One major concern of high altitude is Acute Mountain Sickness: the brain swells or the lungs fill with fluid, and suddenly staying alive depends on descending quickly.  This crisis is usually preceded by symptoms: headache, vomiting, etc.  Because we ascended slowly, most of us did not experience  any of these symptoms, and stayed well away from danger.
Trekker Being Evacuated

This does not mean we were not affected by the altitude.  The most annoying part of being at altitude was "Periodic Breathing".  This happens while sleeping, and results in suddenly awakening gasping for air.  The sleeping body simply does not breathe rapidly enough to keep the proper level of oxygen in the blood.  Some of us did not experience this effect, and some did but did not mind it, but I found it really unpleasant and very disruptive.

The good news is there is a treatment: the drug Diamox increases the breathing rate while sleeping, eliminating this effect.  The bad news is that it does so by acting as a diuretic.  When I took it, I was reliably up at two hour intervals all night long.   That means a trip to the toilet at 6, 8, 10, 12, 2, 4, and 6.  Each time involves finding glasses and headlamp, getting out of the bag and getting semi-dressed, finding and putting on shoes, crawling out of the tent, finding the toilet, then navigating back to the tent and reversing all the steps.  Still, It was worth it to be able to sleep in between the trips outside.

Another effect of the altitude was that every single thing took a lot more effort and energy: putting on boots, eating, packing up the sleeping bag: everything.  Most of us stopped washing up in the morning because we simply did not have the time or energy to do it.  Every step of the way we would have to stop and breathe, to recover and to try to remember the next step.

After Lunch

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