Won't someone please think of the Sherpas?
June 2, 2005 7:34 PM   Subscribe

To the summit of Everest by helicopter.  Is nothing sacred? (direct link to WMV video)
posted by planetkyoto (32 comments total)
yeah seriously. screw space shuttles too.
posted by reflection at 7:38 PM on June 2, 2005

What's so sacred about avoiding the use of helicopters?
posted by majick at 7:42 PM on June 2, 2005

Well it's about freaking time. I hope soon they build a McDonalds and a Stuckeys up there as well. Maybe a theme park or a bordello. Give people an actual reason to go up to the top of that godforsaken thing besides the obvious "because it's there" bullcrap.
posted by ZachsMind at 7:48 PM on June 2, 2005

Saw this on the TV the other day. A nice acomplishment, but nto the same as actually climbing it at all. As long as the two con't get confused, all will be well.

If you don't get the "because it's there" thing, ZachsMind, it can't be explained to you.
posted by dg at 7:56 PM on June 2, 2005

No way, it doesn't count. He didn't get out of the chopper to drink a Mountain Dew.

That's like dry humping a super model while completely anesthetized inside a wet suit.
posted by brheavy at 7:59 PM on June 2, 2005

Can't get the thing to load here.

But if they were flying the copter themselves, at least their chosen Very Expensive Dumb Rich Guy Stunt was less likely to get local guides, rescuers, or other travelers killed than being shepherded up the mountain would be.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:08 PM on June 2, 2005

I take my hat off to that pilot.
I thought the air was too thin to make choppers function up there.
And, uh, no, it's not the same thing as climbing it.
Neither is climbing it with bottled air, I suppose.
or using modern gear.

I just fail to see how that is a slam at all, though.

this is a literal pushing of the envelope higher in the aeronautical field.

personally, I'm more interested in the deep sea, but hey, that's just me.
posted by Busithoth at 8:23 PM on June 2, 2005

I think this might be a good thing. Perhaps in the future, the poor bastards who collapse in the death zone will have a chance at rescue, rather than the abandonment that they currently face.
posted by Tullius at 8:30 PM on June 2, 2005

I drive my car to the Mississippi River everyday but that doesn't make me Hernado DeSoto. Still, that doesn't mean I shouldn't do it. Stuckey's would suck. Maybe a Starbuck's.
posted by Carbolic at 8:33 PM on June 2, 2005

Of course the top of Everest would be just about the last place where there isn't already a Starbucks.
posted by clevershark at 8:46 PM on June 2, 2005

ROU: I don't think this qualifies as a "dumb rich guy" stunt -- those were professional pilots, using an aircraft with tested capability at those altitudes. The whole point was to show off that capability in order to sell aircraft.

I am amazed, though -- it was my understanding that no helicopter could be built to exceed something slightly above 22,000ft. Only in recent years had Nepalese rescue pilots gone much above the Icefall, which is IIRC between Base Camp and Camp I. (Note that summit attempts begin at Camp IV.) Getting an injured climber off the summit has been an incredibly dangerous team effort on par with getting up the mountain in the first place, and if Nepal can get a Eurocopter on a permanent basis it will be slightly less dangerous for everyone else to deal with an injury.

Of course the mystique of Everest is going to inch away gradually as technology improves. Oxygen, advanced thermal clothing, lightweight yet durable tents, composite-based equipment -- all of these have done their part in making Everest something within reach of an adventure-addled entrepreneur with modest climbing experience. (See Into Thin Air.) One day we'll all have flying cars, you know, and meeting at the Everest Stuckey's will be a date.
posted by dhartung at 8:52 PM on June 2, 2005

Why did he land a chopper up there? ...because it was there, it was a record to be set.

BUT while we're on Everest, let us not forget Göran Kropp - he rode his bike from Stockholm to Everest and then soloed it w/o oxygen!!!
posted by tomplus2 at 8:53 PM on June 2, 2005

I think flying a helicopter to the rarefied heights of the peak of Mt. Everest is a bit more difficult than everyone here imagines.

Choppers aren't supposed to fly that high. They claw at the air to stay aloft. Consider that a jet airliner has the benefit of cruising at 450 knots to keep enough air flowing over its wings for sustained flight: the helicopter, standing still, must spin its rotors fast enough to maintain altitude in very thin air. Landing on Everest puts the helicopter at the edge of its performance envelope.

Don't forget the vicious crosswinds that must come from having a landing site at the altitude of the jetstream.

It would take a skilled pilot to accomplish that landing. Failure on the slopes of Everest would mean near certain death.

Or, what Busithoth said. Or dhartung.
posted by tss at 8:54 PM on June 2, 2005

Yep, just checked, there are even several Starbucks in MS. (The fact that I was born in the state allows the implied slur)
posted by Carbolic at 8:56 PM on June 2, 2005

Not that a slur against MS has a chance in hell of raising an objection here.
posted by Carbolic at 8:59 PM on June 2, 2005

Whoa. Sweet. Way to go chopper pilots.

