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12th Oct 2015

Xtreme Archive - Isn't this just an exuse for a jolly up a mountain?

It's April 2006 and in the scientific world, scientist prove that eating less salt will help to reduce the chances of a stroke or heart attack. Meanwhile in the entertainment world, WWE launch WrestleMania 23 at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan and set an arena record of 80,103 attendees.

Back with Xtreme Everest, the team are fielding many questions about the Xtreme Everest research and what they hope to find. The most asked question seemed to be "Is this really research or are you all just going on a nice trip?", which led Kay to write the below to explain why such a trip was required.

Low Oxygen Research? An Excuse for a Jolly up a Mountain???

By Kay Mitchell

The single most asked question to Caudwell Xtreme Everest is: Why are you climbing a mountain when you could just use pressure chambers instead?

In truth, there are several ways to carry out research into adaptation to low oxygen levels (hypoxia). Here you will find an explanation of why we have chosen to conduct our research up Everest.

Why not study intensive care patients?

This is the most obvious way to study hypoxia, by looking at people suffering from it on an intensive care ward. But there are problems with this approach:

  • Ethically, it is difficult to obtain consent from a patient who may be unconscious
  • The underlying cause of the hypoxia will vary from patient to patient. One may have pneumonia, another a heart condition. This makes it very hard to interpret any results.

Why not put volunteers in a pressure chamber?

It is possible to recreate low oxygen levels at sea level, in a pressure chamber. But it would be impossible to conduct the research Caudwell Xtreme Everest is undertaking in this way:

  • It would require putting 208 healthy volunteers into a pressure chamber for three and a half weeks without a break
  • There are not enough pressure chambers in the UK to do this
  • It would be prohibitively expensive and require 24 hour medical supervision
  • It is unlikely individual volunteers would pay for the experience of sitting in a pressure chamber, in the way the Caudwell Xtreme Everest trekkers are contributing to the science

Overall, it would be unfeasible to conduct the three and a half months of research being done by Caudwell Xtreme Everest in any other way.

Finally, results from previous chamber testing experiments that have attempted to mimic the effects of climbing Mount Everest have not mimicked results obtained in real life.

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