Four days ago, on the evening of September 3rd, I developed a bad headache at Makalu Basecamp at 16,000’ (the lower BC, not advanced basecamp) after going for an acclimatization hike. Headaches are a common response when the body is adjusting to a higher altitude, but over the course of several hours this headache progressed to an untenable level that made it very hard to move my head and was coupled with low oxygen saturation rates, an abnormally high resting heart rate of over 100 bpm, nausea, dizziness, and some impaired vision. I knew that all are signs of severe AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) or even HACE (High Altitude Pulmonary Edema).

During those hours of building symptoms, I followed medical protocol by taking Diamox and ibuprofen initially, and when that wasn’t enough, I added Dexamethasone, a potent anti-inflammatory steroid which is helpful for cerebral edema. Even with a few hours of those medications in my system I continued to get worse and by 1am on Sept 4th I couldn’t move my head or hardly open my eyes due to the pain. I realized the seriousness of the situation so pushed the pain aside and forced myself to dress and walk to Hilaree’s tent, which was nearby yet out of voice range, to ask for her help. She and I were the only two members of our 5 person climbing team who remained at Basecamp as the others had moved up to ABC either that day or the previous one. Even though it was the middle of the night, Hilaree rallied and found me a bottle of oxygen from Panuru, the one climbing Sherpa still at Basecamp. The oxygen made my saturation numbers recover but it didn’t touch the headache. At that point, I made the decision to start down the trail in order to lose elevation and halt the usually rapid onset of HACE, a condition that can quickly progress to a patient’s inability to walk and, if allowed to continue, can lead to a coma and even death.

Via the North Face Blog Never Stop Exploring – Connect & Read More Here