My Kinabalu Story: Chapter 4 – How to Overcome Altitude Sickness

Last week, I shared about my experience climbing up and descending Mount Kinabalu. Today I thought of sharing some tips on overcoming altitude mountain sickness (AMS), which can occur from an elevation of 2,400 m onwards. This post is also in time for this week’s “Weekly Writing Challenge: Dear Abby“. If I were to title this post with a question, it would be “How Can I Overcome Altitude Mountain Sickness?”

AMS can affect anybody, regardless of whether the climber is an expert or beginner. My buddy was not able to continue to the summit due to AMS, hence this would hopefully benefit you climbers out there who are planning for an upcoming expedition.

view of south peak

As Mt. Kinabalu is of 4,095 metres in elevation, you are prone to experience shortness of breath, difficulty in breathing and talking at the same time somewhere above 2,400 metres. AMS can be minor or major depending on the individual. In certain cases, it can even be fatal.

Here are some tips taken from my own experience:

1. Water, water, water. Always hydrate yourself!

As the atmosphere becomes thinner and thinner with increasing altitude, the air density (the number of molecules of both oxygen and nitrogen per given volume) drops. Which means the available amount of oxygen to sustain mental and physical alertness decreases with altitude. So we need to replenish the lack of oxygen by drinking lots of water.

2. Packing the right nutrition is extremely important. (See below paragraph for detailed explanation).

3. Recognize your body’s needs and take frequent breaks

Because of the climate change, you will find yourself out of breath more regularly, especially if you are climbing and talking at the same time. Take frequent breaks so that you will be able to pace out better, and use this time to drink up. Furthermore, take this opportunity to experience the sights, sounds and the scenery around you. The view does get better when you are higher up the mountain.

4. Listen to the rangers and the limits of your body.

[A side story regarding AMS which the ranger had shared with Khadijah; there was a case when a female climber who was climbing with her husband, felt some tightness around her chest and felt nauseous as she was climbing up. She ignored these symptoms and continued on despite experiencing the symptoms more and more. It was a fatal mistake because eventually she collapsed and passed away that very moment. To God we came from and to Him we shall return. The ranger had to carry her body down to base camp…]

nutrition_berries

Nutrition is very important and I believe it helped me a lot despite my inadequate training.

Here are some good foods I ate throughout the climb:

1. Goat’s Milk (Malay: Susu Kambing)

I drank this every night before going to bed, before and throughout (during the overnight rest at Laban Rata). It helps restore your bones and also provide the required calcium you need in your body.

2. Cranberries, Raisins, Figs (Malay: Buah Tin)

These are excellent supplements and energy boosters for during the climb. They provide natural sugars and have the right tinge of sweet and sourness to keep the AMS nausea at bay. [Fun fact: The figs hardened as we got higher due to the pressure and coldness. Interesting, aye?]

“By the fig and the olive…” – At-Tiin, 1

There’s many reasons why it was mentioned in the Quran. It has so many benefits!

3. 100 Plus

This goes without saying. Besides plain water, I had a 500 ml bottle with me which I drank *very sparingly* throughout…

I also kept some Snicker bars but it did not help much as it contributed to my nausea the higher I progressed. Natural sugars are the best.

Hopefully these tips can be beneficial to anyone planning for any upcoming expeditions. Best of luck in reaching that summit!

This post is part of the series “My Kinabalu Story” based on my expedition to Mount Kinabalu in Sabah, Malaysia on 26th September to 1st October 2012. For more chapters go to ‘Kinabalu Khronicles’ in the Categories section.

Weekly Writing Challenge: Dear Abby

My Kinabalu Story: Chapter 1 – Connecting the Dots

Starting off Travel Tuesday with more of Kinabalu but in detail. Ready, set, GO! The first chapter.

Introducing: The Team

First and foremost, introducing the team. The team comprised of 5 Singaporeans and 13 Malaysians. Team captain was Abang Amirul who is Musaddiq’s cousin. Abang Amirul is a seasoned mountaineer who has been to Mount Kinabalu twice prior to this trip. This time, he opened the expedition to his Petronas colleagues and as fate has it, we came into the picture – literally.

sg team big grp pix

The Singapore team’s Overnight Flight

On Wednesday night, we departed from Singapore via Air Asia to Sabah at 5.40pm, reaching Kota Kinabalu International Airport (BKI) at about 8.05pm. We took a cab from BKI to our hotel at KK Central, settled down and went out for dinner. After walking around for about 15 minutes we found a place called Stesen Ikan Bakar, a pretty chillax place selling all kinds of grilled fish. You name it, they have it. After dinner, we went back to the hotel to have a good night’s rest before starting the day full swing and meeting the Malaysian team tomorrow.

stesen ikan bakar ikan dan sotong bakar

Soaking our feet (and body) at Poring Hot Springs

Thursday morning, we headed off to go to Poring Hot Spring. Why hot springs first before the climb? For 2 reasons – it was along the way to Kinabalu National Park and, going on weekdays surpasses the weekend crowd. I remembered coming to this place on a weekend with my family and saw some families settling down their picnic spot with their own pot of rice.

