5 Tips for High-Altitude Adventurers

Do the Winter Games make you want to head to the mountains? Read these tips first.

Tim Grams sitting quietly during a break on a hike near Denver

Hemophilia A patient Tim Grams takes a break from hiking at Dinosaur Ridge just outside of suburban Denver.

 

With Winter Olympics fever sweeping the world, many people have their minds on hitting the slopes or otherwise traveling to high-altitude areas for some snow-capped adventure. In King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, some employees at CSL Behring are preparing to travel west for a visit with Tim Grams, a Colorado native, Hemophilia A patient and outdoor adventurer. 

Before this crew enjoys some time together through our Patient Engagement program, Tim shared some important tips for playing and working in a high-altitude environment. We wanted to share these tips in case you or someone you know has a trip to the mountains planned for the near future.

Here’s what Tim has to say about spending time in the Rockies:

"When you visit a place like Breckenridge, Colorado, you need to remember that you’re nearly two miles above sea level," he says. "Activities in some areas are even higher, with Quandary Peak just six miles from Breckenridge topping out at more than 14,000 feet. Your body feels the elevation change if you’re from somewhere else, and in addition you feel effects of extremely dry, cold air."

Here are five tips from Tim to make your acclimatization to a high alpine environment as smooth as possible.

  • Drink moderately more water than normal and start doing this the day before your travel from lower elevation. Carry a water bottle everywhere you go. This is one of the best ways to prevent altitude sickness and allow your body to adjust to the altitude. If possible, spend a day at a lower altitude (like Denver) to allow your body to acclimatize.
  • Wear sunblock if you are outside for longer than a few minutes. Even if it is cloudy out, the sun can still burn. There is much less atmosphere to block the sun's effect on the body and clouds can actually reflect light back and cause sunburn.
  • Listen to your body. Expect your body to feel the elevation. You will fatigue and feel out of breath sooner. If you begin to have a headache, slow down and remember to make sure you're drinking water and have a snack. If it gets worse, stop and rest; don't push yourself harder as this will just exasperate how you’re feeling. If it continues to worsen after resting, descend to a lower altitude and continue resting and drinking. Other symptoms of high altitude sickness onset are nausea and trouble sleeping.
  • Have the right clothing and gear. Weather can change quickly in the mountains, so it’s best to be prepared for a variety of conditions, including snow and low temperatures. This means having layers to keep warm and dry if it’s cold and snowy, in addition to being able to remove layers if the weather turns warmer. Essential items are as follows:

o Synthetic underwear (no cotton)

o Synthetic long underwear bottoms and tops (thermal underwear, no cotton)

o Mid-weight fleece jacket

o Shell pants and shell jacket to stay dry in windy and snowy conditions

o Thick warm ski socks/stockings

o Warm waterproof ski gloves or mittens

o Warm waterproof snow boots or waterproof hiking boots

o Sunglasses

o Sun block

o Stocking cap/beanie

o Backpack to store extra layers and to carry water bottle and snacks.

  • Use the buddy system. Share watching out for each other with a friend. You both can remind one another to stay safe and look out for any warning signs of trouble and help, if needed.

If you’re well prepared, Tim says that your time in the mountains will be enjoyable and create good, lasting memories – even if you’re not training to win a gold medal!

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This article is provided as general information only. Please consult with your own physician or healthcare provider about the applicability of any these recommendations with respect to your own medical conditions and your ability to be in a high altitude environment.