Wednesday, September 30, 2009
On September 27 Charles Houston, MD, slipped away peacefully in his Vermont home at the age of 96. As a pioneering mountaineer, he had few equals. First ascents of Foraker and Nanda Devi were his, and numerous other climbs in Alaska and the Himalayas. A fine writer, Houston's book, K2: The Savage Mountain, chronicling his second expedition to the world's second highest mountain, is a true classic in mountaineering literature. But Charlie Houston contributed most profoundly to the world through his unprecedented research into high altitude medicine. He is indeed credited with the first identification of high altitude pulmonary edema. Houston established and for ten years directed altitude medicine research on Mount Logan in Canada. Much of what we know today and depend upon when we acclimatize to high altitude or treat those who have not acclimatized can be traced to roots on Logan. A classic in wilderness medicine literature, Going Higher: Oxygen, Man, and Mountains, was written by Houston. I remember him best as a kind man who generously answered all my questions when I was young in the field of wild med. I will miss him.