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DLR hypoxia study: All symptoms disappeared after 30 hours

Nancy Hansen (r.) and Ralf Dujmovits at the DLR

“We were the mice for five weeks,” says Nancy Hansen describing the time she and Ralf Dujmovitsas reported – spent in a hypoxia chamber at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in Cologne half a year ago. The goal of the study was to find out whether, under certain circumstances, extreme hypoxia can lead to a strengthening of the heart in humans – as previously found out in two experiments with mice in the USA. After an acclimatization phase of around two weeks, the climbers had spent 16 days at a simulated altitude of 6,700 meters or higher, including four days at an oxygen content of only eight percent, which corresponds to 7,112 meters. “I suffered quite a lot,” admits Nancy. “But it was a big privilege to be part of the study.” Ralf is also still impressed by the experience: “I was hard on the edge. To be honest, I wouldn’t do it again. I underestimated the whole thing.” Last week the couple was in Cologne again – for one of several follow-up examinations. The first preliminary results of the study are now available.

Date

18. December 2018 | 12:18

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“Hypoxia expedition” successfully completed

With Nancy Hansen (r.) and Ralf Dujmovits in the DLR hypoxia chamber

And suddenly the call came from space: “Here is Alex”. At first Ralf Dujmovits did not know who was talking at the other end of the telephone line: “Alex? Then I suddenly recognized the voice I had heard two days earlier during the broadcast of the rocket launch.” Alexander Gerst inquired from the International Space Station (ISS) about the condition of the German climber and his Canadian partner Nancy Hansen in the hypoxia chamber of the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in Cologne. “It sounded like he was sitting next door.” For a quarter of an hour, Ralf, the first and so far only German climber to have scaled all 14 eight-thousanders, spoke to “Astro Alex”, the first German astronaut to take command of the ISS. “He was very interested in our experience in the lab. That was great.” Of course, Nancy talked to Gerst too. For both climbers it was a “real highlight”, says the 49-year-old Canadian.

Date

18. June 2018 | 15:16

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Prince and princess in the hypoxia chamber

Visiting Ralf Dujmovits (r.) with mask

Bottled oxygen on a mountain has always been out of the question for me. On principle. Today I made an exception – for a “virtual mountain”. To be able to visit Ralf Dujmovits, the only German mountaineer who has scaled all 14 eight-thousanders, and his partner, the Canadian climber Nancy Hansen, it is mandatory to use a breathing mask. After two weeks in the hypoxia chamber of the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in Cologne, the two test persons have reached the simulated target altitude of 7,112 meters. The percentage of oxygen in the air, normally 21 percent, was gradually reduced to eight percent by adding nitrogen. “It’s like climbing a mountain. The acclimatization is almost done, now we’re heading for the summit,” says Ralf. “The time on the summit will be of course much longer.”

Date

31. May 2018 | 0:23

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Dujmovits: “We are in good hands here”

Ralf Dujmovits and Nancy Hansen

The doors have closed behind Ralf Dujmovits and Nancy Hansen. The so far only German climber who has scaled all 14 eight-thousanders and his Canadian partner moved in a 110-square-meter hypoxia chamber of the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in Cologne on Tuesday. As reported, the two mountaineers are participating in a study conducted by DLR in cooperation with the University of Texas to investigate whether extreme hypoxia can also have a positive side effect for human beings. US researchers from Texas found in two experiments with mice that heart muscle cells devided when the animals were exposed for two weeks to oxygen deficiency corresponding to conditions at 7,000 m. In mice which had previously been triggered myocardial infarctions, cardiac function improved after two weeks of hypoxia.

Medical control around the clock

Monitor in the control room

Ralf and Nancy, both healthy, are the subjects of the pilot study. They are to stay in the hypoxia chamber for about a month. In the first few weeks, acclimatization as on a Himalayan expedition is simulated. The oxygen percentage in the air will be gradually lowered and temporarily increased only twice in between – as if the two climbers would descend again to breathe thicker air. The last two weeks, the 56-year-old German and the 49-year-old Canadian are to  spend in a simulated height of 7,000 meters. The experiment can be stopped at any time in case serious problems arise. A DLR research team monitors Dujmovits’ and Hansen’s state of health around the clock. The daily schedule includes heart and lung function checks, blood and urine tests, fitness checks and so-called “cognition tests”, which check the reaction and perception of the subjects.

Yesterday, I visited the two climbers in their new “home”. That was possible on Wednesday for the last time without breathing mask. After more than half hour in a simulated altitude of about 3,700 meters, I felt a little bit dizzy. I preferred to do the interview with Ralf subsequently in thick air, by phone.

Ralf, you can not get out, there is no daylight, and the oxygen is lowered. That does not sound like a holiday apartment.

