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Tips for Traveling at High Altitudes

We have all been there. We want to take the trip of a life time to a far away, magical place. We have everything in place: paid time off request made, someone to watch the kids and/or pets, money saved to be used for this EXACT reason and a new camera to take amazing photos. Then during our thorough search of our destination on google we come across a few articles that make us second guess whether or not we should even GO! The one person who got a rattle snake bite on a remote hike. The influx of theft in a particular area. The risks of traveling at high altitudes. This is 100% the brain's job. The amygdala in the brain is dedicated to detecting threats. It's there to protect us but it can also hijack our entire life if we let it causing us to fear going out of our comfort zone and just stay put forever. If you haven't guessed, that's not really our thing.

Since we will be hosting a retreat in the Sacred Valley of Peru in October, at an elevation of 9,800 ft, we wanted to give you some tips for traveling at high altitude.

Planning ahead and knowing how your body responds to altitude can make the difference in feeling amazing or not being able to participate in the journey. 

 Definition of high altitude:

  • Lower altitude = 1000-2000 meters (3280-6561 feet)
  • Moderate altitude = 2000-3000 meters (6561-9842 feet)
  • High altitude = 3000-5000 meters (9842-16404 feet)
  • Extreme altitude = >5000 meters (>16404 feet)

What is thin air and why is this a problem?
The air is thinner the higher you go. This means oxygen molecules are spread farther apart than at sea level. For each breath of air you take in, less oxygen is delivered to your body. Low oxygen levels can result in decreased performance if you have not had time to acclimate. Acclimation can take anywhere from 1-3 days. 

To give you context Aspen, CO is at an altitude of 8,000 ft, not that much lower than the Sacred Valley at 9,800 ft. It is considered moderate-high. If your body responds well to the altitude in CO, you should not have issues in Peru. However, we never know how the body is going to respond so taking precautionary measures is wise. 

Take good care of yourself leading up to the retreat. We recommend the following:

  • Drink lots of water
  • Take a break from alcohol for at least 2 weeks prior to the retreat 
  • Avoid foods high in sugar and salt
  • Get plenty of rest
  • Move your body daily
  • Load up on iron
      • Iron helps to increase the number of red blood cells and thus access to oxygen within the body
      • Sources of iron:

Day 1 of the retreat is considered a travel day and we will not be doing any vigorous activities. As guides that have travelled the globe, we have great sensibilities about what the body can and cannot tolerate, but it is up to you to take good care of yourself when you are on the ground in Peru. 

  • Take it easy the day of arrival
        • If you are moderately affected or unaffected by high altitudes, flying in on the first day of the retreat is perfectly ok as we will use this day to settle in and ground
        • the full daily routine will start the day following arrival
  • Give your body time to get used to the altitude
        • The body has an amazing ability to acclimatize to altitude, but it needs time
  • Drink 3-5 liters of water per day
    • Eat carbohydrates
          • Adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol are all elevated with exercise at high altitudes
          • These hormones increase the use of carbohydrates for energy
    • Load up on iron (see above for sources)
    • Eat proteins
    • Avoid alcohol
    • Sip Coca Tea
    • Be on a sleep schedule with good sleep patterns
    • Practice Yoga
          • Doing inversions brings more blood and oxygen to the head
          • Pranayama (deep breathing) brings more air into the lungs and can help with shortness of breath

    With a little extra attention to your food and fluid intake, high altitude adventures can be successful. It's all about remembering to consume extra calories, proteins,  carbohydrates and fluids and listening to your body. 


    *The most severe forms of altitude sickness are rare but can be very serious. If you begin to feel truly awful, play it safe and we will get you to the nearest hospital or a lower elevation. There are hospitals and hotels close by the retreat center that have oxygen tanks if symptoms worsen and we will be there to help at all times.