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Climbing

Updated May 29, 1997



Question:

Hope everyone continues to enjoy good health there and things progress for you guys. I have a couple of questions. Many of the more successful Everest climbers are more "mature" (sorry guys!). At least compared to the typical rock-jock/gym rat set anyhow. My question is, given that some of you have had multiple Everest experiences, have you noticed a change with age that in some way might give you an edge that you might not have had the first time you were there? Certainly it's true that a person's physiological makeup (breathing/heart rate, etc.) changes with age, and I just thought that maybe age here might at times be an advantage (separate from experience). Also, a quick question about weather. There have been a few winter ascents if I remember correctly. Besides the cold temperatures that one would have to deal with, I was wondering if the jet stream moves and stays away from the mountain for long periods of time during the winter months, thereby possibly decreasing the wind factor that otherwise always.

Doug V.
La Jolla, CA

Response from Pete Athans:
Experience being on a mountain is always a positive asset. Knowledge of the route provides a security when climbing. During the winter months, the Jet Stream is right over the mountain.
Response from Dr. Howard Donner:
There is current evidence that intracranial dynamics play a role in the development of AMS and Cerebral Edema. There is preliminary suggestion that some of the cerebral changes occurring with aging may protect older climbers from developing symptoms as readily.


Question:

Read all the comments with great interest...best of luck. With all of the pressure you must be feeling, does anything FUNNY ever happen up there, and, if so, what (other than getting silly notes like this...) ?? How do you keep a sense of humor?

David Jamieson
Tampa, FL

Response from Pete Athans:
Medication helps! Our Sherpa team reminds me of the juvenile band I "studied" with in Junior High—pure comic relief.
Response from Base Camp:
Things got pretty hilarious when Howard Donner arrived with various tools from his trade: 1) a big plastic eye with veins popping out of it for use in a retinal hemorrhage sequence we were shooting (it's called a "gurgling gutz eyeball"); 2) a plastic arm that appears in the strangest places (imagine, an arm lying underneath the entrance to your tent); 3) a yet-to-be-placed rubber excrement (poop) that will surely appear in someone's sleeping bag in the next few days. David Breashears is the most likely candidate; and 4) SPIN, our crash test dummy friend who will hopefully be the first plastic hero to the summit of Everest. Also, the daily radioed-in rap songs sung by our virtuoso, Pete Athans, have kept us hooting. We need to find him an agent.


Question:

As we were reading your previous information we noticed that the first two weeks of May were considered prime time for summitting Mt. Everest. How long into the season can a successful climb be attempted? As May turns to June, July, and August how does that effect the climb? Also, I was able to listen to your interview of May 14 and was amazed and pleased. Tears of joy came to my eyes to realize that my students and I were able to hear from the "top of the world". With all your efforts and duties there we wish to express sincere appreciation that you and your team are willing to share this experience with the rest of us. Take care and tell Liesl Clark that my fifth grade class still thinks of her!

Sharon Simon/Helen Smith
Barboursville, WV

Response from Pete Athans:
The spring or pre-monsoon season is over on the first of June and we are not allowed to be climbing after that date. The last summit dates are the 27th and 28th of May.
Response from Liesl Clark:
Hello to Sharon Simon's Class from Base Camp. The pressure's building up here and we're so pleased to know that you're with us on this expedition. We've just received a weather report stating that a projected cyclone is moving north from the Bay of Bengal, but weakening. That's good news for us as we only have a handful of days to get this show on the road. Keep your fingers crossed.


Question:

David Carter,

I saw in your response to a letter that you climbed Mt. Rainier in your first days of climbing. I did that climb in '88 and the guides said they train for Everest on Rainier. I was wondering how much more of a technical climb Everest is compared to Rainier. Good luck to all of you during climb.

Peter Gatchell
Cincinnati, OH

Response from David Carter:
Rainer in every aspect is like Everest except in altitude. There are some technical areas on Everest such as the Khumbu Icefall, Lhotse Face and the Hillary Step which, at altitude, can be quite challenging.


Question:

First let me say thanks for sharing your adventure with us. The QTVR shots allow me to experience Everest in a way that's as close to being there as I'm ever likely to encounter. I am curious as to how the locations of the various camps were established? Camp III seems to be located in a very precarious position.

