Altitude is the measurement of vertical distance. For a Mountaineer, altitude is a passion and dream! A commonly asked question to a Trekker or Mountaineer is, “how far have you been through”? I am not a Mountaineer, not even a Trekker yet, as a layman, the answer for me is 5600 meters which is 18372.7 ft. Although this is considered to be a high altitude, I believe, that does not make me a Mountaineer as it takes a lot of effort to get that technical title!
To be a mountain lover, everyone has to understand the term ‘altitude effects’. The effects of high altitude on individuals are significant. The proportion of oxygen capacity of hemoglobin regulates the content of oxygen in the blood. After the human body extents around 2,100 m (7,000 feet) above sea level, the saturation of oxyhemoglobin begins to reduce quickly.
Atmospheric pressure decreases exponentially with altitude while the two oxygen atoms fraction remain constant to about 100 km, so the concentration of oxygen in the blood decreases exponentially with altitude as well. It is about half of its sea-level value at 5,000 m (16,000 ft), the altitude of the Everest Base Camp, and only a third at 8,848 m (29,029 ft), the summit of Mount Everest. When the concentration of oxygen in the blood drops, the body responds with altitude acclimatization.
Mountain medicine recognizes three altitude regions that reflect the lowered amount of oxygen in the atmosphere:
- High altitude: 8,000 – 12,000 ft (2,438 – 3,658 meters);
- Very high altitude: 12,000 – 18,000 ft (3,658 – 5,487 meters); and
- Extremely high altitude: 18,000+ ft (5,500+ meters)
After knowing these measures, I am surprised to be an Asthma sufferer that how could I survived between 2000 to 5600 meters for the duration of 9 long days without any physical hazards. There are various hazards in high altitude Mountains. Subjective hazards are human-caused incident, these hazards can be controlled or minimized through proper experience, skill, and conditioning. Climbing above our ability, dehydration, overexertion, are all examples of subjective hazards.
My affection for high altitude took me to Spiti Valley, Himachal Pradesh, India during July 2018. I observed the heavenly beauty of the Valley and no camera has the capacity to capture the magnificent beauty! I love to feel and capture the moments in the heart as no camera has those eyes which have feelings! I was lucky to be accompanied by my friend who is a Mountaineer and I was guided by him in every step at high altitude. We took the preparation for proper clothing and food from Dhaka, Kolkata, and Kaza which is the capital of Spiti valley, located at a 3800-meter height. The beauty of that place has no bound, we were at the lap of mountains and an eyeful mountain was located next to our hotel room!
The human body can perform best at sea level, where the atmospheric pressure is 101,325 pascal or 1013.25 millibars or 1 atm (unit of pressure). The concentration of oxygen (O2) in sea-level air is 20.9%, the partial pressure of O2 (pO2) is 21.136 kPa. In healthy individuals, this saturates hemoglobin, the oxygen-binding red pigment in red blood cells.
Destination derived us to the most beautiful tiny and lovely village which is known as Kibber, located at 4270 meters. Kibber consists of only 65 families. There is a village development committee that is responsible for cleanliness and supplies at Mount Kanamo Basecamp. We stayed at a homestay and tried to be acclimatized by trekking 500 meters ahead of the village. We were welcomed by rain in Kibber which is only 10 days maximum thought the year! The next day, we approached Basecamp at 5000 meters bypassing high land covered with small rocks (moren) and flat rocks (loose slate).
Observing the indefinable beauty of nature is the charming part of high altitude. The flora & fauna is there to magnify us! Trekking to the high altitude is discovering us as well. Passion to be at a high altitude leads us to uphold a disciplined life that comes through healthy practice. We are highly dependent on technology for our leisure time; unfortunately, how we are behind with discovering our hidden physical strength.
Affection for high altitude will lead us to be close to nature and understand the ecosystem that human lives depend on. We will understand the importance and untold contribution of nature in our daily lives. The desire to conserve nature can be grown within ourselves as well. Nature has the power to explore our minds and untold desires associated!