Altitude – Information sheet

High altitude is defined as heights between 1,550m and 3,500m above sea level, very high altitude ranges from 3,500m to 5,500 and extreme altitude is 5,500m and above.

As we gain altitude air pressure reduces and oxygen content reduces, this makes it harder for us to take oxygen into our body. In addition to this barometric pressure is higher at the equator than the poles so ascending Kilimanjaro near the equator will seem easier than Mt Vinson in the Antarctic.

Get mountain fit

Most people who have an average level of fitness will be able to survive a trekking adventure, however there is a big difference between surviving the trip and being comfortable and enjoying it.

Preparing for your trek You should start your fitness training at least 4 months before your departure with a focus on key muscle groups: core, lower back, glutes, quads and hamstrings. Coming down is a lot harder on the knees so put some focus on the muscles that support your knees.

Looking after your feet

If you’re going trekking the most important part of your body are your feet, because without them, your not going anywhere. Picking the right boots and socks, training and general foot care and maintenance are all part of the strategy you will need to keep your feet in ‘tip top’ condition during your trek.

Take a look at our leaflet ‘LOOKING AFTER YOUR FEET’ for more information and tips…

Fuelling your body

Generally hill walkers in the mountains burn around 5,000 calories a day, which is similar to the amount of energy as a marathon runner. This makes it a difficult to consume as much energy as you burn when you are out.

What should we eat? Breakfast is the most important meal of the day! and this needs to be formed of high energy carbohydrates, ideal choices would be – porridge, muesli or beans on toast.

Rehydration

In high-altitude trekking and mountaineering difficulty in adjusting clothing to weather conditions, levels of exertion and respiratory fluid loss from hyperventilation in dry cold air commonly causes dehydration.

Dehydration at high altitude increases the likelihood of altitude sickness, hypothermia and frostbite.  So you should drink at every opportunity and learn to gauge hydration by volume and colour of urine (it should be a light yellow straw colour).

Only clean water should be used for fluid replacement, so the use of water purification drops or a water filter should also be considered and keep a mental note of how much water you drink during the day.    

Fitting your backpack

Correct fitting is very important to the comfort and fit of a backpack, it’s not simply a matter of throwing the pack on your back and fastening all the straps.

Improper backpack fit can also lead to poor posture and can lead risk for backpack-related injuries and discomfort.

Also, backpacks with tight, narrow straps that dig into the shoulders can interfere with circulation and nerves.

These types of straps can contribute to tingling, numbness, and weakness in the arms and hands. Select a backpack designed for the activity you are undertaking and download our backpack fitting info sheet.