Altitude in the mountains of Switzerland

We will be going on the Europe’s Crown Jewel trip in mid September. I have a mild form of COPD, and I am concerned about the altitude and lack of oxygen on the Matterhorn and Jungfraujoch. I hope those who have been on this trip—like Portolan—can share some insight. I will have my inhalers with me, and the rest of the elevations do not worry me. And I sure don’t want to miss anything!
Also, compared to our other trips, this one seems fairly casual. Since we are going in September, it seems like the most important thing is to keep warm😊. Anything to add there?
I am glad to see the forums back up and running. I missed reading posts especially from our most active participants. Hello again to you all.
Now can the powers that be get rid of those ugly cartoon memes or whatever they are? If I knew how, I would post my own photo. Like of me or my dog.


  • Welcome back Dixiechick, we missed you! Glad to hear you are about go on a tour. Absolutely sure Alan has done this one, so I am sure he will be on to it soon.

  • Hi Dixiechick,
    You should definitely pose this question to your doctor. Most of where you go in Switzerland is near or below the altitude of Denver. Commercial airlines must be pressurized to 8000 ft or below. So if you're comfortable on a airplane flight or on a trip to Denver, you should be alright. I'm assuming from your post that you don't need an oxygen generator on flights. However, the Jungfraujoch is another story. If you go to the top (weather permitting), the altitude is 11,716 ft at the observatory. That's some serious altitude. As I said, get advice from your doctor.

  • Thanks, Ken. I have an appointment with her this week. I do fine in Denver, Beaver Creek, and Aspen. Even driving over Vail Pass at almost 11,000’ is ok. I think it will be fine, but just want to make sure.

  • I am going on this Trip in a few days
    I hav my concerns to and my husband and I are are bringing medication for altitude illness
    Trying to get someone who has been on this trip to respond as the their experience.

  • edited August 2019

    I think relying on your doctor or pulmonologist and not taking what any of us say on the forum as gospel is the best approach. Altitude affects everyone differently, some athletes can actually have more severe symptoms.

    People with COPD are more vulnerable to altitude-related illnesses. They have a high risk of symptoms worsening at high altitudes, even if symptoms are stable at low altitudes. Preexisting diseases like COPD can magnify the effects of decreased oxygen, worsening symptoms of altitude sickness and related conditions. Authors of a 2011 study concluded that people with severe or exacerbated COPD should not travel to elevations above 6,500 ft, but that people with stable COPD may be able to comfortably travel to elevations of 6,500–10,000 ft. The Jungfraujoch observatory is at an altitude of 11483 feet.

    In addition to slow acclimatization (not possible on this trip), there are drugs like acetazolamide (Diomox) and dexamethasone that a doctor can prescribe to lessen or prevent Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) and the more severe and possibly life-threatening HAPE and HACE, but you will need to check with your doctor to see if it is appropriate for someone with COPD to take.

    Before seeing your doctor, use the itinerary to make a daily timeline showing altitude versus time to climb and time at altitude. You may not spend enough time at altitude to suffer full effects. Also, the most common way to reduce or eliminate Acute Mountain Sickness is to descend immediately to a lower altitude- symptoms disappear very quickly if that is done- so you might want to check the itinerary and check with Tauck ahead of time to see if it is possible to leave the group and do that during trips to the JungFrau, etc.

  • Thanks, Alan. Great advice. I will do as you suggest and visit with pulmonologist. I will stay hopeful😊

  • Now can the powers that be get rid of those ugly cartoon memes or whatever they are? If I knew how, I would post my own photo. Like of me or my dog.

    To change your picture, go to the upper right of this page and select your screen name (touch and hold if a tablet or select with your mouse on your computer). It will show your profile and has a place to select to change the photo. The photo needs to be on your computer or tablet that you're using. Just follow the directions. Took me a few seconds and I'm not in Alan's league when it comes to photos. It's now really easy to add photos to posts. Just select the little picture off on at the top of your post and again follow directions.

  • Thanks, Claudia. I will give it a try.

  • DixieChick,
    I also have moderate to sever COPD and use two maintenance inhalers daily. This is just a report of my experience on our Crown Jewel trip. The Jungfraujoch did not present any problems. There were only short or level walks and elevators to use. At the Matterhorn there was a gradual elevated walkway which was about three levels up from the train station to the gift shop/observation point/restrooms. I had to slow down a bit on the walk up, but it was not impossible. Taking a rescue inhaler helped. Altitude sickness has never been an issue with me (just can't breathe easily)

    I live at sea level in Texas, so this quite different from my normal. As a fellow sufferer I hope this helps.

  • DixieChick,

    I think you've gotten better advice than I could provide from people with more awareness of breathing issues. Neither Ms. Portolan or I have had altitude problems, but we don't have any breathing issues in general. I will say that for an extended stay in Peru at altitude, we took meds. No problems, but then we might not have had any issues in any case. We live, essentially, at sea level so not an issue of conditioning.

    You only spend a few hours at 11,000 feet on the Jungfraujoch, and there are trains down frequently so I'd expect if you had issues, the TD would get you down to Kleine Scheidegg (6700') where the tour returns to before heading down back to Interlaken.

  • Portolan. 3:39PM. You only spend a few hours at 11,000 feet on the Jungfraujoch, and there are trains down frequently so I'd expect if you had issues, the TD would get you down to Kleine Scheidegg (6700') where the tour returns to before heading down back to Interlaken.

    I think we have a winner! :) Thanks Portolan

  • Hi Dixiechick, We took a day trip to the Jungfraujoch as part of our Tauck Rhine Cruise a few years ago. We took Diamox that morning and were fine (tho' cold) Last month we took the Great Migration Trip to Africa and took Diamox again, in anticipation of our stay at the rim of the Ngorongor Crater (8,000 ft) We had no problem with the altittude but my husband had a very extreme reaction to the diuretic effect of the medication. As is said above, check with your doctor so you can enjoy your trip and be safe.

  • 30 years ago, I prescribed Diamox not infrequently for glaucoma. Since that time, many better alternatives have come to market. Diamox is not innocuous nor side effect free. It is a diuretic, so a diuretic effect is to be expected. One potentially serious side effect is kidney stones. Minor and more common side effects include distorted taste and tingling in the fingers.

    This post is not medical advice and should not be taken as such. Talk to your physician.

  • Thanks to all who gave advice about altitude at Jungfrauhoch and Matterhorn. My doctor said I should be fine, just take it easy and use my rescue inhaler. I think the key was not being at high altitudes very long and not doing strenuous exercise to get there.
    Thanks to CLAUDIA for the picture advice. Instead of that ugly cartoon I now have a picture of the real Dixiechick, my Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Dixie.

  • Much improved picture Dixie. What a cutey. Have fun on your tour. We have a year and 3 days to wait.

  • Cheers! to Claudia. Have great times on all your upcoming trips.

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