Press "Enter" to skip to content

Does climbing 14ers cause brain damage?

Brief by Allen Best

Health – October 2008 – Colorado Central Magazine

Does climbing 14,000-foot peaks cause you to lose brain cells, because of hypoxia? A study done in Spain concluded that time spent at high elevations resulted in a significant loss of brain cells, even leading to permanent damage.

But a study conducted by Telluride’s Institute for Altitude Medicine is coming to a different conclusion. Dr. Peter Hackett, the center’s director and one of the nation’s foremost experts in high-altitude medicine, has spearheaded a study of climbers of Alaska’s 20,320-foot Mt. McKinley. Brains of the climbers were analyzed by magnetic resonance imaging both before and after their climbs.

Results of the study remain incomplete, but Hackett told The Telluride Watch it appears that climbing the occasional 14er won’t cause irreparable damage.