Wind River High Route failure
Sep 15, 2022 at 11:22 am #3760037Adam GBPL Member
Companion forum thread to: Wind River High Route failure
This will be a very short trip report but I wanted to share a bad experience I had due to poor planning.
Attempted Skurka’s wind river high route. A lot of people do it in under a week. We tried to do it in 9 days just in case we struggled with the miles, elevation, and off trail navigation. We both were in reasonably good shape…Sep 15, 2022 at 5:28 pm #3760048DanBPL Member
Sorry to hear about the altitude sickness problems. It can be really miserable. Hopefully you will have better luck next time. Instead of adding multiple short days at the beginning of the backpacking trip to acclimate, and having to carry extra food and fuel, you could alternatively spend a few days sightseeing at more modest elevations. Relax, check out some scenery, do a little fishing, find a flattish day-hike.Sep 16, 2022 at 8:52 am #3760065Jeff McWilliamsBPL Member
Another acclimatization option is to spend a night at the trailhead. Both Green River Lakes and Big Sandy have designated camping spots, and i’ve seen people camp off the side of the road approaching Big Sandy. There’s also accommodations at the Big Sandy Lodge in-season.
I feel for ya. I’ve had terrible luck with my WRR group backpacking trips due to AMS, thunderstorms, etc.Oct 9, 2022 at 9:36 am #3761521Thomas GBPL Member
Thinking about doing this next season. Appreciate the posts. We learn from each other’s experiences.Oct 9, 2022 at 4:17 pm #3761541Geoff CaplanBPL Member
@geoffcaplanLocale: Lake District, Cumbria
I have a tough time acclimatising to altitude. I certainly can’t go straight from sea level to a high route like you were attempting, though I do know people who can. It’s the luck of the draw.
Cardiac fitness is no help – the research shows that it offers no protection from altitude sickness.
My own approach is to do three training days at increasingly high altitude before committing to the actual route. I make them hard but relatively short – with a steep but straightforward descent so I can lose height quickly if I get into difficulty. And then I sleep at a height where I can recover safely.
The first couple of days can be a bit “challenging”. But by the 3rd day I usually feel a lot better. It’s just something I have to go through if I want to enjoy the big mountains.
Again, the research shows that there are no shortcuts – you have to find a protocol that works for you and stick to it. If you can’t spare the time, it’s probably better to focus on lower altitude projects rather that push your luck without proper acclimatisation.Oct 9, 2022 at 8:05 pm #3761548jscottBPL Member
@bookLocale: Northern California
“Cardiac fitness is no help – the research shows that it offers no protection from altitude sickness.”
In my experience…true. (happily, this was never a game ending issue for me. But I would occasionally and randomly suffer on the first day out at the same altitude that usually never caused a big problem.)Oct 10, 2022 at 9:28 am #3761557Bill in RoswellBPL Member
@roadscrape88-2Locale: Roswell, GA, USA
As altitude sickness can hit anyone at any time, why not take Diamox as a preventative? Take 24 hrs before higher altitude, and take first 48 hrs at altitude. I always take it with me in Peru, where you go from sea level (Lima) to 12,500 ft (Cuzco) in less than a 2 hr flight. Coca tea works for me there, but some in my group do take Diamox as a preventative. The one woman who refused any tea or medication was sick, weak and miserable the whole time. Not a way I want to spend my backpacking trip. And yes, it can have side effects in some people, but thats true of any medication. No one on our trip had noticable side effects. And we had a great time on the Salkantay trail at 15,000 ft much of the time.Oct 11, 2022 at 8:03 am #3761651Paul WagnerBPL Member
@balzaccomLocale: Wine Country
My wife sometimes suffers from altitude sickness, and twice has taken Diamox (once in Peru). She found the side effects more distressing than the altitude sickness, so at this point, she simply prefers to hike high, sleep low for a couple of days. That seems to make the most difference.Oct 11, 2022 at 8:06 am #3761652Jeff McWilliamsBPL Member
My wife has also suffered from AMS on several occasions and now takes Diamox when hiking at high elevation. Which side effects does yours find distressing? I’ve taken it several times myself. The tingling sensation and more frequent urination were minor inconveniences.Oct 11, 2022 at 12:21 pm #3761678ArthurBPL Member
The worst medical advice is the one off, or “huge series of ONE” that we often hear on the internet. But, I am going to do that anyway. In using acetazolamide for over 40 years, I have found that 1/4 (62.5 mg) tablet taken the night before and every night before sleep for a couple of days works quite well for me in the +3-5000 ft sudden increase. This is much lower than the 1/2 (125 mg) BID that is recommended. No tingling, better sleep than without the drug. For those with side effects, you might want to try lower and less frequent doses. The added benefit of this is that beer does not taste as bad on the medication! Dr Howard Donner has a good practical series on you tube on altitude sickness. He is an expert, as opposed to me.Oct 11, 2022 at 2:26 pm #3761685Geoff CaplanBPL Member
@geoffcaplanLocale: Lake District, Cumbria
“But I would occasionally and randomly suffer on the first day out at the same altitude that usually never caused a big problem.”
This is another tricky aspect of altitude sickness – the research shows that previous good performance is no guarantee that you’ll do as well next time, though it does improve your chances.
I’ve seen accounts of seasoned guides suddenly hitting problems at heights they normally handle with ease. Last time I surveyed the research, they were still unable to explain this.
So even those gifted with rapid acclimatisation should still be cautious and have a contingency plan for bailing out if need be.
Early in my alpine career we rashly took on a moderately technical climb in the first couple of days and my rope-mate was suddenly incapacitated. Nursing him down was quite challenging – and this wasn’t at any great height – maybe 10,500 ft. It was supposed to be a training climb…
Altitude really does deserve our respect!
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