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I am traveling to Denver (5280ft/1609m) this weekend from DC (0ft/m), and we are planning on doing some hiking the day we arrive. The particular hike we are looking at is Mount Galbraith, which I believe is around 7000ft/2130m. I'm somewhat concerned, since we would be hiking just a few hours after we arrive at altitude. Denver isn't that high, relatively speaking, so I'm not worried about altitude sickness. However, I don't want us to over-exert ourselves on the first day before our bodies have adjusted to the lower oxygen levels.

How worried do we need to be about hiking while adjusting to the altitude? Is there anything we can do to prepare?

I have seen this question on minimizing altitude sickness, but the answers there focus on a much higher altitude than I am concerned with.

  • I'm not sure that 500m above sealevel is a difference you'd ever notice. Also, I'm going to recommend it for transfer to The Great Outdoors, as I think this Q is much better matched there. – CMaster Jun 28 '16 at 15:43
  • Reagan National airport is actually 15 ft (4.6 m) above sea level. The other DC airports are somewhat higher. – phoog Jun 28 '16 at 17:40
  • @phoog I'm sure that it is, but I don't think that extra 15ft is going to make much of a difference. – David K Jun 28 '16 at 17:42
  • Indeed, you're anyway twice as high or so when you're sitting in the plane. I'm sure the pressure variation between those altitudes is less than the variation in barometric pressure. And that probably makes far less difference than the effective altitude of the cabin pressurization during your flight to Denver. – phoog Jun 28 '16 at 17:49
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First, your numbers are off. Denver is officially 5280 feet (1609m) above sea level, which is the source of its nickname as the "Mile-High City".

In most cases this won't be a problem. More specific answers depend on details like

  • Your personal physical ability to adapt. Some adapt more quickly than others, and this doesn't necessarily correlate with overall fitness. I've seen people come from Chicago (~500ft above sea level) and immediately hike Pikes Peak (14,000ft/4267m) with no more trouble than locals. But that doesn't work for everyone. You're more likely to have trouble from dehydrating faster than normal, so be careful about that.
  • The nature of the hike. Hiking near Denver could vary from easy walks to step mountain climbs. Some will exhaust you more quickly than others.
  • Thanks for pointing out the numbers - I'm not sure where I got the value I had. I've fixed my question. – David K Jun 28 '16 at 16:03
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    I'll just speak for myself. Even as a younger man, I found 7000 ft one day after arrival left me winded on a bike ride much faster. – Andrew Lazarus Jun 28 '16 at 19:53

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