Saturday, December 21, 2013

How to Lose Weight

I found out the hard way last year that I am susceptible to altitude sickness. For some reason, it hits me after I crack about 11,500 feet above sea level. Back in 2010 I had hiked extensively in Yellowstone National Park, hitting peaks above 10K feet and feeling no ill effects of altitude whatsoever.

But, when I got to Colorado and started hitting really high (by USA lower-48 standards) peaks, I discovered that I do get altitude sickness. Really classic symptoms, too. Headaches, loss of appetite, dehydration, shortness of breath, nausea, reduced capacity to reason...most of the uncomfortable symptoms.

One thing about it, though...I lost a LOT of weight over the course of just a week spending most of my time between 11K and 13K feet. I pretty much stayed sick, so I had to force food down to keep from getting even sicker, and I was burning a lot of calories walking up and down those slopes at that elevation.

Another thing that I noticed is that I would awaken in the night gasping for breath whenever we camped at really high campsites.

Thus, the next time I go to such high country (and I'd like to do that in 2014...I've been looking at hiking in the Sierras in California), I want to make sure I'm in better shape than I was when I went to Colorado.

I think I weighed about 215 or so when I got to Colorado.

In Rocky Mountain National Park, on the flanks of the highest peaks in the Park, where I found out altitude sickness is some serious shit.
In the Mount Sneffels Wilderness a few days into the trip. I think I'd already lost a few pounds. Not much, but a few.
Coming down from one of the high passes we had to hike. This one had been very close to 13,000 feet.

Lying in my tent one evening. Cold. Sick.
Toward the end of the trip. I think we had one full day to go. I'd lost about twenty pounds by this point. My belt was all but useless. Had it cinched as tight as it would go and had to cram a washcloth in my waist to keep it tight.


Vicki said...

Yikes, you're right: that is not the best way to lose weight.

James Robert Smith said...

It works, though!

I've wondered in the past year if it would have happened if I'd been in better shape before I got there. By the end of the trip my lungs were in tip-top shape. We took one last hike up a mountain before we headed out and I FLEW up that peak like nothing. I was almost running up to the top. Never got winded, at all.

Most people take about three days to acclimate to high altitude. But it took me ten days.

Mark Gelbart said...

215 pounds was the heaviest I ever was. I ballooned to that weight when my wife was pregnant.

After she had her baby, I lost all the weight I gained.

Sympathetic weight gain?

Happytrails said...

That is the hard way to lose weight!!
It's all about conditioning our bodies isn't it?? You did so much better than most folks would have done!!

James Robert Smith said...

Mark: I've weighed close to 250 before. I never want to get that fat again. Least I've weighed in my adult life was 173. That'll probably never happen again, but I would like to get back to 185 or so.

James Robert Smith said...

@happytrails (Sorry...I don't know your name!)

Thanks. I'll know better the next time I head up into that really high country. I think I'll spend some time hiking for a week or two on some of the tougher trails here in the NC mountains.