Background: The purpose of this study was to investigate the physiological characteristics of a group of middle-aged and older Japanese climbers who ascended Gasherbrum II, an 8035-m peak in the Karakoram Range of the Himalayas. Methods: Body composition, cardiac structure, and respiratory gas exchange during exercise were estimated in eight climbers with differing levels of experience (seven men and one woman, aged 54 to 63 years) 6 months before their expedition. Results: Using supplementary O2, the four experienced climbers ascended beyond Camp 4 (7400 m) without showing any health problems and were able to attempt the summit. In contrast, the others, who had minimal experience at extreme altitude, suffered from altitude sickness on the way to Camp 4. Body mass index values were relatively high, but their low percentage of body fat (14.9%-21.4%) was indicative of the climbers' substantial lean body weight. Cardiac structures were generally normal, although three experienced male climbers had borderline hypertension and eccentric hypertrophy of the left ventricle. Peak VO2 ranged from 30.9 to 45.6 ml/kg/min, and no significant relationship between fitness level and the success or failure of the ascent was evident. Conclusions: Even sexagenarians are capable of safely climbing 8000-m peaks with supplementary O2. An exceptionally high fitness level, as is seen in elite older athletes, does not appear to be required. What is essential, however, is moderate fitness, good health, and extensive experience.
|Journal||Journals of Gerontology - Series A Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences|
|Publication status||Published - 2000 Jan 1|
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Geriatrics and Gerontology