High Altitude Climbing and Acute Mountain Sickness

everest-top

 I have been researching the impact that high altitude climbing will have on my body, what I can expect, what I can do to assist my body’s ability to cope.

And importantly, to be able to recognise the onset of Acute Mountain Sickness in its more serious forms.

Acute Mountain Sickness, AMS as it is often referred to, is the effect the declining number of molecules of oxygen in the atmosphere has on our body as we ascend in altitude. It can range from a mild illness, to the more severe life-threatening forms of the illness, such as High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE), and High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE).

The latter two conditions require immediate attention and descent from altitude otherwise death is the most likely outcome.

I’m not intending to go into a great discussion on either, nor am I qualified to do so, but as part of my journey “To Climb a Mountain” I want to gain a better understanding of both conditions.

High altitude is defined as 5,000 to 11,500 feet, very high altitude 11,500 to 18,000, and extreme altitude as 18,000 feet and above.  At extreme altitudes physiologic function will outstrip  acclimatisation eventually.

My reading has taken me across a wide variety of topics, but the one that caught my attention was the connection between muscle and the requirement to fuel our muscles with oxygen when under exertion.

Over the years I have trained as a power-lifter for strength purposes and I have achieved results I am happy with.  As a consequence I have grown muscularly and currently weigh-in around the 95 kilogram mark.  This has given me a good power-for-weight ratio and has enhanced my speed on the kayak over the short to mid sprint distances.

Power-lifting has helped me develop strong legs, especially my quads through squatting, and dead-lifting.

Will this muscle help, or hinder me on the mountain as I trudge up the side of an 8,000 metre peak?

When exercising, the body, or more specifically the contracting muscles have an increased need for oxygen and this is usually achieved by a higher blood flow to these muscles.

And therein lies the dilemma as I see it.

Due to the less dense air at altitude the number of oxygen molecules for any given mass of air will drop. Consequently, mental and physical performance will decline, and the larger the muscles, the larger the requirement for oxygen to prevent muscular fatigue…

So what can I do?

There is not a lot that you can do to prepare for the effect of AMS, some people will adapt and perform better at altitude than others and this is hard to predict from one individual to another.

What I can do is decrease my muscle mass, and whilst that will mean a decrease in overall strength I can try and maintain the power for weight ratio balance.

The upshot of all this is that ahead of my expedition to Nepal in April I will deliberately take around 10-12 kilograms out of my frame…

The climbs in Nepal will be done without the aid of supplemental oxygen.

I won’t be changing my training routine greatly, I will maintain some weight training, rowing and kayaking, and importantly, a daily walk of around 10-kilometres with a 25-kilogram backpack at silly o’clock in the morning (that is 4:00am).

The best way to control weight change, either gaining, or losing, is via your diet and that starts in the  kitchen.

Baz – The Landy (In my home gym in the “Shed”)

 

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The loss of a loved one

The enormity of losing a loved one, a friend, is only surpassed by the haplessness one feels that they did not hear or recognise those faint cries for help…

Six years have now passed since we lost a very dear friend, a sister, a daughter.

The Fawthrop Sisters...
The Fawthrop Sisters…Marion, Janet, Mary and Leah

Marion, one of four Fawthrop girls and Janet’s sister, suffered greatly from a terrible affliction called Meniere’s disease. Tragically, just ahead of her 50th birthday the pain of Meniere’s, which had come and gone throughout her life, became far too much to bear any longer and she sought the refuge, the comfort of another world where she could be freed from the bondage of the pain it caused her.

In those early times following Marion’s passing we all shed many tears, and a day never passes where Marion isn’t still a part of our lives, a casual smile here, your mind’s eye seeing her dressed up in all her finery.

Marion loved to dress up, to party.

Millie Marion
Millie Marion

And still, there are those moments where the tears well in our eyes…

Please take the time to understand the suffering that people afflicted with Meniere’s experience, and if you are able, please support either the Australian Meniere’s Research Foundation, or perhaps locate one in the country you live in.

 

Millie Marion
Millie Marion

Personally, I take great comfort knowing that wherever Marion is, she will be dressed to the ‘nines, holding court, a small glass of champagne in one hand, and a packet of fags in the other. It wouldn’t be any other way – and crikey, ain’t that the truth…

Baz, The Landy…

The Pain of the loss of a loved one (Meniere’s disease)

The enormity of losing a loved one, a friend, is only surpassed by the haplessness one feels that they did not hear or recognise those faint cries for help…

Five years have now passed since we lost a very dear friend, a sister, a daughter.

