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Smoking and climbing

I'm fascinated by the search queries that lead casual browsers to this blog.

OK, not fascinated. That would be freaky. Curious.

In the past week they have included 'Nigella and John Diamond', 'The Hour BBC smoking', 'Victoria Derbyshire smoking', and 'Hosepipe in exhaust'.

A query that repeatedly turns up is a variation on 'smoking and climbing'. (Sometimes it's expressed in other ways. For example, 'smoking impact at high altitudes'.)

Now, you might think that mountaineers are fit and healthy chaps who would struggle to climb some of the world's highest peaks handicapped by a 20-a-day habit.

And yet ... a non-smoking friend (pictured above on the summit of the Matterhorn last year) told me:

"We were bivvying at 4000m on the way down just outside the Salvay hut and facing a hard night when my guide, an occasional smoker, spotted a Dutch climber rolling a cigarette.

"He went over and said he could murder a cigarette. The Dutchman said he knew how he felt, proceeded to smoke his cigarette, and went inside the hut leaving the guide with his tongue hanging out."

By coincidence another friend - an habitual smoker and boozer for many, many years - also climbed the Matterhorn last year.

He returned with a similar story of climbers cadging (or trying to cadge) cigarettes off one another.

Or hiding their cigarettes from their (shock horror) non-smoking guide.

Smoking at high altitude? It's de rigeur.

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Reader Comments (5)

An interesting fact is that 'pound for pound', a smoking climber has more chance of reaching the summit than a non-smoking climber.
This is due to cigarettes producing high levels of nitric oxide, which cause an increased blood flow that provides body tissues with sufficient amounts of oxygen despite low levels of oxygen in both the air and the bloodstream.

Sunday, January 12, 2014 at 13:44 | Unregistered CommenterDave Copeland

When in Rome

Nitric oxide helps high-altitude survival

"CLEVELAND, Nov. 6 US researchers have discovered high blood levels of nitric oxide allow people to live at high altitudes where air has low levels of oxygen.

Dr. Serpil Erzurum, chairman of the Cleveland Clinic’s Department of Pathobiology, and colleagues from Case Western Reserve University analyzed blood samples and blood flow readings from 88 Tibetans living at altitudes of 14,000 feet. They compared the measurements with those of 50 people who live at locations near sea level.

The Tibetans were found to have 10 times more nitric oxide and more than double the forearm blood flow of sea-level dwellers.

The researchers said they believe the high levels of nitric oxide cause an increased blood flow that provides body tissues with sufficient amounts of oxygen despite low levels of oxygen in both the air and the bloodstream."

Sunday, January 12, 2014 at 18:29 | Unregistered CommenterRose 2

Well, it could be worse, people use the search term "fisting with pipes" to go to velvet glove iron fist

Monday, January 13, 2014 at 10:17 | Unregistered CommenterFredrik Eich

This also (a rare nicotine patch successful outcome)

'In summary, the results presented here clearly demonstrate that nicotine improved exercise endurance by 17 ± 7%, and in the absence of any effect on the usual peripheral markers, such as ventilation, heart rate and blood metabolites, we conclude that nicotine prolongs endurance by a central mechanism that may involve nicotinic receptor activation and/or altered activity of dopaminergic pathways.'

One for the vapers perhaps? Then again, wasn't Bradley Wiggins caught smoking?

Monday, January 13, 2014 at 15:31 | Unregistered Commenterdavid

Well that's interesting. I've been smoking for 24 years and have recently started endurance events (to lose weight primarily). Yet people are amazed that I am now running half marathons, sprint triathlons, cycling 100 mile sportives etc but am still smoking. Then again, I've NEVER had a smoker's cough or wheezing or anything like that. If I hadn't been told a billion times that smoking is supposed to make you breathless and wheezy, I wouldn't even have thought about it, to be honest.

Monday, January 20, 2014 at 18:38 | Unregistered CommenterMr A

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