Mountaineering Still Bad For You

Doctors find lowest blood-oxygen levels ever recorded in Everest climbers

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We already learned that high-altitude mountaineering can seriously hurt your brain, so if you’re still regularly bagging ultra high peaks, this next bit of bad news is unlikely to change your mind: Doctors have recorded the lowest blood-oxygen levels ever in climbers on Mt. Everest.

Doctors from University College London led the Caudwell Xtreme Everest team to 27,700 feet, not far below the summit of the world’s highest peak. Once there, four unlucky team members unzipped their down suits and drew blood samples from the femoral artery in their groin. That kind of sounds worse than cerebral edema.

Once doctors got the sample to their ad-hoc lab at 21,000 feet, they measured exactly how low the oxygen levels were in the blood. While scientists think fluid in the lungs might keep climbers from absorbing enough oxygen, they didn’t conduct the experiment just to aid climbers in pursuit of high peaks; instead, the research could help doctors cope with a whole host of afflictions at sea level.

Many climbers describe Everest as an overrated tourist peak, but these four climbers disproved the rule. Anyone who exposes their crotch at high altitude in the service of science and saving lives earns a hardman award in our book.

—Ted Alvarez

Everest climbers log lowest blood oxygen levels on record (AFP)

via GoBlog