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Argentine Doctors Study the Effects of Altitude While on the Mountain
Dr. Leandro Seoane and Dr. Rolando Nervi took a team of climbers to Llullaillaco on January 18th of this year and began their ascent of the mountain, conducting various tests at predetermined spots along the route to the summit. Over the next nine days, they took blood pressure, heart and respitory readings, as well as blood oxygen saturation measurements. They also examined the climbers vision, took blood tests, and assessed the team for Acute Mountain Sickness. The baseline tests were conducted at Tolar Grande town, a village located at 3500 meters on the mountain, and then again at Base Camp (4900 meters), Camp 1 (5500 meters), Camp 2 (6000 meters), and then one final time at 6400 meters.
The results showed the body's remarkable ability to adapt to the changing conditions on the mountain as climbers acclimatized and adapted to the lower levels of oxygen as they moved higher on the mountain. As they became accustomed to the environment, the lack of oxygen became less of an issue, and the climbers worked more efficiently at higher alittudes.
Mount Llullaillaco is the fourth tallest volcano in the world, and a challenging climb, but it doesn't compare to the larger peaks such as Everest. A similar study to the ones performed by the Argentines has been conducted on the worlds tallest mountain over the past couple of years, recording similar results at even higher altitudes. That research study is known as the Caudwell Xtreme Everest project.
AMS continues to be a great concern for all climbers at altitude, and even for travelers who visit remote locations that also happen to be thousands of feet above sea level. But with continued studies like these two, we can hope to understand the causes and develop more effective treatments.