UM Visiting Lecturer to Discuss Success and Death of Himalayan Mountaineers

April 25, 2014

MISSOULA – Since the first ascent of Mount Everest in 1953, tens of thousands of mountaineers have traveled to the Himalayas in pursuit of summits and adventure. Some have been successful, and some have died.

On Thursday, May 1, University of Montana’s Division of Biological Sciences will host a public lecture by Ray Huey, who will discuss mountaineering through the lens of evolutionary physiology, climate change and high-altitude physiology. His lecture, “Success and Death of Mountaineers on the High Himalayan Peaks,” will take place at 7 p.m. in the University Center Theater.

Huey, a professor at the University of Washington, will analyze success and death rates of Himalayan mountaineers using techniques developed by evolutionary biologists to study natural selection of organisms in the field. After summarizing the extreme physiological challenges climbers endure at high altitude, he will discuss whether the Khumbu Icefall is the most dangerous section on Everest, whether the use of supplemental oxygen enhances survival during descent from the summits of Everest and K2, whether mountaineers are physiologically capable of ascending to altitudes higher than Everest, and whether gender and age influence success and death rates on Everest.

Huey also will deliver a lecture at 4:10 p.m. Wednesday, April 30 as part of UM’s Organismal Biology and Ecology Program’s Ecology & Evolution Distinguished Speaker Series. His lecture, “Why Mountain Passes are Still Higher in the Tropics: Variations on a Theme by Daniel Jansen,” will be held in Interdisciplinary Sciences Building Room 110.

Both lectures are free and open to the public. For more information on Huey’s mountaineering research, visit For more information on his lizard ecology and evolutionary biology research, visit



Contact: Creagh Breuner, professor, UM Division of Biological Sciences, 406-243-5585,