Flying High: By Dr Matt Wilkes

Tuesday 12 January, 2016

Flying at altitude brings its own demands – and you don’t even have to be that high. Altitude specialist Dr Matt Wilkes gives us the lowdown

When Tom de Dorlodot took off one bright morning in Pakistan’s Hushe Valley, he didn’t see himself getting particularly high. Though he was in the Karakoram to break the altitude record, the blue skies and stable atmosphere made going stratospheric that day an unlikely prospect.

The expedition had limited oxygen supplies, so Tom decided to fly without. As he hooked into a promising thermal, he soon found himself climbing smoothly at eight meters per second. He reached 6,000m in just under ten minutes coring in lift as wide as a football field.

Overcome with exhilaration, he started to sing. To Ramon Morillas on the radio though, it came out as pure gibberish. Tom began to feel weak, and his eyes filled with bright floating spots of light.

As he reached his final altitude of 6,626m, the edges of his vision started to darken and Ramon had to guide him down by radio. Once back on the ground, Tom was exhausted with a headache that lasted until the following day. Afterwards, he said he “never saw it coming”…

This is just the start, the full article is in Cross Country 167, Feb/March 2016

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