Sunday, September 7, 2008

Altitude Sickness

I was aware of Altitude Sickness, or ACM (Acute Mountain Sickness) as it's sometimes called, but it doesn't hurt to go have another look at the details, as suggested by a response in my last post. The symptoms?

Headache is a primary symptom used to diagnose altitude sickness, although headache is also a symptom of dehydration. A headache occurring at an altitude above 2,400 meters (8000 feet = 76 kPa), combined with any one or more of the following symptoms, can indicate altitude sickness:

  • * Lack of appetite, nausea, or vomiting * Fatigue or weakness * Dizziness or light-headedness * Insomnia * Pins and needles * Shortness of breath upon exertion * Persistent rapid pulse * Drowsiness * General malaise * Peripheral edema (swelling of hands, feet, and face).

Symptoms that may indicate life-threatening altitude sickness include:

  • * pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs):- o persistent dry cough o fever o shortness of breath even when resting * cerebral edema (swelling of the brain):- o headache that does not respond to analgesics o unsteady gait o increased vomiting o gradual loss of consciousness.


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Project Member (Derby Museum) said...

There are some great route descriptions in R J Secor's book, much of which is available online to view via Google Books.
Pages 61-77 give routes on Ixta.
Acclimatisation: Page 48 gives a good programme for sensible height gain for visitors from low altitudes.
It would be a good idea if you have the time to climb the Knees route as practice to c.4,700m and then return to sleep. Attempt the summit by going to a hut at the same altitude the next day, with an early attempt at the summit the day after that. You'll almost certainly need crampons in early November, and your acclimatisation trip to The Knees might let you get familiar with them before you go any higher.
If you find there are shops in Mexico City where you can hire climbing gear (campons ski poles etc), perhaps you'd all let us know the address via your blog?,M1


Gary Denness said...

Cheers Nick, that's very helpful. I have to say I am perplexed by crampons. What exactly do I do with them! I know what they are, just not how to use them. Are they absolutely essential?

Project Member (Derby Museum) said...

Hi Gary
Crampond are essential on icy ground - we shall want them on the Jamapa Glacier on Orizaba. But on Ixta you're more likely to have just snow. But even snow can get hard and icy if it partially melts and then freezes into a crust - especially in early morning after a colc, clear night. I doubt that crampons are needed on Ixta - but don't put yourself into a position of going on where you could slip on hard snow fields and slide all the wy down to rocks below - that is nasty.
Crampons are metal spikes - usually 10 that point down, and often another two pointing forwards, allowing climbers to get a purchase on very steep ice. Walkers just need crampons to give them a grip on slippery ground in winter - and they;d use a pair that flexes in the middle so that they can be strapped onto flexible-soled leather boots, and bend as the boot bends. I've put them on very bendy walking boots when I've been on glaciers, but they can come of esily. Don't get too concerned - I really doubt that Ixta will need them - and you'll soon know as you'd be scared to go on without any grip!
We've chosen to come to mexico at a rtime wheb there should still be lots of snow, purely so we have water available on Orizaba, which'll save us carrying it up from the valley.

I'm about to put a post up on SummitPost asking about the availablity of screw-in gas cylinders for our stoves. I'd hate to bring them over and then find we can't get the cylinders and still have to carry all our water!
In haste, Nick

Project Member (Derby Museum) said...

Sorry for all the typos in my last, late-night comments. If you want to contact me directly for a chat, send me your email address to parky069(AT) and I'll respond to you from my main email account. (change AT to @)

Gary Denness said...

When are you planning to do Orizaba? I'd love to come, but I think financially it would be all too much for me. And I too amateur for you! One day, maybe. Are you coming through Mexico City?

Thanks again for all your help....I can handle a few typos! The content is what matters and it's making a big difference to my planning and preparations.

I'm putting one of my fellow climbers in charge of locating crampons for rent - if they are available I will of course blog all the details!!

Project Member (Derby Museum) said...

Hi Gary
yes we are arriving in Mexico City and plan to stay for a couple of nights in the Centro Histrico as the first stage in our acclimitisation to altitude, but rather than publicly post my travel details, I'll drop you an email. (I found your address on another of your websites.)
You might find that you could hire boots and crampons from one of the people who offers guiding services up Ixta. Quite often these companies carry spare gear for people who want to make a casual trip - you may not even have to employ them as a guide. I can't remember if Secor's book or someone on SummitPost mentioned an Ixta guide. Worth checking out.