Tag Archives: mammoth

Blame it on the Altitude


Mt. Whitney (in the background behind us), the highest summit in the contiguous United States at 14,505 feet. Oh, and these are my best friends. Nothing beats coming home to them.

I feel so horrible for not writing in so long, but I went on a trip over the last few days to Mammoth to ski and snowboard before New Years. No internet access felt so unfamiliar, yet refreshing at the same time. Of course, I expected there to be tons of snow considering Mammoth had the most snow in the world this time last year, but sadly the few runs that were open were covered by icy man-made snow and the sides of the trails were lined with dirt. I guess global warming really is happening…

Aside from the lack of a winter wonderland atmosphere, there’s nothing quite like being in a cabin with ten of your best childhood friends. It really feels like home and reminds me how lucky I am to have been raised in a small town among great people.

During my trip, I noticed that quite a few people had headaches, nausea, and other uneasy symptoms. I had a fever for a day and horrible stomach pains, which I later found out was food poisoning…but that’s a story for another time. Going from sea level to up to 11,059 feet really can’t be easy on the body physically, and it sparked my curiosity to look up altitude sickness:

Altitude sickness is a pathological effect of high altitude caused by reduced air pressure and lower oxygen levels usually at altitudes exceeding 8,000 feet. Altitude sickness usually occurs following rapid ascent, as your body cannot get as much oxygen as it needs due to the “thin” air at high altitudes. It causes symptoms similar to a flu or hangover, such as headache, nausea, and fatigue. There are no specific factors, such as age, race, gender, or weight, that make one more susceptible to altitude sickness than another. According to altitude.org, some scientists believe altitude sickness is caused by swelling of the brain which could cause a small increase in the pressure inside the skull and lead to symptoms of altitude sickness. The swelling may be due to increased blood flow to the brain or leakiness of blood vessels in the brain, but research on this theory is not conclusive. The best way to avoid these symptoms is to ascent slowly and take it easy the first couple days at a heightened elevation. Your body can only help you as much as you help it.

And if you’re wondering, altitude sickness rarely occurs in airplanes because the cabin is pressurized to maintain a barometric pressure equivalent to that at 8,000 feet, which is tolerable by most. For those that are affected, there are always those handy barf bags…

Hope everyone has a great New Years tomorrow! Stay safe and make sure to share all your stories with me! May 2012 bring prosperity, laughter, and love.