Ski Club 2.0 Home
Snow Reports
FAQFAQ

Mail for help.Help!!

Log in to snowHeads to make it MUCH better! Registration's totally free, of course, and makes snowHeads easier to use and to understand, gives better searching, filtering etc. as well as access to 'members only' forums, discounts and deals that U don't even know exist as a 'guest' user. (btw. 50,000+ snowHeads already know all this, making snowHeads the biggest, most active community of snow-heads in the UK, so you'll be in good company)..... When you register, you get our free weekly(-ish) snow report by email. It's rather good and not made up by tourist offices (or people that love the tourist office and want to marry it either)... We don't share your email address with anyone and we never send out any of those cheesy 'message from our partners' emails either. Anyway, snowHeads really is MUCH better when you're logged in - not least because you get to post your own messages complaining about things that annoy you like perhaps this banner which, incidentally, disappears when you log in :-)
Username:-
 Password:
Remember me:
durr, I forgot...
Or: Register
(to be a proper snow-head, all official-like!)

Acclimatisation in the Alps

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
If we can get a plan together then we hope to get above 4000m on a ski touring / mountaineering trip this year.
I've been up to around 3800m before (Grossglockner). On one trip I could feel the effects lightly, very little sleep the night before and going all the way from 200m to 3500m in one day probably didn't help (taxi to 1900m then on foot up to 3500m).

It might be a short trip where we go up and down very quickly to one 4000m+ peak or a multi-day trip (hut-to-hut) mainy above 2500m.

Have been reading up about acclimatisation to see what works best but there's a lot of info out there and quite a bit of it is conflicting.

e.g.
https://www.ukhillwalking.com/forums/expedition+alpine/acclimatization_in_the_alps-457914

Looking for advice & opinions.

The sort of questions going through my head are ....
Best way to build red blood cells? e.g. Training method and diet.
How high do I have to train / sleep before it will have a beneficial effect?
How long do I need to be at altitude for it to have a beneficial effect?
Best to train high and sleep low or train high and sleep high?
Endurance training or short high intensity?
How long does the acclimatisation effect last - some say days, some say months.
snow report     
 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
You can spend money on a reduced oxygen chamber (or even a machine with a mask) to do hypoxic training (i.e. training for a short interval at lower partial pressures of oxygen) but to be honest its best to do your training on the mountain as you will get a longer exposure to reduced oxygen levels.

At 4,000m if you go straight up then you will feel it, but it will probably feel like dizziness, feeling faint and nausea. Not life threatening but enough to make you feel below par. If you can spend the previous day a little lower then this would help.

Maybe if you do the multi-day hut to hut trip, followed by a peak it would be better?

I climbed Kili a few years ago, the effects of acclimatisation on my body lasted for about a month afterwards, I felt super energised.
ski holidays     
 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
It’s a very personal thing. I participated in an experiment on this done by a phd student. He said that people seemed to fall into 2 categories:

1. Those that don’t feel too bad (and maintain a reasonably high blood oxygen level) when they first go high. These people often don’t end up making particularly big gains with acclimatisation

2. People who feel bad initially often end up making bigger gains with careful acclimatisation

This was very preliminary but interesting nonetheless
snow report     
 You need to Login to know who's really who.
You need to Login to know who's really who.

http://youtube.com/v/93Ksmcii-f0
latest report     
 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
You can raise your RBC count with any type of exercise. I would recommend a mix of endurance and high intensity and maybe some swimming - not breathing too much Wink

I got pulmonary oedema once in Nepal and I'm pretty sure this was down to being fit and over exerting myself. Did everything else right, acclimatisation wise. Been higher before and since but the difference the time it went wrong was that I was feeling super strong and trotted off the front of the group.

Stay within yourself and don't get too short of breath.

Have fun!

Red cells live about three months. So about that long.
ski holidays     
 You'll need to Register first of course.
You'll need to Register first of course.
A few comments:
Training & diet will get you fit. But they won't pre-acclimatise you to altitude. There is no correlation between fitness (or lack of it) and altitude problems. Some dietary type things will help a little, just before you go and when you are at altitude, such as ensuring adequate iron, vit C and protein (for EPO and haemoglobin synthesis). Of course drinking lots as you acclimatise is essential and should be your main focus (water not alcohol!) Ginkgo biloba, ginseng and garlic are used especially in Asian countries, but I think we are talking small gains here.
I always find sleeping at least 3 nights in huts at increasing altitudes, over 10 days or so, say at 2500, 3000 and 3500m gets me well acclimatised for >4000m peaks. I have been straight to 4000m but there is a price to be paid in terms of suffering and enjoyment!
I found I need at least 10 days (with min 3 hut nights as above) to properly acclimatise to be comfortable working hard at > 4000m. Best to progressively sleep higher, and climb a bit higher still, interspersed with R&R lower down in the valley to recover.
Touring and mountaineering are pure endurance activities - you need to do long durations of the type of activity you will be doing. You wont build the fitness to climb Mt Blanc by doing 4 minute HIIT sessions! But, when you are at your limit at altitude, your heart rate will go high and you need to be able to cope with that - so some HIIT on top of a base of long endurance is perfect
A proper acclimatisation built over a period of weeks will last for me at least 6 weeks, but I usually find it disappears between then and 3 months.
ski holidays     
 Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
On a trip to Peru, we spent 3 nights in Cusco (3400m) before trecking (~30miles over a few days) over dead woman's pass (4200m) with ~4kg packs. No ill effects from any of our party.

