It is already June and the year is moving quickly in 2018.  What have you been up to?  Kept your New Year’s resolution to get in shape and be more active? At Wildfire we have had quite the busy start of the year.

 

Trek the World

We opened the trekking season this year with an amazing trek across Rabbit Pass within the Mt Aspiring national park in Wanaka. Waterfalls, glaciers, cliff faces, and the most stupendous alpine scenery guided our steps – with some weather shenanigans and creative route diversions. To learn our story, check out the Lessons of the Waterfall Blog. We are now in the midst of preparing for a horse trek through the Teredj National Park in the rugged heart of Mongolia.

 

Rock it out

During April and May, our climbers hit the walls hard rediscovering Wolgan Valley (we are now in Australia) with the epic adventure climbs around the former mining town of Newnes. Climbing at its best, trad with warm rock and beautiful weather. We have some incredible memories of the multi-pitch days!

 

Back in Singapore, our regular Intro to Rock climbing and Abseiling sessions (held outdoors of course) were once again sellouts. We are especially proud of Jasmine.  She followed her passion for rock from Dairy Farm to the sunflower fields of Lopburi, Thailand where she tackled 6a climbs! On the beautiful limestone cliffs of Khao Jeen Lai, our instructors held a climbing clinic for those who aspired to climb all day.

 

Sun, sea, sand

Moving to the ocean front, Michael, our Chief of Fun, stashed away with a group of island rats in a secret island, a short 2 hours from Singapore. A weekend of unwinding and unplugging. Swimming, frisbee and BBQ on the beach – sans wifi (gasp!) . Check out this awesome vid and be sure to join the next one!

 

Going underwater, as we write, our divers are enroute to Sipadan. The destination requires no introduction (it’s only one of CNN Travel’s Asia top 10 dive site) but if you want one anyway, check out the account of our maiden trip.

So 2018 got off to a rollicking start. What’s next you ask? Well, plenty….. Dragon’s Spine, Holy ridge, Secret Islands, adventure climbing, Australia, Taiwan, Thailand. Excited yet? Check out our website for the latest offerings and continue to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Meetup and subscribe to our newsletter to live vicariously through us.

Live your life with passion!

Patrick and the Wildfire team!

 

 

Layering Of Clothes – The Concept

Layering of clothes is a concept of putting on clothes on top of one another, to build a better insulation system, which shields away the cold by retaining the heat generated by your body. More the number of layers, more the warmth. It is a clothing strategy built on the fact that air is a good insulator. It is a technique used to keep yourself warm with minimum and light weight clothing while involving in an outdoor activity in a cold environment.

 


 

How Does Layering Work

Our body generates heat and in a cold environment, we are kept warm by how much heat our body generates and how well we retain it using our  clothing strategy. The sleeping bags which we use on treks are built using the concept of layering to keep us warm. ( explaining the layering material used in a sleeping bag is not under the scope of this article )

Having said the above, its very important to understand that clothes do not generate heat. Its the retention of heat generated by our body, which keeps us warm.

Remember – each one of are different and have different capabilities of body heat generation. This means that we all might have a differently optimized layering strategies.  However, the heat generating capability of a body is usually similar for similar aged group. As we get older, the heat generating capability decreases and therefore the same layers which was proved to be good for a man of age 30 might not be ideal for a man of age 50. He might need some extra layers.

Keeping the concept in mind, the layers which we use can be divided into 3 different categories –The Base Layer, Mid Layers and finally The Outer Layer

 


 

The Base Layer – The Most Important Layer

  • This is the first layer which contacts the body.
  • When you are involved in an activity, your body generates more heat as compared to being ideal. With that, you also sweat a lot.
  • Since it a base layer, its not possible to remove it easily. You will have to remove all the layers on top of it to change your base layers. So better choose a perfect base layer.

So what is a perfect base layer? Below are the points to remember when selecting your base layer.

  1. It has to be breathable, else you feel restricted, uncomfortable and you will sweat more.
  2. It has to disperse the sweat generated by your body, else you will loose lot of body heat to keep yourself warm
  3. It has to be odour free, else you will increase chances of bacterial growth and also create problems for your mates
  4. It has to be smooth for your skin, as you will pile on layers over it, else it will itch when more heat is generated by the body
  5. Always carry a replacement pair
  6. Select a material which if wet, dries quick

Below is a product which we chose from Decathlon, and which I use in myself. The benefits of using it are light weight, compactness and breathable.

base layer upper base layer lower


 

