WAITING FOR THE
Solar Eclipse Observing and Photography - Joseph Cali
This frozen section of this river is at 4600m altitude and at other locations where we stopped, the GPS indicated we got up to 4900 metres altitude where the air pressure is about 50% of that at sea level.
Each time I've rapidly ascended in altitude, my bodies reaction has been different. In 1994, I flew into La Paz Bolivia (4000m), immediately became dizzy as I was leaving the plane. I lost coordination so that I could barely sign my own name on the customs entry card. I developed a splitting headache, a few cups of coca leaf tea fixed that and after 24hrs, the worst of it was over.
In 1998, I again flew into La Paz. Braced myself for the reaction......nothing. I'd contracted typhoid fever in Guatemala and had some chest congestion that just wouldn't clear for the next 8 weeks I was there and at altitude but no symptoms on flying into 4000m and no symptoms when I went up to 5500m.
Yesterday, having spent a few days in San Pedro (2400m) we drove straight up to 4900 m over a span of about 2 hrs. The shortness of breath was clear. Hands were a little shaky when holding the telephoto. Even walking a short distance left me breathing heavily. The telephoto is a 300mm f4 and with camera weighs 1.8kg, the muscles weren't getting enough oxygen to hold steady. Apart from that, a mild headache developed over the course of the day. It wasn't dehydration, I drank water regularly all day. Part of the trick is to remember to breath deeply. At sea level, we breath very shallowly and that's sufficient. At 5000m, there is only half the oxygen in every shallow breath so you need to expand the chest, take in twice as much volume and that helps a lot.
Different reactions each time I go up high and fortunately, none serious. Small price to pay for a great day.