The next posts will make a whole lot more sense with a bit of background on altitude sickness. The basics (as I understand them) are, that as you go higher, the oxygen content in the air decreases and your blood has difficulty to get enough of it to where it’s needed. You then need to “acclimatize”, basically not ascending further and giving your body time to generate more red blood cells.
If you ascend too fast, the typical symptoms of altitude sickness appear. Nightmares, splitting headaches, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, a feeling of panic, poor decision making and disorientation. From there it’s not far to AMS, which is deadly.
When I was here first in 1988, I got very very sick and was lucky that a friend helped me down … which is the only cure for altitude sickness. Anna had a mild case of it in 2002 as well.
In order to stay healthy, you should stay at the altitude at which symptoms first appear and only ascend further after they have cleared up. A rule of thumb is to plan for an acclimatization day for every 600 meters gain in altitude.
Last night Tsure (our guide) and I had a long discussion about the ascent plan for the next weeks. He believes strongly that we should first move up the Gokyo Valley and try to summit the Gokyo Ri peak (5400 m / 17700 ft) before attempting to walk to Everest Base Camp. My original plan was to skip the Gokyo Valley altogether and instead ascend extremely slowly directly up to Base Camp. After a lot of back and forth, we agreed on his approach. Who are we to argue, he’s been up here more than a hundred times (and carried 36 kg up to the South Col of Everest without supplemental oxygen … a super human feat).
So far we’ve been doing OK with the altitude. Both Anna and Lara had a headache yesterday, but it cleared up overnight. Ute, Finn and I feel no symptoms so far.
Today we ascended about 600 meters from Namche, had lunch, and then went down 500 meters to the small village of Phortse Tenga … following the golden rule of “walk high, sleep low”. If we all feel well tomorrow morning, we’ll continue further up the valley to Dhole or maybe Luza.