The Mid Layers

  • These are the layer which go on top of the base layers and adds on the insulation by trapping air in between them.
  • This is the layer which is actually responsible for keeping you warm.
  • You can have multiple layers but its better you DO NOT take the count to over 3 as that starts to feel restricted.
  • Keep the layer clothes light, breathable and dry fit to keep dispersing the moisture away
  • Dry-Fit Tees and Fleece is the best second or sometimes third upper layer as it is light and a very good insulator material.
  • Always add one fleece to your packing.
  • If you are trekking in winters, or to higher altitude where you expect morw cold, add Down Jackets to your mid layer.
  • Down jackets are light and warm, and comes in various quality, warmth and thickness.  
  • Remember that socks act as a layer for your feet. You may use woolen knee length socks as layers for your feet.
  • Increasing the number of layers in lower body is not a good idea as you move your legs the most, and it gets warm easier. Just keep your feet warm and comfortable. 
  • A simple multi-pocket hiking pants are the best for your lower body as a mid layer.

midlayer dry fit tee shirt midlayer fleece  

 

 


 

The Outer Layer

  • Its the layer which faces the elements of the environment, like wind, rain, snow, etc
  • Its the layer which protects your inner layer form the elements of environment
  • This layer is the easiest to change and is actually the most changed layer depending on the weather
  • It is important that this layer is breathable as well, as much as possible
  • Breathable water-proof layers are very expensive, so mostly you get unbreathable water proof material.
  • Water proof  material are wind proof as well
  • Wind proof material may be water proof or water resistant
  • Water resistant means that it will repell water upto an extent, but if you expose it in water for longer time, it will get wet.
  • Mostly you will find these outer layers with zippers to enable air flow, usually on chest, arms, sides, back, and thighs
  • So depending on weather, you might need to carry multiple outer layers, like wind proof, rain proof, etc
  • GORE-TEX is the best choice for your outer layer owing to its multiple qualities

 

What is GORE-TEX 

A simple google search to the above question will give you the answer – “a synthetic waterproof fabric permeable to air and water vapour, used in outdoor and sports clothing.

but it is much more than that.

In generic, the basic Gore-TEX  product always has the below qualities 

  1. Waterproof
  2. Breathable
  3. Windproof
  4. Durable

There are other advanced variants of GORE-TEX which are further better. GORE_TEX ACTIVE SHELL and GORE-TEX PRO. These are further more breathable and durable.

For your further research follow the link https://www.gore-tex.com/products/outerwear/?

There are other brands which sell the GORE-TEX products including shoes.

outer layer jacket outer layer lower

 

 


Hybrid Layers

These days there are hybrid layers in the market which has a outer water proof layer with zippers for wind flow and fleece inners. The inner and outer are separable and are kept in together with zips. My take on it is it makes things complex. A separate fleece jacket and outer wind proof jackets gives much required flexibility to me, and mountain demands remaining flexible.

 

 


 

Most Important Points To Protect Against Cold

  1. Your Ears, Feet and Palm are the part of the body which is kept warm, you feel warm. Take care of keeping those warm
  2. Protect your forehead, skull and throat from cold. Use a fleece beanie
  3. Keep the above mentioned layering and its points in mind
  4. Always change to dry woolen socks on reaching the camp
  5. Fill your bottle with hot water and take it inside your sleeping bag
  6. Never ever put your warmest combination at the beginning. Keep it for the worst.
  7. Expose yourself little and slowly to the weather. Let it understand where it is and allow it to  adapt to the cold. It does in couple of days, only if you are not too overprotective about it.
  8.  Never be on wet clothes for a long time. Change to dry cloth immediately
  9. Keep keeping your things dry in your mind while packing
  10. Always try to presume the worst scenario and prepare for it. Rest is take care of by itself in the process.
  11. Check your tents. It has to be better insulated,.
  12. Use fleece sleeping bag liners as a layer for the sleeping bag.
  13. Always buy proper gears for the sport. For example – keep your mufflers away and get a beanie or a buff !!
  14. While purchasing, always consider WEIGHT TO WARMTH RATIO

Foot Blisters are the common problems in wilderness and can make someone’s trekking experience a nightmare. First, let’s understand what are blisters.

Blisters (Source : Wikipedia)

BLISTERS : They are small pockets of fluid within the upper layers of skin caused by rubbing under the skin ( not rubbing on the skin).

IT SIMPLY MEANS BLISTERS ARE NOT ACTUALLY CAUSED BY RUBBING BUT DUE TO SKIN SHEAR (RUBBING UNDER THE SKIN).

 The other causes for causing blisters are extreme temperature changes ( either Burning or freezing) and Chemical Exposure.

Above Diagram illustrating the cause of blisters is Skin Shear i.e Rubbing under the skin

 ( Source : www.blisterprevention.com.au)

 

HOW TO PREVENT AND TREAT THEM :

Treat Hot-Spots : Hot-Spot(reddened skin and the sensation of heat) is a pre-blister state.It gives you a sensory warning that blister is on its way to form and gives the person a tiny window of opportunity to treat the Hot-Spot. The person may or may not get this sensory warning of   Hot-spot. Treat them early as they are not a warning of a problem, they are already a problem. Managing Hot-Spot is just like Blister  Prevention explained below.

