Fighting AMS with a Strong Will and Focus

Fighting AMS with a Strong Will and Focus

Category Acute Mountain Sickness Altitude And Health

By Usha Hariprasad


It is a typical weekday and you see a young man wearing trekking boots and running up the stairs of a 13 storey building with a 5 kg backpack. He does this not once, but seven to eight times, working up a good sweat. This exercise is a part of Imran Bhaidani’s fitness regime to reach the Stok Kangri summit. He also included weight training, swimming, cardio and running in his fitness itinerary. After all, he wants to be in top form for scaling the summit. But what happens when his year long training is set up against the deadly AMS? 

Fast forward two months later, on August 15, the reporting day of the trek. Imran is suffering from symptoms of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS). He has been advised two days of rest. All the strenuous training for over a year has not prepared him enough for the dangers of AMS. And he says, “Nothing had mentally prepared me for this experience and acclimatization was becoming difficult to cope with.”

This is when he realised he had to change focus. “AMS had stripped me off my confidence and I had to reassess myself if I wished to continue on this dream trek. I had to help myself recover,” says Imran.

The experience taught him the importance of discipline. “There were a couple of things I realized. I had to force myself not to over exert on the trek and to follow all the guidelines handed out by the trek leader. I also took care not to miss my medications or meals and to keep myself hydrated during the trip,” says this trekker.

One of the suggestions given by trek leader Soumya Jyoti Mitra helped him cope. “The trek leader’s mantra was to sync up the breathing with heart rate and feet while trekking. And this advice helped me set a steady pace for myself,” says Imran. While some trekkers surged ahead in their excitement and exhausted themselves quickly, Imran just focused on his breathing.

Very soon, the trek leader asked him to lead a group of trekkers. “This was a big responsibility to me. The group seldom remained together. And there was a half hour time lag between the fast and slow trekkers in the group. I had to set a pace that would be comfortable to most trekkers in the group,” says Imran.

This responsibility helped him reinstate his confidence. And he felt he had it in him to make it to the summit.

But troubles never come singly. The day for the summit attempt arrived. Trekkers were asked to rest during the day but sleep eluded Imran. He assured himself that it would be fine. But then, people have very little control on sleep. “We started our summit attempt at 10 pm and after almost 1 hour of trekking, I started feeling very sleepy. The urge to sleep was so strong that I could not keep my eyes open. I never thought sleep could be such a big challenge,” says Imran, and adds, “We had to cross the glacier, the night was freezing and focus was becoming difficult with only the head light prodding me on. And we still had to ascend for another 7-8 hours.”

This was when his discipline and his sense of responsibility asserted itself. “I was leading a whole group and was setting the pace. And so I just could not afford to be lax now. So I pushed myself to climb on,” explains Imran.

Finally, after a couple of hours, the team of 12 reached the top. And Imran felt he had conquered the world.  He says,” All my efforts paid off; thanks to the challenges presented by the mountains I rediscovered myself.”

About Imran Bhaidani

Imran has been an avid trekker, hiking mainly in the Sahyadhri ranges and Stok Kangri was his first high altitude trek. He earned the tag of ‘Most Valuable Trekker’ in the August 15, 2014 batch for being helpful, disciplined and for his zeal in documenting videos at the camp sites.

Usha Hariprasad

About the author

Usha Hariprasad is a freelance writer and has worked with Citizen Matters, Alternative and Indus Ladies writing about travel and green living. She worked in the IT field for 5 years before deciding to follow her passion for writing. She is now part of the content and tech team at Indihahikes.