Cautions for High Altitude Field Trips

If you have never been gem or treasure hunting at high altitude, you really owe yourself the experience some time. Many ghost towns and camps and a vast variety of minerals can be found along the mountain sides and tops. Legends of lost treasures can be heard in small mountain towns almost any where you care to wander.

Higher elevations hold a myriad of crystals as well. At Mt. Antero in Colorado, you don't even need to start looking for aquamarine until you reach 12,000 feet.But just as the higher regions hold their own special rewards, they also come with their own trials. There are a few extremely important factors about altitude you need to know to make sure your trip is a safe and productive one.When planning a trip into high country, make sure you pack some winter clothing and warm sleeping gear.

You might be in your glory on a sunny 80F day, but by the time dusk rolls around you may be able to see your breath. Rapid temperature drops don't always wait for nightfall either. You might start out in warm sunshine, and find yourself wanting to huddle by a campfire to keep warm just a few hours later.

It is best to dress in layers. It is much easier to take a layer off when warm than warm up if under dressed.The sun can be excruciating at altitude as well so make sure to take your chosen precautions against burning. I don't recommend ever using sun screens under any circumstance, and prefer a layer of zinc oxide and a long sleeve white dress shirt and a wide brimmed hat for sun protection. In fact, I've often been teased about my "mountain whites" but they are comfy and do the trick.Just like anywhere else, sometimes an unexpected storm will decide to intrude on your great day.

It can extremely difficult to tell if a storm is approaching from over a peak when you are on the side of a mountain. Be sure you know a quick route to get as far down the mountain as fast as possible if an electrical storm moves in. Once those clouds come over the top of the peak, you might only have a few minutes to get at least to timber line before the situation gets critical. Lighting has not been a friend to climbers.If you hear thunder or see flashes, even from a distance, it's time to take heed. If it's headed you're direction you need to forget about getting just one more speciman from the great spot you just found and move to lower ground immediately.

If you feel your hair starting to raise you are in immediate danger and need to get out of the area as quickly as possible. While you might judge whether to go on a climb by a news weather report, the sky is the only real way to tell when to get out fast. You can always go back up when the weather clears.

And who knows, if there was a good rain along with the lightning, it might have just washed up something you might not have found before.Rock slides are more frequent in wet weather, but can happen any time, so always be careful to watch what is going on above you and what you lean against. That goes for the small stuff as well as the large.

Never stand or walk directly under someone uphill from you. Getting hit by rolling rocks is not the best way to find them. I have an ankle that still wishes I had thought of that a little sooner.

If you should start to slide yourself, just get on your back and dig your heels in to stop your slide. If someone is sliding toward you, lay down a bit out of their way to grab them. If you try to do so standing you might find yourself in a tumble with them.While you are climbing you will want to also drink plenty of water.

You might not realize that you are losing moisture if the weather is a bit brisk, but your body will use lose much more moisture at heights than normally. Dehydration is one real fast way to introduce yourself to another hearty mountain treat ? altitude sickness. If you never experience it, consider yourself blessed.

It's not fun. Being physically fit is not a factor in getting hit with "mountain" sickness, so if you are a person who likes to show your prowess, please note that the first one to the top is not always the winner when it comes to this illness.There are many symptoms of altitude sickness including dizziness, nausea, headache, vomiting, loss of appetite, insomnia. If you experience any of these symptoms you need to descend to a lower altitude until your symptoms go away. Experiencing shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, disorientation, or a general lack of coordination are all signs of more advanced forms of altitude sickness which include pulmonary and cerebral edema.

It is urgent to descend immediately when suffering these symptoms and seek medical attention if they do not go away as you descend. Climbing should never begin again until all symptoms have cleared completely.To avoid altitude sickness, climb slowly, rest often, and don't over exert. (This is an easy one for the gem and treasure hunters as most already have a habits of stopping frequently to do searches). Drink plenty of water. Avoid alcohol and eat light.

There is another warning about alcohol and altitude you need to be aware of. Not only can it help bring on altitude sickness, it can also get you very stupidly drunk very rapidly at altitude. Drinking one beer may hit you the same way as four or five do normally.

The effects are also quite sudden, so if you must indulge by the campfire at night, drink light and drink slow. Make sure you are sober and drink enough water to make up for the dehydrating effects of the liquor before you move on to higher grounds.One last word of caution about hunting in altitudes is to never, never ever forget your camera.

While an ounce of prevention is always necessary to get to great treasures at high altitudes, there are an abundance of pleasures and views along the way that you will want to preserve forever.

.2006 Sally Taylor: Sal is an avid gem and treasure hunter, adventurer, writer, and owner of http://www.rockhoundstation1.


By: Sally Taylor


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