A trip to Spiti valley currently is one of the most sought after trips across the world. Spiti is home to several high altitude villages and has an average elevation of 11,000 ft above sea level. This naturally will raise a question “how to tackle AMS in Spiti” for first timers, especially those who have never ventured above 3000 m.
So this blog is going to be all about how to tackle AMS in Spiti. It doesn’t matter how many times you have been to high altitude places previously, AMS can still hit you. The only thing which will save you from getting AMS is proper acclimatization. So lets dive deeper into this.
How To Tackle AMS In Spiti – All The Details You Need
So the best way to tackle AMS in Spiti is to avoid it altogether which is basically adapting to lower oxygen levels better known as acclimatization.
Further in the blog, I’ll be giving you useful tips about how to get properly acclimatized when making a trip to Spiti. But there is no guarantee that AMS will not hit you. So you have to always be extra careful about your health during a trip to Spiti.
By the way, if its your first time in Spiti, check my blog on 27 practical tips for Spiti.
What Exactly is AMS Or Acute Mountain Sickness
First things first what exactly is AMS ? So, AMS or Acute mountain sickness is basically several set of symptoms (headache, nausea, weariness, breathlessness and more) that you experience usually above 2800 m (above sea level). The reason is quite conspicuous, lower oxygen levels at high altitude places.
Now the Key to tackling AMS in any high altitude valley above 3000m is to be properly acclimatized. Acclimatization basically means adapting to lower oxygen levels at high altitude places.
So basically when visiting any high altitude places like Spiti, Ladakh, Zanskar your main aim should be getting proper acclimatization so as to avoid AMS altogether.
10 Useful Tips for Proper Acclimatization for Spiti Trip To Avoid AMS
So as I mentioned earlier, AMS can hit you no matter how many times you have been to high altitude valleys or how fit you are. The best way to tackle AMS is to avoid it altogether which means you need to adapt to lower oxygen levels at higher altitudes.
This adaptation to lower levels of oxygen is better known as acclimatization. So here are some useful tips that will help you to get acclimatized properly during your Spiti trip.
In case you are first time traveler to Spiti check out my blog safety aspects of Spiti
|1. Take the Shimla route to get well acclimatized|
|2. Do not over exert yourself on your Spiti trip|
|3. Keep a couple of rest days in between to get well acclimatized|
|4. Only sleep at 1000 ft higher than previous Night to avoid AMS on your Spiti trip|
|5. Go on Preventive course of Diamox on your Spiti trip|
|6. Avoid any kind of intoxication on your trip to Spiti to avoid AMS|
|7. If you are coming from Manali head straight to Kaza or Tabo|
|8. Do not sleep at Chandrataal on your first night If coming from Manali|
|9. Plan your Spiti Itinerary well to ensure proper acclimatization|
|10. Make sure fit for your trip to Spiti|
1. Take Shimla route for better acclimatization
Shimla route is the best route for Spiti if you want to minimize your chances of getting AMS. If you spend one night at Reckong Peo/Kalpa and one at Tabo you should be well acclimatized by the time you visit more high altitude villages.
Altitude gain in Shimla route is gradual which really helps in better acclimatization. Manali route on other hand gains altitude rapidly and by the time Kaza the same day you’ll find yourself at almost 6,500 ft higher in a matter of few hours.
2. Do not over exert yourself on your Spiti trip
In high altitude valleys even doing petty things like moving around, walking can be quite tedious due to lower oxygen levels. So in order to avoid AMS do not exert yourself until and unless you are well acclimatized.
The more you exert yourself before being properly acclimatized the more are the chances of getting AMS. So please keep this in mind and avoid any strenuous activities like hiking during the initial days of your Spiti trip.
3. Keep a couple of rest days in between to get well acclimatized
Resting for a couple of days in between your trip is extremely important in order to avoid AMS if you plan to spend night at 4000 m plus villages.
So for instance once you reach Kaza, resting for a day will help you in adapting to lower oxygen levels. So you should plan your Itinerary in such a way that you get rest days in between.
This is where even I had made mistakes. But fortunately none of us had any AMS symptoms, but that was pure luck. So please take this very seriously.
4. Only Sleep 1000 ft higher than previous night to avoid AMS on your Spiti trip
This particular thing is quite important if you want to get properly acclimatized and avoid getting AMS. The problem is that most of us end up flouting this rule thanks to our rush in getting the trip completed quickly.
Even my sleeping altitudes each night were all over the place during the initial days of the trip. But fortunately did not get AMS. Please take this seriously if you wish to enjoy the latter half of your trip.
By the way, you should definitely check out my list 11 beautiful instagrammable places in Spiti valley.
