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ascent, feet, disease, altitudes and symptoms


MOUNTAIN-CLIMBING.—This is essentially a sport which should be indulged in only by healthy persons, as it requires endurance, resourceful ness, and strength. Individuals with weak hearts should not attempt the ascent of a mountain, since this organ is called upon to do an increased amount of work in high altitudes. Before undertaking an ascent it is well to prepare oneself by systematic training, comprising gymnastic movements as well as breathing-exercises. The danger of accidents from falls, snow slides, etc., may be reduced to a minimum by taking guides along, and by providing oneself with the proper outfit (ice-axe, alpenstock, rope, etc.). The highest ascents recorded in the Swiss Alps average about 15,000 feet ; in the Himalayas, 24,000 ; in the Rocky Mountains, 14,000 ; and in the Canadian Rockies, 12,000 feet.

Inhabitants of low-lying districts, when ascending to a height of q,000 feet or more, are prone to become afflicted with a series of disease-symptoms to which the name of " mountain-climber's disease " has been applied. These symptoms consist of cardiac palpitation, difficulty in breathing, great fatigue, and vertigo. If the ascent be continued there may follow hemorrhages from the nose, mouth, and eyes, unconsciousness, and even death. The condition is ascribed to the very much diluted air of high altitudes, and the consequent diminution in its contents of oxygen. In order to supply the body with the necessary quantity of this gas, the heart and lungs arc subjected to great over-exertion. Respiration becomes more fre quent ; and the increased activity of the heart causes this organ to become readily fatigued. A number of other factors are contributory to the disease,

the more important being a rush of blood to the skin and mucous membranes, caused by the diminished atmospheric pressure, the cold and dry air, the strong light, and the exertion necessitated by climbing. Upon the first evidence of trouble further climbing should cease and the body be allowed to rest. The cardiac weakness may be favourably influenced by drinking a little wins or some strong coffee. In order to prevent the disease it is well to apply the same rule to mountain-climbing as to other sports ; namely, to practise moderation, and to accustom the system gradually to the changed conditions. The ascent of a mountain should, therefore, be slow, and interrupted by frequent periods of rest. I f distressing symptoms appear, it is better to turn back than to continue the ascent at the risk of injuring health.

A train of symptoms similar to those described may result from a balloon trip, although, as a rule, they do not come on until a somewhat higher altitude is reached—about 12,000 feet or more. It has lately been noted that railway journeys in high altitudes may prove dangerous to elderly persons unaccustomed to these elevations, and also to patients suffering from calcifi cation of blood-vessels. It is advisable for such individuals to accustom themselves to atmospheric changes in some moderately elevated locality, and to seek medical advice before undertaking a journey which might expose them to the danger of contracting disease.