Coming down for air...AMS (Manali-Leh)... you better acclimatize!

#1 Sep 5th, 2002, 16:59
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#1
Coming down for air (Manali to Leh)

I recently arrived in Leh from Manali. This had it's...moments. I will therefore reflog a very televised dead horse by this tale of the dangers of altitude sickness (AMS).

Mistake # 1 : Driving in one day. Jeepdrivers will tell you that it can be done in one day. Thats more likely close to 24 hrs. Ask yourself how tired driver you are prepared to have on the second highest motorway in the world.

Mistake # 2 Bad maps. When you get stuck (as we did) at 5000+ meters and have people showing symtoms of AMS you need to decide which way is the fastest way lose height. The most common maps wont tell you this and soon we found out that neither locals or military had any clear idea about this.

Mistake # 3 Trusting the judgement of others. My natural instinct was to believe in the knowledge and judgement of our driver and the military personnel we met in this situation.This rapidly evaporated when they without any concern began talking about spending the night in wait for help - at the same time as we had one baby of 18 months(!) and one adult with obvious signs of AMS. Nobody seemed to be aware that AMS will accelerate during the night.

(Possible) mistake # 4. Believing locals are immune.
They are not. The first effects of altitude sickness involves impaired field of vision and loss of balance.The local in this context often means the driver. Work it out yourself.

After having said all this : dont get paranoid. It is fairly safe to drive Manali - Leh , especially if you have spent some time acclimatizing before starting. Just dont (accept to) get stuck at high altitude - even if it means backtracking. And yes , waking up at the tentcamp the next morning was heartbreakingly beautiful.
#2 Jun 18th, 2003, 22:09
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#2
Someone took an 18 month old on holiday up the Manali-Leh road?
Reject violence.
#3 Jun 19th, 2003, 00:17
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#3
Not a holiday - going to see their Tibetan relatives (so much for the theory that the people living in the Himalayas are immune to altitude effects) in Leh.
#4 Jun 19th, 2003, 13:21
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#4
Whenever I see someone trying to do CRAZY things like this, I try to tell them the dire consequence it might have.....a perfect way to spoil your holiday/ trip to the fantasy land!

But it is hard to tell/ advise people, especially the westerners who have been travelling for sometime as they tend to develop that 'I KNOW EVERYTHING, I AM DOING GOOD SO FAR, SO DON'T TRY TO TELL ME WHAT TO DO' kind of an attitude! They also have a tendency to treat everyone as CHEATS! ARGGHHHHH!!!

I also dislike the attitude of locals as they do have a tendency to have this 'I have been done it all my life so what can go wrong now!' attitude....

We need to respect these mountains and understand that they are nobody's friends!

My advise to the backpackers (as they are the ones likely to take this trip down in ONE day!): GOING CHEAP does not mean taking unacceptable risks!

Vistet: I thought that you were well experienced to avoid falling for such trips.
#5 Jun 19th, 2003, 16:49
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#5
Quote:
Originally posted by mountaingirl
trying to do CRAZY things like this....

Vistet: I thought that you were well experienced to avoid falling for such trips.
Well, I am ... now.

In my defence : I had spent some weeks getting fully acclimatized to 2000 meters altitude.

The attitudes inolved in getting in to a dangerous spot here was not of arrogance but of adaption : not accepting eliminating the night in Sarchu ( as per the original agreement) would have meant leaving the group & arranging new transport the next day. Few of us are totally immune to the pressures of adapting , step by step , longer than we planned from the beginning in a newly formed group.

The realities of going to Leh in any motor vehicle is that there is no foolproof guarantee against getting stuck in a dangerous situation at around 5000m, except having a acclimitisation stay immediately after Rothang La.

Was I aware of this ? Yes . Reckless ? Well...
in my eyes recklessness in this situation would have been to start without any acclimatization and in advance accepting staying overnight at 4000+.

In this perspective I shudder when I see people planning going directly overland from Kathmand to Lhasa (something I look forward to do one day- after acclimatization) or the commercial trekking iteneraries presented in glossy pamhlets here in the west.

Dealing - and not getting obsessive - with risks means taking decisions but also being able to set them aside when you see that the situation has changed or it just wasn`t the way imagined. The idea that there is one right decision to make from the onset can lock us on to a less wise path.

