Questions from Readers of EverestNews.com
Q.) In the
course of your expeditions, have indigenous peoples taught you any remedies,
treatments or precautions that seem to work for specific high-altitude
A.) Not really. I wish I had asked more questions to
that effect of the locals. I did observe the Sherpas closely and their
practices and diets. I think they eat pretty healthy. I noticed they don't eat
much sugar. A Sherpa friend convinced me that I should drink Sherpa tea which
is made with Yak butter and milk. It tasted very salty and is a taste you have
to cultivate. I thought it helped me at altitude but it might have been all in
Q.) Hello. I was wondering if you could answer a question
for me about fitness for Everest. I am at the moment I weigh 250 pounds, 6'
1" tall and I have a body fat composition of around 30 (I'm pretty sure). I
want to grow up and climb Mt. Everest. At the moment I am working to become
more physically in shape. I was wondering what is the best condition to be in
for Everest and other high altitude mountaineering?
A.) You did not give me your age, but you must be fully
grown at 6' 1" ! Actually a little extra body fat would be helpful at high
altitude. Elite athletes such as Ultrarunners with very little body fat have
no reserves to draw on and sometimes do not do as well.
I think it is good to try and approach ideal body weight and
eat a very nutritious diet.
To climb Everest or other 8000 meter peaks, you should be in
excellent physical condition. Ideally you should be evaluated by your
physician and make sure you can undergo a rigorous training program. You need
a great aerobic base with aerobic conditioning such as running, biking,
swimming etc. After you build a base you can get more specific such as doing
hill work on a bike or running
and doing some speed work to get your heart rate up.
Weight lifting also helps. As
you approach your climb, your training should simulate the climbing you are
going to do. I will do long hikes with a loaded backpack or climb stadium
steps. Some of my most fun with mountaineering is the training and
preparation. Good Luck.
to have a fairly low % of fat or should I keep it up a little for other
particular reasons? Any help would be greatly appreciated.
A very low % of body fat could
be to your detriment on a prolonged high altitude expedition. Body fat
definitely declines significantly at altitude. During Operation Everest II,
where they tested climbers in a hypobaric chamber for 40 days and simulated a
climb of Everest, the climber lost an average of 7.6 Kilograms(16.72 pounds)
or 9.2% body weight. This represented both fat and muscle mass.
I believe a low body fat
composition is healthy but if you plan to be at high altitude for prolonged
time it probably would be advisable to add a few pounds. Thanks.
Probably not a question they
will print on EverestNews.com but Dr. to Dr. I would like your opinion [well
we can with some editing of names!]. On Everest last spring a climber was
dragged (literally) into camp on N.Col. He was in extremis, had been at 8.3
for 5 days. Gave him all the usual meds but he was somewhat lucid and O2 sat.
OK so I doubt HACE or HAPE was the problem, not hypothermic.. I think he was
primarily dehydrated and needed about 4-5L of fluid. He was unable or
unwilling to drink. Sherpas were able to lower him down wrapped in sleeping
mats but suppose weather had been worse and we was stuck. My question is: how
much benefit can be gained from fluid via enemas. Could have been given with
camelback. I have read in Kamler's last book of this being done at sea. What
do you think.
A.) What a dilemma. I can
understand your reasoning and I would think in theory this might work. The
colon certainly will absorb water. I guess a concern would be if they are that
dry, they are shunting blood from the gut. Would it be worth it? I did speak
to a Nephrologist and he did not think it would be helpful. Let's hope we have
plenty of NS available if we should be faced with that situation! Thanks
I live just outside
Burlington VT and am going back to school in the medical field. I’m writing a
report on frostbite and wondering if you could give me any info on the
subject. I’ll cover the physiology of this cold injury and some of the latest
treatments. Can you offer info on how you treat on the mountain? Any other
details will be greatly appreciated. Thanks so much. Good luck to you in all
your great work.
A.) Good subject and I hope
this response finds you in time to pull these references. Syme D. Position
Paper: On site Treatment of Frostbite for Mountaineers. 2002. High Altitude
Medicine and Biology, Volume 3,Pages 297-298.
Foray J. Mountain Frostbite,
current Trends in Prognosis and Treatment. 1992. J. Sport Med. Volume 13,
There are also a number of
excellent texts on Wilderness Medicine which cover this subject.
I know the extreme altitude of
the mountain alone is enough to cause health problems, let alone the cold. I
was wondering if perhaps you could give some of the specific effects that the
altitude and temperature have on the processes of the human body. Also, I've
read that many climbers experience sleeplessness and a severe loss of
appetite; I'm not quite sure what causes this, so if you could explain that I
would be much obliged.
A.) Please refer to my recent
article on High Altitude Illness. I think you will find some answers there.
The main effect of high altitude on the body is caused by the lack of oxygen
and this can effect every organ system. The sleeplessness you referred to is
very interesting and very important. High altitude can cause sleep
disturbances from insomnia to disordered breathing and sleep. Climbers can
develop what is known as periodic breathing or Cheyne Stokes respirations.
This is a pattern of rapid and deep breathing followed by a period of apnea or
no breathing. This can cause frequent awakenings and prevent a deep level of
sleep. I believe that this lack of sleep is a major factor determining
performance on the mountain. Thank You. Larry
Larry Rigsby MD is an Internal Medicine physician who
practices in Chattanooga, TN. He is a Mountaineer and has a great interest in
High Altitude Medicine and Physiology. His expeditions include
Denali, Everest, Ama Dablam and
He plans to do a series on
mountain medicine to help promote safety in the mountains and keep climbers
and trekkers up to speed on the latest medical info available. The first in
the series is on Travel Medicine with subsequent articles on Altitude illness,
hypothermia , frostbite etc. These will be updated periodically
Travel Medicine for Trekkers and Climbers in the Himalayan Region By Larry
HIGH ALTITUDE ILLNESS By Larry Rigsby M.D.
We ask you to consider giving or helping with:
is to build a series of clinics across Nepal. (Larry myself helps supports
the clinic financially!)
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