                                               

 Moleskin                                                                                                                      Dough-nut Method of securing the Blister 

(Image Source : www.walmartimages.com)                                                                            (Source: www.myhealth.alberta.ca)

 

Have the right Shoe-Fit and Lacing System : 

A proper shoe fit and lacing system are the first and foremost important strategies to avoid Blisters.

A good fit (snug everywhere,tight nowhere and with enough room to wiggle your toes ) will keep you getting bruised toenails or heel blisters. Following fit tests can be done to check whether your shoe is a good fit or not :

 

  • Walk down an incline : Stomp and scuff your feet while descend and if your toes can already touch the front of the shoes when the shoes are new assuming you have laced the shoes snugly , try on a different pair.

 

  • Walk uphill on stairs : Check for the heel lift by walking up a few flights of stairs, two stairs at a time and if your heels are consistently lifting off the insoles more than 1/8th of an inch, the heel blisters are bound to happen in those shoes.

It’s important to have a shoe thats comfortable but also allows for your feet to swell a bit, as it may tend to do if you are walking many miles and many hours in the day.

The most important rule is that once you start feeling a hotspot or a blister forming, you must stop immediately and take care of it.  Waiting even 30 minutes can make the blister a painful sore for days to come.

Keep trekking and keep training! If you missed it, check out our other blog for training for high altitude treks!

Accomplishing and completing an amazing trek is it’s own reward, but you want the amazing photos to prove it! At least as great memories and to show your friends and family of what you accomplished. So the need to be a world class photographer to capture that amazing moment, is in the back of our minds these days.  I know that when I’m trekking or climbing, I’m looking for that random shot that will stand out and spark memories of the day.

As the smartphones have better camera options these days, we no longer need to drag the 1kg DSL camera with the 2kg zoom lens.  We have the power in our pocket.  Here’s a few simple tips to help capture the moment without adding extra weight on your next trek….

1) Keep the Photos Simple…  With digital photos you don’t need to capture everything with just one shot.  (If you do want this, you can use the panoramic option) Just focus on what caught your eye and snap a shot of the subject.  One interesting subject is all you need to take great pictures. It’s easier to create a strong composition when your picture only has one subject.

Mount Arjuna Sign Post

2) Understand the position of the sun and the time of day. Bright sunlight is one of the best to capture snaps. So if you want a crisp snap, turn your subject such that the sun is shining on them.  It is a fact well established that clicking during sunrise and sunset, which offers diffused light always results in striking snaps.

3) A simple rule to significantly improve the quality of your pictures is the ‘Rule of Thirds’, according to which, put your horizon one-third or two-thirds from the bottom and your main subject one-third in from either side. This lends a certain dynamic nature to the picture quality and enhances the composition.

4) Don’t forget to take pictures of people during your travels, especially the locals such as the driver, or a waiter you might have met along the way. It is always advisable to ask their permission, before taking the picture.

5)  Shoot From A Different Perspective.  For example, shooting from a low perspective you can get more sky behind your subject.  If you have a distracting background in your scene, shooting from a low angle is an easy way to eliminate those distractions by using the sky as your backdrop.

One Bonus Tip! – If you want to capture symmetrical reflections that include both the reflection and the surroundings like mountains reflecting off the lake, turn your phone upside down and get as close to the water as you can.  Turning your phone upside down gets the lens closer to the water.  (Just don’t drop your phone!)

We love trekking in places where the scenery makes for amazing shots.  A great weekend getaway to practice your photography skills is Mount Merapi, Indonesia.  Grab your friends and your smartphone camera and let’s snap some photos!

We had great weather during Singapore’s National Day weekend and it was a great time to visit the local crag.  With Climbers from Korea and Croatia, as well as the US and Singapore, we had an international gathering on the wall! A great warm up for our upcoming trip to Batu Caves!

During the climbs we snapped a few shots of all the action!

Taking a moment to study the route.  Climb with your eyes first, then climb with the hands and feet!

First lead climb on an outdoor wall here in Singapore.  Not a hard climb, and a great opportunity to concentrate on clipping in and topping out!

A nice easy wall, to practice lead climbing and getting solid in the basics, including topping out!

Taking on the face of the rock instead of climbing the crack.  Awesome job challenging yourself.  Only improving the techniques.  Its all good practice on top rope!

It’s nice to belay from the shade…  Taking cover from the heat whenever it’s possible.  Great job belaying as well!

It was a fun day out!  Contact us if you would like to have a private group session or join our intro to outdoor rock climbing clinic and get a taste of climbing outdoors!

We also have a great trip lined up for Batu Caves.  Don’t miss the action!

What is it about being underwater that is so liberating?

Perhaps the fact that you are accessing a part of the 70% of Earth’s surface that is outside the realm of most people’s everyday thoughts?

Or perhaps swimming through the blue can feel abit like flying. Without the downward gravitional pull, you move up and down with breath as your steering wheel. Intuitive, weightless and free.

