High Altitude Sickness During Upper Mustang Trek

Upper Mustang is safe in term of high altitude sickness, in comparing to other mainstream high alpine trek. Starting from Jomsom, the trail passes through trans Himalaya salt trading route to the medieval city of Lo Manthang. You won’t be spending a night on elevation higher than 3800 m, i.e. in Lo Manthang. We are proud to let others know that, our cent percent, past trips were successful in Upper Mustang. The first thing about high altitude sickness is not to think about it. All you need is to be mentally strong.

Well, what is high altitude sickness?

The higher you go, lower the percentage of oxygen in the air. And your body needs that shit to function properly. In simple language sickness that arises due to low volume of oxygen present in the air is high altitude sickness.

Remember, there is no precise working medicine to avoid altitude sickness. The best way is to follow preventive measure, which we will discuss later in the post. Diamox, it is the most recommended medicine for altitude sickness. Before we discuss about symptoms, pre and post sickness preventive measure, let’s discuss in a bit about the use of Diamox.

1. How does Diamox work?
Diamox will increase your breath rate and speed up your kidneys time to get rid of waste. So by resulting of increased breath rate, this medicine slightly helps victims by reducing headache.

2. What is the best time for taking Diamox?
When there arises a need of rapid ascend then it is a good idea to take a diamox. If you are spending a long time frame to gain elevation it’s not needed. However, for the quick ascend in short timeframe, diamox can be helpful.

3. What are the restriction factors for using a Diamox?
Allergies with sulfur is restricted. People with sulfuric allergies should not use diamox.

4. What is the process of taking Diamox?
Normally a Diamox tablet measure 250 mg. It is recommended to use 125 mg in each time, twice a day. If you haven’t used Diamox before, try at least for two days as a trial in a home environment. If there are no side effects, use it at least three days before spending a night at an elevation of 3500 m. Also continue using it until you reach maximum elevation, you were supposed to.

5. Are there any side effects of Diamox?
You might feel a stinging sensation on finger, face or feet. Rare drowsiness, allergic reaction can be other side effects of taking Diamox. This is very case and we recommend you to have two days of trial at home.

You can buy Diamox in most of the pharmacy in Nepal. Pretty easily. But in your country you might need to get some prescriptions from doctors to buy Diamox. We hope you are now familiar with the use to Diamox.

Symptoms of high altitude sickness

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Tiredness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Upset stomach
  • Feeling unsteady
  • Shortness of breath

Sometimes it is very similar to a bad hangover as well. Here are the preventive measures for high altitude sickness.

  • Ascend gradually
  • Save beer, drink water
  • Set a limit for elevation gained by 500 m per day
  • Allocate an acclimatization day at gain on 1000 m elevation
  • Use Diamox during rapid ascent, when you can’t avoid ascending abruptly
  • Spend two or more nights at elevation of 2500+ m, a month before the trip
  • Don’t force yourself ascending higher when experiencing symptoms of altitude sickness

Keep in mind, altitude sickness can result on fatal HACE and HAPE

  • HACE – High Altitude Cerebral Edema
  • HAPE – High Altitude Pulmonary Edema

Rarely, this symptom can arise without any prior altitude sickness symptoms. HAPE results in shortness of breathing even at the time of complete rest. HACE results on swollen skulls. Both can be fatal, it is recommended to keep victims as comfortable as possible. Also the only treatment of HAPE and HACE is descend to lower elevation. How can you make victims feel comfortable, while descending down on the mountain trail?

Immediate medical evacuation (airlifting) is recommended for victims of HAPE and HACE. Below are the post treatment of altitude sickness’s victims.

  • Aspirin can be taken for a mild headache
  • Gamow bag is the best alternative, if you can’t descend down
  • Oxygen saturation of blood should be improved, 2-4 liters per minute
  • Don’t take sleeping pills for insomnia, they cause slow breathing
  • Physical or mental effort should be minimized

You can also carry small oximeter with you. It will display oxygen level on a small screen. Here is a oxygen chart below. You can compare oxygen level present in your body with the chart. If the oxygen rate is lower than mentioned in the table, you have to take more precautions and follow preventive measure of high altitude sickness.

Oxygen Rate Chart

 Altitude  Oxygen Rate
Sea Level100%
In MeterIn Feet
88502903533%
80002624736%
70002296641%
60001986547%
55001804550%
52001706152%
50001640453%
45001476457%
40001312360%
35001148364%
3000984368%
2500820273%
1000328188%