By Ferris Jabr
(Click here for the original article)
On his 27th birthday, David Hillebrandt and his wife Sally began to climb Mount Kenya, the second-highest mountain in Africa after Kilimanjaro. Instead of gearing up and heading straight for the mountain's tallest peakâwhich reaches 5,199 metersâthe couple started their journey more leisurely, trekking through scenic ridges and valleys around the mountain at an altitude of about 3,000 meters.
David, who today serves as a medical advisor to the British Mountaineering Council, already had considerable climbing experience at the time: he had scaled a 5,790-meter peak in Pakistan and 3,960-meter peaks in the European Alps. Sally, in contrast, had never done any serious climbing and did not consider herself a mountaineer.
But Sally wasn't the one who needed to stop and turn around.
"I am meant to be this tough, rugged mountaineer," David says, "and I celebrated my birthday by throwing up all over the place." Plagued by a throbbing headache and relentless nausea, David retreated to lower ground. He knew from previous climbs that he was prone to altitude sickness, but he thought circling the mountain at 3,000 meters would be a good way to acclimatize. This time it didn't do the trick. (Read more...)