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Antarctica is the coldest, highest, windiest, driest and iciest continent on earth with an average altitude of 2,300m. The highest point is Mount Vinson at 4,892m. The ice can reach a depth of 4,700m in places.

Most people visit Antarctica as part of organised expeditions or work projects and have training in altitude conditions and guides. However with the continent opening up to independent travel some companies are offering climbing packages. It is worth remembering that pressure is lower in the Polar Regions. Low pressure weather systems can also lower the pressure further. As a result reduced oxygen levels and AMS will develop at lower altitudes than elsewhere.

Extreme cold makes altitude related problems even worse.

A fit 66-year-old tourist flew from the Patriot Hills camp at 887m to the Pole at 2,800m. She hurried the 300m to the flags to take photos then needed help to climb the 30 steps into the NSF research base. She was short of breath and had a headache. She was treated with oxygen, fluids and simple painkillers. Later that day she was able to walk back to the plane and made a full recovery at Patriot Hills the following day.

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