Acute Mountain Sickness
Often shortened to AMS, Acute Mountain Sickness is the body's reaction to a lack of oxygen, caused by ascent at a faster pace than acclimatisation. AMS seems to defy research - we still cannot predict who will or won't get AMS, or which conditions cause the specific types of AMS. Despite is prevalence and public awareness, AMS can be said to still baffle scientists after all this time. As far as we know AMS is thought to be caused by swelling of the brain tissue, which occurs in response to a lack of oxygen(hypoxic stress.)
Because we know so little about this affliction, a common rule of thumb is to treat any illness at altitude as altitude sickness. Many people think it is normal to have a headache at altitude when in fact it is not, it is very rare. For this reason if you plan to spend any time at altitude it would be wise to know the signs of AMS. Some people have described it to be similar to a hangover.
Symptoms include a headache partnered with any of the following:
A headache typically occurs around the second or third day at high altitude. The headache can range from mild to severe and is characterised by throbbing in the temples and or the back of the head. It is generally worse during the night and in the morning, and made worse by straining or bending over.
All these symptoms can be graded from mild to severe, and there is a questionnaire available from Lake Louise, which is useful in assessing the stages of AMS.
If only a headache is experienced then a good idea is to test for AMS through process of elimination. As dehydration is the most common cause of headaches, drink a litre of water and if necessary take a low dosage pain killer such as paracetamol. If the pain stops completely and no further symptoms develop then it can be assumed that the headache was not due to AMS, and ascent can be continued.
Also experienced with AMS is the condition 'periodic breathing.' This is where a person's normal sleeping pattern is disturbed. The individual will experience bouts of insomnia, alternated with fitful dreams. Their breathing pattern will also be disturbed, consisting of periods when breathing is rapid and deep, and then periods where breathing is stopped, which can be up to 15 seconds. This may improve slightly with acclimatization, but does not usually resolve until descent.
Periodic breathing can cause anxiety, firstly for the person who either wakes up and realises they have stopped breathing, or wakes up during a hyperventilation stage, and so begins to think they have HAPE. But it can also be a scary experience for someone who wakes up and realises their friend has stopped breathing. The best thing to do in a situation like this is simply to wait until the breathing is self-regulated once more, because these periodic breathing cycles will probably continue until the individual is awake.
As always, the best way to approach AMS is prevention. Ascent should be slow in order to give the body time to acclimatize. Every person is different, but as general guidelines, the following should protect the majority of people from AMS:
Avoid anything which will slow down breathing, such as:
However, if AMS does occur then a few simple guidelines can prevent a fatality. It is vital that before ascending all parties are aware of the dangers, as ignorance is often the cause of illness.
Taking Diamox helps greatly in accelerating acclimatization. Read this article on how Diamox helps acclimatization to know the science behind it.
Additional reading: Read this tutorial on Acute Mountain Sickness to understand AMS fully.
per person (Lohajung to Lohajung)
Book for 3 and get free pick up from Delhi to Kathgodam (3 A/C train)
Book for 5 and get free pick up from Delhi to Kathgodam and return (3 A/C train)
Note: Service Tax of 3.09 % applicable on Trek Fees
May/Jun Trek Batches
Central government employees can avail special casual leave for trekking the Roopkund trek,
write to firstname.lastname@example.org for the application kit.
Dated : 24/5/13
Busy week at Roopkund.. Sunny day at Lohajung, temperature during the day around 20 to 25 deg celcius. The 5th batch of trekkers headed out to base camp this morning..
Sept/Oct Trek Batches
Roopkund Trek Itinerary
Day 1: Pick up from Kathgodam Railway station at 7.00 am. Drive to Lohajung base camp. Apprx arrival time at Lohajung 6-7 pm.
Day 2: Trek starts. Lohajung to Didina. Homestay at Didina.
Day 3: Didina to Bedni Bugyal (via Ali Bugyal).
Day 4: Bedni Bugyal to Bhagwabhasa.
Day 5: Bhagwabhasa to Roopkund to Patar Nachauni.
Day 6: Patar Nachauni to Ghairoli Patal.
Day 7: Ghairoli Patal to Lohajung via wan.
Day 8: Depart for Kathgodam. Approximate arrival time at Kathgodam: 6-7 pm.
Note: Pick up on Day 1 is linked with the Ranikhet Express. The pick up transport will wait until the train arrives at Kathgodam.
Moderate-Difficult. See link for details.
Circular; returns to base camp.
Roopkund: 15,750 feet (4,800 mts). Junargali 16,000 ft (4,878 mts, highest point)
Kathgodam. You can reach Kathgodam by an overnight journey from Delhi. Ranikhet express leaves Old Delhi station at 10.40 in the night to get to Kathgodam by 6.30 in the morning. Indiahikes pick up is lined up with the Ranikhet Express.
Village Lohajung (Chamoli District, Uttarakhand)
May 3rd week to June end; Mid September to October end.
Temperature in May, Jun.
Day: 15° to 20°C. Night: 4° to 7°C. Temp at highest camp, Bhagwabasa: Day 5°C to 10°C. Night: 3° to -2°C.
Rainy season is from the second week of July to mid September. May/June is not the rainy season but afternoon showers are very common in the mountains. These are not the monsoon rains.
Temperature in Sept and Oct.
Day: 13° to 20°C. Night: 2° to 7°C. Temp at highest camp, Bhagwabasa: Day 3°C to 10°C. Night: 3° to -4°C.
High snow in May from Kalu Vinayak onwards. Decreases in June. Comfortable snow during the last half of June. September has little snow. In the first week of October, the first winter snow is likely to fall in the upper reaches. Usually melts in a few days.
Physical preparation mandatory. See link for more details.
Click on the chart to see a bigger picture.
Download pdf here: Season Trek Guide