by Adam Storck
“Between every Two Pines is a doorway to another world.” - John Muir
We’ve all peered through Muir’s allegorical doorway, through the entry to another realm where there are still innumerate things to discover, about the world, and about ourselves. To the place where the Two Pines open onto a world so wholly unfamiliar in 21st century America, a place as immersive as it is beautiful, as inspiring as it is enlightening, as dangerous as it is challenging. For we four founders of Two Pines Expeditionary Research, the doorway to another world seduced us to walk through and threw each of us against the edge of our own limits. This experience sparked in each of us a love of the wilderness and a desire to experience the world at its most remote, its most unforgiving, it’s most beautiful.
The high mountains are notoriously extreme, and for the last two centuries have been the proving grounds for the limits of human physiology. Extreme cold, limited food, and an extreme lack of oxygen quickly force the body into survival state, where protective processes take over to minimize the negative side effects of the environment. While evolutionarily an essential tactic, this stress reaction, when combined with the environment, can cause unexpected and dangerous reactions even in the most prepared. In 2017, while filming what was meant to be the first ascent of Lunag Ri in Nepal, Conrad Anker – one of the most accomplished American mountaineers in history – had to be helicoptered off the mountain after suffering a heart attack at 20,000 feet. Fortunately, Conrad survived, and the following year was in Antarctica making bold first ascents with Jimmy Chin and Alex Honnold.
But his story could easily have gone another way; sudden cardiac arrest is among the more common causes of death for people exploring the high mountains, and for reasons that aren’t totally understood.
At Two Pines, we are fascinated by a core question: when driven to the extreme limits of human survival, how do the body’s various physiological systems react and interact to both help and harm it’s ability to make it out alive?
This is an important question for those of us with a deeply adventurous spirit, but – we are hoping – also helps uncover insights about human physiology that can be brought back to the frontcountry.
To begin exploring this question, we need to get humans to the most remote and extreme environments on the planet. And we need to wire them up to lightweight, portable medical monitoring equipment while they are up there. This is where Two Pines Expeditionary Research was born, as a vehicle to organize expeditions to the high mountains of the world to collect data that can then be analyzed to uncover the secrets held in the human stress response systems.
We also recognize that the value gained from high mountain expeditions dedicated to research is not limited to medical applications, so we are actively seeking organizations and individuals who need to conduct data collection and research projects in these environments to partner with us. Help us define the full suite of research (and summit) objectives that we weave into the core of our expeditions, the first of which we are planning for 2020.
Muir’s doorway has changed a little for us; what started as an entryway to adventure has turned into a portal to a different type of exploration, seeking to illuminate some of the mysteries held in the high mountains – and the human body. All that’s left is to grow Two Pines.