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Ask the Expert #1
Posted June 7, 2000
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Why is it so dangerous to climb mountains?
Other than getting frostbite, or freezing to death, what are some other ways you can get killed?
Why do people climb mountains?
When was the first mountain ever climbed?


Response from Liesl Clark, NOVA Online Producer:

There are many objective dangers involved in climbing mountains. They include avalanches, rock falls, and ice falls, extreme cold and high winds, whiteout conditions from blowing snow, and dangerous terrain. Deaths are often a result of the high altitude which can cause severe illnesses like high altitude pulmonary edema and high altitude cerebral edema. But dehydration and disorientation can also produce fatal results. On dangerous terrain climbers have to be alert, to avoid slipping or forgetting to clip into fixed ropes while ascending steep pitches or spanning crevasses.

People climb mountains because of the challenge and self-knowledge that results from trying to reach a difficult goal.

The first mountain was probably climbed when earliest man was able to walk.


What kind of preparations do you have to do before you climb, and how do you do them?


Response from Liesl Clark, NOVA Online Producer:

All climbers must prepare carefully for a climb. Most will take time in the months before the climbs to get in shape by running, hiking, and maybe even lifting weights. The packing for the climb can begin several weeks before, as climbers must bring all thenecessary food, equipment, and clothing to survive in cold temperatures. And finally, the best preparation for any difficult mountain climb is previous experience.


What do you expect to learn about the human body during this climb?
How much time do you anticipate this climb taking?
How long have you been preparing for this climb and how have you prepared?


Response from Liesl Clark, NOVA Online Producer:

We expect to learn how the human body functions at altitude and in extreme cold. Specifically we'll be measuring the amount of oxygen in our climbers' blood, their core body temperatures, toe temperatures, heart rate, and respiratory rate. All of this data, in addition to data on the outside temperatures and conditions, will be charted so we can learn more about the fluctuating body temperatures and oxygen deprivation a climber endures in a high mountain climb. This climb will take 21-28 days.

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