Intended for healthcare professionals


Climbing the Himalayas more safely

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: (Published 13 June 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e3778
  1. Martin Burtscher, professor
  1. 1Department of Sport Science, Medical Section, University of Innsbruck, A-6020 Innsbruck, Austria
  1. martin.burtscher{at}

Fitness and mountaineering skills are most important, and they take time to develop

Mountains are attracting a steadily increasing number of visitors. Each year, about 40 million tourists visit the mountainous areas of the Alps, and more than 100 million travel to high altitude regions all over the world.1 For example, the number of trekkers in Nepal rose by 450% between 1994 and 2000, and a similar increase has been seen for climbers reaching summits higher than 6000 m.2 In the linked paper (doi:10.1136/bmj.e3782), Westhoff and colleagues show that the number of climbers taking part in “traditional” (non-commercial) expeditions to high Himalayan peaks has remained relatively consistent since the 1990s, whereas the number of participants in commercial expeditions has increased continuously.3

Westhoff and colleagues aimed to determine whether previous participation in Himalayan expeditions reduced the risk of death associated with the climb and whether commercial expeditions are safer than traditional ones.

Although mountaineering …

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