Date

17. May 2018 | 15:49

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Two weeks on a quasi-7000er

Ralf Dujmovits (l.) and Nancy Hansen in the still empty DLR living area

This seven-thousander has neither a summit, nor does it offer impressive views. It covers an area of ​​only around 110 square meters – and is located on the grounds of the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in Cologne. A hypoxia chamber within DLR’s medical research lab “:envihab” – the name stands for environment and habitat – will be comfortably furnished in the coming months.

Four weeks in the chamber

In mid-May, Ralf Dujmovits, the only German mountaineer who has climbed all 14 eight-thousanders, and his partner, the Canadian climber Nancy Hansen, will move in there for four weeks. They are taking part in a highly interesting hypoxia study conducted by DLR in cooperation with the University of Texas. The assumption: Although extreme oxygen deficiency threatens life, there could also be a positive effect on the body.

Date

23. January 2018 | 16:02

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Together, cycling is easier

Not so alone as it looks like

It was the day of encounters. At first I cycled – for a change, in sunshine – along with a Swiss from the town of Zug, in his mid-60s, tanned, on a mountain bike that had already seen better days. “I’ve stopped working after 45 years,” the cyclist told me. “And now I am fulfilling my life dream. I always wanted to make a long bike trip.” I asked him how much time he took for the ride along the Rhine. “I’ll see how far I get until winter,” he said, grinning. In the further conversation it turned out that he was also a passionate mountaineer. He had climbed all four-thousanders of his home country, said the Swiss: “Actually, I had always dreamed of climbing Mount Everest one day. But tourism on this mountain has nothing to do with the way of climbing that I like.”

Date

16. September 2017 | 0:19

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Over penitents and narrow snow bridges

Ralf Dujmovits on Cholatse

“Everything has been going well so far.” Ralf Dujmovits is highly satisfied with his acclimatization tour in the Khumbu area. To prepare for Mount Everest, the 55-year-old, along with his partner Nancy Hansen from Canada, climbed the 6440-meter-high Cholatse. Last Thursday they reached the summit. The climb via the Southwest Ridge was anything but easy, Ralf writes to me: “A good part of the route above the col leads over steep to steepest penitents – very, very uncomfortable to climb.” Dujmovits believes that the climb to the highest point will soon change drastically. “The summit structure of Cholatse threatens to break apart in the next few years,” says Ralf. “There are many crevasses up to the summit. 30 meters below the highest point you have to cross a snow bridge which is still only two meters long and half a meter wide. If this also breaks, you need a ladder to get to the top.”

Date

18. April 2017 | 12:51

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Ralf Dujmovits: “My definitely last Everest attempt”

Ralf Dujmovits

Never say Never Again! This is not only the title of an old James Bond film but could also stand for Ralf Dujmovits’ personal story on Mount Everest. The first and so far only German, who has scaled all 14 eight-thousanders, had climbed the highest mountain on earth on his very first attempt in fall 1992. Due to bad weather, however, he had used bottled oxygen above the South Col. “I was very young at the time. It was a mistake,” says Ralf today.

After all, he climbed the other 13 eight-thousanders without breathing mask. And so he later tried to wipe out this Everest mistake again and again. In vain. In 1996, 2005, 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2015 he returned without summit success, for various reasons. This spring, the 55-year-old wants to give it a try again. For the eighth time, he will travel to Mount Everest, the fifth time to the Tibetan north side of the mountain. He will acclimatize in Nepal with an ascent of the 6,501-meter-high Cholatse in the Khumbu area, along with his Canadian partner Nancy Hansen. Ralf has now arrived in Kathmandu. I spoke with him shortly before he left to Nepal.

Ralf, I think, it’s allowed to say, that you and Everest have a relationship.

Date

28. March 2017 | 16:59

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Praqpa Ri remains unclimbed too

Nancy Hansen, in the background Praqpa Ri

Nancy Hansen, in the background Praqpa Ri (7134 m)

It is raining – at 9 p.m. at 5,000 meters in the Karakoram. “It’s incredibly warm here,” Ralf Dujmovits, Germany’s most successful high altitude climber, tells me via satellite phone from the Base Camp at the foot of Praqpa Ri. “We sat together until late in the evening with an open tent.” The unusually warm weather has resulted in difficult conditions on the seven-thousander so that its summit remains virgin. Like before on the also unclimbed seven-thousander Gasherbrum VI the 54-year-old German and his 47-year-old Canadian partner Nancy Hansen had to abandon their summit attempt. “We fought for every meter on ascent,” says Ralf. In vain.

Ralf, how far up did you climb this time?

