When Dawes Eddy stands atop the world’s highest peak, his euphoria will be brief.
As he lingers, his muscles will begin to shrink as his body consumes the last cache of energy. His heart will labor to pump blood the consistency of maple syrup. And his oxygen-deprived brain will begin to fail him – abandoning the ambition and judgment that ushered him to the pinnacle of Mount Everest.
What’s in store for Eddy is no surprise: Researchers have long known about the rigors and medical risks of high altitude.
What they don’t know is if such exposure is especially hard on older bodies, or if traveling to high places has consequences upon return to the comforts of low-elevation living. So a group of scientists, physicians, psychologists and athletic consultants are using Eddy as a research subject to test their theories on aging and altitude.
Eddy, 66, leaves today on a plane bound for Nepal, where he’ll spend the next two months climbing Mount Everest. For the first several weeks, he’ll prepare for the climb by living on the flanks of the mountain, acclimating by climbing higher and higher before he makes his final ascent to the world’s highest summit.
Eddy, though, is no ordinary senior citizen.