Or maybe the colours, the action, the life of the marine world is so fascinating, so different from being on land, that all your cares fade away and all that remains at the forefront of your thoughts is the present.

When diving I live in the moment. My concerns are immediate and specific. Is my equipment working well? What are the conditions like? Is my buoyancy ok? Do I have enough air? Is my buddy within reach? Is my buddy doing ok?

When diving I appreciate my present just as I am living it. The wondrous creatures and their weird and wonderful ways; the shapes and colours of corals; the scale of the marine megafauna, the massive walls, the big gorgonian sea fans. Within each, a micro-ecosystem where the smaller creatures find shelter – and larger ones food.

When diving I find renewed wonder in life. Such vibrance teems below a placid looking surface, the deep blue hiding a world humans can only visit temporarily. How blessed we are, those privileged enough to be able to access this world. How much more we need to do to preserve this world for future explorers.

– Anonymous…

What’s your take on diving?  Ready to try something new?  Time to make a big splash and get back into the water with our upcoming Off the beaten path of diving in Pulau Weh!

Patrick

Just coming back from the Stok Kangri Trek, the team was faced with the usual question of “Is the water safe to drink?”  As water is the source of life and without it, everything stops, the topic of water was a daily discussion.  How much to carry?  How much to drink?  Where can we get clean water?  Is the water off the glacier safe? Excellent questions and a great topic to discuss!

The first and most important step is to choose a proper water source. So what can be a “proper water source” ?

Always fetch water from running streams. The faster the better. Stagnant water has high risk of bearing pathogens, irrespective of the cold surrounding. Whereas, as fast gushing water has very low chances of bearing pathogens in it. It even has less particulate materials.

If you can source water from natural springs, its the best as it acts as a natural filter and has very less chances of having particles in it.

 

 


 

 

Different Ways To Treat Your Water On Your Treks

There are several ways to treat your water but the first steps is to fill a clean particle-free water into your bottle. To do that use a filter or a clean handkerchief to keep away the particles entering the water bottle. After you fill your water bottle with clean particle-free water, follow the any of the next steps to get it free of any pathogens.

Boiling Your WaterBoiling is one of the best way to clean your water of the pathogens like bacteria, virus and protozoa. However, it requires stove, utensils and fuel and is limited to camps. When you are on the trail and have finished the boiled water you filled from the camp, the only option you have are the natural sources.  When you are boiling the water, make sure you bring it to boil. Water usually boils quickly in high altitude due to low atmospheric pressure. So its important to cover it by a lid and boil it for good time to increase the temperature. How much time you should boil the water for is guided by the quantity of the water your are boiling. Mostly, all of the pathogens are killed at a temperature of over 70 ° C

PROS: 

  • Kills almost all of the pathogens
  • Also protect against cold

CONS

  • Needs a system. Not Portable
  • Requires more fuel

Using Chlorine Tablets: Free Chlorine Ions are known to clean water and these Chlorine Tablets are great rescue for hikers and outdoor people as it is very convenient to carry and provides a defense to the deadliest of the pathogens. It acts less time to make pure water available for drinking. It usually comes in strips. It is used by dropping a tablet into your water bottle and giving it some time before drinking it.

Hind Pharma produces tablets usable for campers and in emergencies: http://www.hindpharma.com/water.html a product of Hind Pharma declares that 

Ef-Chlor (NaDCC tablet), it is a broad spectrum fast acting sanitizer and water sterilizer , rapidly effective against BACTERIA, VIRUSES, FUNGI and PROTOZOA. Total spectrum of activity i.e. effective against hydro hypophilic viruses, gram positive & gram negative bacteria, fungi mould, yeast, mycoplasmas & protozoa.

PROS:

  • Convenient to use
  • Light Weight
  • Effective against deadliest of the pathogens

CONS

  • Some tablets make water taste bit odd.  ( add TANG to flavour the water in this case )

Using Iodine Drops:

Iodine is good but not the best way to treat drinking water in high altitude. It is known to kill water borne pathogens, but takes some time to make the clean water ready to drink. It is also ineffective against some protozoan cyst which causes deadly stomach problems. There are iodine solutions which are available in market. Most chances are that you will be carrying Betadine ( 10% Iodine solution ) in your medical kit. Use 4 – 5 drops in 1 liter of water and let it rest. You also get  ” Tetraglycine hydroperiodide”  tablets in medical stores. Usage – 8mg per liter of water

PROS:

  • Most chances are you will be carrying betadine ( 10% Iodine solution ) in your medical kit. 
  • Kills most pathogens but for few protozoan cyst

CONS:

  • Takes time and at cold temperature, takes more time to clean the water ( 30 minutes to 1 hour )
  • ineffective against some protozoan cyst which causes deadly stomach problems
  • It should not be used by persons with allergy to iodine, persons with active thyroid disease, or pregnant women
  • Some tablets make water taste bit odd.  ( add TANG to flavour the water in this case )

