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"Atacama H. Altitude Warning and Prevention" Putre Warnings Or Dangers Tip by TooTallFinn24

Putre Warnings and Dangers: 1 reviews and 1 photos

  At Altitude 15, 300 ft. in Chile Beyond Chungara
by TooTallFinn24

The Setting

The town of Putre is very isolated. There are virtually no gas stations between Arica, about 95 miles away, and Putre.

While Putre is only 3,500 meters (11,000 feet) walking around town and doing normal activites still can be strenuous. However if you venture north to Chungara National Park the altitude climbs to as high as 15,400 feet. This is higher than any mountain in the continental United States and one of the highest commercial roads in the world.

Considering that many tourists leave places like Arica on the coast on private tours and travel up to places such as Putre or Chungara in a matter of hours there are some severe risks and precautions to be taken. unfortunately, there is no way of telling if anyone is susceptible to high altitude sickness.

What Is High Altitude?

Medical personnel indicate that high altitude is anything over 8,000 feet. Very high altitude is considered to be anything over 12,000 feet.

Our Bodies At High Altitude

As we climb in altitude the barometric pressure decreases (even though the concentration of oxygen remains the same). Every breath at higher altitude contains lesser amounts of oxygen and thus we must breath harder to get oxygen. However even with increased breathing it is impossible to get the same level of oxygen in our blood.


The major cause of high altitude sickness is going to high to quickly. As indicated earlier this is an issue in Chile because many of the tourist companies that serve the coast of Chile rush folks up the mountain from sea level to 15,000 feet in a matter of hours. This does not give the body adequate time to respond. On one of the tours I observed several folks were beginning to show signs of altitude sickness and several more with significant headaches.

How To Prevent Alititude Sickness

On the tour I was on there approach to altitude sickness was to stop at a restaurant at altitude about 10,000 feet and have everyone have cocoa (cocaine) tea or just chew the tea leaves. While this helped I can say that this did nothing to give me a natural high as well.

However Rick Curtis of Princeton University suggests that you can do several things to prevent or limit altitude sickness;

* If possible, don't fly or drive to high altitudes.
* If you do fly or drive, do not over-exert or move higher for the first day.
* If you go above 10,000 feet (3,048 meters), only increase your altitude by 1,000 feet (305 meters) per day and for every 3,000 feet (915 meters) of elevation gained, take a rest day.
* "Climb High and sleep low." This is the maxim used by climbers. You can climb more than 1,000 feet (305 meters) in a day as long as you come back down and sleep at a lower altitude.
* If you begin to show symptoms of moderate altitude illness, don't go higher until symptoms decrease ("Don't go up until symptoms go down").
* If symptoms increase, go down, down, down!
* Keep in mind that different people will acclimatize at different rates. Make sure all of your party is properly acclimatized before going higher.
* Stay properly hydrated. Acclimatization is often accompanied by fluid loss, so you need to drink lots of fluids to remain properly hydrated (at least 3-4 quarts per day). Urine output should be copious and clear.
* Take it easy; don't over-exert yourself when you first get up to altitude. Light activity during the day is better than sleeping because respiration decreases during sleep, exacerbating the symptoms.
* Avoid tobacco and alcohol and other depressant drugs including, barbiturates, tranquilizers, and sleeping pills. These depressants further decrease the respiratory drive during sleep resulting in a worsening of the symptoms.
* Eat a high carbohydrate diet (more than 70% of your calories from carbohydrates) while at altitude.
* The acclimatization process is inhibited by dehydration, over-exertion, and alcohol and other depressant drugs.

One medication that has been found to lessen the symptoms of high altitude sickness is sildenafi

which is more commonly known as viagra! Studies in Germany for example have shown that use of viagra can lessen the possibility of pulmonary edema and even allow you to exercise a little more efficiently at high altitudes.

All and all high altitude sickness is a serious business and take it from my experience in the high Andean mountains of Chile it is best to be prepared in advance of traveling to such high altitudes. And no I did not get ill!

Review Helpfulness: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Updated Nov 6, 2015
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Comments (1)

  • GentleSpirit's Profile Photo
    Mar 19, 2013 at 7:29 PM

    excellent write up on altitude sickness. You should also point out that altitude can affect anyone, regardless of how good or bad physical shape they are in.


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