Those of you not chained to the local trails by a Newspaper column about nearby hikes may actually experience the thrill of sacrificing 50 percent of your lung capacity because the view’s so much better up there in the Real Mountains. If so, you might appreciate ABC of Hiking’s guide to high-altitude hiking. A snippet:
…. adjust your breathing to slow, deliberate, and very deep. Deeper breaths will make up for the lack of oxygen. Try to keep your breathing in rhythm with your walking. If you start feeling breathless, increase the speed of your breathing but keep the breaths deep and deliberate. Avoid getting breathless and check your heartbeat. Your heart should not be pounding and you should not be panting. Otherwise, adjust your tempo.
The site also notes on another page that it takes 100 percent more energy to increase your pace by 50 percent — which tells me my banana-slug pace has been the right one all along (I figured it was because I’m a skinny-legged guy who gets hives at the sight of a Stairmaster).
It never hurts to know a little grade school-level chemistry when you’re hiking high. The first time I hiked Lassen Peak, I felt the altitude-induced headache coming on and conducted a basic thought experiment: At 8,000 feet and climbing, oxygen supply is low and getting lower. But good old H20 is one-third oxygen, ergo: drinking a bunch water gets more oxygen into the body. Killed that headache dead.
More high-altitude wisdom is welcome — particularly from those of you who’ve hiked really high, as in the Himalayas. (A much more complete altitude guide, including what to do about mountain sickness, is at Hiking Dude’s site.)