 

Ultra Violet Purifying:

  

 

CamelBak® has come up with a innovative solution of using UV to clean the water instantly. It is also a water bottle so can be consumed directly within a minute.

read more about it here : http://shop.camelbak.com/all-clear-bottle/d/1208

SteriPEN Adventurer Opti

“Lightweight water purification for peak performance in the outdoors! SteriPEN Adventurer Opti was built for the toughest mountains and rivers in the world. Backpacker Magazine gave it their Editor’s Choice Award in 2011 for changing the face of portable water purification. Recipient of a 2012 Desnivel Award … one of the 15 best new products. When camping, backpacking & hiking, if you won’t have access to the power grid for several days a time, this is the water purification system for you.”

read more here http://www.steripen.com/adventurer-opti/

 

PROS:

  • Instant pure water available for drinking

CONS:

  • Dependency on batteries and power system
  • Too much to take care of
  • Fragile and not suited for high altitude longer treks

 


Final Conclusion

  1. Boil you water when you are at camps.
  2. Use chlorine tablets for the trail.
  3. Use TANG  or Vitamin C tablets to flavour the water to taste better.
  4. The locals and few others who trek frequently generally appears to be immune to the natural water. So by default they think that the water is safe.
  5. While it is the responsibility of the Trek Guides and Leader to provide you with clean water, the first responsibility is of the Trekker himself. You yourself need to take proper precaution on this matter and purify the water before drinking it everytime as you yourself are the best person to monitor yourself.
  6. You must make it a habbit of a ‘must-do’ check on the water each time you drink it. Asking the leader or the guide the methods they have used to purify the water or carrying a chlorine tablets yourself is the best practice 

In our last post, we shared what you need to know about altitude sickness. While it is a possibility with high altitude hikes, there are steps you can take to prepare yourself for a successful trek.

High altitude hikes and treks can be exhilarating experiences with breathtaking views, clean crisp air, and a physical achievement that you will never forget. It doesn’t have to be as intense as climbing a continent’s tallest peak (although we encourage that also!), it could be an overnight camping trip with a sunrise summit.

For all hiking adventures, you will need a base level of fitness and a bit of training to make sure you are prepared, but more so for activities at higher altitudes. Most people begin to feel the effect of the altitude at around 2400m (8000ft) – some shortness of breath or tiring more easily is common.

Our bodies can adjust to this altitude change as long as we take the right approach.

 

Training

So how do you prepare for your high altitude adventure, even if you don’t live near mountains? Follow a simple training plan! Aerobic activity improves your body’s use of oxygen. Activities that improve your aerobic fitness, such as running, cycling, and swimming, can be done no matter where you live.

It is best to start at least 2 to 3 months before your trip (perhaps more if you’re planning a several day trek above 4200m/14,000ft). Here are a few training tips to help you prepare:

  • Running or Cycling. Run or bike 3-4 times per week. Gradually build up your endurance by increasing your distance each time, and choosing steeper hills to climb. The last few weeks before your trek, you can train with 5-6 kg in your backpack to benefit you even more.
  • Interval training. Increase the intensity for 1-2 training sessions per week. If running, do sprints uphill, walk down, and repeat 5 times. You can also run stairs in segments of high and lower intensity (sprint up 4 flights, walk up 2 flights, sprint again, repeat). A stairmaster machine in the gym is also good.
  • If possible, go for a hike with the shoes and pack you will be wearing on your trek. This could be in a local park, or just outside of town (even better if there are hills or it’s a bit higher). Start with a light pack the first week, and add weight as the time for your trek grows near so you train with the weight you will be carrying on the trek.
  • Deep, slow, and controlled breathing help you use oxygen more efficiently on the trail. Attend a yoga class a few times per week with a focus on breathing techniques. An added benefit is finding your zen!
  • Remember that muscle recovery is important, so plan your training for 5-6 days per week, then give your body and mind a day to rest.
  • Be sure to eat well to fuel your training, as well as your trek. Protein helps fuel and build our muscles, and carbohydrates and healthy fats give us energy. Fuel up with healthy food, and train hard to achieve your goals!

 

Adjusting When You Are There

When planning your trip, remember to plan a day or two at your starting point to allow your body to acclimatize before you start the hike. When you arrive, go for short walks, drink lots of water (hydration is essential!), eat well and get a good night’s sleep. Many times 24 hours is all that is needed to adjust, but take care to listen to your body. We will cover more on successfully completing a high altitude hike in our next blog.

While exercise is always good for us, training prepares us to reach a goal. So choose a goal, and start training for your next breathtaking adventure!

