Is there higher pressure in the mountains?

Casandra Greer
It takes approx. 4 minutes to read this article

How does the pressure in the mountains change and how much do you have to take it into account when planning a mountain hike? It is a well-known fact that for such trips you need to prepare meticulously and be prepared for various conditions. Also changes in pressure should not surprise us.

How does the pressure change in the mountains?

Of course it is true that atmospheric pressure decreases with altitude. The changes are exponential and progress with altitude. At the top of the world’s highest mountain, Mount Everest (8848 m), it is only 310 hPa. At 5600 m above sea level it is already 500 hPa

The influence of pressure changes on human health

A drop in pressure is inseparably associated with less oxygen in the air. Hence the problems that climbers experience in high mountains. The limit of altitude, in which a long stay without oxygen is dangerous for human health and life, is at 5800 m above sea level. Above this level one speaks of the “death zone”, where the oxygen content is too low to survive

Climbing in high mountains, you should be aware that the higher the mountain, the more difficult the climbing becomes. Above 5800 m it is necessary to use the oxygen apparatus. Even the simplest tasks such as tying a shoe can be a problem, let alone climbing even higher

>> See: How to choose good trekking boots?

Does the weather forecast give the actual pressure at a particular location?

The data provided in weather forecasts indicates a normalized pressure. This is based on the assumption that the given point on the map is at sea level. In case of differences in altitude you have to make your own calculations using the so-called “barometric formula”

Mountain pressure and fitness training

Athletes of various disciplines very often choose mountain resorts for sports camps. Why is that and what does air pressure have to do with it?

Fitness camps in the mountains

Their popularity is so great because of the lower percentage of oxygen in the air due to the drop in pressure. Mountain training, used by athletes to improve their performance, is very useful in endurance disciplines, because it allows the body to get used to more difficult conditions. Thus, cyclists, martial arts athletes and runners train in the mountains. Interesting, but very illustrative, is the example of Ethiopian runners, who managed to dominate long-distance running. One of the secrets of their success is training at high altitudes in the Abyssinian Highlands

High altitude expeditions – the dangers of changing pressure

Planning for high altitude expeditions inevitably involves taking into account changes in pressure and the subsequent drop in oxygen content per unit of air

Acute altitude sickness

Threatens those who move too fast at high altitudes. Acute altitude sickness (AMS) and high-altitude cerebral edema (HACE) can even lead to death. If recognized and treated quickly, they can be cured even within a few days. AMS is characterized by headache, insomnia, dizziness or nausea, all of which are more pronounced at night.

Hypoxia

For high mountain climbers, mild hypoxia, or hypoxia, caused by a decrease in pressure and oxygen in the atmosphere, is usual. It is more severe in some people, but is considered a stage in the necessary gradual acclimatization to high mountain conditions. Moderate and especially severe hypoxia can end in muscle paralysis, loss of consciousness, coma and death

Pressure in the mountains – sample indications

Assuming that the air pressure at sea level is 1013 hPa, on popular Polish peaks it will be:

  • Łysica (612 m a.s.l.) – 942 hPa
  • Turbacz (1315 m) – 865 hPa
  • Śnieżka (1602 m) – 835 hPa
  • Babia Góra (1725 m) – 822 hPa
  • Giewont (1894 m) – 805 hPa
  • Rysy (2499 m) – 746 hPa
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