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Altitude Sickness Immunity

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Characters are not affected by the change of altitude while climbing.

This work is a proposed Trope, Tropers can vote and offer feedback in the comments section below.
Proposed By:
TendouMan on Aug 26th 2016 at 4:48:47 PM
Last Edited By:
TendouMan on Jan 3rd 2018 at 4:31:04 PM
Name Space: Main
Page Type: trope

Bob needs to embark on a quest to gain the Amulet of Super-Awesome. The artifact lies at the top of the highest mountain range. He immediately moves out from his home on the plains and proceed to climb the mountain. He braves the treacherous cliffs and freezing winds without pause, and finally finds the Amulet. After doing so, Bob climbs down the mountain post haste, in order to continue his heroic journey.

In Real Life, the whole ordeal would end with Bob past out cold not even 2/3 on the way up. Why? Because, with the way he was climbing, he wound up with altitude sickness.

Altitude sickness, or acute mountain sickness (AMS), is the effect of high altitude on humans caused by low pressure of oxygen. See, the higher you go, the thinner the air gets with oxygen. Most people remain well at altitudes of up to 2400 meters,(8,000 ft)note . From that point on, however, if you're climbing up quickly without breaks that would give your body time to get used to the altitude, then falling ill due to AMS is all but guaranteed. Symptoms are quite familiar to a hangover: nausea, headaches and fatigue. If you continue upwards regardless of that, excess fluid may appear on lungs and the brain, causing several additional health issues and may (especially in the case of the latter) easily prove fatal.

Fictional characters make nothing of it however, and can climb up and down mountains willy-nilly while suffering no ill effect. This fall on the narrative side of Acceptable Breaks from Reality: watching the protagonists taking it slow and safe can get boring - the story may ignore those parts in order to get to the juicy bits of the plot. . You can't expect the Big Bad to wait for the heroes to safely complete their mountain trek before enacting his dastardly plan and seeing the protagonists suddenly spasm after they arrive on the Floating Continent can't be that much fun for longer periods of time. And even when a character is seen losing consciousness during a climb, most of the time it is implied that what took them down was the freezing temperatures or exhaustion (with is one of the results of AMS, but still).

Compare Convection Schmonvection. Sister Trope to Batman Can Breathe in Space and Super Not-Drowning Skills. If you want to learn in more detail about altitude sickness, head here.


Examples:

Anime & Manga
  • Averted in Alderamin On The Sky, the Imperial Army is sent into the mountains to subjugate the Shinark tribe after they've had assassinated high officials and declared a "holy war" against The Empire. When the platoon of Ikta Solork is informed that the front troops have been trapped by the Shinark, he gathers his men to mount a rescue. However, he takes precautions to ensure the soldiers do not fall ill due to altitude sickness, even if means that they won't get there in time. He justifies this decision by saying that his first priority as a commanding officer is the well being of his own soldiers and that if they've had hurried and arrived in time, the entire platoon would've been so incapacitated by the AMS, that all they could was becoming easy targets for the Shinark warriors.
    • On the contrary, we have the front troops, who ceaselessly pursued the Shinark forces up the mountains. This lead to the vast majority of soldiers becoming victims of altitude sickness, with was the Shinark's plan all along. Once they entrapped the Imperial Army, they fell down on the bedridden men and women and massacred them all.
  • In Dragon Ball, Goku climbs the Korin Tower in order to drink the Sacred Water, which would give him a power up. Said tower is freakishly tall - from the bottom one cannot see the top. It takes him 3 days of constant climbing to get to the top. He never suffers from the thinner air, but then again - it's Son Goku.
  • In Sakigake!! Otokojuku, during the Four Great Trials of Terror arc, the protagonists must climb Mt. Fujinote  on foot while chained together to a giant iron ball, fighting duels to the death along the way, with the finale taking place at the summit. Those that manage to reach the top show no signs of altitude sickness whatsoever. As this series disregards any laws of physics or common sense through pure manliness, this should come as no surprise.
  • Averted in Yama No Susume, with is all about the ups and downs of mountain climbing. While trying to reach the summit of Mt. Fuji, Aoi, a newbie to the activity, falls ill due to altitude sickness.

Feedback: 13 replies

Aug 27th 2016 at 8:09:52 PM

Doesn't sound like a trope so much as someone trying to preach something.

Aug 28th 2016 at 1:35:54 PM

While it makes sense to write something on what would happen in real life, it seems like you focused too much on that part instead of the fictional character immunity part. I'd cut the stuff between "...fairly easy to fall ill due to AMS" and "Fictional characters, especially Video Game ones..."

Aug 28th 2016 at 5:27:07 PM

Took the suggestions to heart and applied them to the draft. Now thinking about examples. Problem is, the only things coming to mind are aversions. I thought about adding the Throat of the World from Skyrim, but I can't seem to find it's exact size.

Aug 28th 2016 at 6:04:38 PM

^ as this is a trope about Fridge Logic and Out Of Universe tendency, this should only have subverted/averted examples

Aug 28th 2016 at 6:46:28 PM

^ If I'm understanding this correctly, then an example like this:

  • In Sakigake Otokojuku, during the Four Great Trials of Terror arc, the protagonists must climb Mt. Fujinote  on foot while chained together to a giant iron ball, fighting duels to the death along the way, with the finale taking place at the summit. Those that manage to reach the top show no signs of altitude sickness whatsoever, though with the way this series disregards any laws of physics or common sense through pure manliness, this should be no surprise.
.... will not work on a page like this?

Aug 28th 2016 at 8:16:01 PM

^ that is totally playing this trope straight. It technically counts as an example, but that won't be listed here.

Aug 29th 2016 at 3:42:09 AM

I'll admit, this kinda confuses me. Can you pinpoint me to a trope that works on the same basis, so I could take some notes? Or should I simply have two folders - one for the trope played straight and second for aversions?

Aug 29th 2016 at 6:58:25 PM

^ a few tropes in this site lists only aversions and subversions. I can't recall one, though, but if you look at Omnipresent Tropes, some of them had it like this.

Aug 31st 2016 at 5:18:43 AM

Gah, just going to put in examples and aversions I can think of now. It's better to have something than plain ol' nothing.

Jan 3rd 2018 at 7:30:37 AM

Dan was wrong, this is not a fridge-based trope (more like Artistic License), so straight examples are fine to list.

Jan 3rd 2018 at 10:19:55 AM

Dragon Ball: The thin atmosphere was actually a plot point: Goku running around after the water at high altitude made his training more effective (the water was a placebo).

Jan 3rd 2018 at 4:31:04 PM

In any story with superpowers, expect this to show up as a Required Secondary Power for anyone with the power of Flight: characters can fly around at airplane cruising altitude as long as they'd like, with no ill effects.

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