What’s your goal? A great one would be joining us to summit Mount Khuiten in the majestic Altai Mountains this August. For more info click here: https://www.wildfirexpeditions.com/tours/altai-mountains/ or email us at info@wildfirexpeditions.com

As one group of our trekkers summited Mount Rinjani (3726m), another Wildfire Expeditions group is preparing to take on Stok Kangri (6153m). This seems to be the perfect time to cover the basics of acute mountain sickness (“AMS”).

The highest mountain peak in our world is Mount Everest. Standing at 8,850 meters above sea level, it  is extreme and difficult for humans to survive. Apart from the visible differences in the terrain and geographic features, the major ‘invisible difference‘ is the effects of altitude on the human body.

We at Wildfire believe that  it is the nature of humans to take on challenges and to explore the World beyond these challenges. In doing so, a person has to overcome the harsh and extreme weather, rough and volatile terrain, living and sustaining out of one’s comfort zone, physical demands and the most important of all, understanding the chemistry of high altitude.

What is high altitude?

Alpine climbing involves scaling height and due to the change in atmospheric pressure with altitude ( inversely proportional ), our bodies change as well to deal with the extreme conditions. We need to adapt to the changes in environment physically and mentally within a short time frame to become properly acclimatized to the environment. Studies of high altitude and its effects on the human body have been done extensively to understand the best way of avoiding and managing AMS. This article classifies altitude according to its effects on the human body. The most common classification is –

2500m – 3650m: High Altitude

3650m – 5500m: Very High Altitude

5500m and above: Extremely High Altitude

7920m and above: Death Zone

What are the effects of high altitude?

As we know, atmospheric pressure decreases as altitude increases. The concentration of oxygen at sea level is 21% approximately and the mercuric pressure is approximately 760 mmHg.  Our body is well adapted to these conditions. However with increase in altitude, the atmospheric pressure decreases which gives more space for the air molecules to spread wider apart. Even if the concentration of oxygen in the atmosphere remains constant, our oxygen molecule intake per breath decreases.

Our body detects the change and responds to the change by increasing our breathing rate (hypoxia) to meet the oxygen deficiency. We call it ‘breathlessness’ in layman terms. We try to breathe more. To further add complexity, the body increases the Hemoglobin count in our blood which are the oxygen carriers, to hold more oxygen molecules in our blood. This process thickens our blood and hence our heart now needs to pump thicker blood to the extreme organs, which further results in increased pressure on our heart. A slight increase in blood pressure and pulse rate in the high altitude is our body’s reaction to respond to the changed environment.

In order to breathe more oxygen from the air we increase the breathing rate. Excessive hypoxia makes our blood alkaline and our kidneys react immediately by eliminating bicarbonates with the urine to restore the blood pH level. This is why we urinate more in High Altitude.

At around 5000 meters, the pressure is approximately half compared to that at sea level. At the summit of Mt. Everest, it is one-third. Our body cannot handle this deficiency of oxygen in our blood, hence we face several problems which is known as Acute Mountain Sickness ( AMS) or simply Altitude Sickness.

What is Acute Mountain Sickness?

As described above, AMS is caused by our body’s inability or slowness to adapt to the high altitude. Our body, unable to cope up to the harsh conditions, starts to deteriorate and fail. It initially rings the bell by showing various symptoms like headache, dizziness, fatigue, breathlessness, nausea , etc.

Symptoms: headache, dizziness, fatigue, breathlessness, nausea,loss of appetite

Treatment: The body resolves itself after some time spent at that altitude.  Mild analgesic or ibuprofen is sometimes taken for headache. Hydration is key. Do not exert physically and rest in camp. Keep an eye on your team member. Restrict further ascent until the symptoms vanish, else descend if symptoms persist.  You may put the person n Acetazolomide ( Diamox ) and if symptoms still persist, descent is the only solution. Do not force food. Let hunger come naturally.  The most important decision to keep in mind is not to ascend any further until symptoms subside.

How serious can Acute Mountain Sickness be?

Usually, AMS heals on its own with proper acclimatizing. However, further ascent should not be allowed if the symptoms do not resolve. AMS should always be seen as a dangerous alarm for two of the deadliest and fatal conditions at High Altitude – High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE)  and High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE).

If AMS symptoms are not recognized quickly, you might be taking yourself to your death bed high up in the mountains.

What Is High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE) ?

HAPE is a condition in which the pressure in our pulmonary artery increase so much that it ruptures the week capillaries, especially that of our lungs which is badly Hypoxic. This results in leakage of fluids in our lungs and we have difficulty breathing. HAPE generally happens on the second night, but you should always be on check. Cold conditions increase artery pressure, and increase chances of HAPE.

Symptoms: Breathlessness at rest, fast and shallow breathing, extreme fatigue, cough, sometimes blood in cough, gurgling breaths and dizziness.

Treatments: You cannot treat HAPE at high altitude. The ultimate course of action is immediate evacuation as soon as possible, even during night if required. The symptoms could resolve on the descent, but the team member must be taken to hospital for proper management.

Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-altitude_pulmonary_edema

What Is High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE) ?