The Fawthrop Sisters...
The Fawthrop Sisters…Marion, Janet, Mary and Leah

Marion, one of four Fawthrop girls and Janet’s sister, suffered greatly from a terrible affliction called Meniere’s disease. Tragically, just ahead of her 50th birthday the pain of Meniere’s, which had come and gone throughout her life, became far too much to bear any longer and she sought the refuge, the comfort of another world where she could be freed from the bondage of the pain it caused her.

In those early times following Marion’s passing we all shed many tears, and a day never passes where Marion isn’t still a part of our lives, a casual smile here, your mind’s eye seeing her dressed up in all her finery.

Marion loved to dress up, to party.

Millie Marion
Millie Marion

And still, there are those moments where the tears well in our eyes…

Marion was a great lover of the Arts and had many friends in the art world.  And it is something that runs in the family, as Leah, the youngest of the girl’s is a wonderful artist, having studied artistic photography, among other things…

As a tribute to Marion, Leah came up with the idea of creating Marion’s Artree, where works of art with a Christmas theme, along with Christmas decorations are handmade by artists’, craft workers and designers.

Christmas Decorations
Christmas Decorations

People whom Marion touched, and others whom she never knew generously donating their time and works for sale, with proceeds going to advance Meniere’s Research.

Please take the time to understand the suffering that people afflicted with Meniere’s experience, and if you are able, please support either the Australian Meniere’s Research Foundation, or perhaps locate one in the country you live in.

Leah and Janet’s Facebook Page, Marion’s Artree, provides more detail…

And bravo, Leah and Janet, and mother, Clare, you have all shown tremendous courage these past few years. We can’t bring Millie-Marion back, but she is always with us, and what a great way to bring an awareness of Meniere’s disease and to help and support others who also suffer…

Millie Marion
Millie Marion

Personally, I take great comfort knowing that wherever Marion is, she will be dressed to the ‘nines, holding court, a small glass of champagne in one hand, and a packet of fags in the other. It wouldn’t be any other way – and crikey, ain’t that the truth…

Baz, The Landy…

Strewth – Talk about an Aussie Icon (The shed, not me!)

The Shed - Font of all knowledge (and my daily training ground)
The Shed – Font of all knowledge (and my daily training ground)

You’ve got to love the Aussie Shed, wouldn’t be caught dead without mine…

It is full of exercise equipment; no Janet, I said exercise equipment, they aren’t medieval implements designed to inflict pain, although, come to think of it…

Baz - A daily dose of weight bearing exercise
Baz – A daily dose of weight bearing exercise

Anyway, I’m pleased to say I’m back into full swing up in The Shed, making that 4.30am journey up the garden path, passing the dogs, MilO and Jack, who wave me through with complete indifference.

MilO - The Wonder Dog
MilO – The Wonder Dog

And yes, I hard you whispering, “crikey he needs it!”

I must confess to being an early morning person, I guess you’d have to be to manage a 4.30am start each day, but it does have its advantages.

Baz - Concept C2 Rower
Baz – Concept C2 Rower

In between the clanging of weight plates being moved, interval sets on the rower or spin bike, I can stand outside in the pre-dawn silence and marvel at the stars in the sky…

Our wondrous universe…

How bloody good is that, hey!

Yep, I’m a daydreamer, that’s for sure…and by the look of it, TomO has caught the day-dreaming bug!

TomO - A day-dreamer
TomO – A day-dreamer

Hey, it’s good to be back at it!

And remember, if all else fails, just remain out of control and see what develops… 😉

Photos: Janet-Planet…

Strewth, talk about Jet-setters (They’re diddling off)

Scarborough - Redcliffe Penninsular
Scarborough – Redcliffe Penninsular

 

Today marks the first day of TomO’s mid year break from school, and let me say it seems like only yesterday the school term had begun.

Crikey, why wasn’t school like that when I was a young whipper snipper?

Hell, hang-on I’m still a young whipper snipper, at heart…

Janet and TomO aren’t ones to waste a moment of living, so today they will jet-set out of Sydney, accompanying Janet’s mother, Clare, on a visit to her sister who lives in the wonderful Devon area in the south of England.

For those who visit regularly you may recall that Janet’s father, Archie, passed away about a month ago after a long and wonderful life and not too far short of his 100th year.