For example, if you slept at Reckong Peo or Kalpa which is at 9,700 ft then try sleeping at Tabo (10,700 ft) the next night. The altitude difference between the above mentioned two places is around 1000 ft.
5. Go on a preventive course of Diamox for your Spiti trip
There is a medicine called Diamox, which helps you to acclimatize faster than your body would naturally.
You can start taking Diamox 2-3 days prior to your trip. You can find the complete details here on dosage here.
But in my opinion, you should only take preventive course of Diamox if you are short on time or plan to quickly climb to high altitudes and spend nights there.
I am in no way a medical professional, So you should consult a doctor before going on such a curative course. but if plan your itinerary well, then you probably won’t need to take medications.
6. Avoid any kind of intoxication on your trip to Spiti to avoid AMS
So if you want to avoid AMS, then you should refrain from any kind of intoxication like consuming alcohol, smoking etc. The reason being lower oxygen levels.
For instance, consuming alcohol in general causes dehydration and this will only get worse at higher altitudes potentially causing AMS. So in my opinion, you should refrain from consuming such intoxicants during your time at high altitude places like Spiti.
7. If you are coming from Manali route stay at Kaza or Tabo
Manali route is the shortest route and less time consuming and even more so with Atal tunnel. But the drastic elevation gain from Manali to Spiti valley in a matter of hours can be a catalyst to AMS.
So in order to avoid getting AMS, you should stay at as lower altitude as possible at the start of your trip. Kaza which is at around 12,800 ft can be a choice to spend a night or if you can reach Tabo which is at relatively lower atltidue of 10,700 ft can be a great choice.
And therefore you should definitely head to Kaza or Tabo if you are coming from Manali. And with the Atal tunnel now being open reaching even Tabo should be not be a problem whenever Kunzum La is thrown open.
8. Do not sleep at Chandrataal on your first night If coming from Manali
So firstly Chandratal is in Lahaul and not in Spiti. But due to its closeness to Spiti, a lot of people do include it in their Itinerary. So, if you are opting for Manali route to enter Spiti head straight to Kaza or Tabo.
Do NOT spend first night of your trip at Chandratal. The risk of getting AMS by doing so is extremely high as Chandratal is at around 14,500 ft. And the altitude difference between Chandratal and Manali is almost around 8000 ft.
By the way, feel free to check out my blog on traveling to the incredible lakes in Lahaul valley, Spiti valley’s counterpart.
9. Plan your Spiti itinerary well to ensure proper acclimatization
Even I made a lot of mistakes in the aspect, but was fortunate enough to not get AMS. Altitude difference each night was all over the place in the initial days but I got lucky and never experience any AMS symptoms.
But you should be definitely more careful and keep the altitude difference rule for each night in mind to avoid AMS and proper acclimatization with a couple of rest days in between.
So this is why Itinerary planning is the key to avoid AMS. By the way, here is 7-day itinerary for Spiti for those who are short on time.
But in my opinion you should have at least 10 days in hand for your Spiti trip for better acclimatization and to avoid AMS.
10. Make sure you are fit for you Spiti Trip
So fitness does not matter when it comes AMS, but its always good to have good fitness levels on such a demanding altitude. Therefore, you have to be fit for you Spiti trip.
And those who have medical issues like Asthma, heart disease’s or any other serious condition, you should definitely consult your doctor before planning a trip to the middle land.
Having a good health in remote place llike Spiti is extremely important. And even more so because health services are no where near great in Spiti valley. So please keep this in mind.
How To Tackle AMS In Spiti If It Actually Hits You
So, what if AMS actually gets the better of you. First you need to identify the symptoms which include nausea, uneasy feeling, headache, tiredness.
And mind you might get a couple of them or only one of them. And you might not even have headache (considered as classic symptom of AMS) but have other symptoms so keep an eye on it.
Once you are sure about having AMS, then you should start taking curative course of Diamox. In case, that doesn’t improve your condition, you should start with Dexamethasone and quickly start your descent.
Descending to lower altitudes will make you feel a lot better. And Dexamethasone helps you feel good for a short period so that you can safely descend to lower altitude (ideally below 2800m). But if Diamox works fine and you are able to acclimatize you should continue with your trip.
Here are all the details on the medications that you need to take if you have AMS. Also there is government hospital in Kaza. So in case you have a bad case of AMS, then you can always take medical help.
To conclude, now you have a fair bit of idea on. how to tackle AMS in Spiti. Acclimatization is the key to tackle AMS by avoiding it. That is adapting to lower levels of oxygen in high altitude places like Spiti.
In case you have any queries or doubts feel free to reach me out or even better consult your doctor.