Importance of acclimatization when trekking in Nepal
We are staying in Namche Bazaar (3,500 meters / 11,482 feet) for two days and two nights to acclimatize before continuing on the Everest Base Camp Trek. And, for me to have an emergency shop as my trekking boots are falling apart.
I also must admit that I am already feeling the symptoms of acute mountain sickness (AMS). As it is I’m not feeling 100%, it’s the winter off-season and my broken boots are not helping in making things easier. Now with a dull headache I’m more conscious of this silent killer that I met before.
It’s not about fitness, bravado, or youth. Altitude sickness can strike anyone at anytime when you are above 2,400 meters (8,000 ft).
I’ve experienced it myself on previous occasions. I’ve fought with it, chanced with it, and suffered because of it.
I’ve seen others vomit, fall, curl up like babies, cry, panic, scream, talk as if mad and become the walking dead due to it.
Evacuations and the halting of a trek due to people not understanding altitude sickness is common place. So is a fast unexpected death.
What is altitude sickness?
Also known as acute mountain sickness (AMS), it’s basically when your body does not get enough oxygen due to the thinning of air at high altitudes.
Other contributing factors are dehydration due to water vapor from your lungs evaporating at a higher rate and the fact there is less moisture up at altitude anyway.
Symptoms of altitude sickness on the Everest Base Camp Trek
Minor symptoms to worsening symptoms of altitude sickness include headaches, loss of appetite, insomnia and drowsiness.
Severe symptoms include shortness of breath (even when resting), migraine like headache, vomiting, coughing, retinal haemorrhage, edema, visual impairment, bladder & bowel dysfunction, loss of coordination.
There will be a video of me with some of the symptoms in a few days.
How to prevent altitude sickness
Take your time
As a general rule of thumb one should not climb more than 300 meters (1,000 ft) a day.
You should not sleep at a higher place than where you climbed that day. In other words, sleep at a lower altitude than where you climbed in a day. Even if it means going back down the trail to find a lower spot.
Lose the ego. This thing is a silent killer. I’ve seen many, many a trekker power on as if it’s a test of fitness to trek in Nepal. Or due to a rush to be back at work (Regional Asian trekkers on short vacations in particular).
Maybe it’s all true and you only have a few weeks vacation; but high altitude doesn’t care about how much vacation time you have.
Thousands have done this route before you, it’s not a race. AMS is not so obvious. One night you might just wake up gasping for breath, not being able to breathe and die.
Treatment for altitude sickness
Descent. Get to a lower altitude as soon as possible. I’ve seen midnight trekkers going in the opposite direction due to a partner suddenly getting sick in the night.
There are a host of medical treatments for AMS. Including diuretics and blood thinners. I am not going to recommend or suggest such things. If you intend on taking medication then I advise you to seek a qualified medical practitioners advice first. Also, be aware that many of the drugs for AMS are sold over the counter in Nepal. And, many are fake.
Seek medical advise before your trek in Nepal.
Day trip to a higher altitude for acclimatization in Namche Bazaar
As part of our acclimatization Narayan and I woke early for a breakfast of thick pancakes and hot lemon drinks. Really, there is nothing better for a trekking breakfast for me than pancakes. That said, my stomach was in bits and I was out of energy before we got stated. A mild headache had formed the day before and I do not feel as I have done in previous treks.
The mind games were underway already it seemed.
Was I still sick? Was I no longer fit enough for this kind of thing? Was I just going too soon? Alone in the mountains and the questions coming flooding in faster than I liked.
What’s more my primary concern were my boots. A morning of wrapping insulation tape around them yet again before trekking for two hours to reach Syanboche at (3,750m / 12,303 ft) saw them lose the last of my tape. There were at least some distractions up here.
Syanboche airport and helicopter transports
Syanboche airport in Nepal is no more than a strip of dirt road. Used primarily for transporting food, construction materials, rich tourists, and the occasional medical evacuation.
We were lucky today. It seemed to be a hot bed of building activity. helicopters were coming in every hour it seemed. All carrying heavy loads of timber with them. On the way out they would take locals.
Cost of helicopter ride
USD $5,000 for a tourist to fly to Lukla from here. This is actually the cost of a medical evacuation and not a hitchhike ride. But try telling that to the locals who more often than not,do take many medical evacuations. The cost for a local to fly? Well, that one was harder to find out. Anywhere between 50 rupees and 500 were mentioned. AKA – big difference. But, a flawed pricing question did not help.
The view of Mount Everest from Syanboche
Syanboche is home to a few rather exclusive hotels. The place the rich and famous go for Mount Everest views from heated hotel rooms over breakfast. Then just hop on a helicopter and go for a ride around Everest before flying back to Kathmandu.
For the rest of the world there are a few other hotels. All perched in nice locations overlooking the surrounding Himalayan mountains.
A dry and desolate landscape offering a spectacular view of the Earths crowning glory up ahead.
Shopping in Namche Bazaar, Nepal
Namche bazaar is one of the last locations of a big market en route to Mount Everest base camp. Villages from all around this area use it as a central market. Moreover, there’s a Tibetan market here as well. Once just a weekend event it’s now become a part of the Namche Bazaar as a whole.
My mission was simple, find new trekking boots.
Looking for trekking boots in Namche Bazaar
650 rupees would buy me a pair of cheap fake gym shoes. The kind that would last not even a week. The price was fine, but even the locals admitted they might not make it to Everest Base Camp.
Filled with trekking stores I roamed the streets looking for something strong. Everything was fake. I could have taken the chance. But I knew buying a new pair of boots would also bring on blisters and other aliments associated with new boots. Least of all new fake boots.
Second hand trekking stores in Namche Bazaar
The closest we came to finding anything suitable was found in only one store. A pair of size 11 second-hand Solomon trekking boots. How quite they got there I don’t know. I only hope the owner sold them in Kathmandu and somehow they made it back here.
Still, I had visions of a dead trekker somewhere being removed of their footwear. And, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if it were true.
At USD $100 they were costly. More to the point, they were too big. I would have to stuff the inner lining or wear more socks. Either way, a risk.
In thought I wandered around some more. Shoe repair here was brutally crude. Thick twine and Rugby glue were used. My boots could be repaired with string and glue but would leak. What’s more Narayan kept mentioning that snow was rumored to be on the way by passing traders.
I was damned if I did, and damned if I didn’t no matter my choice. So, I ended up in a hardware store buying roll upon roll of more insulating tape. It seems duct tape had not reached Nepal yet. But it is an essential part of my article on “Equipment and gear you need for trekking in Nepal“.
Narayan for the first time made the suggestion of going back …
More self-doubt shuddered in. Sometimes you just feel jinxed.
I’m too stubborn though. When things start to go against me, I simply dig my heels in and power forward.
Narayan was right to ask me though. Porters coming down were saying it was getting brutally cold up ahead. If we were to go back, there was no shame.
A trek is to be enjoyed, not endured.
If I was going to fail it would not be without trying at least. Fake boots falling apart, or a mountain of foot blisters and blood were the alternative fail routes.
I figured two boots mummified in electrical insulation tape would make a better story. And so we powered ahead into the unknown winter that lay ahead …
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Everest Base Camp Trek Day 4 (Tengboche, let the mental battles begin)
Note this is not live, the trek took place in December/January
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