I can see some parallels to this as I am now packing to go out in to my home mountains . I meet a lot of people that ask for my planned route and are amazed by the answer that I won`take the risk of mentally locking myself to a route that will affect my judgement of whether it is within my skills to cross certain fords at that precise time.
Last edited by vistet; Jun 19th, 2003 at 17:15..
#6 Jun 19th, 2003, 18:06
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#6
It's sometimes difficult to get things right, especially on this Manali to Leh trip. When we did it in July several years ago heavy monsoonal rains had damaged the road around the Rothang Pass. There was no movement of traffic for days until the road was mended so each morning we had to pack our rucksacks and go down to the Himachal Tourism office in the centre of town to see if the luxury bus was running or not.

Finally when we did leave Manali the stretch on the other side of the pass was pretty scary, landslips, water crossing the road and road gangs still building up retaining walls. This section takes the full force of the monsoon but after that there were no more problems until we reached Taglang La (5370m) the next day. Here, road gangs were resurfacing and we had to stop for what seemed like hours. Some people were feeling uncomfortable. For most of us it was the highest altitude we had reached in our lives but the quick descent to the Indus valley sorted this out.

To take a bus or jeep is a good question. There are pros and cons. With a jeep, especially if you are paying the driver a good price you can call your own stops and it's usually a faster way to reach Leh. We found the luxury bus fairly comfortable and we didn't want to shoot through this amazing landscape. We had an experienced and careful driver and no breakdowns on the trip to Leh.

The journey back was a little different. A few kilometers out of Leh the bus suddenly keeled over to the right but manged to stay upright. We had just lost a rear set of wheels which went bouncing down the road past us. The axle had sheared off. We went back to Leh, the bus was repaired and we had a non-eventful journey back to Manali the following day.

Fate or luck does come into this. If this had happened on a mountainous stretch of road we could easily have gone over the side. It's important to be aware of the risk factor but also to bear in mind that you can't control events.
Last edited by Alan D; Jun 20th, 2003 at 15:27..
#7 Jun 20th, 2003, 15:34
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#7
Just found this pic of the "mishap"
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#8 Jun 23rd, 2003, 22:00
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#8
Hello Vistet,

Jag ńr ledsen! I must have sounded VERy rude, arrogant etc.....I didn't mean to QUESTION your judgement at all....sometimes we DO RUN in to situations like that and we do what is best in that situation.

I would have loved to write a marathon messsage here but the connection here is VERY bad and I am getting some dirty looks by people who want to send mails to their loved ones!!! HELPP!!!! :-)

PEOPLE: learn from this post! (Not my post but vistet's post).
#9 Jun 24th, 2003, 17:30
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#9
Quote:
Originally posted by mountaingirl


Jag ńr ledsen!
Don`t be ledsen - I am not. Impressed, though -where did you learn Swedish ?

I guess you are in Leh, ( I remember the sloooow connections)
... getting nostalgic here..no butter tea for another year..

Still heading for the high country back here - just another day or two before I can feel the smell of warm heather and step into my first ford. Trying not to think of the mosquitos in the low country...
#10 Oct 6th, 2003, 20:22
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#10

Travelling on the roof

Is it still possible while making the journey to Leh to travel on the roof of the bus for stretches or has this been stopped

I have some incredible memories from that trip and would hate to think you now had to sit inside the bus the whole way

Cheers
Bryan
#11 Oct 6th, 2003, 23:50
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#11
Yes its possible..but better don't do it..between Manali & Leh
.you can do it in Leh while travelling on the local buses.
If Life is a journey....travel on...and on..on..on.....
#12 Oct 6th, 2003, 23:52
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#12
Riding on top .. lot of good moments there. Like the the perfect library ad I saw in Nepal : a small boy on top of the bus ahead , bouncing up an down on big sack of rice - without putting down his book.

Never went on top last trip , though, and cant remember seeing others there either.

Not allowed, discouraged (plain bad memory ? ) ... I dont know.