This is the first time my dad has shown a remote interest in Metafilter.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 9:27 PM on June 2, 2005

When Lindbergh flew across the Atlantic, the big deal was not in the crossing itself, or that it was harder than doing so on an ocean liner or even a rowboat, but in the fact that planes did not fly that far or for that long previously.
How is this case different?
posted by c13 at 9:40 PM on June 2, 2005

Do you remember that part in Samuel Delaney's "Nova" where they leave the vast costume party to fly the spaceship up to the top of some mighty peak to rescue the party of dilettantes who've gotten themselves trapped there? And they casually pull the dying aristocrats into the warm, champagne-stocked interior, hovering there next to the storm-whipped crags, dancing...

um. Where was I? Oh well.
posted by freebird at 9:45 PM on June 2, 2005

That's just insane. It's not every day that you see helicopter pilots wearing oxygen masks.

And that copter doesn't even look that impressive. It looks like a pretty standard jetcopter - exposed tailboom rotor, three main rotor blades, no obviously massive engines protruding.

It's also probably the first time someone has captured video of flying off the summit and looking down the face of Everest.

Though, the weather looked damn calm for Everest. If you view the video, notice how the snow the helicopter's skid dislodges doesn't blow away like it's in a gale. And it's at least marginally debateable as to whether or not they actually landed with that touch and go skid dancing they were doing.

Damn impressive regardless.
posted by loquacious at 10:01 PM on June 2, 2005

Carbolic: That's nothing! The state has fusion restaurants and sushi bars too.
posted by raysmj at 10:10 PM on June 2, 2005

According to the website, that "skid dancing" was maintained for at least the minimum two minutes necessary to qualify as a proper landing as per international aviation rules. Hell, if he can balance on one skid for two whole minutes like that, he deserves some recognition!
posted by randomstriker at 11:54 PM on June 2, 2005

Wow. Amazing. Like others have said, I thought helos couldn't fly that high--didn't the helo rescue in Into Thin Air set an altitude record?

Sad news about Göran Kropp. I didn't know he'd been killed. I also thought he didn't reach the summit--in Into Thin Air, Jon Krakauer was more impressed that Goran abandoned his attempt and turned around when the hour got too late. And if we're talking about soloing sans oxygen, don't forget about Reinhold Messner!

MetaFilter: Like dry-humping a supermodel while completely anesthetized inside a wet suit. Since 1999.
posted by fandango_matt at 12:47 AM on June 3, 2005

Does it actually state anywhere how this helicopter works? I didn't think it was physically possible for a helicopter to fly at those altitudes.

I also don't see any reason to fly that high unless it's to save someone's life. Then again, my adrenal glands usually get a rush by just running to catch the bus.
posted by quadog at 2:07 AM on June 3, 2005

As far as I remember there isn't even a Starbucks (or indeed McDonalds) in Kathmandu, so I think we're safe from the Everest franchise for a while.

Of course, it's been 11 years since I was there, so the inexorable progress of our benevolent foodfilth may have marched on...
posted by LondonYank at 2:50 AM on June 3, 2005

It is indeed possible for helicopters to fly at even higher altitudes. Witness the world record which were made in 1972 with a Sud Aviation SA 315B Lama - 12 442m (although it didn't land anywhere!)
My guess is that meteorological conditions have a more than significant effect on what is doable with a helicopter.
posted by Catfry at 3:15 AM on June 3, 2005

fandango_matt, you're right about Goran Kropp's first summit attempt, but Krakauer mentions in passing near the end of Into Thin Air that a later summit attempt was successful.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:39 AM on June 3, 2005

>>>BUT while we're on Everest, let us not forget Göran Kropp - he rode his bike from Stockholm to Everest and then soloed it w/o oxygen!!!

Kropp's achievement was indeed awesome. Unfortunately he was killed in 2002 while climbing in Washington.
posted by birdsong at 9:56 AM on June 3, 2005

God bless the French!
posted by lometogo at 12:12 PM on June 3, 2005

While it's an amazing feat, we are losing something: Until now, the summit could *only* be reached by foot. (I think.)

There's something poetic about the tallest point on earth only being acessible by one's own power -- but it just ain't so any more.
posted by o2b at 12:33 PM on June 3, 2005

Goddamn hippie.
posted by Catfry at 1:50 PM on June 3, 2005

Catfry: You are right, and the Eurocopter Ecureuil/AStar is the direct descendant of the Sud-Aviation Lama. (Sud-Aviation became Aérospatiale, and it's helicopter division subsequently merged with German MBB's to create Eurocopter). The Lama was basically a Sud-Aviation Alouette II general-purpose helicopter modified with a big-ass engine for high-altitude work following an Indian Army order. It is still used in mountain ranges around the world.
As it happens, the Ecureuil/AStar B3 version is a version of the Eurocopter Ecureuil modified with a big-ass engine for high-altitude work. Eurocopter's obvious intention is to provide a replacement helicopter for all those old Lamas...
posted by Skeptic at 9:17 AM on June 4, 2005

Now that the sanctity of the mountaintop has been breached, perhaps we can help remove the debris from the countless others who have respected the mountain to the extent that there are:

* over 1K oxygen bottles littering the slopes
* permafrosted human remains
* frozen feces
* unfrozen human waste contaminating local water supplies
* yak dung (thanks, Serpas!)

According to Rotary International (who are this year launching a cleanup effort), the average climber leaves ~300lbs of waste on the mountain per ascent.

In light of this, maybe a helicopter -is- the sensible way to go.

If you want the sanctity of a machine-free world, perhaps spelunking should be your hobby of choice.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 1:14 PM on June 6, 2005

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