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Int J Sports Med. 1992 Oct;13 Suppl 1:S216-20.

Use of a hypobaric chamber for pre-acclimatization before climbing Mount Everest.

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Association pour la Recherche en Physiologie de l'Environnement, U. F. R. M├ędecine, Bobigny, France.


Climbing Mount Everest needs an acclimatization period of 3 to 4 weeks between 3000 and 6000 m. In order to reduce this period of time spent in dangerous conditions, an experience of pre-acclimatization was performed with 5 elite alpinists (4 male, 1 female), aged 30 +/- 4 yrs (mean +/- SD), before their attempt to climb Mount Everest. Subjects first remained one week on Mont-Blanc (between 4350 and 4807 m), then spent a total of 38 hours in a hypobaric chamber (in 4 consecutive days) from 5000 to 8500 m standard altitude. Then, they flew to Kathmandu and reached 7800 m five days only after leaving the base camp. The pre-acclimatization period showed a 12% increase in hemoglobin concentration, and no change in ventilatory response to hypoxia. Arterial oxygen saturation at submaximal exercise in hypoxia (FIO2 = 0.115) increased from 75 +/- 4 to 82 +/- 3%, probably because of an efficient ventilatory acclimatization. On Mount Everest, the speed of ascent was very high (5600 m of altitude gain in 6 days), knowing that in conventional expeditions, 12 to 32 days are generally necessary to reach, safe, the same altitude. In conclusion, pre-acclimatization seems to have triggered efficient mechanisms which allowed climbers to save 1 to 3 weeks of time in mountain conditions.

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