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  1. #1
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    Default Adjusting to altitude -- Diamox works

    This is irrlevant for the A.T., but for those of you who occassionally head out West to hike, you'll have to adjust to altitude at some point. After a week hiking in Colorado, I can tell you first hand that Diamox (acetazolamide) WORKS. Diamox is a prescription drug which helps your body adjust to rapid ascents in altitude.

    I live at sea level and have experienced symptoms of altitude sickness at 5,000 to 6,000 feet. This time I used Diamox and experienced no altitude sickness except for mild fatigue the third day, on this schedule:

    DAY ONE: Flew from sea level to Colorado Springs (over 6,000 feet)
    DAY TWO: To Gunnison (7,700 feet)
    DAY THREE: Started at the trailhead in the West Elk Wilderness at between 8,000 and 9,000 feet.
    DAY FOUR: Crossed Storm Pass at 12,600 feet, then descended to about 9,500 feet.
    REST OF TRIP: Between 9,000 and 10,500

    It's not hard to get a prescription. I called my eye doctor (opthemologist), told him I was going hiking at high altitudes in Cololrado, faxed him some literature on the drug and he wrote me a week's prescription. Here's a good link:

    http://www.princeton.edu/~oa/safety/altitude.html

  2. #2
    LT '79; AT '73-'14 in sections; Donating Member Kerosene's Avatar
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    Thanks, Steve! I might even think about using this when I go skiing out west. I'm always amazed at how much the altitude affects me. I'm wiped out after carrying our luggage up two flights of stairs (at least that's the excuse I now use to get my wife and daughter to do the job!).
    GA←↕→ME: 1973 to 2014

  3. #3
    Section hiker 733 AT miles poison_ivy's Avatar
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    Thanks Steve -- I'm going to have my husband talk to his doctor about diamox before our trip to Nepal next year. We climbed a 12,000 footer this summer for our first trip above altitude and while I didn't have any trouble, he ended up feeling horrible. Diamox sounds like it will help him enjoy the Nepal trip without having to worry so much!

    -Ivy

  4. #4
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    Unless you are particularly senstive to altitude, I would ABSOLUTELY NOT use Diamox in Nepal. If you do choose to use it, make sure you talk for a long time with your doctor about how and when to use it. Diamox relieves symptoms of acute mountain sickness (AMS), but nothing else. It is useful if you get a slight case of AMS and can spend a few days sitting at, or below, your current altitude. It allows you to aclimatize in a more comfortable fashion. People sometimes do not do this. They take the Diamox and push higher. The masking of symptoms allows them to push higher than they should. Eventually, the AMS might evolve into something worse, like cerebral or pulmonary edema. That is fluid on the brain or fluid on the heart. It also frequently kills you.
    Two tourists were taken out of the Khumbu when I was there a couple of winters ago. One was hauled out on a yak with cerebral edema (he was only at 13,000 ft) and another had to be choppered out from 16,000 ft with pulmonary edema.

    Depending on where you go in Nepal, you may start at around 11,000 ft and go up to 18+. In the Khumbu (Mt. Everest region), you'll be spending most of your time above 14 or 15,000 ft. High enough to make life dangerous. Alot higher and more dangerous than in the States, where it is less likely for a trekker to come down with really bad altitude sickness. In Nepal, you can get yourself into very serious trouble with the altitude, and Diamox can increase the chances of trouble if not used properly. You have to aclimatize slowly and properly: No more than 1000 ft in a day. After 3000 ft of up, take a day off and go day hiking. Drink lots and lots and lots of fluids.
    Don't drink alcohol until you are good and well used to the altitude.

  5. #5
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    personally i never really had much troubles above 12,000 ft. I spent a summer working at 12000 feet. The older you are the more it seemed to effect people.

    I definately have troubles at times above 13500.


    could not imagin 25,000 plus...
    Am i the victim or the Crime?
    GD

  6. #6
    Registered User Dee's Avatar
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    Well i'm going to throw this out there and i'm sure many of you will have fun with this, but this is true.

    Do not take Diamox or Nifedipine for high altitude sickness if you are also taking Viagra. Viagra has been the drug of choice for about a year now in mountaineering. Viagra is proven to be more effective then Diamox and Nifedipine. All three of these drugs lower your blood pressure. Taking a combination of the two can be deadly. Please consult your doctor first.

  7. #7
    GO ILLINI! illininagel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by steve hiker
    This is irrlevant for the A.T., but for those of you who occassionally head out West to hike, you'll have to adjust to altitude at some point.
    In recent years, I've really suffered during the first couple of days on backpacking trips in Rocky Mountain National Park. I live in Illinois, so the adjustment to the Rocky Mountain altitudes is quite dramatic for me. We generally set up camp somewhere about 10,000 feet.

    The funny thing is that it seems to affect people differently. The altitude doesn't seem to affect my brother at all. And, in some years I have hardly noticed the higher altitudes myself. However, on several occasions, I have suffered during the first few nights with nausea, more rapid heart beat, light headedness, general fatigue, etc. Needless to say, this puts a damper on my backpacking experience.

    One thing that seemed to help me quite a bit over the past few trips was to drink plenty of water. I now force myself to drink a lot of water, whether I am thirsty or not. Also, nothing helps for me more than allowing my body a few days to get acclimated. I usually feel just fine after the first two or three days of misery.

    In fact, this distaste for the high altitudes without adequate time for acclimation led me to the AT. I realized that I could start my backpacking trips as soon as I arrived at the trail without fear of not being acclimated. Of course, I've never experienced any altitude sickness during my hikes in Shenandoah National Park.

  8. #8
    GO ILLINI! illininagel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by psuruns10
    personally i never really had much troubles above 12,000 ft. I spent a summer working at 12000 feet. The older you are the more it seemed to effect people.

    I definately have troubles at times above 13500.


    could not imagin 25,000 plus...
    I suspect I would die rather quickly at the 25,000 level. I have enough trouble at 11,000 feet!

  9. #9
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    Thumbs up Diamox-Another side effect

    I have used it in Colorado before section hikes of the CDTand it does work but it has a peculiar side effect-it gives a good cold beer a "tinney" taste while you are waiting to become acclimatized to altitude!

    Hmmmm ..........maybe thats another reason to use Viagra instead. I didn't know it could be used for that, too

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