I’m in Ladakh for the summer, as I have been for the last three summers. It’s heaven! I love it up here in the high Himalayan desert; the mountains are magnificent. It literally takes your breath away when you arrive.
Being in the Himalayas tends to revise your idea of what constitutes a mountain if you are from other parts of the world. Leh is high enough—11,500’—that almost everyone gets a little altitude sickness on arrival. I have been a little surprised, however, that each year it takes me less time to acclimatize. I didn’t think there would be any residual acclimatization after being at low altitudes for six months. The first year, I was sick for three days, and I could barely move, the headache was so intense; this year, it was hardly more than a day, and I didn’t even have to take an aspirin.
For most people, it’s enough to rest for two or three days and also take aspirin or something that serves the same function. The rest is essential. I’ve seen people come up and try to go trekking on the second day, only to have to come back down and rest because they got really sick from the altitude. The other essential is to drink a lot of water, at least two liters a day, and preferably more. Liquids such as alcohol will not help at all.
Altitude sickness is a curious thing, because you can’t predict who will be most likely to get it. Sometimes the ones that seem the strongest are the first to succumb. While one or two days of rest may be enough for local sightseeing, if you are planning a trek, you really need an extra day or two. Altitude sickness is no joke, but it’s simple enough to keep it from becoming serious.