Greg Hilton
Austin, TX

Response from David Breashears:
The various camp locations have been established since the earliest expeditions on Everest's traditional South Col route. They are spaced according to available space and manageable ascent for acclimatization, as the camps are about 2,000 feet apart. Camp I is at the top of the Icefall, located on the first flat ground above the several thousand foot ascent from Base Camp. Camp II, in the Western Cwm, is also located on flat ground a few thousand feet higher, just enough for good acclimatization. Then, Camp III on the Lhotse Face is situated in one of the few possible locations on the sheer face of Lhotse. Here, people have to dig tent platforms out of the 35-degree ice slope. Camp IV is located on the next possible flat ground on the South Col. It is interesting to note that Hillary and Tenzing's expedition in '53 had eight camps. Base Camp was located at what is now Gorak Shep and Camp I was what is now our Base Camp. They then had the same camps we have today with an additional (and final) camp at 27,000 feet, i.e. above our current Camp IV.


Question:

To the members of the Everest Expedition team,

My question is concerning the time of year at which you are climbing. This coming Nov. I am signed up for a trek to Base Camp and to climb Kala Pattar. Last year when I signed up for the trek I had a choice of May or Nov. After doing some research Nov was my choice because it was the driest month. My question is: if there is over 100 people at Base Camp now, is there a lot more than that in Oct. and Nov.? A lot of tragedy seams to happen in April and May why did you chose this time of year and not the fall? Good Luck to all of you on your final assent. My thoughts are with you.

Jack Leary
Simsbury, CT

Response from Base Camp:
Historically, there are fewer expeditions on Everest in the fall weather window because that window is smaller and the atmospheric pressure at that time of year is lower. Heavy snowfalls also present greater avalanche danger. The spring presents the longest window of opportunity, more hours of sun each day, and generally warmer temperatures for climbing.


Question:

When you look out over the top of the world from the vantage point of being closer to the heavens than anyone else except astronauts how does that affect your perspective of everyday life as we know it. You are engaged in a struggle to survive while we watch from the comfort of our modern conveniences. How has this altered your views on society as a whole? Also, is it possible for amateur radio operators to contact you and what frequency are you on? Keeping you in prayer for a safe and successful journey.

Bernie David
Georgetown, TX

Response from David Breashears:
Here's our favorite quote by Rene Dumal, author of Mountain Analogue: "You have to come down from your summit, so why climb in the first place? Just this: What is above knows what is below. But what is below does not know what is above. One climbs, one sees, and one descends. There is an art of conducting oneself in the lower regions by what one has learned higher up. When one can no longer see, one can at least know."


Question:

It seems as though most deaths on Everest occur on the descent from the summit. Is there any particular reason why? Also, how long does it take to ascend and descend the summit from the "last camp" (Camp III?). I also appreciate the time that you men are spending to inform us of your journey. My prayers are with you!

Jeff Renison
Stockton, CA

Response from Base Camp:
Hope this doesn't disappoint you, but the 'informants' of the journey include women—the producer and associate producer of the NOVA film. As I understand it, the predominance of deaths upon return from the summit is due to the fact that this is when climbers are most tired and most often caught (after climbing for nearly 20 hours and having not slept for 48 or even 72 hours) out in the elements of a late afternoon storm or in the cold(er) hours of the night. Often the descents are made too late. After being exposed to such an oxygen-deprived environment and, for those climbing with supplemental oxygen, then running out of Os (or bottled oxygen), the body has a greater chance of just giving up at this point. The last camp (on the south side) is Camp IV and from there it takes some 15-18 hours on average to return to camp after reaching the summit. Therefore, climbers leave Camp IV at about 11 p.m., summit by mid-day and then return to Camp IV by mid to late afternoon.


Question:

The QuickTime VR pictures are truly amazing. The views are spectacular and awe-inspiring. Thank you for providing this opportunity to "participate" in your climb. However, in view of the most recent deaths (as indicated by the May 11 newsflash), do you think that some people, for which money is no object, have started to take the risks of climbing Mt. Everest too lightly? Making a summit attempt that late in the day, and without bottled oxygen seems not only foolhardy but indicative of a death wish. I am also somewhat surprised by the number of climbing groups, and that the trails are so well marked. Has a Mt. Everest climb become the "in thing" to do for those with enough money to spend and who have let their desire outweigh their common sense? I would very much appreciate your thoughts on this subject.

