View Full Version : is altitude an issue???

05-30-2009, 16:13
being a lowlander im wondering how the altitude will affect me. Will i get altitude sickness? Will my energy level be extremely low? How long does it take 2 get acclimated? thx

05-30-2009, 17:00
It seems to affect people differently. I have talked to some people that haven't had much of a problem where as others are sick for three or four days. If you can, I would plan on acclimating yourself for three or four days before you start hiking, but if you don't have the time, just start and see how it goes.

05-30-2009, 17:03
I have been at sea level for the last 2 years with a few exceptions, and every time I hit the mountains it takes me a few days to be able to hike without getting winded

Wise Old Owl
05-30-2009, 17:12
NO its not the altitude, I thought that at first, In Shenandoah I needed my inhaler because of the pollution.

05-30-2009, 17:30
He's talking about the JMT, not the AT...

The biggest problem with altitude is dehydration (at least for me). Yes, you get winded, but the process of thickening up your blood dehydrates you, giving you those famous altitude headaches. Drink more water than usual, in addition to giving yourself time to acclimate.

Wise Old Owl
05-30-2009, 17:36
Thanks Pokey... I did miss that.

05-30-2009, 19:29
I've heard that it takes about three days for your blood to increase the concentration of red blood cells. Even as you attempt to stay hydrated (average recommended fluid intake is 6 liters per day), your body throws off liquid.

I didn't really have any trouble with the altitude. We planned an easy schedule for the whole hike, especially for those first few days. A couple days from the end, I felt a noticeable training effect--my lungs just kind of opened up and I was breathing to a deeper level. When I got to Mt. Whitney, I felt as if it were sea level. It was great!

When I came back to the humid lowlands, that training effect went away about as quickly as it happened.

05-30-2009, 20:03
Try to sleep as low as possible for the first 3 or 4 days. Sleep apnea is common at altitude if not acclimated and it leaves you really drug out during the day.

06-01-2009, 12:33
Those who think you can go up to Whitney Portal and climb to Mt. Whitney the next day after spending a year at sea level will learn very quickly how that thin air thing works. :D I've seen many of them with very pale faces (or retching over some rocks next to the trail).

My acclimation for the Sierras is gradual - I drive to California, spend a few hours in Colorado hiking around Loveland Pass, drive on through Utah and Nevada to Owens Valley, then spend a night at Reds Meadow or a similar high campground. Another day or two are spent setting up food caches and doing smaller hikes around Tuolumne Meadows. I've never had any altitude issues after a gradual first week like this, nor has anyone else who was hiking with me.

06-01-2009, 12:36
I live in Atlanta and had no issues with the altitude during my JMT hike last September.

06-01-2009, 12:57
I've lived most of my life within 200 feet of sea level. While I don't seem to really notice elevation sickness around the Appalachians, I'll never forget my first trip (in high school) to a place in New Mexico that was about 6,000 feet above sea level. That first day, I had very noticeable chest pains and shortness of breath. I figured 17 was too young for me to be having a heart attack, but it was rather scary. But by the second or third day, I was ok.

I'd agree with the advice to try to acclimatize to altitude gradually if you can, to see how it's going to affect you. Plan to take it easy the first day at least.

06-01-2009, 13:05
Most people don't start to feel the "thin air" until around 8,000 feet so you should be ok

Foxfire 01 Ga. Me. 02

12-28-2011, 03:22
I realize this thread is two-and-a-half years old, but I thought I would reply, in case there was a 2012 JMT hiker with the same question.

I live in the SF Bay Area, right at sea level, and have been here for 11 years. I did not find the elevation to be an issue. I encourage anyone thinking about doing the Trail to be as prepared as possible, do a lot of hiking beforehand with a full (or weighted) pack, and be in good cardiovascular shape.

Hydrate and eat properly while on the JMT, take breaks often to snack and soak your feet (a cold foot plunge does wonders for many miles thereafter), and take care of your feet with changes of socks. Also, allow plenty of time to complete the trail (unless you are an ultralight speed-hiker, set aside one month for the entire experience), so that you do not feel rushed or stressed out.

I hiked the JMT in July/August, starting at Tuolumne Meadows (permitting issues) rather than Yosemite Valley. I understand that the first day of hiking from Yosemite Valley around Half Dome can be a big challenge for many. I started at a higher elevation, but my climbing was at the very end of my first day. As I was going southbound on the JMT, I was working my way up in elevation toward Mt. Whitney, so Whitney seemed like just another day (more or less).

Because the 2010/2011 winter in California was SO snowy, the big challenge in July/August 2011 was too much (or unexpected amounts of residual) snow. Not being able to find the actual Trail was what slowed me down.

Interestingly enough, the ONLY time I could really feel a difference in the elevation was between the Trail Junction and the top of Whitney. Understandably, this WAS at 14,000 feet, so I thought it was natural to feel a little dizzy. I could have eaten better and possibly hydrated more, but I felt like I was urinating & sweating enough.

Again, allow yourself time to get up and down the passes and you will be just fine with the elevations. Again, I think the only folks who have problems are the ones who rush the first few days out of the Valley.

I would love to see any comments from 2011 hikers, if anyone is still checking out these posts!


01-03-2012, 23:26
go north to south