At 4000 metres above sea level, footsteps come too slowly and breaths come too quickly. Appetites disappear and every effort is exaggerated. Life at this elevation is pure hard work.
When I hiked across the Simien Mountains in Ethiopia, climbing to the country’s highest point at 4550 metres, I was always surprised to look up and see village kids sprinting across the fields – usually barefoot – to greet me. They’d arrive beside me smiling, barely puffing, even as I sucked for air so hard I was in danger of accidentally inhaling one of them. And I was just walking. Around me there were sick and immobile hikers strapped to the backs of mules, and others so defeated by the pains of altitude that they’d opted out of the summit climb. And then off the kids would trot again, bounding like springboks. Continue reading