Everest is on, baby!
May 14, 2004 12:52 PM   Subscribe

It's mid-May and for outdoor adventurer fans that means one thing: thanks to major weather pattern shifts, the tiny window of opportunity for climbing Mt. Everest is upon us. The first to summit this year looks to be a team from Mexico and Canada, planning to hit the top on Sunday morning. Of course, summiting Everest is a dangerous endeavor, and the crowds on the trail can often lead to disaster. In other mt. climbing news, the north face of the Eiger is unclimbable this year.
posted by mathowie (16 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
What a coincidence! I’ve just finished re-reading Into Thin Air and picked up Touching the Void again. I can’t recommend either of the two books enough.

Personally speaking I have no idea how mountaineers do what they do; I got a mild case of altitude sickness at 3,300m. What it’s like at almost twice again that height I can only begin to imagine.
posted by dmt at 1:00 PM on May 14, 2004

Hmmmm... That last link sounds like a challenge.
posted by loquax at 1:53 PM on May 14, 2004

i wanna go!!!! i have such a fascination with mountains, but i'm like you, dmt, and get a serious case of altitude sickness... guess i'm destined to be an armchair climber!!
posted by degan at 2:02 PM on May 14, 2004

Everest is a dump these days. Too many commercial travellers. If you've got bux, you can get to the top, no real skill involved. IMO.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:07 PM on May 14, 2004

Into Thin Air is a great read, as are all of Krakauer's books, but The Climb makes a good companion, both for a different perspective of the events, and to balance out what is, IMO, a bit of a hatchet job Krakauer pulled on Bhoukreev.
posted by Manjusri at 2:18 PM on May 14, 2004

Old climber friends of mine always say, "you put some space between climbs because it takes months to forget how much it sucked getting there the last time you did it.

I've been up a few peaks in my day, and I'd do it tomorrow if I didn't live in South Florida, A.K.A. the FLATlands. Then again, it's been years, so maybe I have forgotten how much it can suck.

Krakauer may well have pulled a hatchet job on the folks who were on Everest with him, but I'll tell you what, it's still a hell of a read.

Anyone see the conversation Krakauer had with Weston DeWalt in 1998? Several letters between them, all interesting.
posted by jeremy at 2:33 PM on May 14, 2004

More on the KrakauerFilter tip: he also wrote Eiger Dreams which is a great collection of pieces concerning what drives humans to climb challenging things and includes an essay, as the title suggests, on the Eiger itself.
posted by xmutex at 2:39 PM on May 14, 2004

Yep, Eiger Dreams is a favorite of mine and Krakauer's story of being stuck on the ice face is great.

Manjusri, if you didn't already know, Bhoukreev died a couple years ago in an avalanche on one of the 8km peaks in the Himilaya. I was bummed when I heard, he was a great climber.

jeremy, I agree. The one summer I climbed 4 peaks over 14k ft, I didn't go hiking again for another year due to the intense pain each one caused (I was a vomiting machine on the first high climb and had to turn back about 100 yards from the summit).
posted by mathowie at 3:31 PM on May 14, 2004

the eiger sanction, now THAT was a movie.
posted by quonsar at 3:38 PM on May 14, 2004

Matt: you have an... uh... unhealthy obsession with Everest - a killer peak if there ever was one, as all of Krakauer's readers know. I suggest you call Miguel and scale Portugal's highest restaurant.
posted by zaelic at 5:16 PM on May 14, 2004

It isn't just Everest that's dangerous. I had a friend die on Mt. Hood in a nasty avalanche. Hood is the second most climbed glacier-covered mountain in the world (behind Mt. Fuji). As long as you go up the Hogsback, or South Side Route, it's not terribly technical. But the truth is, any time you're up high on a glaciated peak, you're in danger.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not comparing Hood to Everest. (You think Everest has bad climbing traffic? You should see Hood during peak season.) When you're at the top of Hood, you haven't even reached base camp on Everest yet. Not even close. But still, it's work, and it's dangerous.

Nothing to do but climb as safely as possible. Or not climb at all.

Just a side note from a depressed Oregonian stuck in Florida, the highest point in my current state-of-residence is . . .

Yup. You guessed it. 345 feet. And it's in the panhandle. Over 570 miles from my house. Me? I'm at roughly 15 feet above sea level.
posted by jeremy at 6:26 PM on May 14, 2004

Having pussied out of the final climb to Angel's Landing in Zion National Park a few days ago whilst various climbers were scooting up the vertical faces all around I can respect anyone who wants to even attempt this kind of thing. Then again, I've bought beer in Utah so I've managed some tough things...

jeremy: I recently met a guy who had hiked to K2 base camp... a 3-week trip!
posted by i_cola at 7:11 PM on May 14, 2004

i_cola: no worries about staying off the final climb of anything. One of the cardinal rules of climbing: follow your gut.

Speaking of people who hike to base camps, just last Sunday, I had lunch with a guy who hiked to Everest base camp last summer. How crazy is that?
posted by jeremy at 8:01 PM on May 14, 2004

i_cola, holy shit. I think having a martini in an open bar 60+ floors up with nothing but plexi between you and a smooth-face tumble to your death rates pretty high on the thrill-o-meter. Anyone want to know what I'm ranting about? Check his profile.

posted by jeremy at 8:13 PM on May 14, 2004

Majesty or Travesty?

It's climbing season again on Everest. And as hundreds of summit hopefuls converge at Base Camp, the great debate persists: Has the Big E become the Big Easy? Alpinists Greg Child and Dave Hahn take sides.
posted by emmling at 12:22 AM on May 15, 2004

I got a mild case of altitude sickness at 3,300m. What it’s like at almost twice again that height I can only begin to imagine.

I recently was at the summit of Aconcagua at 7000m (23,000 feet). At this altitude the air pressure is less than half that at sea level. It is like being half way to outer space.

The key to avoiding altitude sickness is gradual acclimatization. To do a 14'er you should take at least 5 days. Spend 3 days between 7,000 and 10,000 feet doing some easy hiking and sightseeing, then take two days to reach the summit. It makes summiting much more pleasant.

Above 14,000 feet advance on average no more than 1000 feet per day.

The second important item is water. Drink four to five liters per day whether you think you need it or not.

As a backup you should get a prescription for Diamox. This is a mild diuretic that has the side effect of stimulating respiration. Even the most fit person may have difficulty sleeping at altitude because of periodic breathing which is similar to sleep apnea. Diamox is known as the climbers sleeping pill and will keep you breathing comfortably through the night.
posted by JackFlash at 6:36 PM on May 15, 2004

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