Some people can go from living a few hundred feet above sea level to the high Rockies and feel no negative effects from altitude. I am not one of those people. When I hiked peaks in Yellowstone a few years ago that were well over 10,000 feet in elevation I had not trouble at all. This gave me a false sense of safety. What I found in Colorado was that I hit a kind of wall at around 11,000 feet. Generally around 11,300 feet or so I would feel the classic effects of altitude sickness. I did not get headaches, but I did get severe nausea and shortness of breath. This slowed me down to a crawl and the only reason I did not retreat was due to pure stubbornness.
The rewards to pushing on were great. Amazing views and a sense of accomplishment. The punishments for continuing to crawl higher up the slopes were many and varied. There was the physical sickness, the biting cold, the frequent storms, and even occasional depression. It was only as we ended our trip that I felt that I'd finally acclimated myself to the high elevations at which we were hiking (11,000 to almost 13,000 feet above sea level).
So one thing that I learned is that I will either have to train hard the next time I head into the high country, and/or spend more time acclimating my body to high altitude before tackling difficult walks and climbs.
|Heading toward the higher country through the willows.|
|An abandoned miner's shack at around 12,000 feet above sea level. The nearby rocks were pierced with old mining shafts. I suspect this shed was over 100 years old.|
|A piece of an old wood-burningstove that probably kept the miners warm once upon a time.|
|At the pass. What appears to be a road is actually the Continental Divide Trail.|
|Brilliant aspens in full Fall color lined the trails and slopes as we hiked.|
A cow and bull moose visited the beaver pond where we were camped.