Men with beards used to be a common sight. Today there are few men who let their beards grow even among those whose religion forbid them from shaving it.
If you’re a mountaineer, there’s a good reason to have some hair on your chin. A study done by Scientists from Winconsin Institute of Physiological Performance Science revealed that the beard could give you a significant advantage over clean shaven men at high altitudes. In fact the study showed that it could be the difference between life and death on the Everest.
Here’s how the study went. The scientists strapped on some lightweight high tech gear that measures the Oxygen Repiratory Index (ORI) on climbers of the Yeti Everest expedition. Half of the climbers were encouraged to let their beards grow while the other half were clean shaven. Both groups had comparable ORI at basecamp but what happened as the team advanced up the mountain makes it hard to dismiss the results as mere coincidence.
At 7,500 metres, the bearded group showed a 7.3% rise in ORI compared to the other group; by 8,000 metres the gap increased to 10.7%; at the summit it rose again to 15%. In Everest’s harsh climate, this could be the difference between life and death.
According to Dr Wayne Gillete of the institute that performed the study, the longer the beard growth, the better is the increase in performance.
No wonder some of the best mountaineers have such impressive beards.