HACE is a condition in which brain functions improperly due to the effects of altitude. The pressure in the cerebral membrane increases and the brain swells. It can be very dangerous and sometimes might not give you time to react.

Symptoms: Loss of cordination ( ataxia), ability to think, change in one’s behavior, aggressiveness, irritated behavior, confusion.

Treatments: Similar to that of HAPE, high altitude is not the place to treat HACE. Only solution is to descend, and your team member show quick signs of recovery on descending good altitude. Medicines like Dexamethasone ( 8mg) can be given, sometimes along with Acetazolomide ( Diamox) to give you time to work out evacuation, if required even at night.

sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-altitude_cerebral_edema

How does the human body adapt to high altitude naturally?

Acclimatization is the process by which our body adapts to these extreme conditions.

Acclimatization is the process in which an individual body copes up and adjusts to the change in its environment. The various factors of the environment change may be chill, heat, altitude, atmospheric pressure, etc. It allows the body to remain normal and maintain performance across a range of environmental conditions.

Acclimatization is a process which takes time depending on the individual. Some people acclimatize more quickly than others. There is no set rule on how long the process should take.. Normally once we enter into the High Altitude Zone (Above 3000 meters) a rule of thumb is to not gain more than 300m a day in elevation from the elevation that you are sleeping.  For example if you slept the night before at 3000 meters, you can trek and climb up to 3600 meters during the day, but must come back to 3300 meters to sleep that night.  Going higher during the day and trekking back to sleep at a lower altitude is recommended by most professionals.

The 3 main points for proper acclimatization are:

  • Climb High, Sleep Low
  • Slow Ascent, Do Not Over Exert
  • Hydrate, Hydrate and Hydrate

Stay safe and if you feel any of the above symptoms described, tell someone immediately and turn back.  Survive to climb another day.

Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Effects_of_high_altitude_on_humans

Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Effects_of_high_altitude_on_humans

Our amazing divers Gwen and Yunwei, just got back from Sipadan with some exciting stories and amazing photos to share!  Hopefully more to come, but these few shots that were sent across, exemplifies the beauty and clarity of Sipadan!  Have you been?  Not too late in the season to go! Message us and we can make it happen…

Journey thru the waters

Underwater rush hour

In case you missed it, our trip from 2017 had some amazing shots as well.  Our Chief Fun Coordinator, Michael, got his drone out for some amazing footage of the dive rig as well…

 

Sign up today and get a scuba diving fin bag from us! Email us for details. Michael@wildfirexpeditions.com

 

Wildfire Expeditions celebrated May Day 2018 with an exhilarating trek across 4 peaks in the Java province of Indonesia. Read on to find out more!

 

28Apr18 – “Every mountain top is within reach if you just keep climbing” ~ Barry Finlay

 

 

Traversing the Welirang – Arjuno stratovolcano over the May day extended weekend seemed like a great idea. 4 peaks in 4 days. What efficiency! I happily disregarded the arduous training required to get myself mountain-ready after a year of airplane mode.

 

We landed in Surabaya to clear blue skies. As our orange bus rolled through plantation and fields, I felt the familiar thrill of exploring yet another mountain, of the call of adventure.

 

In flagrant contradiction of the perfect weather that had followed us all the way, a heavy shower greeted us as we pulled into our drop-off point. Waterproofing kicked into high gear. At 2:30pm, we started rolling as the rain pattered off to a slight drizzle. The trail wound through the forest, a continuous gentle uphill. A plethora of sunflowers added colour and cheer. The rain turned out to be a blessing as it lowered the humidity and made for a much cooler trek.

 

Due to the lateness of the hour, we trekked into sundown. We were lucky enough to walk under a glorious glowing sky as the sun gradually set. As full moon was in two days’ time, moonlight lit our way thereafter. (Of course, also headlamps).

 

We clocked into camp just shy of 6 hours later. Despite the cold, I had a good night’s sleep.

 

29Apr – Summit Welirang and Kembar I

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings” ~ John Muir

 

A relaxed itinerary in that we were not pressed to get up at the crack of dawn, we clowned around waiting for breakfast, practicing headstands, crows, and all manner of hamstring and quad exercises to stretch out the muscles for the long day ahead.

 

At 9:04am, we set off for Welirang puncak. While the previous day was lush, this morning, we moved firmly into volcano territory. The route to the mountain base wound through the mountain shoulder and fog drifted in and out, obscuring our view now and then. From base, the approach became stripped, bare characterized by rocks, volcanic ash, sulphur pits and fumes. The switch was dramatic. With no rain today and clear blue skies, it was scorching but the wind at 3,000m still chilled.

 

This mountain with its pits of smouldering fumes is visually reminiscent of Semeru – sans the mini eruptions but with the pungency of sulphur infusing the breath each time the wind blows the wrong way.

