A climber with aspirations to reach the summit of Mt. Everest has many dangers that they must be aware of before making the ascent. Besides the obvious dangers of avalanches and freezing to death on the way up, there are also physiological effects that the body must endure to achieve such an ambitious goal. As the climber gets higher and higher the temperatures get colder, the air gets thinner. Partial pressures (pressure that a gas occupying a volume creates naturally) decrease causing the body to work harder to get the necessary oxygen it needs. The respiratory system gets worked into overdrive and sometimes a pulmonary edema can take place.
The human body relies on oxygen to survive. Air at any given altitude contains 20.93% oxygen, 79.04% nitrogen and .03% carbon dioxide. (Sports Fitness Advisor). As the pressure around a climber decreases as he gets higher, the oxygen that he needs gets harder and harder to absorb. The lowered partial pressure causes the lungs to have to work harder to get the oxygen into the bloodstream. This can cause someone to feel fatigued and tired as they continue up the mountain.
Pulmonary edema, a condition where excess fluid develops either in the lung tissue itself or in the space normally used for gas exchange, can be caused by the high altitudes which are present on Mt. Everest. The body is not getting the necessary amount of oxygen it needs to function normally so a person will start to have trouble continuing on the climb. Some of the symptoms of pulmonary edema are trouble standing up, congestion, a tight feeling on the chest, extreme fatigue, gurgling sound when breathing and poor judgment. (The Climbing Guide ) When this occurs the only thing one can do is get the person to a lower altitude as soon as possible to prevent further injury or even death.
Having adventures has always been a way of experiencing new things and enjoying what time we have on this earth but it’s always important to do it safely. Without knowing the risk involved in everything you do, harm or death can come sooner than expected and the next adventure could be the last.
Admin. Sports Fitness Advisor. High Altitude Environment 2011. Retrieved from Sports-Fitness Admvisor.com (16-18) http://www.sport-fitness-advisor.com/acclimatization-to-altitude.html
Admin. Climbing High, The Climbing Guide, High Altitude Pulmonary Edema. Retrieved from climbing-high.com, http://www.climbing-high.com/high-altitude-pulmonary-edema.html