Beginning in the mid-90s, I developed an interest in quantifying patterns of success and death of Himalayan mountain climbers. The basic idea is to apply techniques developed to study phenotypic selection to data on mountain climbers. For example, I've looked at behavioral (e.g., decision to use supplemental oxygen or to climb "alpine-style") and environmental (mountain height, climate warming) influence the probability of reaching the summit and of surviving. For example, we have shown that climbers who choose not to use supplemental oxygen on Everest or K2 (the two highest peaks on earth) have much higher death rates descending from the summit than do climbers using supplemental oxygen. Similarly, we have shown that the probability of reaching the summit of Everest begins declining at about age 40 (I've missed my window of opportunity!), and the probability of dying may increase above age 60 (though the effect is weak). My initial collaborator on these studies was Xavier Eguskitza, a well-known mountaineering historian. Now Iím currently working with Richard Salisbury, who developed The Himalayan Database, which is based on the remarkable expedition archives of Elizabeth Hawley. I hope to do more of these analyses in the future.
The Himalayan Database
|2000.||Supplemental oxygen and death rates on Everest and K2. Journal of the American Medical Association 284:181. (First author, with X. Eguskitza). (a non-technical version was published in the 2000 issue of the American Alpine Journal).|
|2001.||Limits to human performance: how dangerous is it to reach the summit of an 8,000-m peak? Journal of Experimental Biology 204:3115-3119. (First author, with X. Eguskitza).|
|2001.||Economics of adventure: on the high cost of Himalayan climbing permits. Alpine Journal 106:155-169.|
|2001.||Mountaineering in thin air: patterns of death and of weather at high altitude. R. C. Roach and P. H. Hackett, eds., Hypoxia 2001. Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers, New York. (First author, with X. Eguskitza and M. Dillon).|
|2003.||Success and death on Mount Everest. American Alpine Journal (first author, with R. Salisbury).|
|2005.||Climbing a triassic Mount Everest: Into thinner air. JAMA-Journal of the American Medial Association 294(14): 1761-1762. (First author, with P. D. Ward)|
|2007.||Effects of age and gender on success and death of mountaineers on Mount Everest. Biology Letters 3:498-500. (First author, with R. Salisbury, J.-L. Wang, and M. Mao).|
Note: Links to some publications are available in PDF format. If you don't have Adobe Acrobat Reader go here to download a free version.