Hyperventilation is one of the most important features of acclimatization to high altitude. Resting ventilation at extreme altitudes increases up to fourfold and exercise ventilation for a given work level increases to the same extent. Hypoxic stimulation of the peripheral chemoreceptors is the chief mechanism for the hyperventilation but there is also evidence that central sensitization of the respiratory centres occurs. Permanent residents of high altitude have a blunted hypoxic ventilatory response compared to acclimatized lowlanders. Cardiac output increases in responses to acute hypoxia but returns to normal in acclimatized lowlanders. Oxygen uptake at extreme altitudes is markedly limited by the diffusion properties of the blood gas barrier. As a consequence the maximal oxygen consumption of a climber near the summit of Mount Everest is near his basal oxygen requirements. Maximal oxygen consumption is so sensitive to barometric pressure that it may be that day-to-day variations will affect the chances of a climber reaching the summit without supplementary oxygen.

This content is only available via PDF.