When doing this at night , remember that the telephone/ power lines pass just over your head ... if you are a average lenghth Indian , that is. Learned this by instinctively taking the lead from a tall Sikh who ducked when seeing the poles on both sides of the road. Powercombing...
#13 Sep 8th, 2007, 19:49
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#13
Riding on top of bus? Should not be tried under and circumstances. Besides this is against law-where any policeman can create a problem for driver of the vehicle-this is also not suggested as wind will be coming direct and hitting you.
Moreover, this is not possible that one can concentrate on balance in whole journey....and a little loose grip can cause fatal accident.
#14 Oct 25th, 2007, 05:56
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#14
Recently got back from a trip to Manali, Keylang and the Pattan Valley and have an interesting story to narrate:

On way to Rohtang, there was a road-block about 5-7 kms before Marhi, the line of vehicles was almost 2 km long. So I got chatting to a friendly truck-driver ahead of me in the line - apparently there was road-work going on for which the road was being closed twice a day, an hour each time. As we were waiting, I discussed various aspects of the road/route with him, including what do people do if there's a sudden closure for a longer period due to unforeseen events, espesh at night (the first closure of the pass had happened the week before due to snow, for a day).
I conjectured that since it was not possible to sleep at the pass, especially because of the altitude and possibility of AMS (about which I'd read up here a few months ago especially vistet's and Avidtrekker's posts), vehicles wud have to drive down to Koksar on one side and Manali on the other for the nigth-stay, wudn't they? Yes, the guy confirmed, the buses and jeeps carrying passengers certainly drove down. BUT, he volunteered, the truckies didn't - due to the extra fuel required and the already low per-km averages in the area! I was amazed - so I asked, but what about the altitude, after all it's almost 4000 m, don't they get sick? Oh no, no problem, so long as we have our blankets along, that's enough, he says! Wow.
Comments, folks?
Certainly one driver I met on the way back to Manali just above Marhi (around 9 a.m.) had spent the night there (over 3300 m) with his helper. Reason: both tyres on one side of their truck were in the road-side ditch, due to a face-off with another truck at 10 pm the previous night.
#15 Oct 25th, 2007, 07:03
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#15

Rohtang tunnel

Quote:
Originally Posted by vistet View Post ....If this was a static condition then we would just gradually progress for the worse with increased altitude , but the body can adapt to some degree , given reason. The low points in oxygen saturation that we can handle are the reason for the acclimatisation process - I┤m willing to wager that if the tunnel under the Rothang becomes reality travellers will get worse AMS scores on the second half of the road........
vistet, this is from another thread.
Well, it seems the tunnel is definitely on its way to reality. I heard in Manali that all the paper-work was complete (easily the most difficult part of any project in India ), i.e. forest land, etc transferred to the relevant authority (GOI?), the approach-road/bridge leading to the entry-point at Solang strenghtened for the heavy equipment, supply dump and maintenance base prepared (or about to be prepared, the area has been cleared), and the digging work is to start soon - I presume that means after the winter. Certainly on 'the other side' I saw for myself at Teling (6 km before Sisu), near the bridge over the Chandra, a sign-board proclaiming it to be the way to the tunnel's exit point (and remembered your a.m. observation). The approach road to the exit is clearly visible on the other side of the river, switching back and forth upwards to the mountain-face. I'd say Teling and Sisu are around 3000-3100 m altitude, the tunnel exit maybe 50-100 m higher. Let's take it as 3100 m, for discussion's sake.

Now a question -
Solang/Palchan to Rohtang is an ascent from say around the 2300 m mark upto 3980 m in 80 mins, max 90 (i.e. acclimatisation period). Thereafter (presuming one drives thru), one descends fairly rapidly to around 3100 m at Koksar in 50-60 mins (wud be 40 mins when/if the road is improved). From Koksar it's a fairly level drive thru to Teling of 10 km, give or take some metres (so no further acclimatisation here).
The tunnel will be 8.8 km from let's say 2400 m at the entry-point to 3100 m at the exit, and the drive shud not exceed 20-25 mins. I take it that these 700 m do not count as too rapid ascent (or do they?). Alright, so then the rest of the way to Keylang/Darcha and onto Baralacha/Sarchu is the same as now.
So, keeping in mind ascent time to Rohtang and immediate descent to Koksar/Teling, and thereafter a pretty level drive thru to Keylang (plus/minus 100 m en-route), AND the alternate route with a steady ascent of 700 m in 25 min thru the tunnel and the same a.m. level drive to Keylang - wud u still say that the second leg will bring worse AMS scores? I mean, significantly worse? I can understand marginal.

I'm curious to know what the experts think. Others please feel free to jump in. Thanks.
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