Alpine Air

Climbing into the alpine, the landscape takes on an appearance similar to the arctic tundra. Growing seasons are incredibly short with a sudden explosion of wildflowers appearing in early July and disappearing almost as suddenly. Some of the many atmospheric changes that occur as you head into the high country are brought on as a result of a reduction in the density of the air.. In fact, barometric pressure decreases about 1/30th for every 291 metres climbed. This lower density allows greater amounts of incoming solar radiation to reach the surface. In fact, at around 12,000 feet (i.e. the summit of Mount Temple), the radiation can be as much as 280% higher than sea level. This increase in solar radiation is accompanied with an matching increase in the intensity of violet and ultraviolet radiation. I don't need to mention the higher potential for sunburns and other maladies caused by too much sun. Don't forget your sunscreen.

For man, one of the greatest dangers of high altitude travel is mountain sickness. The symptoms include nausea and headaches accompanied by weakness.  At high altitude, with the corresponding drops in air pressure, our bodies have a more difficult time extracting the oxygen we need to survive. On average, people begin showing symptoms as they head above 2500-3000 metres. The effect of individuals varies greatly and some people may not feel the effects at all. Others rapidly suffer as they ascend. The secret is to acclimatize to altitude and to listen to your body. If it says head down, listen to it.


All Material Ward Cameron 2005