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I have an expedition planned in Himalayas, around the Mt. Kanchenjunga region.
I believe at higher altitudes, apart from preparation (both physical and psychological), one has to be sure about a factor: Acclimatization.

What I have planned is: after gaining a certain altitude in the beginning phase of the expedition, Our team is going to set a solid camp for about 5 days, that will be at around 3400 m. From this place we will do short load-ferries over the place where we plan to camp next. The height gain will obviously not be too much. And, along with that we plan to visit areas around where we would actually have to work (physically) comparatively harder, so that we play ourselves in.

But at what point should I assume that the acclimatization is complete and it is safe to set off towards higher camps?

NOTE: The maximum altitude that we will attain will be around 5700 m.

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@Unsung: Thanks for the edit! –  WedaPashi Sep 28 '13 at 12:10
    
possible duplicate of A little bit of acclimatisation or no acclimatisation at all? –  Dopeybob435 Sep 28 '13 at 16:25
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@Dopeybob435 I feel the questions are different. This question is more about the factors influencing acclimatization whereas the other one is more about possible approaches for a climb. –  Unsung Sep 29 '13 at 4:41
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@Unsung: Thanks for having the vision to see the difference –  WedaPashi Sep 30 '13 at 4:25
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There is a huge difference between 3400 m and 5700 m. Kilimanjaro is 5900 m, which is nearly the same as your top altitude. The usual routine on Kilimanjaro is to take roughly 7 days in which you only go up maybe a few hundred meters per day. Complete acclimatization, which includes an increase in red blood cell counts, takes months. All you can accomplish in a shorter period is to get your blood pH to adapt itself. You may want to use diamox as well. –  Ben Crowell Oct 1 '13 at 23:32
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1 Answer

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Personally I do not know of any deterministic way judging acclimatization. Right now, the actions to be taken are more "Reactive". i.e, in case one feels the symptoms of AMS, then one can take a call of going down or camping at the current altitude to get acclimatized.

As a thumb rule, if you climb higher, and sleep lower, your body should get adjusted to the altitude. Having said that, each person's response is different.

Below are some of the points to consider:

  1. If anyone in your group is complaining of not-so-good sleep, it can be an indicator of acclimatization not being complete.
  2. Nausea, headache, dizziness, lack of coordination(ataxia) are some of the things that can give you pointers towards those who are yet to acclimatize or are already hit by a moderate to severe case of AMS.

The best suggestion of moving towards a higher camp would be to judge the spirit and the Real health conditions of your group. The above mentioned points can be taken into mind before you take your call of sending people down or moving up the mountain.

I would always suggest that you prepare your group to prevent AMS as much as possible. I'm pretty sure that you know the following set of points, but in the interest of the community, let me put them forth anyway.

  1. Hydrate. Drink 3-4 liters of water. The symptoms of dehydration and AMS are cunningly similiar: Headache, dizziness etc.
  2. Eat well. Keep your energy reserves up all the time.
  3. Climb high, sleep low. It's advisable not to gain more than 1000 vertical feet if you are going to sleep at the higher altitude.
  4. Take it easy. Do not rush up to higher altitudes. Higher the altitude, slower should be the progress made. This allows for body to get adjusted to thinner air.
  5. Avoid depressant drugs. These reduce the rate of breathing which in turn reduce the intake of oxygen.
  6. There are drugs like Diamox which help one to get acclimatized faster. Remember, this is not a cure to AMS.
  7. In case of AMS symptoms, consider going to lower altitudes.

Hope this helps!

Cheers!

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