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Dr. Paul Auerbach is the world's leading outdoor health expert. His blog offers tips on outdoor safety and advice on how to handle wilderness emergencies.

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Guest Post: Studying Aconcagua, the Highest Mountain in the Americas

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photo courtesy of Sergio Schmiegelow
Centro de Investigación en Medicina de Altura (CIMA) de Aconcagua is an international consortium of high altitude mountaineers and researchers interested in improving the safety of mountaineers on Aconcagua and enhancing our understanding of the pathology of high altitude illness.

At 22,841 feet (6962 meters), Aconcagua is one of the seven summits and the highest mountain in the world outside of Asia. It is situated in the Andes mountain range, near the Argentina-Chile border. Aconcagua has 6,000 trekkers annually, many of whom attempt to summit via the non-technical normal route.

CIMA de Aconcagua (derived from cima, which is the Spanish word for summit) was created in 2010. The impetus for CIMA de Aconcagua originated in the 2008-09 climbing season on Aconcagua, during which six climbers died. In January 2009, researchers from Argentina and the United States were stationed at Plaza de Mulas base camp at 14,320 feet (4365 meters) working on various scientific studies, three of which have been published or are in press in the journal Wilderness & Environmental Medicine. One was a pilot study on the relationship between acute mountain sickness and high blood pressure (Wilderness Environ Med 2009; 20(4):393-4). The second involved using oxygen levels measured after completion of a six-minute walk test to predict climbers’ success at summiting Aconcagua (Wilderness Environ Med 2010; 21(4):309-17). The third investigated the use of visual analog scales compared to the standard Lake Louise Score to quantify acute mountain sickness (Wilderness Environ Med 2011, in press).

Dr. Carlos Pesce is the lead Argentinean researcher at CIMA de Aconcagua. He is the founding member and past-president of the Sociedad Argentina de Medicina de Montaña (Argentinean High Altitude Medicine Society). He is joined in the U.S. by emergency medicine researchers from Madison, WI and Chicago, IL who specialize in wilderness medicine, pulmonary medicine, and sports medicine.

Currently, researchers from CIMA de Aconcagua are partnering with physicians from Asociación Andina de Medicina Para la Altura (AAMPA, Andes Association of High Altitude Medicine), the Sociedad Argentina de Medicina de Montaña, and park rangers at Aconcagua Provincial Park to conduct further studies on high altitude illness.

For more information about ongoing studies, to collaborate on future projects, or to volunteer your time or money, you may visit the CIMA de Aconcagua website at http://www.cima-aconcagua.com/, write to info@cima-aconcagua.com, or find us on facebook at http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=151435538217078&ref=ts; you may also follow us on twitter @cima_aconcagua.

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Tags: Climbing High

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