Archie - Have Pith Helmet, will travel
Archie – Have Pith Helmet, will travel

Archie always had a passion for travel and seemingly with all the travel TomO has done over the past twelve months it is becoming quite obvious there is only a “sheet of tissue paper” between Poppa Archie and grandson TomO!

It’ll only be a matter of time before TomO will turn up in a Pith Helmet, for sure!

Of course, as many will recall we had all planned to be in Nepal later this year for my climbing expedition, but as I am still recovering from my recent Achilles tendon operation we’ve put those plans aside for the moment.

After all the mountains aren’t going anywhere!

Usually, we travel as a family to experience this wonderful world together…

Always together - Always smiling (Well mostly!)
Always together – Always smiling (Well mostly!)

But now is the time for both of us to spend time with our families.  Janet in support of her mother Clare, and me with my family.

It would almost seem a cruel twist of fate, but having just lost a great mate in Janet’s father, Archie, my father, Brian, has been admitted to palliative care in his hometown on the Redcliffe Peninsular, suffering from an illness that will take him from us shortly.

Brian and Fay - 50th Wedding Anniversary
Brian and Fay – 50th Wedding Anniversary

Mind you, he is a man of great faith and he is showing tremendous courage at this time. I said at the time of Archie’s passing that it was hard to be sad when we have so much to be happy about, to have shared our lives with them.

Life, you never know what it is going to dish out to you, but one thing for sure is all you can ever do is live the best way you can…and only one moment at a time.

It’s a bit of a lottery (Crikey – Deep Vein Thrombosis)

Recovering

With my recovery coming along and after a fortnight off work I decided to return to the cut and thrust of foreign exchange dealing this week. 

 And don’t let on to my colleagues, but I’ve been missing them and the fun times we have, after all we’ve been doing it together for a long time!

I had a practice driving Janet’s car on the weekend, in preparation for the week ahead, as it is an automatic, enabling me to drive myself to work, and yes, I know, it isn’t quite Red Rover

But it was Monday morning and I was pleased to be heading across the Harbour Bridge and looking forward to the day ahead; after all doing nothing is hard work!

Crossing Sydney Harbour Bridge in Red Rover
Crossing Sydney Harbour Bridge in Red Rover

Well, it was short-lived!

I began to notice some pain in my calf muscle around mid-morning and was thinking it was maybe just my sitting position. I was almost inclined to the old adage “suck it up princess” but after becoming more uncomfortable I thought it best to speak with my surgeon.

It had been impressed on me that after any surgery blood clotting in your veins is possible. Deep Vein Thrombosis or DVT is the technical term they use, and it presents just like an aching muscle in the initial stages.

Naturally, he sent me for an immediate ultra-sound test, and yes, there is clotting; DVT evident…

So I’m now on a heavy dose of blood thinner, something I’m not too enthusiastic about, and back on the couch for another day or two to give it a chance to settle down and the medication to do its work!

Oddly enough, I suspect that if everyone who had surgery was scanned for DVT there would be a far greater number of people detected, so clearly many instances perhaps just resolve themselves or go unchecked.

However, once identified and with the risk of it becoming a more serious condition like Pulmonary embolism, it needs to be treated appropriately!

My journey to the mountains is taking a path I didn’t foresee, but I guess it is all part of the journey!

Baz - Climbing in New Zealand
Baz – Climbing in New Zealand

 

 

Herding Cats (Strewth – doing nothing is hard work)

Baz and MilO
Baz and MilO

Almost two weeks have passed since I had surgery on both ankles and recovery seems to be going well.  I’ve been getting plenty of rest on the couch, a few books, some movies, and lots of sleep. 

I’ll be seeing the Doctor tomorrow and will have the stitches out and my first physiotherapy session.

But I can’t wait to get back into training for the climb in Nepal this coming November, but slowly does it…

Janet and TomO on Fox Glacier, New Zealand
Janet and TomO 

And Janet & TomO have been fantastic, as usual, although Janet was heard to quip to a friend the other day, that keeping me resting is like telling our beautiful Border Collie, MilO, to sit still.

A bit like herding cats, she laughed…

MilO - The Wonder Dog
MilO – The Wonder Dog

Thanks to all for your wonderful messages of support, the best way I can repay your kind thoughts is to stand tall on those big mountains I want to climb, and give you a window into the beautiful Australian Outback at other times…

Cheers, Baz, The Landy

Baz - The Landy
Baz – The Landy