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Acclimatization in Everest Base Camp Trek: What happens if avoided?

  • 27-Apr-2016
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Ever dreamt of walking on the trails to Everest Base Camp with trekking poles in hand and other necessary gears? And, have you dreamt of another extreme scenario where you are unable to continue further up the trail and are rescued by a helicopter? Every day tens of trekkers are rescued for a medical emergency during peak season. So if you don’t want to be one of the trekkers who pay a hefty amount to helicopter rescue services because you are less adapted to high altitude, get acclimatized.

What is Acclimatization?

In simple words, acclimatization is giving your body sufficient time to adjust itself to changes that come in with the higher altitude. The higher you go off the sea level, the thinner the breathable air becomes. Consequently, you have increased breathing rate, faster heartbeat and the body starts adjusting its internal mechanism to adapt to this change in the external atmosphere, suppression of non-essential body function is an example. So, when you allow sufficient time for your body to adjust its internal mechanism against this rather rapid change in altitude is acclimatization.

Does a perfectly fit trekker need acclimatization and why?

Yes. In fact, everyone who goes to higher altitudes needs acclimatization. The only reason is to avoid Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS). If you go by a blog of Himalayan Rescue Association Nepal, 50% of trekkers who walk to an altitude higher than 4000m over 5 or more days develop Acute Mountain sickness and 84% of trekkers who fly directly to 3860m (Tengboche in Everest Base Camp Trek is at 3860m) are affected. If you want to avoid the difficulty at a higher altitude every person, irrespective of how high fitness s/he has to go for acclimatization.

What is AMS and what are its consequences?

AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) or Altitude Sickness is the collective term for a medical condition wherein a person is exposed to air with lesser oxygen concentration in higher altitudes and develops several problems, that begin with mild headache and breathlessness combined with a loss of appetite and sleeping difficulty.
There are more difficulties to come if you ignore the essence of acclimatization. The symptoms turn to a worse phase. The victim of AMS starts having vomiting, diarrhea, and feeling of a hangover as the moderate symptoms. If the diagnosis of the victim is further ignored the person may feel drowsiness, swollen body, blue-black lips, and unconsciousness as the severe symptoms. There are some rare cases of death due to AMS, the primary reason being lack of proper acclimatization.
Everest Base Camp Trek witnesses several trekkers who suffer from AMS just because they didn’t take acclimatization seriously besides the carelessness in its diagnosis.

Rules for avoiding Altitude Sickness

Some of the most important and essential rules to prevent altitude sickness are:
• Go slow or acclimatize properly while you trek to a higher altitude. Give your body proper time to adapt to a new environment. Namche Bazaar is a suitable place for acclimatization in Everest Base Camp Trek.
• Get hydrated properly. Drink plenty of water while you trek.
• If you feel the symptoms of AMS descent as soon as possible with a friend, not alone.
• Ascend high only if you feel okay.
• Carry the tablets of Diamox or Acetazolamide with you to make your body adjust to high altitude.
Now you know that avoiding acclimatization at the proper altitude while you embark on Everest Base Camp Trek can cost you, dear, even your life may be in danger. Besides drinking plenty of water and carrying medicines, keep acclimatization as your priority. This can give you a better experience during the trek and you can boast of adventure to the vicinity of the world’s tallest peak, Mount Everest. Happy Trekking!

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