Dr. Peter Hackett isnít
being facetious when he compares climbing Everest to
war. Heís being serious, and in his case almost deadly
Dr. Hackett was a climber
with John Westís 1981 American Medical Expedition to Everest as both a Doctor
and a mountaineer. Hackett is an emergency physician in Grand Junction,
Colorado, and an Affiliate Professor of Medicine at the University of
Washington in Seattle. His work on mountain sickness (altitude illness) has
been published in over 100 medical journals; he knows whereof he speaks.
Like a soldier in war a
climber on Everest experiences sleep deprivation, miserable living conditions,
anxiety and often mortality. Everest has its own dangers as well, avalanches,
sudden shifts in weather patterns that bring jet stream winds down the
mountain side and especially the ever-present threats of hypoxia (an absence
of oxygen reaching living tissues), brain swelling, and the hallucinations and
death that they can bring.
In Hackettís case
hypoxia probably contributed to his near fatal fall down the Hillary Step
following his successful summit of the peak. With nothing to eat or
drink for the 13-hour trek Hackett was exhausted and probably hypoxic from the
altitude. He started down Hillary step only to lose his footing and fall 15
feet and become wedged in the rocks. He found himself hanging upside down at
8,000 meters above the South West Face. Fortunately Hackett had secured his
ice axe to his pack and was able to use it to right himself and continue down
the step. He met fellow climber and Doctor Chris Pizzo, who had been waiting
for several hours below, and continued safely to base camp.
Dr. Peter Hackett
has been a long time contributor to EverestNews.com, his article:
Ginkgo biloba reduces incidence and severity of
acute mountain sickness is
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