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Avoid AMS – Acute Mountain Sickness?

Making your way through the snow. If you are flying upto Leh you are bound to experience AMS due to rapid altitude gain. An itinerary that takes you straight up to Khardungla or Pangong on the same day is unwise. The best way to prevent AMS is to avoid rapid ascents to high altitudes. If you fly or take a Bus, take it easy for at least first couple of days; this is enough for most travelers to get over any initial ill-effects and helps you acclimatize. You might step up your acclimatization plan by visiting sites like Stok Palace, Shanti Stupa, Magnetic Hill, Confluence point which are around town and for which you don’t have to get to a pass.

Read: How to travel responsibly in Ladakh?

Avoid AMS – Acute Mountain Sickness?-2 Within a week you should be ready for something a bit more adventurous, but do not push yourself to do anything that you are not comfortable with. To prevent acute mountain sickness:

1. Ascend slowly:

Have frequent rest days, spending two to three nights at each rise of 1000m. If you reach a high altitude by trekking / driving / cycling, acclimatisation takes place gradually and you are less likely to be affected than if you fly directly to high altitude. Even if you fly take it easy take a look around for a couple of days, rest a bit and try to get used to the air and water there.

Read: Frequently asked questions about Ladakh!

Avoid AMS – Acute Mountain Sickness?-3 Trekkers should bear in mind the climber’s adage of ‘climb high, sleep low’ It is always wise to sleep at a lower altitude than the greatest height that’s reached during the day. High day climbs followed by a descent back to lower altitudes for the night are very good preparation for high-altitude trekking. Also, once above 3000m, care should be taken not to increase the sleeping altitude by more than 400m per day. If the terrain won’t allow for less than 400m of elevation gain, be ready to take an extra day off before tackling the climb. Or even on a flatter terrain like the Chadar trek you should try and find places which are considerably lower in altitude.

Avoid AMS – Acute Mountain Sickness?-4

2. Drink extra fluids:

Ladakhs mountain air is cold and dry, and moisture is lost as you breathe. Evaporation of sweat may occur unnoticed and result in dehydration.Eat light, high-carbohydrate meals to keep up energy. Avoid alcohol as it may increase the risk of dehydration, and don’t smoke. Avoid sedatives. Drink only mineral water as the local water might have content your stomach is not used too, especially in Leh. When trekking, take a day off to rest and acclimatise if feeling overtired. If you or anyone else in your party is having a tough time, make allowances for unscheduled stops.

Avoid AMS – Acute Mountain Sickness?-5 Don’t push yourself when climbing up to passes; rather, take plenty of breaks. You can usually get over the pass as easily tomorrow as you can today. Try to plan your itinerary so that long ascents can be divided into two or more days. Given the complexity and unknown variables involved with AMS and acclimatisation, trekkers should always err on the side of caution and ascend mountains slowly. The agents around Leh will be ready to take you for a trek of Stok Kangri, a 6000+ peak, easiest but yet a major altitude gain but don’t fall trap to their convincing take your own decision and make a judgment which is both safe and sustainable.

Read: List of Must do Activities in Ladakh!
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