Don't die of altitude sickness!
Every year, people die of altitude sickness. All of these deaths are preventable. If you are traveling above 8000 feet (2438 meters) read this information and tell your companions about it - it could save your life.
If you are renting our goats, we live at 7,300 feet (2,226 meters). Most of the mountains ranges that we rent the goats for are from 10,000 feet (3,048 meters) to 14,000 feet (4,267 meters)
Acute mountain sickness is an illness that can affect mountain climbers, hikers, skiers, or travelers. (And even goats.) And just because you have never had it before; that doesn't mean you never will.
Altitude sickness is the name given to the human body’s physiological reactions that occur as a result of low oxygen pressure that exists at high altitudes. At higher elevations oxygen levels decrease. The problem of Acute Mountain Sickness starts when acclimatization does not keep pace with your ascent to high altitude. This happens when you ascend to quickly or go from sea level to high altitudes in a day and your body cannot get as much oxygen as it needs or is accustomed too. Even the top endurance athletes know to get to a high altitude race location a few days early to acclimate to the altitude.
Acute mountain sickness is caused by reduced air pressure and lower oxygen levels at high altitudes.
The faster you climb to a high altitude, the more likely you will get acute mountain sickness.
You are at higher risk for acute mountain sickness if:
Your symptoms will also depend on the speed of your climb and how hard you push (exert) yourself. Symptoms range from mild to life-threatening. They can affect the nervous system, lungs, muscles, and heart.
In most cases, symptoms are mild. Symptoms of mild to moderate acute mountain sickness may include:
Symptoms that may occur with more severe acute mountain sickness include:
Early diagnosis is important. Acute mountain sickness is easier to treat in the early stages.
The main treatment for all forms of mountain sickness is to climb down (descend) to a lower altitude as rapidly and safely as possible. You should not continue climbing if you develop symptoms.
Extra oxygen should be given, if available.
People with severe mountain sickness may need to be admitted to a hospital.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your health care provider if you have or had symptoms of acute mountain sickness, even if you felt better when you returned to a lower altitude.
Call 911 or your local emergency number if you or another climber have any of the following symptoms:
Climb down the mountain immediately and as safely as possible.
Keys to preventing acute mountain sickness include:
If you are traveling above 9,840 feet (3,000 meters), you should carry enough oxygen for several days.
If you plan on quickly climbing to a high altitude, ask your doctor about a medication called acetazolamide (Diamox). This drug helps your body get used to higher altitudes more quickly, and reduces minor symptoms. It should be taken the day before you climb, and then for the next 1 to 2 days.
If you are at risk for a low red blood cell count (anemia), ask your doctor if an iron supplement is right for you. Anemia lowers the amount of oxygen in your blood. This makes you more likely to have mountain sickness.
You should avoid high altitudes if you have heart or lung disease.
Don’t forget to think about Weather!
The high country of the Rocky Mountains is noted for extreme weather patterns. Shaped by elevation, slope, and exposure, these patterns can change rapidly.
(The following is slanted to our area, but much is common to any mountainous area.)
Annual Climate Conditions
Temperatures are often moderate at elevations below 9,400' (2,865 m). At higher points, like passes, it may snow at any time of year. A wide variation between day and nighttime temperatures is also typical of mountain weather. Daily rain showers are not uncommon at higher altitudes.
Summer days in July and August often reach the 70's or 80's and drop into the 40's at night. All temperatures given are in Fahrenheit. You should automatically expect temperatures to be at least 10 to 15 degrees cooler in the higher elevations at any given time.
Hikers should always be prepared for a wide range of temperatures and weather conditions while hiking in the Uinta or Wind River Mountains. Temperatures in the mountains typically fluctuate as weather patterns change, especially at the higher elevations.
Most roads open in early June and provide access to lower-elevation campgrounds and lakes. Many higher lakes and trails are accessible by July 4th. Extremely high elevation areas start to dry out by the middle of July, and the highest passes usually open in late July. (These dates may be pushed up a bit when winters have light snowfall or when early summer temperatures are higher than normal; or delayed by extra heavy winter snowfall or colder than normal spring.)
Some high passes have snowy spots throughout the year, but should be passable from late July through the month of August. High passes may start to accumulate new snow in September.
August is the big month for backpack trips into the high country. Late July and early September can also be good. Some years October is dry and can be pleasant in the high mountains. But fall backpackers need to be extremely careful - harsh storms can arise in a hurry and trap campers.