K.A.
Response from David Breashears:
When desire outweighs common sense on Everest there is a thin margin of success for those attempting the summit. There have always been climbers with the life-long desire to summit Everest, it's just the media that has brought this mountain to the attention of the world in the recent past. Unfortunately, the rise in the number of climbers on this peak will only result in the increased numbers who fail (or perish) on its summit. It's important to remember that Everest has always had a mystique about it, where elite climbers have come to attain the stature of bravery and image of strength. Today, with guided climbing, ordinary people can now reach that stature on the world's highest peak.


Question:

As one of many who daily check on your progress and experience Everest vicariously through you, best of luck for a safe and fruitful climb! My question is this: what kind of dreams have you had while climbing in such high altitudes and stressful conditions? Are nightmares common?

Jacki Treml
Ann Arbor, MI

Response from David Breashears:
We can't really say we have nightmares. Our only nightmares are waiting for the wind. We're sorry to report that we have no mountaineering related nightmares.


Question:

Best of luck in your summit attempt, sending good thoughts of safe journeys on Mt. Everest. My question: Do you get a sense of peacefulness and calmness at that altitude. Feeling closer to God or your sense of God? I hear your dreams can be more vivid at that altitude. Do you experience that?? Thanks and safe journeys.

Jayne Gallion
Puyallup, WA

Response from David Breashears:
Response from David Breashears:

Yes, we have a much more relaxed feeling than we do at sea level being away from the stresses of home. It's also so debilitating at altitude that we do achieve a sense of tranquillity up here.


Question:

I read a book detailing how Hillary and Norgay overcame what is now known as the Hillary Step and it seemed quite a challenge, especially in the thin air. He described how they had to wedge themselves between rock and ice and inch their way up. If it wasn't for all the fixed rope that now covers this treacherous part of the climb, would "clients" be able to summit Everest via the South Col Route?

Chris McElmeel
Wolverine Lake

Response from Pete Athans:
This part of the climb is notorious, but only about 25 to 30 feet high. While quite a piece of exposed climbing in the 1950's, it is a reasonable prospect in 1997. The fixed rope makes moving more efficient.


Question:

Thank you for sharing your incredible experiences with the world. Aside from the hazards of weather and altitude what is the most technically difficult part of the mountain. Is it the yellow band, Hillary step, or another ? Why angle of accent, deep snow, avalanche danger, cornices, old rock, etc.? You are all in our thoughts and prayers for a successful summit and safe return.

Terry Thompson
San Diego, CA

Response from Pete Athans:
Technically, traversing from the South Summit to 100' above Hillary Step is the most exposed, difficult spot.


Question:

What kind of dreams do you have? Do you find them more vivid, peaceful, violent, spiritual? Do you ever wake up and find yourself disoriented as to where you are? At times of increased fatigue or stress I dream about college class finals when I forgot to actually take the class, or that I failed board exams, or that I couldn't complete a surgery. Are any of you Eagle Boy Scouts.? Do you share a certain faith? Best wishes.

Douglas K. Fenton, M.D.
La Costa, CA

Response from David Carter:
It's very rare that I have a dream at altitude. I do find myself disorientated especially following an exhausting day. Sometimes I'll wake up and not know where I am for a split second and then I'll realize where I am. I am an Eagle Scout.


Question:

This is truly incredible, to be able to follow your trek up Mt. Everest. I enjoy reading your newsflashes and all the questions and answers. My question concerns short-roping. Can you tell me exactly what is happening when a person is being short-roped? Is it like having a sling around you and being pulled up by someone else? Or are you actually carrying someone? Thank you and I wish the very best for you all up there on that mountain.

Vivki Campos
San Antonio, TX

Response from Pete Athans:
Short roping simply means the distance between the two climbers is less than 40 feet.


Question:

Greetings to David Carter: Hi Dave!!! You guys really have to have patience waiting for your window of opportunity to climb to the summit. I hope it is not a traffic jam. Question: Has there ever been a year where the weather conditions prevented any of the groups to summit? We all are waiting for you to come home and know you will welcome the comforts of your home in Arden.

Your family friend,
Nancy Wickstrand
Indianapolis, IN

Response from David Carter:
Yes, there have been many years that climbers have not reached the summit due to weather and other circumstances. We are concerned about all of the climbers possibly going up on the same day to the summit. It is our hope to be one of the first teams out of Camp IV, to be ahead of the crowds.


