Acclimatization helps the body to cope with the reduced amount of oxygen in the air at high altitudes as the air pressure is low. Just in case, if you want to climb more than 8000 ft altitudes, acclimatization is simply slowing down the rate of ascent, to allow the body time to adapt to the lower air pressure.
Oxygen level at Namche is about 64% of oxygen level at sea level. It will continue to drop as we ascend, and at the Everest base camp, it will drop to 50%. It doesn’t mean people are not living here. We set up the restaurant Triyagyoni much above the Everest base camp where the oxygen level was only 43%.
Why it is very tough?
This is probably a first life-threatening restaurant. We need to accustom to the high altitude. So without acclimatization, if you land up in Everest base camp you may faint.
The reduced amount of oxygen while you breath makes it harder for the blood to absorb oxygen. In response, the body takes steps to maintain an adequate oxygen supply to the tissues. Immediately, the breathing becomes deeper and longer, thereby, increasing the amount of air flowing into your lungs.
Within minutes of arrival at a high altitude, a process is triggered in the body to increase the number of red blood cells, the cells that absorb and carry oxygen from the lungs to the tissues. In spite of these steps, the oxygen saturation in the blood falls.
To compensate for the reduced oxygen saturation, the heart pumps faster, increasing the blood flow to the tissues.
In addition to maintaining the oxygen supply, the body also tries to reduce the oxygen demand in the tissues.
I have been doing pranayama for the last three years and have been walking about 10 km every day for the last 6 months. This has come handy and very useful.
Nevertheless, my frequent (over 50 times) visits to our club Mahindra resorts at altitudes from 5000 to 7000 has helped my body to cope up with the sudden change of altitudes.
Yet another response is to reduce the oxygen demand by preferentially supplying it to critical organs such as the brain and the heart while suppressing the supply to less critical organs such as the digestive system. The resulting reduction in the digestion efficiency manifests as nausea, loss of appetite, indigestion, a preference for sweet rather than fatty food etc.
Some of the changes in the body have serious consequences. An increased fluid builds up in the brain causes acute mountain sickness (AMS).
Around 30% of the trekkers to base camp experience AMS, regardless of their age or physical fitness. In case if at all you want to trek above 9000 ft sometime in life remember these points!