So much of this hike is above 10,000 feet above sea level (10K’asl), that I wondered if it would bother me. So far, only one month in, I’ve been (mostly) okay. I do notice that, at altitudes above 13K’asl, my breathing changes. If I stop breathing to take a long drink of water or yawn, I suddenly feel out of breath. I have to take several, deep, rapid breathes to ‘catch up’. I also notice a little bit of dizziness and some tingling/numbness in my hands. These symptoms resolve as soon as I drop back down a couple thousand feet.
Another issue with hiking at these altitudes is the wind. I suppose it’s true of hiking anywhere above 10K’asl but the wind can be consistently strong and it gets old after a while. It’s knocked me off my feet several times. You can’t set anything down, even for a second, lest it blows off the side of a mountain. Even routine actions like reading a map or setting up my tent become challenging in high winds. Mix in some dust and sand and you feel like your skin is being media-blasted. This can go on for days at a time.
My previous altitude ‘record’ was 14,508’asl. That was at the top of Mt. Whitney inCalifornia. It’s the highest point in the contiguous 48 states.
During my current hike (Ecuador), I climbed three-quarters of the way up the 20,550’asl volcano Chimborazo for a new PR of 16K’asl. There was camping available up there but I decided that I already know what it’s like to camp with freezing winds so I made my way back down to around 14K’asl and found a spot for the night.
I felt pretty good up there - no symptoms at all. It could have been that I was just so excited to be up there that I didn’t notice or it could be that I hiked up there instead of driving. Either way, I feel like I’ve had my fill of super-high elevations for a while. I wouldn’t mind being a little lower, a little warmer and with a little less wind.
What’s the highest elevation you’ve ever been to? Leave me a comment below!