Article - High altitude climbing by Jennifer Bateman

How to Prepare for High-Altitude Rock Climbing 

Amsterdam’s rock and mountain climbers, like the rest of adventurers in the country, were thrown into excitement in the early-2010s when the much anticipated creation of an artificial mountain in the Netherlands gradually inched towards becoming a reality. Once regarded as an impalpable joke, the idea of erecting a 2000-meter high artificial mountain has been gaining momentum in a country whose highest natural altitude point, the Vaalserberg, stands at a mere 323 meters. It was reported that the designers of the proposed structure were considering incorporating climbing cliffs, skiing slopes, hiking trails and many other features that are characteristic of natural mountains.  

When you look at these prospects from a different angle, it simply means that Netherlands as a whole offers low-altitude rock climbing experiences. As such, Dutch rock climbers will have to wait until the realization of the 2000-meter dream mountain before they begin talking anything about high-altitude in the country’s geographic terrain. So, what does this imply for the Dutch who go for rock climbing expeditions in high altitude destinations in other parts of the world?

For an expatriate used to high-altitude rock climbing experiences, exploiting the Dutch geographic terrain would definitely be a child’s play. However, for the Dutch going out there for high-altitude rock or mountain climbing adventures, innumerable challenges would lay waiting. It would definitely be a whole new experience. This is because high-altitude climbing usually presents extreme difficulties to even the most seasoned climbers of them all.

The Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) in one such challenge that climbers experience once they hit high-altitude mountain areas. The AMS manifests the moment you begin feeling drowsy, queasy, breathing difficulties, elongated physical exhaustion and general lack of sleep. These feelings are usually exacerbated by hypoxia, that is, limited air supply that you experience once you hit the high altitude sections of any given mountain. As such, it is paramount to prepare adequately for high-altitude rock or mountain climbing so as to withstand these challenges. There are various precautionary measures that you can take towards ensuring a safe climbing experience.

Preparing for High-Altitude Climbing

You can always minimize the potential consequences of AMS complications through acclimatization during your preliminary preparations. This involves exposing your body to similar conditions that you expect to encounter at your high altitude climbing destinations. This conditioning actually tunes up your body in such ways that make it possible for you to adjust favorably to graduating atmospheric changes in high altitudes. You should then visit your physician for a medical check up to ensure that you are physically sound to undertake a high-altitude rock climbing challenge. It is also important to secure a private health insurance policy to avoid the possibilities of having to foot inflated medical bills just in case you end up in a hospital as a result of devastating AMS complications. Ensure that you settle for a health insurance policy that covers rock and mountain climbing risks, especially with regards to your expeditions in international destinations. Ensure that you get all these procedures right because the Altitude Research Center cautions that climbers, regardless of their climbing qualifications and experiences, are prone to AMS complications.

The Actual Climbing Expedition

When it comes to the actual climbing expedition, you will need to carry sufficient amount of water and the appropriate prescription drugs that will help you to regulate your body conditions whenever necessary. Diamox is one such prescription drugs that are suitable for climbing expeditions. However, any prescription drugs that you take with you must be prescribed by your doctor. Always leave it to the discretion of your physician to determine the type of prescription drugs that you may have to take along with you.      

Above all, take some company such as fellow climbers from your local club with you. There are also a number of mountain climbing guides that are usually stationed in different destinations. Do not hesitate to consult them if you are not familiar with the terrain a mountain and keep constant touch with ground stations during the climbing. If you are an experienced rock or mountain climber, this could be an opportune moment to take some beginners with you and guide them through the experience. For beginners, it is advisable not to even think of taking such challenging expeditions without the company of expert climbers.

- Jennifer Bateman.

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Comment by Ludger on March 17, 2013 at 13:58

Good one..

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