Fancy mighty snow-peaked mountains cloaked in wispy clouds with a backdrop of blue sky, lush green meadows, and a tranquil and serene setting? Doesn’t it remind of the hills and countryside depicted in storybooks that we all grew up reading?
Uttarakhand is home to the highest mountain peaks in the world with two peaks exceeding 7,500 m (24,600 ft), 13 others exceeding 7,000 m (23,000 ft), 89 other peaks exceeding 6,500 m (21,300 ft) and at least 100 other peaks that exceed 6,000 m (19,700 ft) in elevation. Travelling to high altitude places in Uttarakhand is exciting as it has stunning views, majestic mountaintops, clean air, and an opportunity to rejuvenate in such an environment. However, it’s a known fact that the thin air (with lower oxygen) and lesser atmospheric pressure could be tough to adapt, especially for the ones not used to it.
Scientifically speaking, if you travel to a high altitude place in Uttarakhand (above 2,500m), the air is much thinner and has lesser oxygen, therefore making it tough to breathe. So the primary thing to do is to prepare for a high altitude trek beforehand. Couple it with proper planning and appropriate training, and then travel to altitudes you have never been to. To get yourself fit before your mountaintop quests, here are few tips:
Before the trip:
Check with a medical professional
Consult your doctor before you set out on a new training regime and go ahead with your travel plan. You need to ensure that you don’t have any pre-existing conditions that could make it worse for when you reach high altitudes. Once your doctor gives a green signal, then you are good to go.
You need to train your body, the complete system, especially your lungs and heart to function well in a high altitude place. A minimum of four hour-long sessions every week is recommended, which comprises full-effort aerobic exercises like running, swimming or biking. Practice steep climbing slopes, if you can get used to it.
During the trip:
Go slow and gradually increase the pace
If you are going for a trek in Uttarakhand, increase the distance you walk and the time you exercise very gradually. You should start slowly and then build up to walking a distance that you expect to walk during your trek or while in the travel destination. When training, do your longest walk before a week of travelling or starting your high altitude trek so that you have sufficient time to recover.
It is a possibility that you lose your appetite when you first reach a high altitude hill station in Uttarakhand, but you must keep eating to maintain your energy levels. The fact is that you would be burning additional calories even while resting in this cold destination, so ensure that you take in enough carbs and slow-burning energy foods.
At a high altitude, you must drink water more frequently as compared to what you normally do. As humidity levels are lower in the mountains, sweat evaporates faster. Lesser oxygen levels also make you pant for breath, and more water is lost from your body through respiration. Another sign of altitude sickness could be that a need to urinate more often. This means that you need to drink extra water to stay hydrated so that the symptoms of altitude sickness can remain low or not appear at all.
Special cases of altitude sickness and acute mountain sickness:
Some people might experience symptoms of altitude sickness like breathlessness, mild headaches or even nosebleeds. However, more serious symptoms could be like a cough, nausea, severe and persistent headache, or loss of coordination and disorientation. In such a case, you must immediately halt at your current altitude, or decide to descend if your symptoms don’t improve in a day or so.
Try local remedies
You could try some local remedies to tackle issues due to altitude. In some places, they chew coca leaves, and in the Himalayas particularly, people eat ‘Chhurpi’, a kind of dried yak cheese for such symptoms.
Keep a tab on the Symptoms
Don’t feel stressed if you have a mild headache after climbing around 2,500m initially. Just take some rest, drink plenty of water, and take medication if needed. You could also feel breathless while walking at an altitude – however, above 3,000m, if you still feel breathless when resting, have a severe cough, nausea, etc. then it could be a danger sign and requires an immediate descent.
Uttarakhand is the ideal destination for trekkers as it is home to the highest peaks in the world. Mountain lovers find Uttarakhand quite appealing to quench their quests but on the other hand it is essential to follow the health tips for making the trek tours easy, memorable and spirit-lifting.