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Can you loose your Acclimation after living at 6300 feet?

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Can you loose your Acclimation after living at 6300 feet?

Postby madeintahoe » Wed Sep 01, 2010 6:14 pm

Two months ago we relocated down to a elevation of 2100 feet after living in Tahoe for 23 years at 6300 feet. I went on a very short hike in the Carson Pass area to around 8500 feet or so...hiking up a found myself more out of breath and wanting to stop more than usual, walking down hill out and on the flats I did not feel that. I am wondering if it is because I am starting to loose my acclimation I had living at 6300 feet all those years and now at 2100 feet..or that I am just out of shape since I have not been hiking as much as I use to..or a combination of the two. Can one loose their acclimation in just two months? This is awful if this is what is going on with me!
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Postby Dow Williams » Wed Sep 01, 2010 6:47 pm

I lived in Incline for six years and concur with the above. We did enjoy better race times in Davis, CA by traveling down to the race the morning of...but as I recall, we read where if we even went down the night before, we would start to lose the benefit of living at 6500' and racing close to sea level. We are talking seconds over a 10k or longer distance, but competitive runners can get a bit anal.
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Postby mconnell » Wed Sep 01, 2010 7:57 pm

Personal experience RE: jschrock's posting:

I agree that acclimatization is not very long lasting but I have certainly not lost all benefits of living at altitude in 5-7 days. It is certainly noticeable if I spend that long at lower elevation, but it takes longer than that to lose all benefit.

As for not really gaining anything by living at 6300', I disagree. There are many people that struggle at 6300' elevation and need time to acclimatize even at that level so there is some benefit to already being acclimated to that elevation, although it might not be long term.
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Postby kevin trieu » Wed Sep 01, 2010 8:27 pm

jschrock wrote:Yes, there is a physiological benefit to living at 6,300 and most people require some time to adjust.


what's that physiological benefit?
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Postby rhyang » Wed Sep 01, 2010 8:38 pm

My understanding is that the human body makes short-term and long-term adaptations to increased altitude.

For those of us who live around sea level and get up to the Sierra for 2-3 day weekend trips, we probably lose our short-term acclimatization quickly. The number I have heard is 1000' per day, though I suspect this varies highly by individual, and is probably based on outdated research (whose source I honestly don't know). Heading up regularly supposedly helps a bit, though I'm not sure how much, and again I think it varies person to person.

It takes time for the body to make long-term adaptations, for example producing more red blood cells, eg. someone who spends a couple of weeks above 10000' hiking the JMT.

I don't get the impression this subject is presently all that well understood though. As far as not hiking for a while -- I do find that as I get older I need to train more regularly to stay in shape, and even then I will probably never be as strong as I was in my prime (whenever the hell that was :) )
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Postby mconnell » Wed Sep 01, 2010 10:21 pm

jschrock wrote:
mconnell wrote:As for not really gaining anything by living at 6300', I disagree. There are many people that struggle at 6300' elevation and need time to acclimatize even at that level so there is some benefit to already being acclimated to that elevation, although it might not be long term.

You might be misinterpreting my comment.

My comment is directed at the implication that living at 6,300 for 23 years should have provided the OP with any greater level of permanent acclimatization than anyone else who has spent a few days at the same altitude. Acclimatization is not permanent ... that's all.

Yes, there is a physiological benefit to living at 6,300 and most people require some time to adjust.


OK. Got it. I don't really know about permanent acclimatization. From the time I was very young, I lived at over 7000 feet until I was an adult. I've never had much problems with altitude until over about 16,000' but I don't know if it is because of growing up at altitude, growing up with asthma, or neither one although I've been told both by people that should know more about it than I do.
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Postby Buz Groshong » Wed Sep 01, 2010 10:27 pm

jschrock wrote:rhyang - could be true but I've never seen anything indicating true long term physiological change. I guess it partially depends on your definition of 'long term'.

Quotes that apply to your comments from the only study I have handy...

...red blood cell volume does not increase the first 1-2 weeks of altitude residence, and significant increases in red blood cell volume are only seen during high altitude exposures exceeding 16-20 days


In well-acclimatized personnel, effective altitude acclimatization will be maintained for about 5-7 days at low altitude. It is possible that occasional exposures to high altitude will delay de-acclimatization...


Like I said...I haven't seen anything indicating long term measurable benefits. I'd be interested if it's out there though.


When I was a kid, I remember reading that people who live all of their lives at altitude (in the Andes, I think) have more capillaries than those of us living at sea level and consequently have a pint more blood. Couldn't verify that info today if my life depended on it, but it does tend to suggest that there may be some long term adaptations that are not lost by moving to lower altitude.
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Postby rhyang » Wed Sep 01, 2010 11:47 pm

I can't claim to have first hand experience with long-term acclimatization. Just what I've read and been told. Folks who have spent weeks on the JMT seem to think it's true. (shrug)

A quick google should turn up some things like this article on Wikipedia -

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Effects_of ... _on_humans

Full hematological adaptation to high altitude is achieved when the increase of red blood cells reaches a plateau and stops. After that period, the subject below extreme altitude is able to perform his activities as if he were at sea level. The length of full hematological adaptation can be approximated by multiplying the altitude in kilometers by 11.4 days. For example, to adapt to 4000 m of altitude would require around 45 days.[15] However, no length of adaptation can allow humans to permanently live above 5,950 metres (19,520 ft).[7]


6300' = 1.9 km, so "full hematological adaptation" should take about three weeks, it would seem. I highly suspect that some people adapt faster and some slower.
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Postby Buz Groshong » Thu Sep 02, 2010 2:35 pm

jschrock wrote:Buz - I'd be curious to determine if those characteristics are genetic or individual adaptation.

Kinda cool if really the case either way though.


I thought about that point. Is it evolution or are we all that adaptable? Doesn't seem like evolution is the answer, because the lack of that sort of adaptation wouldn't seem to thin out the gene pool. Perhaps there is an evolutionary process that is not based on "survival of the fittist" but on individuals passing on adaptations that they have made during their lifetime. The other possibility is that the developement of the fetus and child is dependent on the air pressure of it's environment, in which case it's not how long you've lived at altitude but whether or not you grew up at altitude.
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