Wolverine Hikes South America

People who know me know that I belong on the Trail. I've thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail (twice),the Pacific Crest Trail and the mighty Continental Divide Trail. I've hiked many of the long trails here in Michigan including being the first to hike both the Ironwood Trail and the Great Lake To Lake Trail. In 2017, I hiked the Israel National Trail and the Golan Heights Trail. I was the first to hike the Baja Divide Trail in Mexico but failed miserably to thru-hike the Bruce Trail in Canada. I'm heading for Ecuador to attempt to hike the TEMBR.

The purpose of this blog is to keep anyone who is interested informed of my progress and to encourage those who are able to support me in this endeavor.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Hiking at Elevation

I’ve been lucky so far in my hiking ‘career’ that I’ve never fallen prey to real altitude sickness but I know of many hikers (most more experienced than I) who have. I mostly associate it with folks driving to high altitudes and feeling the symptoms as soon as they get out of the car. I’ve always suspected that hiking to those same elevations gives my body time to adjust and, thus, avoid any symptoms. 

https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=18dwDYzSs3IE9HhWcaw1_f9v-RRMvEJsN

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. 

https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=1vb9_VW9kvrNkmH9yAavy0ezMPg_HCD_e

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. 

https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=1DgYFqOHMQVuVAyQWg25duYysrMfP3SEf
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!

2 comments:

Noam Gal said...

Wow.. 16K is just a bit higher than the Mont Blanc in the Alps (which I haven't climbed, no). Very impressive.
And at 20.5K, this little volcano is higher than Mount Elbrus, the highest mountain in Europe.

My personal highest point is also Mt. Whitney. Maybe some day I'll climb some higher peak.

Keep on having a good time, and good luck with getting to lower elevation with less wind.

Martha said...

I'm more of a low sea level person, as in on the beach at the sea, but I've been to Big Bear CA where the elevation is about 6,000 ft above sea level. I didn't have a problem there. But I also went to Sequoia Park CA where the elevation was higher, maybe 9,000 fasl and I had trouble breathing, got dizzy and was not happy! And yes, I did drive there.
I'm glad the elevation is not bothering you!
Hike on.