Date

15. July 2016 | 10:35

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Dujmovits and Hansen abandon attempt on Gasherbrum VI

Nancy at 6,400 m at Gasherbrum VI

Nancy at 6,400 m at Gasherbrum VI

The seven-thousander Gasherbrum VI in the Karakoram in Pakistan remains unclimbed. 54-year-old Ralf Dujmovits, Germany’s most successful high-altitude climber, and 47-year-old Canadian Nancy Hansen abandoned their attempt to first climb the 6,973-meter-high mountain (other elevation: 7,004 meters) in the Karakoram. They turned around at an altitude of 6,400 meters. “We did our best,” Ralf tells me via satellite phone. “Nancy fought in the slabs like a bear. It just was not meant to be. Finally we don’t want to commit suicide.”

Date

29. June 2016 | 17:13

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Dujmovits: “Pretty flabbergasted”

Gasherbrum VI seen from Base Camp

Gasherbrum VI seen from Base Camp

“Really annoying that this happened to me at the very beginning!” Ralf Dujmovits, Germany’s most successful high altitude climber, is upset that he has first suffered from diarrhea and then from a bad cold while trekking on the Baltoro Glacier. “Meanwhile I feel better, but I realize that I still lack power,” Ralf tells me, when I reach him on satellite phone during an exploration trip. The 54-year-old and his girlfriend, the 47-year-old Canadian climber Nancy Hansen, traveled to the Karakoram in order to try first ascents of two still unclimbed mountains: first Gasherbrum VI (the reported altitude varies between 6,973 and 7,004 meters), then, not far away, Praqpa Ri (different elevation data too: 7,134 or 7,152 meters). The two climbers have pitched up their Base Camp at the foot of Gasherbrum VI.

Ralf, how have you experienced Pakistan so far? The country is still said to be a risk area.

Date

17. June 2016 | 14:49

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Dujmovits: “Everyone wants to be the first on Nanga Parbat”

Ralf Dujmovits at the ISPO

Ralf Dujmovits at the ISPO

Ralf Dujmovits is one of the many climbers who have already failed in winter on Nanga Parbat. The first and so far only German who climbed all 14 eight-thousanders tried to scale the 8,125-meter-high mountain in Pakistan at the turn of 2013/2014 after having acclimatized previously on the 6,962-meter-high Aconcagua, the highest mountain in South America. At that time Ralf abandoned his expedition relatively quickly because he thought the danger of ice avalanches on the Messner route was by far too high. I met the 54-year-old this week at the trade fair ISPO in Munich.

Ralf, at the moment much is happening on Nanga Parbat. Are you not itching to go there again?

Date

29. January 2016 | 17:39

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Ghostly silence where once was hubbub

Destroyed house in Sangachok

Destroyed house in Sangachok

Ralf Dujmovits is shocked. “I have rarely seen something so depressing and sad”, says Germany’s most successful high altitude mountaineer when he calls me from Kathmandu. He has just returned from an all-day trip to Sindhupalchowk District, about 80 kilometers northeast of the capital. There was no other district in Nepal where the devastating earthquake two weeks ago killed more people than in Sindhupalchowk. So far, the government has registered there more than 3,000 dead – at a total of more than 7,900 fatalities throughout Nepal.

Date

9. May 2015 | 21:13

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Free return flight from Tibet for all Sherpas?

The Potala Palace in Lhasa

The Potala Palace in Lhasa

China shows its friendly face. For 10 May, the Chinese government is planning “to provide a charter flight free of charge form Lhasa to Kathmandu for all Sherpas – not just for Climbing Sherpas, but also for cooks and kitchen helpers”, Ralf Dujmovits wrote to me calling it “a generous gesture” – despite  the expected propaganda of the Chinese. The most successful German mountaineer arrived in Lhasa, like many other western climbers who were on expedition in Tibet. “The China Tibet Mountaineering Association (CTMA) generously bears the costs of transport to Lhasa, accommodation and meals. And they take care of the visa formalities for the stranded climbers coming from all Tibetan peaks”, the 53-year-old said.

Date

4. May 2015 | 14:52

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Dujmovits: “I want to make it for myself”

Ralf Dujmovits at the ISPO

Ralf Dujmovits at the ISPO

His bookmark is still in the book of Everest. Ralf Dujmovits scaled all 14 eight-thousanders, as the only German so far. Only on Mount Everest in 1992, Ralf used bottled oxygen – something that the 53-year-old sees as a blemish by today. This spring, Ralf wants to travel to the highest mountain in the world for the already seventh time, for the fourth time to the Tibetan north side. Last year Dujmovits reached there an altitude of 8,300 meters on the northeast ridge. At that time he got angry about his own mistakes. And so Ralf’s repeatedly announced “definitely last” attempt on Everest became once again just his most recent try. This year, he wants to climb in a team with the Canadian Nancy Hansen. I met Ralf at the trade fair ISPO in Munich and asked him about his Everest plans:

Ralf and Mount Everest, a never ending story?

Date

9. February 2015 | 22:03

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