Thirty years ago, in the name of scientific research, Marcus Raichle, MD, professor of radiology and neurology, left the comforts of home and the MIR Tower to climb the frigid peaks of the Karakoram Range in Southeast Asia. He flew to London and traveled with the Birmingham Medical Research Expeditionary Society to Islamabad, Pakistan.
It was the society’s fifth climb and they wanted to see if the drug acetazolamide could alleviate high altitude sickness when taken in large doses. Their goal? The top of Gondoro Peak, elevation 18,500 feet.
“I skied for many years but never climbed anything of this sort before,” says Raichle, the Alan A. and Edith L. Wolff Distinguished Professor of Medicine, who celebrated his 46th anniversary at MIR this year. “When we got up and were on slopes and glacier fields, we got a quick set of lessons on how you behave — and how to use ice axes when you start sliding down the mountain.”
After 11 days of often treacherous climbing, the tenacious group finally reached their goal. “I’m standing on this peak on the Pakistani-China border and I had this T-shirt with me that says, ‘Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology’ on it,” says Raichle. “So I cut it up and put it together as a little flag. I recently found the dang thing.” Then he adds with a smile: “Maybe I should frame it? It does have a little history.”
Above: View of interior Pakistan from the plane.
Above: A group of Pakistani men were their porters.
Above: Raichle (center) standing atop Gondora Peak.
Left: The group climbs a peak above their mountain camp.
Right: Raichle just before his trek out of Hushe valley into mountains.
Above: Descending the peak.
Above: A fellow scientist records Raichle’s muscle strength.
Above: Raichle undergoing a brain blood flow study.