 

Sulphur mining remains a big part of life here. We met the workers and witnessed firsthand how they crated the heavy blocks down the mountain with nothing more than a wheelbarrow – and flip flops!

 

After taking in the dramatic views from the summit of Welirang, we descended back to our packs. This time, we pushed for Kembar I just about 100m shorter than Welirang, closer to the campsite for the night.

 

In contrast to Welirang, Kembar I was green. More mountain ranges eclipsed by fog drifting occasionally into view. From Kembar I, we descended about 30 minutes to Lembah Lengkehan, our campsite for the night.

 

We were blessed with a beautiful sunset the night before full moon. Two long descents were wearing on the legs but the ultimate was yet to come. Day 3 was expected to be the longest day. Heading to bed with a full belly, little did we know how much longer it would become.

 

30Apr – Gunung Arjuno

“Mountains are freedom. Treat them respectfully” ~ Conrad Anker

 

At 7:30am we left for the summit of Kembar II, right behind campsite, facing Kembar I. The route was deceptive as we wound all the way to the left before heading up. Our guide casually strolled in flip flops. At the descent, I marveled at his footing as I slipped and slid my way down.

 

Kembar II was my favourite summit view. We nailed the timing. Literally above the clouds, we were quiet for many moments, watching the horizon spread in a thin line across the sky. Mountain after mountain, range after range unfolded as far as the eye can see

On the Top With Friends
On the Top With Friends

After breakfast, we set off for the climax of these 4 days, Gunung Arjuno, the highest and last of the four. This was another beautiful (though tougher) hike through forest to tundra. As we climbed above the clouds once more, Mount Semeru rose majestically in the distance.

 

The route was more varied, with logs and obstacles and lots of high steps and boulders along the way. The range of mountains never stopped. One after the other as we ascended higher, yet another peak, range unfolded itself. This is just one region of Indonesia, the country of countless wonders. Mt Rinjani, Mt Agung, Mt Semeru, Mt Bromo and now Welirang, Lembar, Arjuno. Mountains both challenged me and tested my spirits. Ocean that is an unending kaleidescope of marvels. How incredible.

 

After 3 hours of blistering heat, we finally broke through to the summit ridge and stepped onto the border between Malang and Paseruan. Knowing a long descent awaited us, we did not dally long in celebration. After indulging in the obligatory summit shot (with Mt Semeru as backdrop), we inched our way down, first in blistering sun, then fog, fast descending into complete darkness.

 

The mist hanging heavily over the mountain shoulder made it impossible to make out the trail with accuracy as the light from our headlamps diffused through the waist-high undergrowth. When it got to the point where I couldn’t be bothered to sweep the branches apart with my pole, I knew I was exhausted. City lights blinked into view around 6pm. We must be nearing camp. It took another hour before we hobbled into camp, heralded by whooping calls from the porters who made it first. The tents were ready and we stumbled in.

 

Gunung Arjuno was glorious. The views were stupendous and both the ascent and descent came with its unique challenges. Ending off with this brought the mission to a satisfactory close. Knowing the suffering will start in the morning, I nonetheless drifted off to sleep with wonder and appreciation of the beauty we have been blessed to witness and the weather that held up for us.

Mount Arjuna Sign Post
Mount Arjuna Sign Post

1May – Descent to Wonosari

“How glorious a greeting the sun gives the mountains!” ~ John Muir

 

We woke up before sunrise to make it in time for our early afternoon flight. A little daunted by the memory of the most recent, most painful descent, we wanted to give it plenty of time. As a farewell gift from the mountain, we were blessed with a gorgeous sunrise from our camp!

 

The trek out was much less arduous than we had feared. Before long, we arrived at the flat plantation part where we sauntered our way to Wonosari and Lawang Base Camp for the final goodbye to the mountains.

 

***

 

In four days we were transported from supreme connectivity to a complete disconnection from the electronic world and to increasing connectedness with life. My thighs are burning, my skin is peeling, and battered by both intense heat and chilly winds, my body is rebelling. Yet I feel energized, cleansed and filled with wonder and appreciation. With a humbled spirit I marvel once more the power of the mountains. “Great things are done when men and mountains meet”. So coined William Blake from another time, the phrase resonates even more in a life full of clutter. The elemental nature of the mountains manifests in simplicity. Survival is reduced to putting one foot in front of the next, finding your step, reacting to the changing conditions.  Beauty is defined by colours, the blue of the sky, the vivid yellows, pinks, purples, whites, greens of the flowers, the height of the trees, even the barrenness of the volcanic ashfield. The mind is filled with awe at the spectacle Nature presents. The spirit is serene.

Ready to try for your own Traversing adventure? Then check out our Taiwan Pintien to Dabajian Mountain traverse.  Also if you are a traveler, and you wonder where we stay on our Pre and Post treks, we use AirBnB!  For some good tips on keeping yourself protected while using airBnb, check the post from Hogan Injury on staying protected while enjoying your stay!