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High altitude mountain climbing or travel

By: Joe Hing Kwok Chu  

This method has been proven for preparing traveling to high plateau in Tibet, China.


The training:


First 20 days: Walk 5 to 10 kilometers (3 to 6 3/4 miles) every other day. Walk every day if the body is in shape.

Next 20 days: Walk 5 to 10 kilometers in fast paces. If the body in shape, increase the physical activity, like climbing a mountain.

Next 30 days: Walk 5 to 10 kilometers in fast paces while wearing a double mask to cut down oxygen intake. This is to simulate the low density of oxygen in high altitude.


When comes actual climbing, after reaching 3,000 meters, it is advisable to take a break for a night every 500 meters of ascending and go back down 500 meters and sleep for the night. Drink 3 to 4 liters of water to keep the body properly hydrated. The urine should be ample and clear. Breathing fast as in hyperventilating, can help increase oxygen intake.


If get sick, go back down. Lack of oxygen can cause the body to kick in histamine which in turn will dilate the blood vessels. Over dilating of blood vessels can cause health problem or can be life threatening. If the dilation is in the brain it can cause headache. Over dilation can cause leaks because blood vessels are not leak proof. Leaking can cause edema. Which can cause serious headache if the edema is in the brain. A person can drown in his/her own fluid accumulated in the lungs, if heavy leaks end up in the lungs.



An herb called hong jin tian (Rhodiola rosea) has been used for preventing high altitude sickness by improving the function of the body. Click here to see A study on this herb from University of California, Irvine


If the red blood cell count is low, use some herb formula to improve the count, like shi quan da bu tang, si wu tang, ba zhen tang etc. These formulae can be obtain in Chinese herb stores.


Diamox (Acetazolamide) is commonly used among high altitude Western travelers. It can increase the rate of breathing thus increases the oxygen intake. Since the drug is slow to take effect, it is usually taken 24 hours ahead. The usual dosage is 250 mg. It is recommended to take 125 mg twice a day. See side effects of this drug.


Folk remedies or preventive measures of Yunnan province minority group:   garlic sprouts are being used as vegetable before going into high altitude area.


Certain Qigong exercises can be helpful in high altitude mountain climbing.


Side effect: acetazolamide (Diamox) is a weak diuretic which causes some degree of fluid loss in increase urine production, and it may also cause drowsiness, headache, thirst, changes in mood, fatigue, decreased appetite, paraesthesia (pin and needle sensation), flushing, alteration in taste.


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Last update: Sept 7, 2013; 12:38 a.m. LAH