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Old 02-03-12, 08:14 AM   #1
josullivan
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Altitude

I am visiting Arizona on the first week of May and would like to climb one of the "Big Two" mountains--either Mount Lemmon or Mount Graham.
My worry is, as I am a "flatlander" living in Ontario Canada, would the 9000' elevations of these climbs be too much with no acclimatization period? Would it be dangerous combined with such exertion?

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Brendan O'Sullivan
Ontario
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Old 02-03-12, 09:22 AM   #2
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Just start training today for your ascent trek! Get a trainer and cycle indoors, whenever the weather doesn't permit outdoor riding. Get on a daily calisthenics regimen. Build up your cardio! Take the local hills in your area and practice on them repeatedly. Your leg, thigh, back, and heart muscles are going to be key!
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Old 02-03-12, 10:18 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by josullivan View Post
I am visiting Arizona on the first week of May and would like to climb one of the "Big Two" mountains--either Mount Lemmon or Mount Graham.
My worry is, as I am a "flatlander" living in Ontario Canada, would the 9000' elevations of these climbs be too much with no acclimatization period? Would it be dangerous combined with such exertion?

Regards
Brendan O'Sullivan
Ontario
My daughter is in her 20's and goes to La Paz, Bolivia. That airport is already 10,000 above sea level. Every time the expedition group goes, they must acclimate themselves a few days in La Paz before the head up to the Andes which can go up to 17,000 plus. Yes, she does feel it, and there is no exertion in La Paz like what you would be doing. Even up in the Andes, the natives chew on coca leaves to relieve the altitude effects.
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Old 02-03-12, 10:52 AM   #4
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I am visiting Arizona on the first week of May and would like to climb one of the "Big Two" mountains--either Mount Lemmon or Mount Graham.
My worry is, as I am a "flatlander" living in Ontario Canada, would the 9000' elevations of these climbs be too much with no acclimatization period? Would it be dangerous combined with such exertion?

I'm a lifelong lowlander and flatlander from the US side of Lake Ontario. A few years back I committed to a ride "The Epic Century" on the Front Range of the Rockies. One of the other attendees suggested a "warm-up" ride earlier in the week to climb Mt. Evans, at 14,130 feet, the highest paved road in North America. I said, "Sure."

I had the same concerns. Can I climb for miles and miles and miles without respite? Can I breathe up there?

The longest hill I could find in reasonable distance is only 200 feet in a half-mile. I figured 35-40 repeats of that hill would be equivalent for training purposes. My first time out I was able to do four. I never did get up to more than a dozen or so because it was just plain mind-numbingly boring.

As for breathing, bought a heart rate monitor and I started really pushing myself so that I was riding right on the cusp of level 5 a lot. I got so that I could ride miles and miles that way.

Between the two, I made it up both mountains. I arrived in Denver on a Monday night, and climbed Evans on Wednesday morning. I had to stop and rest a few times, but I made it. On Saturday, we rode the "Epic" up to Rocky Mountain National Park. After Evans, that one was easier, even though I was still a bit sore from Wednesday.





So yes, it can be done. Do you have to train for it? Probably. Do you need to train the same way I did? I have no idea. I did what I thought would work and what thought I could do.

Note too that different people react differently to the altitude. Just because I had no issues doesn't mean you won't. My dad gets altitude sickness out there riding in his Buick.
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Old 02-03-12, 11:45 AM   #5
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There are 2 issues, the climbing and the altitude.

They are seperate issues.

Just speaking to the altitude issue. In my late teens /early 20s I did youth work with the YMCA. I prefered caravans where one did real camping and went different places, but I still did a lot of mountian camps. At just 6000-7000 feet altitude sickness could be significant. Go too hard the first day and you might end the day by puking your guts out for a few hours.

At that altitude just one day of not going crazy was almost always enough.

I always was able to keep my kids from over exerting enough that they never had this issue. Most of the time everyone did. When some other leader did not I knew I was in for an easy week, my kids learned I was worth listening to.

Still if yuo are fit yuo have a good chance of making the climbs yuo mention Ok. I've hiked Mt Baden-Powell (over 9400 feet) several times just leaving from Los Angeles the same day and zero problems.

BUT I hiked the trail, it could have been a very different story if I tried to run the trail or even tried to improve my time for hiking the trail.
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Old 02-03-12, 01:56 PM   #6
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joe: At the elevations you're talking about you're probably not at risk of medically dangerous altitude sickness (HAPE or HACE) unless you are pretty unusually susceptible to altitude sickness. It's very possible, particularly with exercise or if you're sleeping at the upper end of those elevations, that you'll experience Acute Mountain Sickness. Wikipedia has extensive information, but at the mild end of the scale you mostly feel weak, have a headache and a reduced appetite.

Acclimatization is of course ideal, but I'd bet you can reasonably try as long as you listen to your body. I like a little extra caffeine if I'm experiencing mild altitude sickness (for me this is around 11,000ft, living at sea level, and spending my summers at 6,000-7,000ft). A difficult thing can be forcing yourself to eat enough. As road cycling is heavily cardio dependent expect for the climb to be much harder, but isn't road cycling a little masochistic anyways?

