpful to sort out any minor issues. When i worked the Canyon it took about 4-5 days before all was normal again. In terms of physical effort, the work i did would have been much the same as what i'm planning for the first two days, the Approach trail and Hawks Mountain Shelter. The plus part now is that i can pause whenever i want rather than the full bore nonstop workplace."

If you want to spend a full day in Gainesville recovering from the lengthy train ride, by all means go ahead and do so. But don't kid yourself into believing that such a stop will be needed for altitude acclimation. Gainesville's elevation is just 1,205 feet. From Amicalola Falls State Park (729 feet elevation) you'll hike up slightly more than 3,000 vertical feet to reach the top of Springer Mountain at 3,783. It may be prudent for people to hike up there slowly for other reasons, but that ascent should not require altitude acclimation by anyone in reasonably good health.

By the time you reach Clingman's Dome in the Smokies, 167 miles beyond Springer Mountain, your body will have had considerable time to adjust both the strains of hiking day after day with a pack (your main concern) and also altitudes in the 3,000 to 5,000 foot range.

Siestita
01-08-2018, 05:33
"The only thing I noticed was that none of my carefully-tested "Knorrs" meals worked on the trail because they boiled at a much lower temperature and therefore never reached a high enough temp to soften the pasta or rice in a reasonable amount of time -- particularly the rice versions.

I switched to Mountain House at the earliest opportunity and never had another problem. They seem to be designed for high altitude cooking."

Harrison--I also make Knorrs/Lipton meals frequently. At what elevations did you have difficulty cooking them? I've experienced that frustration (greatly extended cooking times for pasta or rice) up at 8,000 t0 9,000 feet elevation several times in the West but I have not yet had similar difficulties occur anywhere on the AT.

El JP
01-08-2018, 07:29
"Thanks for the answers. I figure that a 20 hour train ride and a day in Gainsville might be helpful to sort out any minor issues. When i worked the Canyon it took about 4-5 days before all was normal again. In terms of physical effort, the work i did would have been much the same as what i'm planning for the first two days, the Approach trail and Hawks Mountain Shelter. The plus part now is that i can pause whenever i want rather than the full bore nonstop workplace."

If you want to spend a full day in Gainesville recovering from the lengthy train ride, by all means go ahead and do so. But don't kid yourself into believing that such a stop will be needed for altitude acclimation. Gainesville's elevation is just 1,205 feet. From Amicalola Falls State Park (729 feet elevation) you'll hike up slightly more than 3,000 vertical feet to reach the top of Springer Mountain at 3,783. It may be prudent for people to hike up there slowly for other reasons, but that ascent should not require altitude acclimation by anyone in reasonably good health.

By the time you reach Clingman's Dome in the Smokies, 167 miles beyond Springer Mountain, your body will have had considerable time to adjust both the strains of hiking day after day with a pack (your main concern) and also altitudes in the 3,000 to 5,000 foot range.


Well, going slow is the overall plan. I've always figured to be moving before the crack of dawn, weather providing anyways since i'm not any kind of speed demon. Believe it or not i actually found a video on youtube where the guy describes having problems with altitude (amongst other things) since he was going for big miles right off the bat on a GA section hike from Springer. That's what got me to post since i never once have ever heard of anyone in my research mentioning any kind of real problem.

Just another half assed worry out of the way.

garlic08
01-08-2018, 08:47
Yeah, nothing to worry about. You may notice something, but it won't be debilitating.

Heliotrope
01-08-2018, 09:03
I lived in flagstaff AZ before moving to Maine. I really noticed it living there. Exercise was much harder for the first month. In Maine I dont even notice any effect when I climb Mt K (5267)


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

Starchild
01-08-2018, 10:43
Just a little something that has been at the back of my mind for the past week or so and i figured i would ask here....
I quoted you because I hope after this time you still read this as I had elevation issues on my AT thru.

Historically I had issues at even lower elevations, such as Killington Peak (VT) at 4000 ft, and a felt like dieing at 11,000 Ft. And lived my entire life near sea level (most of it sea level + 10 feet). My ability to withstand higher altitudes have since improved.

My for my thru, when I went through the Smokies, while I was OK at the 5000-6000 elevations including nights, I didn't feel like sleep was restorative. It was like I awoke like I never have slept (though without the sleepyness- just the lack of recovery). So each day was a additional drain. after a stop at Gatlingburn at the apx 1/2 way point at lower elevation helped and tge stop at the end (standing Bear ) restored everything.

Short story made shorter, if you are highly susceptible, yes you will feel effects, but will make it through. Don't be afraid to take a night (or 2 if needed) at the 1/2 way point, and all will be well once you exit the smokies. Also just to add everything should be fine once you reach NH.

El JP
01-09-2018, 02:44
I quoted you because I hope after this time you still read this as I had elevation issues on my AT thru.

Historically I had issues at even lower elevations, such as Killington Peak (VT) at 4000 ft, and a felt like dieing at 11,000 Ft. And lived my entire life near sea level (most of it sea level + 10 feet). My ability to withstand higher altitudes have since improved.

My for my thru, when I went through the Smokies, while I was OK at the 5000-6000 elevations including nights, I didn't feel like sleep was restorative. It was like I awoke like I never have slept (though without the sleepyness- just the lack of recovery). So each day was a additional drain. after a stop at Gatlingburn at the apx 1/2 way point at lower elevation helped and tge stop at the end (standing Bear ) restored everything.

Short story made shorter, if you are highly susceptible, yes you will feel effects, but will make it through. Don't be afraid to take a night (or 2 if needed) at the 1/2 way point, and all will be well once you exit the smokies. Also just to add everything should be fine once you reach NH.

All in all i figure things will be fine if i stick to taking it really easy out the gate. By the time i get to Low Gap things ought to be just right.

Thanks for the heads up.

Harrison Bergeron
01-09-2018, 20:39
"The only thing I noticed was that none of my carefully-tested "Knorrs" meals worked on the trail because they boiled at a much lower temperature and therefore never reached a high enough temp to soften the pasta or rice in a reasonable amount of time -- particularly the rice versions.

I switched to Mountain House at the earliest opportunity and never had another problem. They seem to be designed for high altitude cooking."

Harrison--I also make Knorrs/Lipton meals frequently. At what elevations did you have difficulty cooking them? I've experienced that frustration (greatly extended cooking times for pasta or rice) up at 8,000 t0 9,000 feet elevation several times in the West but I have not yet had similar difficulties occur anywhere on the AT.


I couldn't get them to work anywhere between Springer and Hiawassee, which is where I switched to Mountainhouse. I'd have to check, but I imagine most of the shelters in that stretch are around 4,000 ft. I was using a Jetboil. They worked great when I tested them at home (sea level -- Houston area). But on the trail -- crunchy.