Walking and Trekking News
Is Mount Everest Growing?
Though the official record puts Mount Everest at 8,848m tall, the Chinese argue it should be measured by its rock height and not, as the Nepalese do, by its snow height. There could be a four-metre difference between the two measurements.
The neighbouring countries had agreed to settle on the official record of 8,848m, originally taken in 1955, until border talks broke down igniting the long-running feud once again.
To add further controversy to the peak puzzle, geologists say both countries could be wrong claiming Everest could in fact be getting higher. The tectonic movement of the Indian subcontinent is causing the Himalaya to rise as it slides northwards into the plate on which China and Nepal reside.
The Nepalese Government have said the re-measuring process will take two years to complete.
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Altitude Mind Games
We all know how tough trekking at altitude can be; rasping breathlessness, searing muscles and extreme fatigue are endemic accompaniments to a walk in the clouds. Until recently, these symptoms were simply put down to physical limitations.
Now a study has shown that much of the fatigue trekkers and mountaineers experience at altitude is actually a result of brain activity.
It is now believed that when in low-oxygen conditions the brain kicks in as a safety measure to reserve energy stores and prevent overexertion, possibly to ensure we are always ready to flee or fight if necessary.
The research, conducted by Emma Ross at the University of Brighton, used non-invasive brain stimulation to assess the role of brain activity in muscle fatigue. By artificially generating motor cortex signals, the team were able to measure the difference between voluntary forces and those generated involuntarily by the brain.
"Our findings provide the first direct evidence that when the human body is stressed beyond its normal limits, such as through exercise in a low-oxygen environment, the brain has an increased influence on our ability to use our muscles," says Ross. "It could be an evolutionary mechanism to ensure we always have some capacity for movement."
Ross and her team also carried out similar tests on volunteers under normal oxygen conditions at sea level and low-oxygen conditions at the Pyramid Laboratory-Observatory on Mount Everest, at an altitude of 5,050 metres.
So, it seems that whilst the lack of oxygen at high altitude does indeed make trekking a bit harder, our subconscious is actually making things much harder, always keeping a little back for an emergency.
It is thought the new findings could help mountaineers and trekkers plan better acclimatisation strategies before attempting high altitude peak bagging trekking holidays.
Read more: Altitude Mind Games