Saturday, November 10, 2012

Threat of Thunderstorms

One thing that I discovered in Colorado is that I have a hard time acclimating to high altitude. I'm okay until I get above 11,600 feet or so. At that point I begin to suffer from nausea and fatigue. I was feeling pretty good at the end of the trip, but that was after eight days at altitude. The next time I go hiking in that kind of territory I'll have to prepare a little better for physical activity at high elevations.

One thing that fooled me into thinking that I would be okay after a few days of leisurely acclimatizing in Rocky Mountain National Park and around Ouray is that I'd had no problems hiking above 10,000 feet in Yellowstone. But apparently my breaking point wasn't at the 10,600-foot level I was hiking there, but the 11,600 feet that I encountered in the San Juans.

Next time I'll have to train better and take more time growing accustomed to the thin air.

This photo was taken by Andy. We had to stop here to don rain gear and jackets. It was sleeting fiercely. Also, thunderstorms were raking the summits. We were headed to Columbine Pass so that we could cross the mountains and make it over to Chicago Basin. In retrospect, we should have stopped at this great campsite and set up our tents for the night. As it was, we were halted higher on the mountain by the very real threat of lightning and ended up camping in a really crappy spot.

We were stopped roughly in this area. Maybe another 100 vertical feet from where I took this photo.

And this is Columbine Pass, where we finally found ourselves, but not until we'd spent an extra night on the wrong side of the mountains.

Shortly after lunch, we were sent packing by lightning.


Mark said...

Awesome photos. I had the same experience many years ago when I went camping with my brother in a wilderness area outside of Evergreen. Even worse, I caught a nasty head cold on the flight to Colorado. I remember feeling like my head was going to explode the first few days we were out there, due to the altitude, the hiking, and being sick. Enjoying the posts!

HemlockMan said...

Glad you're enjoying them! This was my first time hiking in such high altitude. I'll know how to prepare for it the next time I get that opportunity. (Maybe next year, if I'm lucky.)

Kirk G said...

how can you train for high altitude? As far as I know, you can only aclimate but living at that height for a while. I moved to Salt Lake City in 1987 and immediately climbed to the top of cottowood canyon. Didn't feel altitude sickness, but got the shakes once down to 4000 feet at city level once again. sheesh!

HemlockMan said...

I was very inactive before I went due to an injury (with which I'm still suffering). The next time I got to real high country I'm going to do more physical training and acclimate myself more effectively once I get to the hiking area. My feeling is that I need to spend five or six days at altitude before I tackle a tough hike or backpack.

John said...

The three things I do out there to help with the altitude are hydration pacing myself and spicy food. Other than that true acclimation takes several weeks.

HemlockMan said...

When the nausea set in I stopped eating and drinking, which puts you in a vicious cycle. By the time the trip was over I was completely fine with high altitude. My body was loving it right there at the end.