While AMS falls under the category of nonspecific symptoms, in most cases they are the same of that of high fever. Your body temperature will suddenly rise followed by severe headache, chest pain, vomiting, lack of sleep, fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite and difficulty in breathing. Most people will suffer AMS when the increase in altitude is in a matter of a few hours or a day; but some people may suffer it for first few days even if the process is gradual. At what height a person will suffer from mountain sickness; and for how long differs for every individual. But it is safe to assume that if you have never been to a high altitude place like Ladakh; you are bound to feel a few symptoms of AMS in first few days.
These symptoms, ranging from mild to life-threatening, will also depend on the speed of your climb and how hard you exert yourself. If mild then they will gradually subside after a couple of days at high altitude but sometimes it can even lead to high altitude pulmonary edema, which is the worst condition of AMS and can be fatal. Some of the severe symptoms, affecting nervous system, lungs, muscles, and heart are blue color to the skin, gray or pale complexion, chest tightness or congestion, confusion, coughing up blood, decreased consciousness, withdrawal from social interaction, shortness of breath even while resting or unable to walk at all. Severe cases may result in death due to lung problems or brain swelling, called cerebral edema.
There is really no certain way of telling or predicting the altitude that will lead to AMS as it differs from person to person. We have known people who felt the symptoms even at Manali; and people who did not suffer from AMS at all anywhere during their trip to Ladakh. It can however be assumed that for most of the people, it is the height of 10,000 ft or above that can lead to altitude sickness. Where will you suffer from AMS in Ladakh can differ for each person; but chances are highest at Pang, Tanglang La, Tso Moriri, Pangong Tso and Changthang. Please be advised that these places are located at highest altitude in this region where most people feel the symptoms, but you may suffer from AMS at other places too.
The immediate remedy is to give your body ample time to adapt and for the symptoms to subside. If this however doesn’t help, the only other way is to get to a lower altitude as fast as you can. Apart from these two, below are a few other tips that can help with altitude sickness in Ladakh.
Time is the key to altitude sickness, both before and after you start feeling the symptoms. As a rule of the thumb, stop for a day at every 2,000 feet (600 meters) of climb above 8,000 feet (2,400 meters). You really got to give your body ample time to acclimatize and need to plan your journey in a way that the altitude gain happens gradually. As compared to Manali Leh highway, Srinagar to Leh route is at a lower altitude and the ascent is gradual. You slowly get to high altitude as you travel across the highway and your body adapts better.
Highest point of Srinagar to Leh highway is at Fotu La Pass at a height of 13,479ft whereas Manali – Leh Highway’s highest point is 17,585ft at Tanglang La pass. Within a matter of 2 days, you reach from a height of 2000 meters at Manali to 5328 meters at Tanglang La, almost three times more. Hence, It is advised that you reach Leh from Srinagar and return via Manali. If you have to take the Manali – Leh highway, then it is best to spend a night in Jispa and then start really early the next day to continue all the way to Leh without breaking the journey anywhere.