Not just reserved for hikers and mountaineers, AMS (Acute mountain sickness) is a genuine problem from motorcyclists. If you’re ascending the Himalayas or crisscrossing the Andes, the road networks extend into the 15000-18000ft range. So in just a few hours of riding, you could ascend over 6000ft and not know it. AMS can catch up quite quickly, primarily because we’re able to ascend way quicker than the adventurers on foot.
If you’re not accustomed to altitudes, A good reference scale to keep in mind is
- High – 8000 to 12000ft
- Very high – 12000 to 15000ft
- Extremely high – 15000 to 18000ft
The time required to acclimatize to high altitudes varies from person to person. Hydration and a high-carb diet helps significantly. A high-fat and high-protein diet might worsen the effect of AMS.
AMS is caused by heading up too high, too fast. Typically the faster you climb the greater the risk.
- Loss of appetite
- Fatigue/loss of energy
What plays a very large role here is your sleeping altitude. So if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, try head to a lower altitude for the night.
So here are the best options for treatment.
- Rest, with just mobility exercises
- Pain medication for the headaches
But symptoms can rapidly escalate, Acute mountain sickness can progress to high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) with associated shortness of breath or high altitude cerebral edema (HACE). At this stage you HAVE to descend. So keep an eye out for early onset of the symptoms and descend rapidly to alleviate them.
Weather changes at these altitudes are very frequent, a change in the wind cold leave you stranded for hours. Always keep oral re-hydration salts as part of your kit. So stay prepared stay safe!
My Picture – Peru at 15,000ft