Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Climb Every Mountain
Greetings from Africa my dear cybersisters…. From the roof of Africa to be precise. Well, not really the roof, more so the attic. Here I am in crater on a glacier in the largest volcano on earth. Actually, I’m really sitting in a coffee shop getting ready for my trip, but when I post this blog I will be at 18,700 feet above sea level getting ready to summit Mount Kilimanjaro in the name of all tings fourty.
Having no access to internet or a shower (and yes my hiking boots are just plain ugly) I thought I would plan and post ahead of time. But in the spirit of my month of misadventures, I did think it best to stay informed about what lies before me.
Let’s talk altitude. No I don’t mean soaring to new preverbial heights. I mean up where we belong… where the eagles fly on a mountain high. I mean the air really is thinner up here and no I can not secure my own mask before helping someone else.
Here’s the 411 on Altitude.
People who ascend to altitude higher than 2350 metres (8000 feet) are at risk for one of three forms of high-altitude illness:
1. Acute Mountain Illness – A nonspecific illness beginning at altitudes of about 8000 feet. It is characterized by headaches, nausea and even antisocial behaviour.
2. High altitude Pulmonary Edema – essentially fluid in the lungs. 50% of people at altitude over 15,000 will have some form of this.
3. High Altitude Cerebral Edema- this one is REALLY bad. Brain swelling. Need I elaborate?
The major risk factor for high altitude illness is a rapid ascent. Finally my “go slow” hiking attitude will pay off! Safe ascents involve no more than 500 metres per day above 2000 metres. We are taking 10 days to go up 5000 metres. You do the math.
So up and up I will climb, slowly, slowly in search of glory. I have splurged on a FABULOUS gortex suit that does despite its better judgement in althletic wear make me look 10 pounds lighter. It is the perfect outfit (black with hot pink piping). My hiking boots are not stylish but the comfort here is key. I will forgo a red pair of soles for a chance at hiking glory.
Several clinical studies have looked at the medications used to prevent and treat these diseases.
The most common medication used is called Acetazolamide or DIAMOX. Interestingly there is a worldwide shortage of Diamox right now. Apparently all the cool kids are taking it…. Looks like there is a boom in people trying to reach higher ground. Could this be a global warming phenomenon?
Safe to say, I did use my doctor connections to try and score some extra drug. Imagine it my cybersisters…. There I am scouring pharmacies across this great land in search of my Kilimanjaro power pills.
Fortunately a lovely pharmacist in Lethbridge, Alberta (big shout out to Abdul if he’s reading) came through for me like a celebrity dealer at a Lindsey Lohan’s prom.
I am now in safe possession of 30 pills (1/2 a tablet a day for 15 days) and my beloved and I can rest easy with the knowledge that medically speaking we can cheat physiology just enough for me to have my very own mid-life crisis at 19,575 feet above sea level.
Here I am, high above the clouds huffing and puffing and blowing 40 down. Look up dear girlfriends…. I’m waving from the roof of the mother continent…. Can you see me?