Friday, March 21, 2008

Happy to be back at sea level


The mountains of Colorado are among the most beautiful parts of the United States. I have been looking forward to my trip to Keystone this week for what seemed like ever. When I received an altitude sickness warning via e-mail before we left town, I was all,"pshaaw, whatever, like that will affect me." Holy shit, was I ever wrong. Altitude sickness (also known as Acute mountain sickness) is a condition that is caused by acute exposure to low air pressure at high altitudes and reduced partial pressure of oxygen. I certainly had no idea how much it could affect a person. Just to put things into perspective- Denver, Colorado (where we flew in to) is at the same altitude as the highest peak of Whistler. We drove 2 hours up to get to Keystone, which is at an elevation of well above 8000 feet.

Upon arrival, we all noticed that it was harder to breathe. A short walk up even a couple of stairs resulted in a pounding heart, and left us completely exhausted and out of breath. Breathing in general was faster and deeper. I could also feel my head pounding, and a pressure behind my eyes, but figured it was because my travel day had begun at 4am and must just be tired. The guys, who had arrived a day earlier spent their first night vomiting like crazy. They had chalked it up to the hamburgers they'd eaten for dinner being bad...not so, it seems. Rather, it was the result of altitude sickness.

I felt alright going into dinner, a little headachey but no big deal. As the food arrived at the table, my stomach started to flip a little bit. Two bites into my steak, I had lost my appetite completely. I couldn't eat another bite. My face went from ghost white to green, green, green. I had to excuse myself from the table. After "losing my cookies" so to speak, in the bathroom at the restaurant, I went back to the condo and spent the remainder of the evening violently ill, cuddled up with the toilet and near tears. A couple of chewable gravols helped me fall asleep, only to wake up just about every hour on the hour until it was time to rise and shine at 6am. There was no shining, that's for sure. All of us were pretty out of commission and totally blah for the next two days. Marcus bought a bottle of oxygen, which many of us took turns with. I'm not sure it did much to help anything, but it made us think we felt better for a minute.

Common symptoms of Altitude sickness are:
[Source]
It's insane. Seriously. I had no idea. I can tell you that honest to God, all of us experienced every one of those symptoms, some of us to a worse degree than others. As beautiful a place as it is (the resort was beyond amazing with a huge ice rink for skating on in the middle and a killer spa) and as fabulous as the group I was with was...I must admit to being quite happy to be back in my apartment, comfortably at sea level this afternoon. The trip, on the whole, was still super fun despite the fact that we all felt like hell. But I'll tell you right now, I'll take riding in Whistler over Keystone any day of the week.

5 comments:

Tania said...

i've heard that altitude sickness is a killer...sucks that it kinda screwed your trip over. sounds like you managed to have some fun anyway though, which is all good.

Phaedra said...

Too bad they didn't have any coca leaf tea for people to sip on, as any altitude sickness would be prevented...

PatZ said...

that would suck. i saw a thing on Discovery about some guy doing research on altitude sickness and he brought people way up to some mountain base camp without telling them about it to see how they'd make out.
pretty sure I'm sticking to the short mountains now.

Jennifer Stoddart said...

I wish I'd done my research before I'd gone- then I would have brought my own coca leaf tea!

Phaedra said...

hit me up next time you go, as I have 2 boxes of it in my cupboard ;)