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FLmom Jan 26th, 2007 07:00 AM

Elevation Changes; Seeking Experiences and Advice.
This summer, we will travel from Sarasota, Fl to the National Parks of the West; GCNP, Zion, Bryce, GTNP and YNP. We will fly into Phoenix and the drive for the next two and 1/2 weeks hiking and exploring the parks and then fly out of Billings.

What, if anything, can we do to prepare ourselves? How long will it take to acclimate? What have some of you experienced when vacationing at a different elevation? What kind of ďsymptomsĒ or changes should we feel, it any?

P.S. Mother, 44 Daughter, 13

wsoxrebel Jan 26th, 2007 07:06 AM

I was shocked how winded I got hiking at the higher elevations. I couldn't do as much as I wanted to do.

historytraveler Jan 26th, 2007 07:14 AM

Altitude affect people differently, so it's impossible to say how you and your daughter will fare.

However, Zion and Bryce aren't really that high and you will also have some time to adapt before you get there. As for other parks, I imagine you will have become use to the altitude by then too. You can't really prepare for high altitude so just take it easy the first couple of days and always stay hydrated.

Dayle Jan 26th, 2007 07:18 AM

FL Mom,

Altitude affects each person differently and there are a wide range of symptoms. Acclimation is also different with each person.

Symptoms include (obviously) shortness of breath, headache, nausea, gas, not being able to sleep, loss of appetite.

Being in very good shape and regular exercise at home will help tremendously.

Also - drink gallons of water and always have more handy. Much, much more than you think you need to. In our dry climate you do not realize how much water you are losing and need to replace. Start drinking water on the plane out! No alcohol!

Keep a little food in your stomach all the time. Lots of little high energy snacks between meals and while hiking. Fruit is especially good.

I live in Park City, UT and my house is at 6500 ft. Unfortunately, the people I see who suffer the most from elevation are those from Florida. Don't know why that is, I guess the combination of altitude and dry climate which is totally the opposite of what you are used to.

You will still have fun - just take it easy.

Gardyloo Jan 26th, 2007 07:31 AM

Bryce is the highest of the bunch, at 8000 - 9000 ft at the rim, around 1000 ft. higher than the (south) rim at Grand Canyon.

Most people adapt to <10,000 ft in a couple of days or so, but people aren't clones and level of activity etc. plays a big role.

FLmom Jan 26th, 2007 07:34 AM

Exactly, Dayle, itís the humidity and the altitude Iím worried about. I had a friend who flew out to Vegas and came home early because her eyes and nose were so adversely affected by the change in climate she couldnít function.

Iíve upped my cardio and started to do some strength training. Weíve got till June and Iím planning on lots of chapstick and saline drops, I wear contact lens.

Iíve heard you donít feel sweaty because itís so dry, so you donít realize how much water you need, so weíll really have to pay attention to that.

Dukey Jan 26th, 2007 07:47 AM

I grew up in a twon at elev 7200 feet. A lot is going to depend on your usual activity level AND how hard you push it once you first arrive.

I've seen athletes who needed supplemental oxygen when they first arrived in our town and these people were in VERY good shape.

Dayle Jan 26th, 2007 08:10 AM

FL Mom,

Don't forget the hats, sunglasses, sunscreen (more than 40 SPF)and moisturizing lotions! Lip balm with sunscreen too.

socialworker Jan 26th, 2007 08:11 AM

First of all, google all the relevant info you can on altitude acclimation and see what links it sends you to...

When I was very young, I would only get winded. As I got older, I would get an unpleasant headache the first night and then would be OK. My husband, OTOH, who had no symptoms (or just did not notice them) when young, has developed altitude sickness in late middle age and must take a prescription med before leaving for a trip and for the first few days at the high altitude. As you will find a *wealth* of info when you google, I will not attempt to poorly summarize it. What seems to matter most is the altitude that you sleep at, so if your lodgings can be lower than your daily activities, that is good.

DebitNM Jan 26th, 2007 08:16 AM

Here is a thread with similar question and answers:;tid=34865407

type in altitute in the search box at top of this page to see other threads.

Hope this helps...