3 days was the recommendation from the locals but I'm not sure if that was just so that tourists would spend more money in the local area before setting off, who knows.

I always thought that altitude sickness was associated with higher altitudes.

ski holidays     
 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
My wife had altitude sickness after pushing too hard at 3500m. She swelled up with peripheral oedemas, the local doctor who treated her said he sometimes saw the same from young national team ski racers who train at 3500/4000m on glaciers in the summer, and who have the fitness to push hard but not yet the acclimatisation
latest report     
 You'll get to see more forums and be part of the best ski club on the net.
You'll get to see more forums and be part of the best ski club on the net.
The trip is set for 22 to 25 March 2019, 4 days ski mountaineering between 3500m & 4500m with approx. 15kg Rucksacks on our backs. I'll be ski-touring at lower levels 1500m - 2500m for 4 days 14-17 March. Will try to get to Zermatt a day early and sleep above 2500m. Looking into high huts/hotels in Austria where I could acclimatise before and maybe renting out an altitude training tent.
latest report     
 Ski the Net with snowHeads
Ski the Net with snowHeads
I used the Gandegg hut at 3000m a few days before a Matterhorn ascent. I think it’s open in March and easy to get to from the Zermatt lift system.
snow report     
 snowHeads are a friendly bunch.
snowHeads are a friendly bunch.
Staying a couple of nights at a reasonable altitude before "going high" will help. For the Haute Route it is generally recommended for most recreational skiers to stay in Argentiere for one or two nights with the middle going out using skins and climbing up a bit. This helps for the Haute Route and probably would work for most planned expeditions in the Alps. Suffering from altitude sickness is far from an exact science and some people rarely experience it, others get it everytime they go relatively high and some people get it sometimes but not others. Sounds like a wonderful trip, enjoy it.
snow report     
 And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
Staying a couple of nights at a reasonable altitude before "going high" will help. For the Haute Route it is generally recommended for most recreational skiers to stay in Argentiere for one or two nights with the middle going out using skins and climbing up a bit. This helps for the Haute Route and probably would work for most planned expeditions in the Alps. Suffering from altitude sickness is far from an exact science and some people rarely experience it, others get it everytime they go relatively high and some people get it sometimes but not others. Sounds like a wonderful trip, enjoy it.
snow conditions     
 So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
The problem with acclimatisation is that the altitude at which you start to gain much benefit is (broadly) also the altitude at which you start to get problems. 2000m does almost nothing to you (illness or acclimatisation), 2500 starts to have an effect, and somewhere in the 2500-4000m range is a few hundred metres of change that, for you, is very significant.

I’ve taken my kids to 4500m trekking when they were quite young (6-7) and thus I was very very careful with acclimatisation. About the most conservative (thus reliable) plan is to start with a 2,700-3,000m ceiling for night one, no more than 300m gain per night, and one night off in 3. I think you’d have to be unusually sensitive for this plan not to work, albeit there are cases in the literature of rapid ascent to sub 3,000m causing pulmonary oedema.

A carb-rich (I.e. low fat) in advance is reported to help (carbs have a lower oxygen requirement for metabolism). If you’re really concerned about it, there is a drug that effectively acclimates you in advance (diamox) but it’s an off-label use, and you might struggle to find a UK doctor comfortable to prescribe it.
snow report     
 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
I wouldn't over think things too much. It is not exactly the conquest of Rum Doodle but a scramble in the Alps. I agree with Arno that it probably varies a lot from person to person but I've never had major problems at altitude and I think the key is to pace yourself, don't drink alcohol and drink lots of water.

Avoid going with a guide as they always seem to be in a hurry to get somewhere else (more clients I suppose).
latest report     
 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Diamox is for the head but not for the lungs, the pathophysiology of the two types of mountain sickness is different.

I'll script Diamox privately, but it's certainly not a panacea.
snow report     
 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
My first attempt at real altitude was in 2001 on the Throng La Pass (5415m):



A few years later we summited Gokyo Ri (5357m) and the Cho La Pass (5420m).

And a few years after that I summited Tserko Ri (4985m) and Gosainkund Pass (4650m).