So yeah, probably try it out and listen to your body. Obviously training is a good idea also.
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Old 02-03-12, 02:17 PM   #7
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Flying to La Paz you are there all at once , arriving in a pressurized cabin of an airplane.

Climbing from a lower elevation, to a higher one on a bike, you are acclimating slowly as you go.
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Old 02-03-12, 03:57 PM   #8
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Thanks to all who have offered advice---keep it coming

Brendan
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Old 02-03-12, 04:16 PM   #9
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I wouldn't worry about it. Take a shot at it, and if you run into any problems, turn around and coast back down.

You'll be helped by the fact you'll be staying, I assume, down around 2,400 feet. Shouldn't have any problems down there.
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Old 02-03-12, 06:49 PM   #10
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I had not even been thinking of the really nasty forms of altitude sickness. My limited experience confirms what cpach said. The worst is pretty mild sickness, nothing life threatening unless you compound it in very stupid ways. If the mountians in AZ don't put a major climb between you and your bed you would have ot make very bad decisions on the road and get very unlucky to have real danger (other than mercyless teasing if yuo talked to much before starting and fail).
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Old 02-04-12, 09:36 AM   #11
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My wife and I ride at ~sea level. We took a two week trip to the Rockies last summer and rode 500+ miles with 40,000+ feet of climbing crossing a number of passes nearly 12,000' in elevation. The day after we arrived we rode 100 miles with 12,000' of climbing at elevations up to 8,500' We certainly noticed effect of elevation, but had no difficulty with it.
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Old 02-04-12, 12:32 PM   #12
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A lot has to do with your age, physical condition, weight and preparation. If you are out of shape, get back into shape.
It's all about the heart and lungs being able to keep your body supplied with good blood and oxygen flow.
If you have any doubt, see your doctor and tell him/her what you want to do.
I hunted the Rockies in Montana at 8000 ft. Coming from an area of 500-600 ft above sea level I had to prepare myself for that altitude. Being on foot a lot it was strenuous as all he!! even though I was prepared.
Trust me when I tell you there were times we were chasing game around and I thought my lungs were going to bust and my heart was going to rip out of my chest.
I was younger and stronger at the time and in pretty good shape. I never got sick or lost my appetite.
I had so much fun I went back a couple of more times.
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Old 02-04-12, 02:32 PM   #13
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I live at sea level, but sometimes ride in the mountains up to 12,000 above sea level....riding is ok, you lose about 25% of your power at 12,000, so bring low enough gears and keep track of your pulse and hydration. Sleeping above 5000 feet is hard for me, i wake up with mild AMS....just a little low on O2 in the blood. Mt Lemmon is a nice climb, I did it 25 years ago just after they had torn up the road....miles of dirt and gravel....pretty up on top
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Old 02-04-12, 06:45 PM   #14
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Flying to La Paz you are there all at once , arriving in a pressurized cabin of an airplane.

Climbing from a lower elevation, to a higher one on a bike, you are acclimating slowly as you go.
Then maybe the natives of Bolivia are chewing the coca for other purposes other than elevation.
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Old 02-05-12, 02:03 PM   #15
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In my experience with exertion at altitude (backpacking, not cycling, in New Mexico, between 8000 and 11000 feet), allowing a day or so to acclimate to the elevation was sufficient. I certainly noticed that I was not as sprightly as at my normal 200 feet above sea level, but it wasn't debilitating, even climbing hills with a 40-lb. pack.

If your corner of Ontario is so flat that it's hard to train for climbing, that might be more of a problem. If you're near the Niagara Escarpment, could you go do some climbs up it for practice? Alternately, you could do some training riding into the wind on a relatively high gear (big chainring and a small-to-medium rear cog), to simulate the exertion required to climb hills.
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Old 02-05-12, 02:11 PM   #16
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The guy is talking about AriZona, not The top of the Andes ..
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Old 02-06-12, 08:08 AM   #17
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He is also asking opinions about exertion at 9,000 feet.
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Old 02-06-12, 01:46 PM   #18
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In my experience with exertion at altitude (backpacking, not cycling, in New Mexico, between 8000 and 11000 feet), allowing a day or so to acclimate to the elevation was sufficient. I certainly noticed that I was not as sprightly as at my normal 200 feet above sea level, but it wasn't debilitating, even climbing hills with a 40-lb. pack.
"not as sprightly" is pretty much my experience. I live at 5,000', and used to backpack the San Juan mountains in Southern Colorado at elevations from 7,000 to 12,300. 7,000 wasn't noticeable, while anything above 10,000 was indeed not as sprightly.

Even among the most fit persons though, there are rare but enormous differences between average tolerance and extreme sensitivity to altitude. 9,000 feet will probably only slow a flatlander down a little, but if you experience altitude sickness, call it off and head down.
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