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Alaska Range 2023: Altitude | A Hard Lesson Learned!

A past mountaineering photo from the Himalayas and a reminder of why it is important to acclimate properly for altitude. Thinking I had acclimated well enough, I left on a solo climb of a nearby peak. At 18,000 feet, I scraped out a flat spot on a ledge to rest for a few hours. After an hour, felt unable to focus, became disoriented, and nauseous. I knew enough that it was the early stages of high altitude cerebral edema or HACE. By the time I got back on my feet, I had all I could do to concentrate on my footing and old tracks back down the mountain. Fighting back sickness, it was hard not to just lay down in the snow. The two thousand feet needed to descend seemed like an eternity. I reached the tent at the pass, laid sick for many hours and felt unwell for days afterword…a hard lesson learned.

That 2016 trip in Nepal seems so long ago and so far away from where we are today…getting altitude training in Leadville, Colorado. The town, once home to Doc Holiday, sits at 10,200 feet; just sleeping here builds red blood cells. This has been our 3 week basecamp for climbs, skis, and hikes in the surrounding mountains. My mind and body, once again, needs the Alaska Range this winter.

At 12,700, Marcy barks, our high point for today…time to go down.


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