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  • Health and Safety

Why to avoid consumption of Alcohol and Smoking on a High Altitude Trek?

Published On 01 Mar 2020 by Oshank Soni

Remember this nursery rhyme?
Jack and Jill
Went up the hill
To fetch a pail of water.
Jack fell down,
And broke his crown,
Jill came tumbling after.

Do you know why Jack tumbled down that hill, in the first place? Yeah, it was probably because Jack and Jill were drunk while climbing that goddamn hill!

On a serious note, if you have an upcoming trekking trip or you are planning on one, here's the blow, smoking, and drinking is an absolute NO. There aren't any real legal rules stopping you. But the booze is more of a vice than virtue among the mountains.

What happens when you end up indulging even on one tiny glass? I call it the terrible toxic triad effect.

1) Hypothermia

Once alcohol, however little, is in your system, it causes all the blood vessels to dilate. Hence from a single-lane-two-way-narrow-street, your arteries and veins turn into a 6-laned-one-way-highway. Voila! Thus blood easily flows from the core of your body towards the superficial areas like the skin. Remember how your buddy turns pink and blushy after a couple of shots?

As the blood moves into your skin, a supremely high amount of your body heat is lost, leaving your body cold from within. And maybe you are fine with it, but that kind heart and sharp brain of yours, definitely can't function normally with even slightly low body temperature. Eventually leading to a potentially dangerous and even fatal condition called hypothermia.

2) Dehydration

Apart from turning you into a cold person literally, alcohol induces a dry state. Ah, the pun!

So along with body heat, an ample amount of water in the form of vapor is also lost. And on a trek, a very basic rule is to drink abundant water. What good would it be if you end up losing more water in a few hours then you actually drank through the day?

Dehydration as such is a serious medical condition. But what's more important is that dehydration makes you more susceptible to the third and the most disastrous of the triad, AMS(Acute Mountain Sickness)

3) AMS (Acute Mountains Sickness)

Although the name is misleading it definitely isn't even near cute. A medical condition occurring because your body doesn't get the oxygen it needs to function. Initially beginning as a mild condition, it may end up causing HAPE (High Altitude Pulmonary Edema) and HACE (High Altitude Cerebral Edema).

Now I don't think I have to explain to you why oxygen is synonymous with remaining alive. And as you move above the sea level your body is already under severe lack of oxygen. Alcohol and smoking will only increase this oxygen deficiency. In short, you'll be literally inviting AMS, if nothing else.

Maybe alcohol is a solution to everything. And maybe smoking helps you blow away all your worries. But I suggest when on a trek you might as well skip those two. Instead, let mountains get you high. Let nature and her beauty work its magic onto you. Believe me, it's even better than getting drunk. You sure gonna get addicted to her!

  1. Oshank Soni : Co-Founder at Trekmunk. Has travelled to 28 Indian States, has led more than 50 high altitude treks in the Indian Himalayas. He is an Investment Banker by profession but a traveller by passion. He has led treks in Kashmir, Ladakh, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, West Bengal, Sikkim and Nepal. He is a NOLS certified First Aid Responder. Chasing the sun is his full-time job, a Storyteller, Travel photographer and Videographer at Insane Traveller Productions.

Swatilekha Bhattacherjee
2020-08-28 13:26:56.0

thanks for your explanations. a lot of trekkers depend on alcohol to fight cold. we can only hope that it doesn't work. additionally the trekker has to walk all the way afterwards with a less fit health. thanks again.

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