It's been two and a half months since the day we all left our homes for Kathmandu in what
would be an unforgettable adventure to the top of the world. Now we're back in Seattle where
our adventure first began, administering the final round of physical and psychological tests
on the climbers.
The noise of the MRI scans can be deafening, like the sound of a jackhammer drilling deep into
your brain. "It's like having a garbage can on your head while someone pounds on it," said Dr.
Steve Dager, a professor of psychiatry and bioengineering at the University of Washington who is
administering the final round of MRI scans for our research on hypoxia. As I sit three inches
from the mouth of the MRI scanner, also known as "the magnet," I hold David's hand while he
lies inside the plastic tunnel trying to overcome his fear of claustrophobia. I wonder what
thoughts must be going through his head. Is there a sense of relief that this film and the
battery of testing from sea level to the summit of Everest is almost over?
David Carter joined David Breashears and Ed Viesturs in Seattle for the final neuro-behavioral
testing and MRI scans. "I'm still not home yet, and my family is itching to see me." said
Carter. He has one more leg of the journey to go before setting foot back on Indiana soil.
"Get me to those cornfields and flat land," Carter joked at a barbecue held at Tom Hornbein's
house, where we were all together for the last time before returning to our homes. Joining
the festivities was Jon Krakauer, the author of Into Thin Air, as well as some of the
experts who helped design the tests—Peter Hackett, Brownie Schoene, and Gail Rosenbaum.
The media interest in the highest place on Earth has us all reeling. But what strikes us the
most is the general confusion and misunderstanding about how people function in an oxygen-deprived
environment. Now, more than ever, we feel we have an important story to tell. Will our scientists
discover clues from the data we've gathered that will tell us more about how and why humans
become impaired at altitude? Do extreme altitudes cause chemical or structural changes in the
brain? In the months to come, our scientists will be analyzing the data obtained at sea level
and on the mountain.
On February 24th, 1998, join us on air as NOVA broadcasts the findings and the astonishing story
of these climbers' journey into thin air.