High Altitude and Altitude Sickness – How to manage

by Monicah Wangari
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Second attempts

They require you to admit you did not perform like you wanted to the first time.

They require you to admit that maybe you were not as ready as you thought you were.

These are uncomfortable feelings and thoughts.

What adulting has taught me is no matter what, you have to keep moving forward.

Rurimueria challenged me. I only reached halfway the first time I attempted this Aberdares beast. While leaving, I knew I had unfinished business with it. So it stayed in my thoughts. I figured what I could have done different. So when the second chance presented itself, I was ready.


Before, you read on, you should check out the article I did on my first Rurimueria attempt.

I shared my story about my first attempt with a few people. It is very inspiring. I am very proud of myself for choosing to go back to conquer the Rurimeria beast. It was something I hoped to achieve before the year ended and I did. I am ready to conquer bigger mountains. By planning for them in advance, preparing for them mentally and being patient with myself while at it.




High Altitude and Altitude Sickness

Altitude sickness, caused by high altitude can mess your experience on a mountain. Especially if you’re not used to it – for instance if you live in a low altitude area.

High altitude causes altitude sickness. This is a NATURAL human occurrence caused by low oxygen levels. Hence the body organs slowly begin shutting down. It can show up in form of headache, dizziness, nausea, puking, fatigue, feeling sleepy and fainting. So please, don’t beat yourself about it if you’ve been there or if it happens in future.

I have experienced it twice and both times, it was extreme. But somehow I’m just not giving up on ATC. I have so many plans to hike high altitude mountains.





Here are a few tips that I have learnt over time that have helped me manage in high altitude hikes.

1. Take it slow. In any group hike, there will always be somebody who is quicker than you. Accept and understand that in advance. Remember different people have different capabilities, goals, levels of experience. Move at your own pace. If you need to stop to breathe, do it. If you need to stop for a water break, do it. Let go of the pressure to keep up. Remember your speed is the right speed for you.

2. Sip water. 10-minute should not go by before you sip water. That could be 2 to 4 gulps. Water is important since it carries oxygen. Keep in mind that in high altitude the oxygen is low. So the goal here is for your body to have enough oxygen for you to keep moving. Water serves that.

3. Stop to breathe. If you’re running out of breath, take a break. Take slow deep breaths. In through your nose, out through your mouth. Do that until your heartbeat is back to normal.

4. Rest in between to allow acclimatization. Some people take quick 5-10 minutes naps. 

5. Avoid making huge steps. This is because huge steps cause you to use up more oxygen quickly compared to tiny steps. Causing you to pant as the heartbeat rises. 

Keep in mind that the goal is to keep oxygen flowing through your body. As you enjoy the serenity of the location.

6. Dress light. This is because over dressing or dressing heavily will slow you down. If you don’t need an item, keep it in your bag or hang it on your bag straps (I do this a lot). Of course if an area is cold or raining, dress up to keep your health in shape.




Hiking Rurimueria – The Experience

You can define it as a 5 stage experience. It has 4 summits. 

The first Hill can easily discourage you. It is an uphill affair all through up to the summit.

Those rests and breathes and sips of water will keep you going.

The second hill ends real quick. It’s bliss after going through torture by the first Hill.

The third hill will test you just like the first one but good thing is, you’ve already acquired momentum and have started acclimatizing.

On summitting the third Hill, you will have a glance of the coveted moorland. Open landscape made of high altitude vegetation. Spectacular views. What everyone who goes to Rurimeria is usually aiming for.

It will be a long flat walk to the forth summit. Be sure to take in the views as you carefully walk avoiding knee deep bogs. A tip I learnt is to use the hiking pole to check for safest point to walk on.

Then you will get to the forth summit. It’s a steep 10-15minutes ascent which is very doable.

Coming down, a hiking pole will come in handy. If you don’t have one, sitting will work too. 

There’s the notion that we sometimes get lost in. We get comfortable once we’ve summitted and forget that we have a whole descent ahead.

This is the fifth part of the Rurimeria hike – the descent. It’s gonna test your knees. Especially the first summit descent. When I’m descending, I gauge how far I am with how close the houses down below are from me.

I literally had a new walking style going down. I longed for flat ground to stand on.

Just as dusk set in, I got to the bus.

I was so tired and I had a headache. I couldn’t make conversation. All I wanted was to sleep. Right after changing into other clothes. I slept until I’d recovered. The headache was now gone. I could now make conversation and eat as I prayed for us to get home safe.



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