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photo of mountain climbers
  Climbers hike to a science lab high in the Alps

Mountain climbing enthusiasts need to be prepared, and they need to be in shape, both mentally and physically. But regardless of preparation and training, some people can't seem to adapt to the thin air at high altitudes. Certain climbers get so sick they endanger their lives. Is there any way to predict how a climber will react before they get up there?

That's what a team of researchers at the University of Heidelberg in Germany hope to find out. In "High Anxiety," scientist Peter Bartsch tests volunteers' reactions to low concentrations of oxygen in the lab, and finds that two equally fit young men have radically different responses. While Arndt breathes faster and more deeply, Michael hardly compensates at all.

x-ray of lungs  
An X-ray reveals fluid-filled lungs- the most serious symptom of altitude sickness  
Then when the volunteers climb 15,000 feet up into the Alps, they react just as they did in the lab --Arndt enjoys his high altitude experience, while Michael gets acute mountain sickness and must be flown down to safety. But Udo, a third volunteer, confused the researchers by reacting on the mountain in a way that couldn't be predicted in the lab.

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