Long before dawn over the southern colonel of Everest on September 25, 1992, Alberto and Felix Iñorategi, two brothers from the province of Gipuzcoa (Spain), stepped out in the cold and set their sights on the summit. They were already at 26,000 feet and decided not to use the oxygen tanks. “We were just kids and were a little scared when we went up to the summit. We weren’t afraid of the mountain, but what high altitude can do to our bodies,” Alberto said. When they reached 28,500 feet, they radioed to base camp and announced that they would reach the summit in Within 30 minutes. It was very close, but the last 500 feet to the top took three hours. “We met at about 3 pm – it was very difficult for us.” Alberto was only 23 years old at the time. Before 1978, It was thought that it would be impossible for humans to live at the top of the world without supplemental oxygen, but then Reinhold Messner and Peter Hubler proved everyone wrong.
More than 300 people have died on Everest since 1953, when the first men reached the summit. Nearly a third of them died from exhaustion, altitude sickness or disease. “Exposure to [high] High altitudes are very stressful on the human body. If a person does not train properly and is unable to keep moving, the body will suffer from the cumulative effects of multiple stresses. Since unprepared climbers move at a slower pace, they have to spend more time in the hostile environment of Everest. This could mean spending more nights at higher altitudes.”
Karsler’s research focuses on extreme physiology, and he recently published a study in vesak which recommends the use of traditional alpine climbing techniques at high altitudes as a highly effective way to deal with hypoxia (a decrease in the oxygen available to the cells of the body). But commercial expeditions to Everest do accept climbers who cannot ascend the mountain using only traditional alpine techniques and equipment. They can’t handle without fixed rope training courses, Sherpa guides and porters, well-stocked campsites with high-tech equipment and food, and dozens of oxygen tanks. Traditional alpine climbing requires only two things – agility and speed. Anna Karseller notes, “Using supplemental oxygen is not equivalent to exercising your body at sea level. This depends on the oxygen flow rate set by the climbers. But the lowest altitude they would feel while using supplemental oxygen would be approximately 20,000 feet above sea level. Therefore, no All height restrictions remain in effect, albeit to a lesser degree.” It is the inability to avoid the effects of high altitudes that kills many climbers. Their bodies simply shut down while their minds only think of reaching the top.
Brutal assault on the body
“The body is constantly working to maintain its balance, even at sea level,” Karseller said. “The body regulates its temperature, nutrient availability, alertness…all the processes that keep us alive. It is a constant manipulation of the effects of external stress and recovery processes. In extreme environments, this dynamic struggle to maintain balance takes center stage. It consumes more energy and most The body’s resources. When the external stress is greater than the body’s ability to maintain homeostasis, and the body is unable to recover during continuous exposure to these stresses, illness, failure to cope, and even death can occur.”
Some people believe that many of the deaths recorded on Everest were in fact due to exhaustion, which could lead to many organ failures. The assault on the body is too much for some, and even the most experienced climber can die. Anna Karsler says the body loses balance when there is an “exponential increase in energy expenditure because the body needs energy to compensate for environmental conditions, such as hypoxia and low temperatures. Many systems are involved—cardiovascular, respiratory, endocrine and other systems. The body discovers “This is the function of the sympathetic nervous system – responding effectively to aggression. After that, secondary energy-consuming processes are triggered: our hearts beat faster, our blood pressure rises, we breathe a lot.”
High-altitude climbers face a new set of problems, such as lower energy consumption as eating becomes more difficult. It also becomes more difficult to stay hydrated because more water is lost at high altitudes through the skin and respiration. “This is very dangerous,” Carseller said. Juan Vallejo, the climber who climbed Everest without oxygen, was only able to drink coca cola at high altitudes.
More problems arise, such as the absolute exercise of climbing a mountain. “At low atmospheric pressures, it is very difficult for enough oxygen to get into our cells. These cells depend on oxygen to function. In fact, when we measure an athlete’s ability to exercise, we measure maximal oxygen consumption (VO2 max). These It is the maximum capacity for a person to take oxygen from the atmosphere and convert it into energy. At altitudes above 5,000 feet, VO2 max drops sharply. Even standing at high altitudes uses more energy. Any physical exercise requires much more effort than sea level does. , and it can easily exceed a person’s maximum capacity. In other words, everything is causing more fatigue,” Karseller said.
“So, at the top of Everest, where the atmospheric pressure is one-third the pressure at sea level, we are using all the available energy that it provides [low] cellular oxygen levels. Most humans would be able to stand still and breathe at best, Karsler said.
Alberto Iñurrategi defined the VO2 max in Messner and Habeler to be approximately 78 mL/min/kg. After being warned, the brothers from Gibuzcoa applied a scientific approach to their training for the ascent of Everest. Alberto achieved a VO2 max just above 80 ml/min/kg (Spanish athlete Kilian Journet is close to 90 ml/min/kg). “I think many Himalayan climbers don’t realize that to handle peaks above 26,000 feet, climbing skills are not as important as having high aerobic ability. They have to train their bodies to be more efficient,” Inyurategi said.
If energy equals the sum of nutrients and oxygen, man will always lose at high altitudes, even when using oxygen tanks.
Anna Karseller said that pathology associated with hypoxia is often difficult to analyze. “Above a certain altitude, everyone suffers the consequences to a greater or lesser extent. The brain is the organ most sensitive to a lack of oxygen and nutrients, and functional changes in the brain can include apathy and a desire to give up. Day in and day out, the adverse effects of altitude affect mountaineers, resulting in to insomnia, malnutrition, dehydration, muscle atrophy, forgetfulness and digestive problems. Moreover, the hypoxic environment obscures judgment and impairs motivation and decision-making. This is the inevitable degeneration that the body undergoes for being in an environment that is barely survivable.”
When all of these attacks become too overwhelming, the body is left stuck in a terribly harsh environment. If you’re lucky and have a lot of money, a squad of Sherpas will be around to take you down the mountain. Most of them only die where the body falls.
Muscle fatigue is also manifested due to changes in the distribution of blood to these tissues. “Because the respiratory muscles need a great deal of energy to ventilate and because oxygen is scarce, it will become more difficult for the muscles to function. The muscles are exercised with less oxygen, which leads to fatigue faster. This is called peripheral fatigue and begins to occur even at altitudes. Moderate,” Carseller said.
One terrifying scenario for an ambitious Everest climber is to immediately run out of additional oxygen tanks. After that, the body cannot defend itself because it has no reaction time and the attack is too intense,” said Karseller, who suggests a different strategy for climbing at high altitudes. “It is interesting to note the role length of time and intensity of the stimulus plays. If you climb a mountain in stages, allowing the body to develop rhythm and reduce stressors as much as possible, you have a much better chance of success than if you try to climb all at once. This is especially true if you So unprepared to climb that the same level of activity at sea level defeats you. If stress increases, the body redistributes energy to systems necessary for survival. But this will have an intrinsic energy cost, which will lead to system collapse if that cost is not covered.” And it is this catastrophic physiological event that is responsible for a large portion of all deaths on Mount Everest.