IIRC, the first year I took just a couple of Diamox tablets for the pass. All our heads had a dull ache and we felt pretty rough. The next time I took Diamox for longer and felt better and for the last trip I took Diamox for the entire trek and felt fine, if a little slow, all the time.

Not everyone was the same. Steve, who was probably the fittest, fared worst on the Throng La. IIRC he took no Diamox because that was for wusses. I probably fared best but displayed 'periodic breathing' at night, which frightened the others but, apparently, is an indicator of good acclimatization.

It's important to note that we were always in a private group and were not bound by timetables. If we felt exhausted we could have a short day or just stop. In Gokyo we me a guided group of about a dozen. Most were okay but one was suffering badly and couldn't continue at the pace of the rest of the group.

I'd suggest that, unless you acclimatize really badly, 4000m is easily achievable without drugs so long as you don't try and do it all in one day.
snow conditions     
 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
It all depends on you is my simple answer. Graham Bell is an ex-Olympic athlete, but had to turn back on a Mont Blanc climb due to altitude problems.

I was ski touring in Morocco in Jan. One night at 1700m, then three nights at 3200m, going up to 4167m max each day and back down. For fitness, def long slow endurance. I don't see that HIT will help you. For acclimatisation, I did some ski touring in Courchevel beforehand, but I also spent 3 hours at the Aiguille du Midi a week before and even that helped I believe.

Plenty of people were walking from the refuge to Toubkal (4167m) with just one night in the hut and it seemed like 90% of them made it with no problem.
snow report     
 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
I will be traveling from Vienna to Zermat either by a) plane and Train, b) plane & car c) by car only.
Would be nice to sleep above 2500m for at least one night on the way, just can't work out how to achieve that esp as I would get to most places after the lifts shut.
Looks like the best ideal is plane to Zurich, train to Zermatt and then stay at altitude (2500+) in Zermatt. Anyone know how I can get to sleep above 2500m in Zermatt even after the lifts have shut?
We would consider touring up with headlamps or better paying someone to drive us up with something like a snowcat.
latest report     
 You need to Login to know who's really who.
You need to Login to know who's really who.
You could stay at the Gornergrat hotel, which is at ~3100m. The railway runs into the evening, though I'm not sure how late
ski holidays     
 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
viv wrote:
You could stay at the Gornergrat hotel, which is at ~3100m. The railway runs into the evening, though I'm not sure how late


Thanks yes I'd heard about that hotel but didn't know you could still get up there in the evening. Still interested in other options especially if they are more cost effective.
snow report     
 You'll need to Register first of course.
You'll need to Register first of course.
Monte Rosa hut BUT it's in the middle of a glacier. A friend fell down a crevasse while trying to find it after a big summer day out.

If you look back a few pages in guess a ski area there is the view from a hut high in Cervinia.

Both would be a big undertaking on skis late in the day.
latest report     
 Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Having done a number of high altitude treks / climbs (upto 6500m) I've 5 pieces advice:

1) Hydrate! 5L per day minimum, its torture, but you dehydrate at altitude.

2) it's about strength, not just cardio. I'm by no means any athlete, but my legs I do a lot of strength with. I've walked/climbed with many ultra marathon athletes, they fall first.

3) take it slow. Appreciate you are going high in one day, too much really, but try to avoid short bursts of intense work. Your body will want more oxygen that you will struggle to provide.

4) breathing slow and deep, avoid short breaths. Slow and deep provides more oxygen than fast and shallow

5) Diamox. You will need a prescription, but diamox helps with altitude sickness. Whilst it shouldnt be used as a replacement for proper aclimatisation, it helps reduce the effects.

Hope that helps
snow report     
 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
Seems a bit dramatic.

4000m is not very high.

Just run a few extra miles before you go and everything will be fine.
ski holidays     
 You'll get to see more forums and be part of the best ski club on the net.
You'll get to see more forums and be part of the best ski club on the net.
Quote:

There is no correlation between fitness (or lack of it) and altitude problems.

This is so true. I trekked part (not all the way) up Mt Kenya with my OH. We lived in Nairobi at the time so were already partly acclimatised. On the way up we met a super-fit Royal Marine, with a Kenyan guide, on the way down, having turned back because of altitude sickness. I was fine but my OH, who started off carrying our day pack, fared worse and although he was a lot stronger than me, I ended up carrying it. My sister suffers badly from migraines at modest alpine altitudes - she's only ever out for a week, so no time to acclimatise. And haring around at 3,500m at the top of somewhere like the Grand Motte can make some people very weak, very quickly. I have a friend who worked in an office in London and did very little exercise who trudged up Kilimanjaro in wellies and was fine. Other mountain-goat type well equipped people keeled over.

I guess the key is - as they say on signs in the French alps in places where people take off into the offpiste - savoir renoncer
snow report     



Terms and conditions  Privacy Policy