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La Sportiva ambassadors Tamara Lunger and Simone Moro present their next mountaineering project: the ascent to the Gasherbrum I and the traverse to the Gasherbrum II in winter
La Sportiva ambassadors Simone Moro and Tamara Lunger announce the destination of their next winter expedition: the traverse of Gasherbrum I and Gasherbrum II, two peaks over eight-thousand metres in height that are part of the Karakorum traverse.
"In the summer of 1984 Reinhold Messner and Hans Kammerlander made the first ascent and crossing of the two peaks, Gasherbrum I (8,068 m) and Gasherbrum II (8,035 m). 35 years later, we want to repeat the same adventure but in the most difficult season, winter, trying to link the two peaks of 8000m. No one in all these years has ever repeated this crossing, not even in summer", says Simone Moro. "Unlike 35 years ago, we will try to repeat this great adventure based on our experience with winter ascents. We will realistically divide the project in two: we will initially try the ascent of Gasherbrum I, summited the first time in winter on the 9th of March 2012 by Polish mountaineers Adam Bielecki and Janusz Golab (the ascent has never been repeated). The second part will be the ascent of Gasherbrum II starting directly from the hill that separates the two peaks.”
The start of the mountaineering expedition, scheduled for mid-December, will be preceded by a four-week acclimatisation process within terraXcube - Eurac Research´s extreme climate simulation centre situated at the NOI Techpark, Südtirol/Alto Adige, that replicates the most extreme climatic conditions on Earth, from storms atop the Himalayas to the scorching heat of the North African deserts.
Eurac Research and its medical staff will investigate the acclimatisation undergone in the hypobaric chamber and monitor the de-acclimatisation when Tamara and Simone return from the real expedition. They will observe, for example, the impacts of high altitude on the heart, on respiratory, cognitive and metabolic functions and record how long the body remains acclimatised once it has fallen in altitude. Understanding how the body reacts to hypoxia will be valuable for ensuring and improving safety in mountaineering as well as all altitude sports activities.
The goal of the study is to understand how the body reacts to a state of general hypoxia – a term which means that in high altitude our cells are less oxygenated. Under these conditions, the risk of high-altitude sickness increases, as well as the risk of deadly illnesses like cerebral and pulmonary edema. The only way to prevent these illnesses is with acclimatisation by exposing the body slowly to altitude and allowing it to adapt to the new condition of having less oxygen. Understanding how the body reacts to hypoxia not only improves the safety of mountaineering expeditions, but also of those who work at high altitudes, for example rescue teams, pilots and those involved in humanitarian missions or construction work of infrastructures.
Simone and Tamara will also be evaluated during the process of de-acclimatisation upon return from their expedition. This is particularly interesting as there are very few studies on de-acclimatisation. Being able to monitor Tamara and Simone after their return will be significant in order to assess how long de-acclimatisation lasts and how it develops.
Simone and Tamara are mountaineers in extraordinary peak physical condition. This presents the perfect combination for an in-depth analysis of the interaction between humans and technology in extreme conditions within the terraXcube.
The study will be divided into three stages:
- Preparation before entering the terraXcube. Simone and Tamara underwent various tests and rigorous recordings of physical measurements. These will serve as base values for comparison purposes and will be used to measure the effect of acclimatisation during their stay in the chamber.
- Acclimatisation inside the terraXcube
o In the first two weeks, from November 16th, Tamara and Simone sleep inside the hypobaric chamber of the terraXcube and during the day they train outside.
o In the following two weeks from the 29th of November, Tamara and Simone, will remain more or less continuously inside the hypobaric chamber, where they can train on a treadmill. The goal is to reach a good acclimatisation up to 6400 m. If Tamara and Simone feel good, i.e. they have no symptoms of discomfort, sleep and eat well, the researchers will take the chamber to even higher altitudes for a few hours, up to 8000m and beyond. The temperature will also undergo changes to observe the adaptation of the body to the cold. During this period, the tests already carried out at the beginning of the study will be repeated regularly.
- After the expedition. Upon their return from the expedition Tamara and Simone will regularly undergo the same set of tests, until the values have returned to those recorded at the start of the study, i.e. before acclimatisation. This is to understand how long their acclimatisation lasts and how de-acclimatisation develops.
The study protocol was approved by the Ethics Committee for Clinical Trials of the Health Authority of the Autonomous Province of Bolzano.
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