Starting our trip at 1000' elevation and going straight up to 12,000' was our first mistake. Laurel Mountain (making that a 11,000' elevation gain in less then 12 hours) was our planned acclimatization climb. Last year, we should have learned our lesson when I got sick on our third backcountry trip trying to climb Mt. Williamson ( 6000' in one day) that altitude sickness can happen at anytime..
Yesterday, Laurel Mountain again reinforces this lesson. Our enthusiasm to burst from the car into the alpine was not tempered by good judgement. About halfway up we both started to feel light headed which makes insecure soloing a little precarious. We covered hundreds of feet of beautiful slab capped by the crux, a dike of burnt iron colored rock twisting it's way towards the top. As soon as that excitement was over the altitude sickness kicked up to a new level as Scott became nauseous and got a headache. We quickly realized that this summit was going to be hard fought, and we struggled to the top.
Scott was resigned to lay down for a while to get his heart rate to slow. Currently, our first aid kit contains duct tape, pain meds, wire, a piece of drinking straw (to drink water out of cracks), lighter, hand warmers, maxi pad, Benadryl, epi pen, steristrips, and an inhaler. We have heard that Viagra, which acts as a vascular dilator can be used off label for these sort of altitude sickness situations. Looking to add this one. Anyone tried this? Anyone have extras?
Instead of popping a pill we did the the tried and true method of descending. And as we did our symptoms improved and our big plans for another climb today were cancelled as we were pretty tuckered out.
So those of you planning on escaping the Tucson heat for a climbing trip in the Sierra or Colorado for some big climbs. Don't plan on pulling into Whitney Portal and feeling great on the summit the next day. Prepare with a few days of acclimatization OR a climbing partner that can put up with ALL the side effects of Viagra.