What happens to your body at the top of Mount Everest?

What happens to your body at the top of Mount Everest?

What Happens to Your Body At the Top of Mount Everest?

At the apex of the natural world, the top of the world is legendary Mount Everest. Standing at an elevation of 8,848 meters or close to 29,029 feet, it is a place where human beings come face to face with the harsh realities of nature and human limitations. This article unravels some of the significant physiological changes and challenges that your body encounters at the top of this mighty mountain.

Oxygen Deprivation and Hypoxia

One of the most daunting challenges to face your body at the elevation of Mount Everest is the reduced oxygen levels. As one goes higher, the atmospheric pressure decreases, reducing oxygen availability. The oxygen levels at the peak are about a third of that at sea level. This reduction leads to hypoxia, a condition where your body does not get enough oxygen, causing you to gasp for breath and triggering an increase in heart and respiratory rates.

Altitude Sickness

Reduced oxygen to your body at the altitude of Mount Everest brings about a chain of symptoms commonly known as altitude sickness. This illness manifests as headaches, fatigue, stomach upset, dizziness, and sleep disturbance. The lack of oxygen disturbs the body’s normal functioning, particularly affecting the brain and lungs, which most rely on a consistent flow of oxygen.

Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS)

If not managed promptly, altitude sickness can lead to a more severe condition known as Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS). This typically develops around 8,000 meters, just around the “Death Zone” of Everest, and can be life-threatening. AMS can affect your cognitive abilities, cause confusion, lethargy, and difficulty walking. If not treated immediately, it can lead to coma and eventually death.

Extreme Weather Conditions

Certainly, the harsh cold at the top of Everest is a significant challenge. The average temperature is -36 degrees Celsius but can dip below -60 degrees Celsius. With such conditions, the human body risks developing frostbite and hypothermia, which can cause loss of body parts and can prove fatal if not addressed quickly and appropriately.


In such severe cold conditions, hypothermia is a real risk. Hypothermia occurs when the body loses heat more rapidly than it can produce. This leads to a dangerous drop in body temperature, affecting the heart, nervous system, and other organs’ functioning. In severe cases, it can lead to complete organ failure and death.


Such extreme cold can lead to frostbite. This is an injury resulting from freezing of the skin and its underlying tissues. The body’s first instinct is to preserve heat by reducing blood flow to hands and feet, causing these extremities to freeze, leading to frostbite. If left untreated, it can cause severe tissue damage and possible amputation.


What is Hypoxia?

Hypoxia is a state in which the body or a region of the body is deprived of adequate oxygen supply. It particularly affects the brain and lungs that depend heavily on oxygen. This condition often produces symptoms such as shortness of breath, rapid breathing, confusion, coughing, and even unconsciousness.

What triggers Altitude Sickness?

Altitude sickness is triggered by reduced atmospheric pressure and lower oxygen levels at high altitudes. When individuals ascend too quickly to high altitudes, they don’t provide their bodies enough time to adapt to the new conditions, leading to altitude sickness.

What is AMS?

Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) is a severe form of altitude sickness that typically develops around 8,000 meters. It presents with symptoms similar to a severe hangover but can progress to more alarming signs such as confusion, difficulty walking, shortness of breath, and ultimately it could be fatal.

How does extreme cold affect the human body on Mount Everest?

The average temperature at the top of Mount Everest is around -36 degrees Celsius but can dip to below -60 degrees Celsius. Such extreme cold conditions can lead to frostbite, where the skin and the tissues beneath freeze, and hypothermia, when the body loses heat faster than it can produce, leading to a significant drop in body temperature, impacting organ function.

Is climbing Mount Everest dangerous?

Climbing Mount Everest is indeed dangerous. The risks arise largely due to severe weather conditions, altitude sickness, hypoxia, and other ailments that are brought on by the extreme altitudes and temperatures. The utmost precautions are required, and even with those, it remains a dangerous feat where numerous climbers have lost their lives.