As a climbing medic with a huge appetite for stories of wilderness medicine, I jumped for joy when I found Frances Ashcrofts Life at Extremes. After all, my weekend had involved a not so thrilling rummage around a bookshop in Ambleside; I needed something exciting, I needed extreme.
Where better to start than exploring the high altitude world of Reinhold Messners first Everest ascent without supplementary oxygen in 1978, of jet aeroplanes, vapourising blood, and acute mountain sickness? The book also explores the effects of deep water pressure, extremes of temperature, life in the fast lane, and survival in space. Ever wondered why you need the toilet when you climb into a swimming pool? Or how you might get a good nights sleep in the microgravity environment of space?
Ashcroft uses a generous number of examples, including tales of nutty professors, and she raises ethical questions of concentration camp research.