Acute mountain sickness
It happens beacuse of lack of oxygen and lower atmospheric pressure the breathing rates increases to balance for the lesser amount of oxygen present in the air. The symptoms of Acute mountain sickness is headache, nausea, loss of appetite and breathlessness. The only therapy is to acclimatise yourself to the area. On reaching Leh, spend your first day sleeping, resting and relaxing before you even think of exploring the place. Drink a lot of water, avoid smoking and please don’t even think of consuming alcohol. If these precautions are not taken AMS can be deadly.
Khardung La is about 2 hour drive from Leh, it;s on the way to Nubra valley. The views on the way are the most scenic I've ever seen: high snow-capped peaks and glaciers can be admired from such a close distance!
Hower, the road is very winding and narrow, from time to time I had the impression that we were going to end up in the abyss below us.
Here are some notices fixed in the rock to warn about the danger:
fast won't last
speed thrills but kills
if you sleep your family will weep
drive with care make accidents rare
all will wait better be late
no race no rally
enjoy the beauty of the valley
If you travel by local buses, it may happen to you that you'll travel on its roof (as buses are incredibly crowded), it is illegal, but poeople do that.
Beware of ELECTRICAL WIRES hanging very low above the roads!!!
If you travel on a bus roof in montanuous area , beware of FALLING ROCKS NAD STONES!
Accute Mountain Sickness is a real danger in Ladakh, esp. for those who choose a plane to get there.
You land in Leh at 3500m so allow yourself some time for acclimatisation, rest and relax on the first day. Occasional headaches, loss of apetite or sleeplessness may occur- these are mild symptoms of AMS, more serois one is a loss of a sense of direction/orientation.
If you have some of these symptoms, don't do anything strenuous, allow your organism to adapt to rarified air. If symtopms get worse, seek help in a local hospital.
Accute Mountain Sickness can KILL if the symtoms are ignored !!
Watch for the guard dogs in farm yards. They are there to watch teh property and guard the house form intruders. They do the job well. A dog's barking may function as a door bell as well, and people will come out to see what the barking and commotion is for, tie down the dog and let you in.
At night, ferocious dogs with dark minds roam Leh's streets. Keep small stones or a stick handy for keeping them at bay.
Acute Mountain Sickness (or AMS) a very real possibility because of the high altitude in the Ladakhi range. Early signs include listlessness, headaches, nausea - later signs death.
Take this seriously. People die every year because they dont.
Leh itself stands at 3500 metres. Take at least 3 days in the town to acclimatize before venturing out on any trek (most people use this time to tour the monasteries/palaces). Dont be goaded into a rushed itinery.
If you are following the Markha Valley trek you will need to prepare to sleep at 4700 metres plus (Nimaling) and cross a 5100 metre pass. Make sure you plan a rest day/contigency day.
Manali is at around 2000m and Leh at 3500m, whilst going there you cross the highest road in the world at a height of around 5200m, this high-pass is called Taglang La.
When I took the bus from Manali to Leh, I somehow didn't drink enough water.
As the ride takes two days you stay overnight in a camp at a height of appr. 4200m.
Before getting to the camp I got awful headache, and I started freezing like finns (ok I am only a 50% finn ; ) never do. I had some warming soup, but it didn't help.
I drank as much water as possible, but the night was horrible.
In the morning the headache was still there, but it got better after some hours on the bus.
This really taught me to drink enough whilst being in such heights.
A rule of thumb is, to drink one liter of water a day within every 1000m you elevate. But this is additional to the "normal" 3 liters a day. So if you elevate more than 2000 m a day you should drink appr. 5 l a day!
> -Is it a safe region (mainly in terms of past war)?
YES, THE KASHMIR UPRISING DOESN'T REACH THIS FAR INTO THE HIMALAYAS. DANGERS ARE OBJECTIVE, THAT IS, THINGS YOU WILL KNOW ABOUT AND THAT YOU CAN TAKE PRECAUTION AGAINST, SUCH AS COLD, SUN BURN, DEHYDRATION, EXCHAUSTION, SNOW BLINDNESS, ALTITUDE TROUBLE, FOOD AND WATER QUALITY, BED BUGS ETC.
> -did you take any vaccinations before going there?
LADHAK'S MAIN HEALTH WORRY WILL BE RELATING TO COLD/INFECTIONS OF NOSE,THROAT, EAR AND CHEST AND FOOD AND WATER/DIAHORREA, VARIOUS PARASITES.
IF I WERE YOU I WOULD TAKE THE ANTI-DIAHORREA VACCINE VALID 2-3 MONTHS, HEPATITIS (HAVRIX VACCINE) AND ENSURE THE POLIO VACCINATION IS VALID. IF STAYING IN LOWLAND INDIA , I WOULD TAKE MALARIA PROPHYLAXIS AND THE OTHER REGULAR VACCINES FOR INDIA .
> -did you have this altitude sickness? What are the ways to deal with it?
