Jan 8, 2009 | 1
It's no secret that scaling Mount Everest tests the limits of human survival; more than 200 people have died trying to reach its summit. Today we have new information about just how seriously climbers push their bodies on the world's highest peak: Those who manage to stay alive do so on an amount of oxygen that is so minute it would only be seen, at sea level, in people who were in cardiac arrest or dead.
Four doctors from University College London (U.C.L.) trekked up to Everest's 29,029-foot (8,848-meter) summit. They then descended to 27,559 feet (8,400 meters), where it was warmer and more sheltered from the high winds. There, they drew one another's blood and handed it off to a sherpa named Pafang, who took it down to a blood-gas analyzing machine at 20,997 feet (6,400 meters) to measure the oxygen levels in it.
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