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Deadly Ascent homepage

Set #2: June 8, 2000

Question:

Can this research be used to better understandand use cryogenic technology? Do you see any application to future space travel or use in zero gravity situations?

Carol Willis, M.D.
Columbia, MO

Response from John Grunsfeld:

The medical research may have applicability to a type of a sickness that people get in space due to a fluid shift that potentially causes higher pressure in the brain. So understanding the effects of high altitude cerebral edema may n the future shed some light on space adaptation sickness. In addition, in the event of an uncontrolled decompression of a space craft, due to a hole in the pressure shell, the loss of atmosphere presents the occupants with a rapid ascent to high altitude. And so understanding the nature and causes of high altitude can provide those unfortunate astronauts with the right course of medication to prevent altitude sickness.

Question:

What do you expect to learn about the human body during this climb? How much time do you anticipate this climb taking? How long have you been preparing for this climb and how have you prepared?

Dan
Michigan

Response from Liesl Clark, NOVA Online Producer:

We expect to learn how the human body functions at altitude and in extreme cold. Specifically we'll be measuring the amount of oxygen in our climbers blood, their core body temperature, toe temperatures, heart rate and respiratory rate.

All of this data, in addition to data on outside temps and conditions will be recorded so we can learn more about the fluctuating body temps and oxygen deprivation a climber endures on a high mountain climb. We also may be testing a device that is still in the investigational phase of testing. This device uses negative pressure in conjunction with external warming applied to a cold climber's hand, wrist and forearm to add large amounts of heat to the climber's blood stream. We hope to measure rewarming rates in cold climbers using this device. This climb will take 21 to 28 days.

Question:

Why are you climbing this mountain? How many days or months did you have to train for this climb? Are you frightened by the fact that you could die during the climb?

Jessica
Michigan

Response from Liesl Clark, NOVA Online Producer:

For some of us who are guides (namely Colby and Caitlin), it is our job to climb this mountain. The filmmakers, also are here working, making a film about Denali. John Grunsfeld is here to climb the mountain for himself.

Question:

How long have you been training for and what have you done to train and prepare for this climb? Have you ever climbed a mountain before, if so which one?

Emily
Michigan

Response from Peter Hackett:

I've climbed many mountains including Mount Everest on the 1981 American Medical Research Expedition where we performed multiple tests on climbers and answered many questions about the human body at altitude.

Question:

When training, did you ever feel like you would change your mind and back out? Are you afraid of going up the mountain? Was the training really hard?

Hannah
Michigan

Response from Howard Donner:

There are always moments when one questions the enormous preparation for a trip like this versus the benefit. However, it helps me to visualize the magic of standing on a vast Alaska Range glacier, breathing in the world, while training before these trips.

Question:

What is the temperature at the top of the peak? What is the rock composition on the peak? What is the shape of the top of the peak?

John
Michigan

Response from Peter Hackett:

The coldest ambient temperature on the summit during the climbing season (not including wind chill) is -45, -50 degrees F. This does not included the combination of wind and cold, so called "wind chill factor" which can drive temperatures down below -100. The first few weeks of the season, the temperatures at night at 14,000 ft Camp can reach to below -40°F.

The summit is a rounded ridge with a very steep drop off on the south and a more gradual drop off on the north. Kind of like the hump of a whale.

Question:

What do you think the hardest thing to adjust to while climbing will be?

Laura
Michigan

Response from Howard Donner:

For me, the hardest thing is sitting still when tent-bound in bad weather. But most people find the constant discomfort to be difficult to adjust to—being too hot and too cold, too dirty, etc.

Question:

What was your greatest apprehension to climbing Denali? How did you train your mind and body for such a trek? What are you thinking about while your climbing?

Ali
Michigan

Response from Liesl Clark, NOVA Online Producer:

Cold injury is often the greatest apprehension to climbing Denali. Also, many of us are apprehensive about being away from our families for such a long period of time. The hardships up high may take their toll, but when you return home you generally forget about them, but cold injury, like frost bite, will stay with you forever.

While climbing, most of us think about our families and loved ones.

Question:

What did you hope to accomplish on this trip? What do you expect on this trip? What made you want to do this?

Sarah
Michigan

Response from Liesl Clark, NOVA Online Producer:

With 1200 climbers a year attempting Denali's West Buttress, this expedition offered us a chance to document the myriad of physiologic and medical demands of working and climbing in such an extreme environment.

Question:

How did you feel when you found out or realized the dangers you would be facing during the climb? How did your family or friends take it when you told them you would be climbing the mountain?

Courtney
Michigan

Response from John Grunsfeld:

My wife is a climber so she knows about the risks and my children like to climb mountains. My friend said "I want to come too."

Back to top

Dispatches

On the Way (06.01.2000)
One Shot Pass (06.02.2000)
Midnight Rescue (06.04.2000)
Across a Glacier (06.05.2000)
Cold Toes (06.07.2000)
Cloud Walkers (06.09.2000)
Fourteen Medical (06.11.2000)
A Climber Saved (06.13.2000)
Lull Before a Storm (06.15.2000)
Frostbite (06.17.2000)
An Unforgiving Mountain (06.19.2000)
Stopped Short (06.20.2000)
A Great Loss (06.20.2000)
Bid for the Summit (06.23.2000)
Summit Reached (06.24.2000)


E-Mail

Set #1 (06.07.2000)
Set #2 (06.08.2000)
Set #3 (06.11.2000)
Set #4 (06.12.2000)
Set #5 (06.21.2000)


Meet the Team

Pete Athans
Colby Coombs
Dr. Howard Donner
John Grunsfeld
Dr. Peter Hackett
Caitlin Palmer





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