3 hours later we reached Poring Hot Spring, which is in Ranau. It only takes 1 hour from Ranau to the base of Mount Kinabalu. Amazing scenery greets us along our journey.

mountain view

We stopped by some shops and markets on our way to have lunch, get some necessities, and meet the Malaysian team.

corn stick

Remember those old skool keropok jagung in the shiny plastic wrappers with 3 corn sticks inside? These are them! In less glamorous packaging but delicious nonetheless.

sabah houses

On our way we passed by many of these houses. I always wonder how these people’s way of lives are. They literally live amidst the mountains. And they don’t seem to don any thermal wear, I guess their bodies already adapted to the weather there. Most of them are also very fair-skinned, due to the cold weather. Reminds me of Adira, the singer who originates from Sabah and her snow white skin (or “putih melepak” in Malay).

hot spring sign

A little bit about the hot spring: Hot sulphur spring water is formed by the less violent manifestation of volcanic areas. Even where the volcanoes are no longer active. Many hot springs contain carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulphide in varying proportions and mineral salt are always dissolved in thermal spring water. Thus you have sulphur in the hot spring.

The left pipe contains hot spring water that flows continuously – it’s really boiling hot, while the right pipe contains cold tap water. You have to mix the two to get your desired temperature.

two pipes

Or if you’re too lazy to wait for the water to flow, you can always go straight to the medium-sized tub which is already filled with hot spring water. You need to let your body acclimatize to the temperature though, because it’s not as warm as it looks – it is really hot at first!

tub spring

The water in here is too hot for any soaking as it is above boiling point, hence entry is prohibited. It’s so amazing how Allah makes water of different kinds of temperatures and they all exist for a reason. SubhanAllah.

dilarang masuk

Hot water vapour from the restricted areas of the hot spring. After a long day of travelling and relaxing, we headed off to Mesilau, our place of stay for the overnight rest before starting the climb. Yes, we were going to start from Mesilau Trail instead of the Timpohon Gate which is normally used by first-time climbers.

hot vapour

Arriving at Mesilau Nature Resort

We reached Mesilau Nature Resort at about 7pm. Upon stepping out of our vehicle, the coldness of high altitude greeted us. Mesilau trail is situated at approximately 2,700 m above sea level while the other entrance start point, Timpohon Gate starts at 1,688 m in altitude. So it was already more challenging as we would be dealing with possibilities of AMS, which starts from 2,400 m onwards.

mesilau nature resort tea without sugar winter melon soup dinner

We were welcomed with a cup of hot tea (without sugar) upon our arrival. Our dinner started off with winter melon soup and an array of dishes. Delicious food Alhamdulilah. What we observed was that the dishes contained a lot of ginger. Ginger being a natural remedy to warm up our bodies was a perfect ingredient to be included in the dishes since we were at such cooling temperature, so perfect MashaAllah how everything is provided by God.

stairs

Our chalet is a double story but level 1 and 2 is only separated by a small flight of stairs. There’s a heater in every room, hooray! A mini fridge and other usual amenities were also provided. Actually from what we had been informed earlier, we were expecting a less comfy bunk bed type of place, which would have been totally fine with me. But Alhamdulillah we were surprised to arrive to a comfy place with comfy beds. Happiness… till the next day, when we were to start our climb…

mardmood: This post is part of the series “My Kinabalu Story” based on my expedition to Mount Kinabalu in Sabah, Malaysia on 26th September to 1st October 2012. For more chapters go to ‘Kinabalu Khronicles’ in the Categories section.

The Man with the Humongous Water Tank

The Man with the Thirty Litres Water Tank

Mount Kinabalu: During my descent from Laban Rata to the base point Timpohon Gate, we came across this man carrying a humongous water tank making his way up to the rest house. The water tank was the main source for all water facilities at Laban Rata due to the lack of natural water points at the area. The warm cup of tea I was able to enjoy while overlooking the scenic views would not have been possible if not for this man and his equally humongous determination.

mardmood: This post is part of the series “My Kinabalu Story” based on my expedition to Mount Kinabalu in Sabah, Malaysia on 26th September to 1st October 2012. For more chapters go to ‘Kinabalu Khronicles’ in the Categories section.