Early morning sun on Everest Summit 8848 m
Please join my mailing list or join the Facebook for detailed information.
01.06.2012 Greetings from Ravensburg!
Last few days I have been constantly asked about the Everest climbing safety, as in worldwide media there has been shocking stories about recent accidents and especially as one of the casualties was from Germany, not far away from Ravensburg, where I live.
I do not comment on the case of the German climber, I never knew him nor his expedition and I have nothing to say about any of that. But I know very well the circumstances on the mountain as I was on North Col at the same time, constantly communicating and changing information with the teams on South side – as we were training for next year and for double traverse.
There are 8 victims at the moment this season and as I wrote earlier, one of them, a member of Peak Freaks team, I learned to know last season as we climbed in the same team. I am very sorry. He fell, so that accident has nothing to do with later mountain disease cases amongst the tourist climbers, as I want to name most of the participants of commercial teams.
I have met and discussed with hundreds of people about cerebral and pulmonary edema and symptoms of those at high altitude.
To climb safely over 7000 meters, if you acclimatize well, I mean
You must be very alert about your physical condition and knowing your system very well;
to be able to make right decisions when the time comes that you get any of those alerting symptoms
- in most of the cases the victims had not announced any problems to other team
members or personal climbing Sherpa and they had not been at high altitude before
Secondly you must know what to do at that moment and act immediately
- after discussing with several hobby climbers, I must state that in my opinion general information and knowledge is very poor amongst them, emergency procedures are not known – hey – it is your live – nobody can carry you down from that altitude!
When you are dead, Sherpa’s will stuff you in your sleeping bag and sledge you down,
if your family is willing to pay for it
Thirdly you must have the emergency evacuation medication available – yourself – when
- Most of the people I interviewed thru these years, had no idea what to have with
them on the mountain
- They trust that the commercial operator whose team they signed in, is having the
needed ones, yes they do – what does it help when the evacuation meds are at BC
and you are in trouble somewhere at South Col - idiots!
Some say they have a personal climbing Sherpa helping them all the way;
Well - then I know this guy has really never been to a mountain before
- I have never met a Sherpa who would have any other talent than climbing, he can
guide you to turn back, but first when the symptoms are severe and to be seen clearly
by him, problem is that they do not speak English or any other language well and they
do not know our race - we are strange whities to them, they cannot easily see what is
normal behavior for us - as we all are aliens to them
- I have never met a personal Sherpa with medical kit! Even if there was one and you
get problems, it can be a matter of minutes to use the evac and get down – when your
climbing Sherpa is 50 meters away or the whiteout hits - forget it, you're dead
- You must have the evac med and absolute wisdom how to use it an when
- Your Sherpa is not paid to die for you and they can as well get sick (read the case of
this season) when that happens, what can you do for him?!
Even this year, I spoke to one trekking group from Nürnberg, heading to Annapurna BC trek and they asked for some practical help and advice, which I lectured them.
They did know something from the guide books about how the body is adjusting to the altitude and how important role hydration is having.
Last I asked if they use any drugs and the answer was like with so many other trekkers; they told they will take Diamox to prevent the high altitude sickness.
Logically I asked, if they have tested this powerful drug at sea level, how does your system react to that and what are side effects. There was death silence, of cause not.
So how the f… do you know what happens at altitude when you take Diamox for the first time. Will it work ok and how can you tell if your condition is ok?
Your whole system is distressed and you have never been at this height – all bodily functions are adjusting and what you do: you take preventing medication without really knowing how that works.
- When you take such a risk to die, make sure that your insurance company does not
find your prescriptions or medicine,otherwise your family must pay for the transportation
of your corps, professional mountain guides do know this and normally search your gear
and pockets to dispose them, - ask them!
Not every 70 years old granny can climb Everest, - not to mention technically harder ones – last week Reinhold Messner commented like that (new female summit age record made)
and I must agree. However nobody of us has no way of knowing if we acclimatize and
adjust to altitude or not – we all must test it and proceed when possible.
Point is, that the test has to be done taking all necessary points into consideration, safely.
There is no way to test high altitude in Europe and permissions for any Himalayan massive are very expensive, that is one of the very logical explanations why people easily push themselves too far, not accepting to turn back in time.
We are not the same at high altitude - that I have also seen several times.
At least seeing the summit within reach causes many climbers summit fever – and reasoning becomes impossible.
Many tourist climbers are far too focused to summiting, they seem to forget everything else around.
Last year I climbed Lhothse Face very early morning hours and was sitting on the ridge of Camp 3 taking photos of sunrise, admiring the majestic beauty of the scene, several climbers arrived up and kept on asking what I was doing sitting there, never really understanding the point.
When you are in one of the beautiful places on whole wide earth, you should realize and respect it.
Summit is only a bonus we get when everything goes well and weather plays along.
One should also keep in mind that any stress at high altitude increases the risk of mountain disease, drastically!
About the headlines,
When you read that there were traffic jam at Hillary step and climbers were stuck there for too long time, in the afternoon – let me translate this into common language:
- these climbers have started the ascent in the morning or they have been ridiculously
slow and should have had no access up there in the first place, there is no way of
getting the summit done and decent safe when still after midday on Hillary step!
None of the professional climbers would do such a mistake.
Of cause you cannot spend days at death zone, which is burning your body into dust minute by minute. Just for that we have Camp 4 at 7900 meters and lower easily in reach, Camp 3.
When the conditions on the mountain are severe, you stay low and prepare yourself for summit bid.
If you were taken by surprise by whatever, you stay put and wait in lower camps and if forced to stay at death zone, you get down as you can and heal up and start new.
Only a total moron hangs around South Col or higher - and the same I must say about climbers starting from there in the morning!
If you cannot climb during the night or you need more than 3-4 hours from Camp 4 to Balcony, please go home, I do not want to see you laying there next year.
Prepare yourself, do your vascular training, rehearse your breathing techniques, check your system and know everything – yourself. Speak to those that climb extreme heights.
Do not even think that when you are able to run a marathon, you are able to climb Everest – that would be the first major mistake. Climbing in high altitude is harder work than you have ever imagined at sea level, keeping in mind that your whole system is in state of constant exhaustion and is shutting down one after another all functions.
But, when you can acclimatize and your system agrees on altitude, you can climb safe if you know and understand what I wrote here. Please ask if not!
Other fact is that a high percentage of first time Everest climbers do actually summit, compared to those who have been there before trying - reason for that has been studied a lot, common knowledge is that the first timer does not really know the actual risks of this mountain. Unaware and happy, no stress.
For the record, fatal rate of Everest is yearly 9 – 11 %, so also that is this year quite normal.
Accept the rules or stay home.