Acclimatization Day in Namche Bazaar

Pega is in Namche Bazaar where he will spend a couple of nights acclimatizing before trekking on to the next village towards Everest Base Camp. Namche Bazaar, at 3,500m (11,500ft) is built on the slope of a mountainside and is the largest village in the Himalayas. It's a prosperous market town and staging point for Mount Everest and other Himalayan Peaks in the area. If you've forgotten anything, Namche is the place to buy it.  You can find everything from toiletries and snacks to trekking and climbing equipment. It's also famous for its homemade yak cheese (it's not bad, I tried it) and yak butter. People from other villages make the weekly trek to come and stock up on food and supplies. Last year when I was trekking with Pega, one of the teahouses we would be staying at up ahead told Pega they were out of bread (mostly eaten by foreigners passing through), so Pega stocked up on bread and carried it in his backpack for the next 8 hour hike to the teahouse.

While in Namche Bazaar, day hikes to a higher elevation are the norm in order to climb high, sleep low as prescribed for altitude adjustment. The Everest Viewpoint hike is about 400m (1,300ft) above Namche and is used frequently as an acclimatization hike. General rules according to the Himalayan Rescue Association subscribe to no more than a 300m (985ft) gain per day for sleeping. When at altitude, it's important to pay attention to changes in your functioning and how you feel. Monitor how tired you are and your recovery time, paying special attention to all headaches or feelings of being unwell. If you're not doing well, don't raise your sleeping altitude until you feel better. If this doesn't work, go down to an altitude where you first noticed any symptoms.

No rate of ascent is safe for everyone. Not raising the sleeping altitude more than 300m (1,000ft) a day above 3,050m (10,000ft) is offered as a safe rate of ascent if a stopover day is thrown in every 610m to 910m (2,000ft or 3,000ft). This is a general rule and some people might even find this too fast, so if they get AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness), they should slow down.

For myself, on my recent trip to the Himalayas, I gained between 400m and 500m (1,300ft and 1,640ft) per day after 3,350m (11,000ft) with a 1 to 2 day layover in each village. Living at sea level as I do can be more difficult too.  Chances of getting AMS are greater for someone living in Vancouver than say in Calgary. Excessive exertion at altitude (like carrying a heavy pack), can also predispose some people to altitude illness too.  I found this out the hard way as I carried my own pack.  Dizziness and feelings of faintness (high altitude syncope) plagued me until I swallowed my pride and hired a porter.

There is no one size fits all when it comes to acclimatization.  I’ve seen a friend who had always done well at altitude succumb to HAPE (High Altitude Pulmonary Edema) when he had a bit of a cold. I met other people on my travels who at 4040 m (13,254 ft)  were fine.  By the time they got to 4470m (14,666ft), travelling at the prescribed rate of ascent, 3 out of 6 of the party were struck with HAPE (High Altitude Pulmonary Edema), HACE (High Altitude Cerebral Edema) and ANGINA. 

Stay tuned as Pega carries on towards Mount Everest.
 

View of Namche Bazaar from my teahouse at the top of the village

View of Namche Bazaar from my teahouse at the top of the village

View of Mount Everest, Lhotse, Ama Dablam from the Everest Viewpoint hike

View of Mount Everest, Lhotse, Ama Dablam from the Everest Viewpoint hike