A road trip through some of the most difficult mountain terrains in the world to get to Leh Ladakh, is not for the faint hearted. Not only are you crossing high altitude mountain passes ranging from 13000 feet to 18000 feet, the chance of a snow slide is almost always looming in the horizon. Forget luxury, if you are expecting to receive even normal comforts and amenities on the way, you are in for a major disappointment. It is therefore imperative that you build your endurance both physically and mentally before you consider taking a thrilling trip down some of the most spectacular sights that nature has to offer.
Lack of oxygen at high altitudes can tire physically unprepared travellers faster. Apart from tiredness there are also the symptoms of Acute Mountain Sickness to contend with, which include loss of appetite, nausea and dizziness, insomnia, shortness of breath and nosebleed among others. It is prudent to improve your overall stamina before you set out. You could benefit from:
- Cardio Exercises to improve your ability to retain breath even in areas with very low oxygen levels
- Strengthening exercises for the lower and upper back as long rides can be physically taxing on the back.
- General weight and muscle training to increase ability to ride long distances without fatigue.
- Rhythmic breathing and blowing balloons to increase lung capacity could also come in handy
Even with all the physical and mental training in the world there is no way you can avoid the symptoms of mountain sickness at such high altitudes. The key is to give your body time to acclimatize to high altitude mountain conditions by arranging at least 2 days stop at Leh if you have flown into the city, before proceeding higher. Other handy acclimatization tips include:
- Keeping yourself adequately hydrated
- Keeping preventive medication handy. Diamox is preferred by Mountain travellers. However, it is advisable to have your doctor prescribe the AMS medication.
- Carrying an oxygen cylinder, easily available at a chemist, is also advisable.
- Keeping yourself adequately warm. Remember to dress up in layers. This is particularly helpful when you are gaining height as you can add to the layers effortlessly.
- Having a carbohydrate rich diet. It is prudent to avoid heavy meals; instead light meals at frequent intervals are advisable.
- A good night’s sleep can go a long way in mitigating the effects of mountain sickness. Remember not to over-exert yourself
- If the problem becomes acute try descending to a lower altitude to take some rest before carrying forth with your journey.
- It is advisable to sleep with your head elevated while sleeping
- It is best to avoid alcohol at least for the first couple of days till your body has got used to the high altitude conditions. Similarly, it is best to avoid smoking and tobacco
. Above all, however, a sound body and mind can make this journey through natures trail one of the most memorable journeys of your life.