For you Swiss travelers who live at or near sea level, did you experience any altitude sickness when reaching the highest elevations such as Schilthorn?
Coming from Chicago, we had zero issues while we were on Schilthorn. My sister, who is 46 and has some minor heart issues, also had zero problems. The key is to stay hydrated.
I have learned through trial and error that I’m good until about 8000 feet and then I just need to go down lower. Everyone is different. If you’re worried about altitude, do a little test weekend somewhere in the US that’s up high and see how you do. I really never thought much about altitude until I tried to do a night at my personal limit - 8600 feet was it for me. So now I just travel within the parameters of that limit.
Schilthorn is at 2,900 meters or so. Most people should not feel any effect in a brief visit to take in the views... And if you feel bad, just take the cable car down and you'll be at 1,600 metres less than 20 minutes later.
Jungfraujoch, at 3,400 metres, can be more troublesome for people. Shortness of breath almost guaranteed.
When my wife and I were up at Schilthorn we had no big issues up there. But you do have to take it easy and take it slow.
I agree with both Balso and Aimee.
On one of my Rick Steves tours that went up the Schilthorn a couple of the sea level people started feeling a little headache-y or queasy. They took the next cable car down and were fine. We were only up there for a couple of hours so I don't think anyone else was bothered.
My experience going from 2800 feet over to Yellowstone which is at 8,000 ft in many locations is that it varies. Sometimes I feel yucky and spacey, sometimes I do not. It has nothing to do with level of fitness. I do think it has to do with hydration because on the trips when I make sure to drink enough on the 7.5-hr drive over I seem not to notice any problem. Of course then you really have to plan your bathroom stops coming across Idaho and Montana - they are few. I took my brother and SIL over once and she and I were at a low fitness level while my brother was working as a forester and walking many miles a day at 5,000 feet. HE felt sick the first 2 days, we did not.
2900 meters = 9514 feet
3400 meters = 11154 feet
There are some medical studies that indicate the use of ibuprofen is helpful to prevent elevation sickness. Maybe ask your healthcare provider about this?
The only thing I've noticed is sleep. It always takes me a couple of days before I sleep well above about 6,000 feet.
Thanks everyone for your responses. We won’t be doing any hiking for sure; we’re in our early 80’s and reasonably fit but do live right on the ocean so it will be a radical change. I’m looking forward to those gondolas to the top of the peaks.
A few thoughts on my experiences with altitude at various high elevation sites.....
- The Schilthorn / Piz Gloria is at an elevation of 2,970 metres (9,744 feet). I've visited there numerous times, toured the James Bond exhibits and stayed for a fine hot meal in the revolving restaurant, and have never experienced any discomfort.
- The highest point of the Jungfraujoch is the Sphinx Observatory at an elevation of 3,571 metres (11,716 feet). When I visited there, I didn't initially have any issues but after awhile, I noticed that simple activity like climbing stairs took more effort and took longer. These issues were minor and didn't cause much discomfort.
- I did have a more acute problem at one European tourist attraction, the Aguille du Midi in Chamonix (France). It's an an altitude of 3,842 metres (12,605 feet). On my visit there, I went first to Pointe Helbronner (Italy) and spent several hours there and then returned to the Aguille, intending to try the "Step Into The Void" glass platform. However as soon as I returned to the Aguille, I started having altitude problems, shortness of breath, etc. I went straight to the cable car and headed down the hill and recovered quickly (unfortunately I had to climb some stairs to get the cable car departure point).
Some people seem to be able to handle the altitude better than others. If you suspect that you might have issues, you might want to have a chat with your doctor prior to your trip.
Similar experience to last poster. At Schilthorn, you won't even notice it. The only place I've been where I even noticed altitude was L'Aiguille du Midi (13,000 feet), and the sensation was more of a euphoria than any difficulty.
Ken, thanks for your detailed report.
We live at the beach too and had the same question, and Schilthorn was no big deal. Just in case, I brought good ole Excedrine Tension and Coca Cola for headache and nausea. We are going to Chammonix and Aiguille du Midi in July. After reading some of the comments, I will make sure I am prepared!!!!!!
Darrenblois, I'm for euphoria! :)