Basic Precautions To Take On High Altitude Treks

Yesterday, a trekker wrote to me saying our Rupin Pass dates are full and that he was being forced to trek with another organisation. Immediately I got worried.

It was not because he wasn’t trekking with us. It was because Rupin Pass is a trek that climbs above 15,000 ft. I don’t even want to think of how much can go wrong without the right expertise and knowledge — altitude sickness, lack of easy medical aid, technical risks, difficult exits, the list goes on.

I did the only thing I could — give him advice and some good material to read up before going on the trek.

I thought of sharing that with you today. This email is simply to ensure that no matter where you’re trekking, with whom you’re trekking, you have the basic knowledge to tackle issues at high altitude.

In our experience, on treks that rise above 13,000 feet 1 in 4 trekkers experience altitude related issues which can be potentially life threatening.

With summer treks set to begin, climbing to 13,000 ft and above, this is basic knowledge for all of us.

So today, I’ve selected 7 articles for you.

Three of them are written by our founder, Arjun Majumdar. There are some very good insights about safety on high altitude treks.

The next four are to do with altitude sickness, how to prevent it, or in the event that you see someone with altitude sickness, how to recognise it and how to treat it.

There’s no other way to put it — these articles could help you save a life.

On safety

1. How mental preparation for a trek can mean the difference between life and death

This post narrates a surprisingly true story. “Surprising” because you’ll find it hard to believe when you read it. Even when I heard the story, I found it difficult to digest it.  

Through this story, Arjun lays emphasis on the mental preparation that’s required on every trekker’s part before coming on a trek.

How mental preparation for a trek can mean the difference between life and death

2. Why trekkers need to take safety more seriously

Have you ever gone on a trek without first getting fit? I know I have. And I paid the price for it with an awful trek experience. And I know I’m not alone in this.

In this post, our founder addresses exactly this set of trekkers — those who think it’s okay to not physically prepare for a trek.

It is a long-ish post, but given the amount of high quality conversation this topic generates, I know that it’s something many trekkers feel strongly about.

Why Trekkers need to take Safety on Treks more Seriously

3. How Indiahikes is making your trek safe

When it comes to safety, our vision is simple. We just ask ourselves, “If I send my mom on a trek, will I blindly trust the organisation with her life?”

We have worked towards a “yes” over the past years and achieved it. I wouldn’t bat an eyelid if I had to send my mom on a trek with our team.

So our founder notes down in great detail about the safety measures we have taken to achieve this “yes.” He talks about our people, our processes, our equipment.

Any organisation, he believes, should follow these basic measures to keep trekkers in our country safe. It takes years to put these in place, but it’s a requirement.

How Indiahikes is making your trek safe


On altitude sickness

1. What Happens To Your Body At High Altitude

I don’t know if you remember, Su, but I had put down a series of four posts last year about altitude sickness. This is the first of the series.

What is normal bodily behaviour at high altitude? What is abnormal? Why does it happen? This post covers this complicated topic in the most basic way possible.

Even if you’re taking children on a trek, make them read it. It’s general knowledge.

What Happens To Your Body At High Altitude

2. What Is Altitude Sickness? A Quick Look At AMS, HAPE And HACE

Interestingly, “altitude sickness” is a blanket term for different kinds of illnesses — it could be something as simple as a slight swelling in your fingers to something as severe as fluid accumulation in your brain.

In this post, I cover the mildest form of altitude sickness and progress to the more nasty forms — that’s Acute Mountain Sickness, High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE) and High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE).

Just knowing the science behind these is not enough though. You must know how to recognise the symptoms. Not recognising the symptoms is where the problem lies. A major portion of this article is about the symptoms and how to identify and distinguish them.

What Is Altitude Sickness? A Quick Look At AMS, HAPE And HACE

3. How To Treat Altitude Sickness – AMS, HAPE, & HACE

When it comes to altitude sickness, the golden rule is to stop it in its initial stages. The later it gets, the more dangerous it gets, and it could even turn fatal.

But to stop it even in its initial stages, you must know how.

After you read this post, you’ll know what medicines you need, how to administer them in emergencies and what SOS actions to take.

It also contains a supremely useful guide about everything to do with AMS. You can download it for free on this page.

How To Treat Altitude Sickness – AMS, HAPE, & HACE

4. How to Prevent Altitude Sickness

If I could have a penny for every email I get about a preventive course of Diamox, I’d be able to go on a free trek by now. 😛

Jokes apart, in this post, I’m talking about something you would surely want to know – avoiding altitude sickness.

I’d like to first put a disclaimer — there’s no fool-proof way of preventing altitude sickness.

All these methods I’m putting down will reduce your chances of getting altitude sickness. And from our experience, they’re worth it.

How To Prevent Altitude Sickness

A note about these posts

None of these posts are specific to Indiahikes trekkers. They are resources for the entire trekking community.

With more and more people taking to trekking as a sport, it’s important for us to discuss these topics. Please share them with your trek mates. Let’s try to have no bad news about trekking this year!

If you have any questions, drop in comments on the articles I’ve shared. One of us from Indiahikes will write back to you!

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Swathi Chatrapathy

Swathi Chatrapathy

Swathi Chatrapathy is the Chief Editor at Indiahikes. She also runs a video series, Trek With Swathi. Before joining Indiahikes, she worked as a reporter and sub-editor at Deccan Chronicle. She holds a Masters in Digital Journalism and continues to contribute to publications such as Deccan Herald. Trekking, to her, is a sport that liberates that mind like nothing else can.Read Swathi's other articles. Watch Swathi's video series here.

2 thoughts on “Basic Precautions To Take On High Altitude Treks

  1. Personally I was annoyed to see the must fulfill fitness criteria. Now I’m convinced.
    Thanks. This is very helpful post.

  2. A common problem with people living sedentary lives is that they cannot imagine how bad it can be. I have seen persons from Mumbai hit Delhi in peak winter and planning to go to Musoorie or Shimla to see snowfall carrying “fashion wear woolens”. Even those fairly active in their youth and now sedentary over estimate their abilities in middle age. The posts you have put up are pretty illuminating, the problem is few of first time trekkers really read these. Often an enthusiast rounds up and gets some friends to join in on the adventure. These others have no idea what they are in for. Maybe you could add a certificate to be signed by the each would be trekkers that they have read and understood the contents of these posts! The idea is not to frighten them away but to ensure they are physically and mentally prepared to enjoy the pleasures of trekking.
    The move towards renting of trekking gear is also a great improvement.

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