FLmom Jan 26th, 2007 08:34 AM

If I find that I do have trouble sleeping, is it safe to use a Unisom or something like that? I sleep like a baby at sea level and don't need the help of a sleep aide except on rare occasions.

socialworker Jan 26th, 2007 08:36 AM

One more thing....of course, being "in shape" is always better than not being so, but husband who is much more cardiovascularly fit than I, is the one who suffers w/altitude sickness, whereas I do not. Don't mean to discourage you in any way, just that the cardio is not a guarantee that you will not have a problem...

christy1 Jan 26th, 2007 08:41 AM

I seriously doubt that you will have difficulties with elevation at these parks, unless you do hikes with some significant elevation gain. In that case, you will probably just get more fatigued than usual, or maybe a slight headache. The elevation at the visitor's centers and sights at each of these parks just isn't that high-in my many trips to each of them (and all the conversations I've had with others going there) I've never seen or heard of people having problems. I guess everyone is different, though, so I'm not saying it can't happen, I just think it's a lot rarer than you think at those elevations.

In any case, I wouldn't actively "worry" about it. I think focusing/fixating on it might make something that isn't very likely to bother you (at least not in any significant way) a bigger problem that it would otherwise be.

TheWeasel Jan 26th, 2007 08:50 AM

I totally agree with Christy1. GTNP has the highest elevations, and by the time you get there you'll be somewhat acclimated. Before that, it's just not much of an issue. The bigger issue will be the low humidity, but if you listen to your body and drink adequate water (not gallons and gallons) you'll be fine.

J_Correa Jan 26th, 2007 08:55 AM

I'd be more concerned about the dryness than that altitude - coming from Florida, this could be a shock to your system. As others have said - drink water, put on lots of lotion, wear sunscreen, and of course - don't forget your chapstick. The altitude will probably affect you too, but you will be driving to the higher altitudes from Phoenix, so you should be able to acclimate reasonably well.

Dayle Jan 26th, 2007 09:12 AM

Serious altitude "sickness" is rarely a problem. But - most people coming from lower altitudes, especially sea level do "feel" it in some way.

You will notice it most at Bryce.

LauraATL Jan 26th, 2007 09:35 AM

I just returned from Breckenridge, CO (10,000 ft) and had a terrible time with altitude sickness. So much so that I couldn't ski this trip. I felt naseous and dizzy the entire time. Walking up a flight of stairs made me feel like I was going to pass out. I exercise regularly and have never felt so winded. Also the dryness of the air effected me alot- had to leave a pot of water boiling at the condo the entire time, and could not drink enough water. I ended up buying cans of oxygen to do breathing treatments and it helped tremendously- they are sold at all the drug stores.

FLmom Jan 26th, 2007 09:37 AM

By the time we get to Bryce, we'll have been "on the ground" for 6 days so that should help.

What do you thinks about the sleeping and Unisom thing?

nytraveler Jan 26th, 2007 09:38 AM

As others have noted altitudes affect different people diferently.

As long as you're not a smoker (never smoked) and are in good physical condition you should have no trouble with your normal activities up to about 4-5,000 feet. Over that - and it starts to affect some people. When you get to very high altitudes - 12-13,000 feet - it affects almost everyone at first, some severely.

The key at first is to do less than you usually do - not plan on more - and work up your endurance slowly. (If you're hiking 5 miles at sea level don;t assume you can do the same - or at the same speed - at 6,000 feet. Assume you can do less - and if you start to feel out of breath take a rest immediately. Also - as others have mentioned - keeping hydraterd is important.

If you want to do 5/6 miles hikes at higher altitudes you need to train by going much further at sea level. (I did a meeting in Mexico City several years ago and one of the participants was a marathoner. He tried to go for a run there and came back in 15 minutes ready to collapse. And I usually walk a lot in NYC and found myself breathing heavily after walkingonly about half a mile. Of course, there the awful air pollution is probably much more of a factor than the altitude.)

FLmom Jan 26th, 2007 09:40 AM

WOW, Laura, so sorry you had that happen to you. Sounds like what happened to the friend I mentioned, she just came home she was so messed up. It's sounding more and more like it's hit or miss.

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