Tyler EBC

How I Survived Altitude Sickness

Tyler Rivenbark Nepal 11 Comments

About a week ago, my family and I hiked to Everest Base Camp (EBC) trek. The day after reaching EBC, my Dad, Indra (our EBC guide), and I tried to hike to the summit of Kala Patthar. When we were almost at the top, I got altitude sickness. It was terrible, and now I will tell you about how you can get it, what it feels like, and how to treat it.

What is Altitude Sickness?

Altitude sickness occurs anywhere above 2,400 meters. Climbers usually get altitude sickness when they climb too high too fast. That’s why we did acclimatization hikes on our trek.

Some signs and symptoms are headache, nausea, fatigue and dizziness, shortness of breath, insomnia, and nosebleed. If you don’t go down immediately, it can lead to pulmonary edema and cerebral edema. This will then, sadly, kill you.

EBC Warning Sign

If you notice that you are starting to get altitude sickness, GO DOWN IMMEDIATELY! If you don’t go down ASAP, it can get lethal.

A good thing to have once you go down, and after the altitude sickness goes away, are some tea and chocolate. The tea can settle your stomach, and the chocolate will give you everlasting deliciousness!

The town of Gorak Shep with Kala Patthar in the background.

Gorak Shep

What is it like to get Altitude Sickness?

When I got altitude sickness, it was a wild ride. Since I was at about 5500m (18,000 ft.), it was super hard to breath. I would walk for a little and get very tired. The first thing I felt was extreme tiredness. I kept panting and couldn’t catch my breath when we stopped. Then, my whole body got really tingly, and I felt like I had to go down immediately. Dad called to Indra to come over, and he picked me up and ran me down the mountain on his back. I started throwing up all over myself, but when we got back down to Gorak Shep (5100m) I was already feeling better. I didn’t have any more altitude sickness, and I just laid down and relaxed while drinking tea to settle my body.

In conclusion, altitude sickness is a crazy thing to get, and if you do get it, you should descend as fast as you can. We saw trekkers along the way dealing with some degree of altitude sickness. We also saw several helicopters a day rescuing people with altitude sickness. I was lucky that we recognized the symptoms early and treated it immediately.


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Comments 11

  1. Hi Tyler,

    Just stumbled upon your article that shares your experience of altitude sickness. Yes, if you gain the height rapidly then you are sure to have AMS. There is some medication like Diamox which helps. You did the right thing getting down to lower altitude.

    There is a ton of information regarding Altitude Mountain Sickness (AMS) in your article, which will definitely be a guide for high altitude trekkers.

    Nicely written.

    Keep up the good work.

    Cheers:)

  2. Agreed that this is often a problem not just with climbing too high too quickly, but also where you’re coming from. We frequently have people from out of town come into the urgent care center I work at even after coming down off the mountain. The local microbrew scene doesn’t help, either. Stay safe at altitude everyone, altitude sickness is no joke.

  3. I plan on going to bench lake (california backpacking trip), and will hit a high of 11k ft (~3500m?), before descending. We will be camping lower, around maybe 9kft, before pushing over etc.. to the other side. Is altitude sickness, the extreme version, something I need to worry about?
    I heard dark dark chocolate helps altitude sickness. Any thoughts?

    1. Everyone is different, and at 11K and 9K, most likely you will be OK, but it’s not a guarantee. I have not heard about the benefits of dark chocolate, but it sounds good to me! Staying hydrated is very important and just pay attention to your symptoms. Cheers, Julie

  4. Tyler, I love your posts! I am delighted that you have had no lasting effects from the altitude sickness. The next time I feel ill, I will try some chocolate because I want to share that everlasting deliciousness.

    1. We are now in Pokhara, a town in Nepal on a lake. Will be here for four more days, travel back to Kathmandu by eight hour bus (not fun…but cheap!), then fly to Bhutan. We have one week in Bhutan and then five weeks in India. A little nervous about India; Nepal is a good warm up for it, I hope.

  5. so glad your are feeling better. It must have been a little scary. Thanks for explaining the signs and symptoms and most importantly, that you are better now.

  6. Tyler
    Thanks for sharing that with us!
    We are glad you are ok and you have educated us all on altitude sickness .
    Well written

  7. Glad you are OK Tyler… one more experience for your records!!!
    My son also got altitude sickness when we went to Machu Pichu …. not as bad as you but a bit
    I am glad you got to base camp!!! … save the memories and enjoy the rest of your trip

    Sonia

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