I HAVE HAD A MILD VERSION OF ALTITUDE SICKNESS IN LADAKH UPON ARRIVAL. I WAS PUT OUT FOR A FEW DAYS BY HEADACHES, NAUSEA AND SIGNS OF WATER IN MY LUNGS. I WAS ADVICED BY MD TO TAKE IT EASY, TAKE DIAMOX .
THE WAY TO DEAL WITH IT IS TO RETURN TO LOWER ALTITUDE. THE HOSPITAL IN LEH IS QUITE USED TO HANDLE THE AMS. BETTER READ ABOUT IT BEFOREHAND. ON ARRIVAL IN LEH, HAVE VERY LOW AMBITIONS OF WHAT YOU WANT TO DO THE FIRST DAYS.
> Is it possible to predict (before going there) how an organism will react to it? NO, IMPOSSIBLE, UNLESS YOU HAVE SOME PREVIOUS EXPERIENCES AS AN INDICATION. OLD PEOPLE AND NON-SPORTSPEOPLE SEEM LESS LIKELY TO CATCH IT.
Three types of altitude sickness :
AMS: Acute Mountain Sickness; HECE: High Altitude Cerebral Oedema; HAPE: High Altitude Pulmonary Oedema.
Do read about it and do understand it before you leave and while in Ladakh. This handbook is very handy and portable, easy to read and not expensive:
"The High Altuitude medicine Handbook. Micro edition", A:J:Pollard and D.R.Murdoch, Book Faith India, 1997.
Available in Delhi, Kathmandu and elsewhere. Distributed by Pilgrims Book House in Kathmandu.
It may be cold, but the sunshine is still very strong - do as the Ladakhis, wear a cap! The altitude, even at Leh, 3600 m, will ensure that the sunrays will be much stronger than on the Indian plains.
Add sun protection cream to your nose, neck, ears in particular. Your skin will also be dried out, so apply some lotion if you are of the easily dried out kind as I am...
The stretch of land between the top of the Zoji La pass and Kargil is among the most forbidding you will ever see. The "advertisement" goes that this is the 2nd coldest place in Asia after Siberia, but I wouldn't eliminate northern Mongolia, NE China and Tibet from this competition...
True is, temperatures may dip to minus 50 C in Drass and that is not very pleasant. I can assure that there is nothing to keep you waiting in Drass for very long - better avoid the place altogether. Whenever the restrictions on travel is lifted and summer travel is again possible, you may still get the odd cup of hot chaai here...
As you may have discovered, the Zoji La pass and the road to Srinagar are closed for tourist travels since 1999. The reasons are related to two events, the Pakistani intrusion in the Kargil sector of the Line of Control (LoC) between India and Pakistan, and the insurgency in the Vale of Kashmir. Two related, yet unrelated events.
The intrusion of the Kargil sector by Pakistani soldiers and some mujahedeen types from Lashkar-e-Taba and similar groups took place over several months in early 1999 and they came as far as 12 km into Indian-held territory. From ridgetop artillery and machinegun bases overlooking Drass, Kargil and Batalik they started bombarding the Beacon Highway (Srinagar-Leh road), while the embarrassed Indian forces spent nearly three months and 1200 lives forcing them back. Eventually Clinton, the famous Bill, talked harshly to the Pakistanis and that was the end of the story - so far. Drass and parts of Kargil and other villages were destroyed in the Pakistani bombardement - and likewise on the Pakistani/Balti side.
While this went on, many insurgents infiltrated Indian-held Kashmir, and all hell broke loose again there, with the result that travelling through even the lower parts of the Beacon Highway below Zoji La is still considered risky. Tourists do not any longer travel there, and visitors to the Amarnath caves in a side valley to Gulmarg and near the Zoji La have been attacked, kidnapped and killed.
In Ladakh, due to lack of oxygen and lower atmospheric pressure the heart and breathing rates increase to compensate for the smaller amounts of oxygen in the air, one feels the mild effects of AMS in the form of headache, nausea, loss of appetite and breathlessness. The only cure is to acclimatise ? Once you reach Leh, spend the first day sleeping, resting and relaxing before you attempt to explore. Drink plenty of water, avoid smoking and DONOT consume alcohol. Believe me this will help you enjoy rest of your trip.
Medicines reduce the intensity but the side effect is that if the altitude doesn't suit you, you won't get the warning signs till it's dangerously late.
Many people get caught unawares of altitude sickness just by coming to Leh, the provincial capital. It's not really "only" since the altitude here is about 3500-3600 meters. Danger of altitude sickness may occur even as low as 2600 meters. People's suceptibility of this condition varies greatly.
To avoid it you need to ascend slowly. To overcome it you need to descend - not easy in Ladakh....
See medical advice on this condition prior to going to Leh or other parts of Ladakh.
Ladakhi roads are not wordly reknown for their even surface and safety... the same applies to drivers, Ladakhi or Indian. For this reasons the roads are lined with warning signs, most of which are highly lyrical and inspirational. Here's a selection of some of the best (grammar mistakes included):
no race, no rally
enjoy beauty of the valley
this is highway
all will wait
better be late
drive with care
make accidents rare
if you sleep
your family will weep
mountains are a pleasure
if you drive with leisure
speed thrills but kills
fast won't last