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How do people deal with sweating and 'feeling hot' at high altitude climbs (above 5500m)??

Just a background on myself:

I've done hikes/climbs up to 3000m where temps hit at the lowest of around -1 celcius only.

Those hikes/climbs are only day trips.

Those hikes/climbs are considered extremely easy in the whole grand scheme of it.

Last and most importantly: I sweat A LOT and EASILY

My experience during my climbs was that I tend to always want to remove a layer of clothing as I actually feel hot and am quite wet with perspiration to the point where I've only got my 'dry-fit' tshirt on at temperatures close to freezing.

Hence, I'm extremely curious as to how people combat this at higher altitudes as I've been reading a lot about some proper expeditions as I'm sure going 'single layer' at those altitudes is just plain stupid.

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Layering and wicking.

Back to layering and wicking in a minute, but first note that 3,000 meters (9,842 feet) isn't really all that high compared to what you are aiming for, which is above 5,500 meters (18,045 feet). That extra 8,000 plus feet means a temperature drop of 16 degrees F (9 degrees C) to 24 degrees F (13 degrees C), more if you go higher. There may also be stronger winds higher up. This will be at least partially (maybe completely) offset by the lack of shade, higher insolation from above, and greater reflection from below and the sides if there is snow.

The extreme variation in temperature that you will feel, sometimes in a matter of minutes, from shifting cloud cover and moving cloud patterns and varying wind patterns makes layering absolutely essential.

From Chapter Five in Doctor on Everest by Kenneth Kamler, MD on climbing in the Western Cwm (6,000 meters to 6,800 meters):

The sun came out, and I stopped to remove my jacket and balaclava, but by the time I got them off and into my pack, the sky clouded over and I had to take them out again.

Earlier in the chapter, Kamler says:

It was getting hot. I took off a layer of clothes and switched from my wool hat to my wide brimmed sun hat.

A bit later, Kamler and his companions faced heat exhaustion:

Our last precaution [after we each drank a liter of water] was to strip down to a single layer of polypropylene ...Sustained exertion could cause dangerous heat buildup, so we'd finish the climb in our long underwear.

The next day, Kamler was out on an acclimatization hike

despite a freezing wind and wondering where the Cwm was that I had climbed yesterday in my underwear.

You can face the same variations at lesser intensity at much lower elevations, so layering is always a good strategy.

As for wicking, it sounds as though you need better wicking technology in your base layer, or wicking in your next layer too.

Wrapping a towel or bandanna soaked in icy water around your neck in sustained hot conditions will help, and I have read an account of a climber who stuffed snow under his cap.

  • Thanks for the reply. Firstly that sounds like a great book! I'll definitely take a look at that. So from your explanations (as well as another below), it seems that taking layers off even at higher altitudes is the answer. I'm well aware of the much more adverse and different conditions at >5500 climbs but have only ever read about it. Regarding wicking, I assume it'll mean that for all my layers I'll have to prioritise wicking? Meaning that I'll have to get wicking qualities for base, warmth and outer layers? – S. Ong Jun 6 at 2:20
  • Certainly the base layer and maybe the layer above that, but not all layers. Thanks for the acceptance. The other answer and its comments have great points. Enjoy! – ab2 ReinstateMonicaNow Jun 6 at 5:45
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If you feel hot, then remove some clothes. Going without a tee-shirt in -10C or lower is quite practical if you are working hard.

There are caveats:

Firstly, be prepared to put the clothes back on as soon as you stop exercising.

Secondly, different parts of your body have different levels of heat input and heat loss; you may well be down to nothing on your chest - but still need gloves on your hands.


It is really important to avoid sweating too much in cold conditions. When you stop working you will cool down, the sweat can freeze, and it can ruin the insulation properties of your clothes so you get hypothermia.

As one of the comments suggests, clothes with good moisture-wicking properties are definitely going to be needed

  • Can you provide more info on the caveats? What are the dangers involved? What should one keep an eye on? – JJJ Jun 4 at 16:50
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    @JJJ Dangers are: frostbite if your fingers (etc) get too cold when your core is warm, hypothermia if you leave clothes off too long or compromise the insulation of you clothing. What should one keep an eye on: how all your body feels. – Martin Bonner supports Monica Jun 4 at 16:57
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    If it's really cold but you're working hard, keep a long sleeved layer instantly accessible so you can put it on as soon as you stop and remove your pack. Within seconds, not "I'll just do...". Then you can think about what other layers to go for. – Chris H Jun 4 at 17:05

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