High-altitude pulmonary oedema (HAPE) is a potentially fatal condition affecting fit and previously well individuals at altitudes in excess of 3000 m. This article discusses the mechanisms of HAPE, considers the contribution of hypoxic pulmonary vasoconstriction and alterations in sodium transport to the pathological process. It discusses the various biochemical mediators such as nitric oxide (NO), endothelin-1 (ET-1), and the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system (RAS) that may be involved and considers possible oxygen-sensing mechanisms involved in hypoxic adaptation such as hypoxia-inducible factor-1 (HIF-1). Those who have had HAPE once run an unpredictable but significant risk of recurrence; therefore, there may be a constitutional or genetic component in its aetiology. This paper considers the possible involvement of genes that may be involved in physiological adaptation to hypoxia (e.g., angiotensin-1 [AT(1)]-converting enzyme [ACE], tyrosine hydroxylase, serotonin transporter [5-HTT], and endothelial NO synthase [eNOS] genes). As yet, no formal association has been identified between an identified genetic polymorphism and HAPE, but genetic variation provides a possible mechanism to explain interindividual variation in response to hypoxia and enhanced or reduced performance at altitude.