How to Prepare for a High Altitude Trek

What is High Altitude?

  • High Altitude is from 8,000 to 13,000 feet. This is common hiking elevation in India.
  • Very High Altitude is 13,000 to 18,000 feet. Some hiking, mostly in high Rocky Mountains.
  • Extremely High Altitude is over 18,000 feet. Special breathing gear required.

Trekking at altitudes higher than 8,000 feet  is more difficult than Trekking at low altitudes. This is because at this point, the air contains less oxygen than it does at lower altitudes. Therefore, if you want to do a high-altitude Trek, you will need to spend time training for your trek, you will need to pack the right equipment for your Trek, and you will want to take precautions during your hike to ensure that you have a safe, enjoyable high-altitude hiking experience.

Begin training well in advance. Plan the amount of training you will do based on the difficulty of your hike, and your current fitness level. If you are reasonably fit, and attempting a challenging hike, then you will probably want to schedule at least 5 months of training before your hike is scheduled. If you are really out of shape, you may need to train for much, much longer.

  • Remember that you can never start training too early, but you can start too late.
  • Have a talk with your doctor to make sure that you will not be endangering yourself by taking on this challenge.

2 Train for your hike at higher altitudes. If possible, train for your hike at altitudes at or above 5,000 feet (1,524 m). This will create the ideal training situation, as your body will get used to performing in low oxygen conditions.[

  • If this isn’t an option for you, don’t worry. There are several other steps you can take to train yourself for your hike.

3 Use biking as a way to improve your cardiovascular endurance. Biking is one good way to improve your cardiovascular fitness. If you are not training at higher altitudes, you can still improve your fitness by biking up hills whenever possible.

  • Be sure to wear protective gear while you are biking. A helmet should not be optional. You won’t be able to enjoy your hike if you seriously injure yourself because you chose not to wear protective gear while training.

4 Run to improve cardiovascular fitness. Another great way to train for your hike is to get into running. Next to actual hiking, running will be the most similar type of training in terms of movements, so this will be a great way to get your legs prepared for what lies ahead. 

  • If you have never run before, you will have to start out slow, but eventually you will want to work your way up to 3 to 5 days of training for 30 minutes to an hour each training session. During each session, you will want to train at a pace that keeps your heart rate at 70% to 85% of your maximum heart rate.
  • You can calculate what your maximum heart rate should be by subtracting your age from 220. Therefore, if you are 20 years old, your maximum heart rate would be 200. Meaning that you should try not to ever let your heart beat faster than that. 70% of your maximum heart rate would then be 140, and 85% of your maximum heart rate would be 170. Thus, during your training, you will want to keep your heart beating between 140 and 170 beats per minute (BPM)
  • A heart rate monitor is perfect for this. Typically, a heart rate monitor is a strap you can purchase at online or at sports supply stores. The strap wraps around your rib cage, just below your chest. The strap then, typically, reports your BPM to a watch that you wear on your wrist.

5 Climb stairs to strengthen leg muscles and lungs. This is another great way to do something that resembles what your hike will be like. You can find a tall building, put your pack on, and simply start walking up the stairs. Try to do something like this at least one day per week.[

  • If you can’t find a tall building, look for a local high school football stadium. Here, you can walk up and down each row of stairs over and over again. Aim to train for 30 minutes to an hour.

6 Train with your pack on. When you are hiking, you will likely be carrying all of the supplies you need for your entire trip in a big backpack, which means it could be pretty heavy. Pack in everything you will want to take on your trip and wear it while you are training (or at least the weight of what you plant to pack), this way you will know what to expect, and whether or not you can manage the weight you have packed.

  • If you are struggling to carry the weight at a low altitude, then you need to reduce the weight significantly, as you definitely won’t be able to manage it at a higher altitude.
  • Obviously you can’t wear the pack when swimming, but you can wear it on the bike, while running, or even while out for a walk