How do you survive trekking at a high altitude? The second day of our Engadine Valley hike in Switzerland began and ended from the little village of Zuoz, a bus and train ride from Guarda where our 1st day ended.
No more sciatica or lower back pain. No more arthritis troubles with Pain Relief Complex on board. Now the only task was to climb from 5700 ft to 8400 ft. to Escha Hut. We knew it would be hard, but we managed to make it harder. Instead of muscles spasms and a struggle with osteoarthritis, the pain and suffering of the day was mostly in my head.
As we climbed, I was short of breath. Then came the unsettled stomach. Then a feeling of light headedness. We passed a couple in their late 70’s from Zurich who had been in Zuoz over the weekend to play bridge and stayed on for a couple days to “take a little walk” in the area with their retired seeing-eye dog. Looking very out of shape and carrying only a light nap sac, these two seemed to climb this trail with ease. They did turn back when the path left the farm road and joined the cow tracks leading straight up the treeless slope. Paging through all I know about women and heart disease, reviewing in detail my mother’s congestive heart failure symptoms and subsequent death AT MY EXACT AGE, I managed to get myself into a panic, anticipating a heart attack any moment. At one point I called out “Would you just glance back here once in a while to see if I’m still upright?” At this point Jaco, my Dutch friend, decided to walk behind me. I later learned that all of us were struggling with shortness of breath. Chris, the 83 yr. old veteran of several Mt Rainier climbs, reminded us of deep inhales and slow, whistling out breaths. The gals in front were already taking 10 steps and resting for a couple breaths. I was absolutely sure I was having a heart attack.
At the top, we had the most delicious pumpkin soup, thick and creamy, sitting in the sun, our backs against the stone wall of Escha Hut, a busy place in the summer and even busier in the winter. A mountain biker peddled up the way we went down, paused for a drink and went down the way we had just come up. Way more impressive than Lance Armstrong. No doubt powered by his own lungs, blood and muscle, this cyclist was out for recreation.
As we sat there gazing at the Bernina mountain range in the distance, completely covered with snow at 13,000 ft, I remember my first ascent to 10,000 ft on Mt. Shasta and realiz
To avoid the precipitous downhill trail, we cut through a pass and circumnavigated the mountain in front of us, extending out trek by an additional 7 miles, making it a 14 miles day. The benefit was this shot of a marmot late in the afternoon, one of many familiar critters scampering and diving into their burrows. I’d been looking for them as all the telltale signs of marmot, just like in the Cascades, were everywhere.
One more physical challenge before our 6 days RyderWalker self guided trek was finished. Tune in next Thursday for more pictures and that story.
Now let’s hear from you. Have you had altitude sickness? Were you aware of what was happening to you or did you think you were having a heart attack? We’d like to hear your story. If you enjoyed this read, pass it along. Check me out on Facebook: betsyjbell, and while you are there, ‘like’ my business page, https://www.facebook.com/BetsyBellsHealth4U.
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