Question:

Hi, my name is McKenna and I am 11 years old. My dad, my brother, and I have taken up the sport of cliff climbing and I just received my first climbing harness for my 11th birthday. Being a girl, I was wondering if there are many female climbers on Everest? Have any of them made it to the summit? Also, have you always liked to climb or did you start out when you were adults? Good luck, stay safe, climb on.

McKenna Wagner
Appleton, WI

P.S. How do you make yak tea?
Response from Pete Athans:
Stacy Allison and Peggy Luce were the first American women to summit Everest. Stacy has written a book about her adventure, that might be a good reference for you.
Response from Dr. Howard Donner:
Yak tea is made from essentially rancid Yak butter, salt and black tea. It is not a favorite of ours here at Base Camp.


Question:

I have several questions regarding the Sherpas. Have they been trained for mountain climbing? Do they need supplemental oxygen or are they more acclimated to the altitude? Do they make their yearly wages in the month or so ("window") that Everest can be climbed?

Good luck and have a safe journey.
Patty Patton
Columbus, Ohio

Response from Pete Athans:
Many Sherpas are trained at a facility in Manang Village in the heart of the Annapurna region. They take an introductory or advanced course which lasts a month. However, many learn from other Sherpas or foreign mountaineers. Sherpas have climbed without O2 to the summit, but on the job they usually climb with it. Many Sherpas work throughout the year on expeditions and treks.


Question:

What a fascinating journey! I have a few questions remaining after spending several hours exploring this website. First, are you able to shower after leaving Base Camp and if so, how? Also, about the Sherpas...How much are the Sherpas paid to do what they do? What do they do the other 10 months of the year? Where do they live? Where do you find reliable Sherpas? Do you outfit them with similar gear as you are equipped with? Thanks and best of luck to you!

Jacki Treml
Ann Arbor, MI

Response from Pete Athans:
There are no showers above Base Camp. In the economy within which Sherpas live they are paid handsomely. In less than a week they make more than a Nepalese government employee makes in a month. Many Sherpas work on treks and expeditions eight months of the year. Some return to their villages for farming or tending yak herds. Others, who have moved to Kathmandu, operate shops with climbing and trekking equipment for sale.


Question:

What is the actual trekking distance (not altitude) between Base Camp, Camp I, Camp II, Camp III, Camp IV, and finally, the summit? What are some sample lengths of time needed to traverse each leg going uphill on, say, a good-weather day?

Dave Retzler
San Fransisco, CA

Response from Ed Viesturs:
The actual distance is not that great, it is the altitude gain that is the most difficult part of the climb. We usually measure the distance between the camps by time. Base Camp to camp I is usually 2 1/2 to 5 hours depending on your speed and strength. The time to Camp II is basically the same. Camp II to Camp III is approximately 3-7 hours, Camp III to Camp IV 4-8 hours, Camp IV to summit can be 8-12 hours.
Response from Pete Athans:
The linear distance between the camps is as follows: Base Camp to Camp I is 2 miles, Camp I to Camp II is 2.5 miles, Camp II to Camp III is 2.5 miles, Camp III to Camp IV is 1.5 miles. The time varies depending on the weather and condition of the route.


Question:

Have the local authorities or organization of climbers developed new high altitude rescue techniques since last season? Are the number of "climbers" who pay to get to the top of the world down? Best wishes from the children of the Boys and Girls Clubs of West Virginia.

Response from Pete Athans:
There are probably no "new" rescue techniques, but after last year's helicopter rescue success from Camp I, perhaps local authorities are more confident about flying rescues. There does not seem to be any dimunition of guided or outfitted expeditions.


Question:

As editor of a magazine on workplace safety (Australian Safety News), I'm interested to know how you approach risk assessment and management. Congratulations on your amazing adventure.

Simon Doctor
Sydney, Australia

Response from Pete Athans:
Each climber evaluates risk individually and chooses to accept or reject the prospect of climbing, depending on his/her tolerance.


Question:

How are you all doing? Is everything on schedule? I would like to try to climb Everest but I only have one arm which was an incident in my army career dec 1989! Could a disabled person do it?

Good luck!
Thor Taylor
Hastings, Sussex, UK

Response from Pete Athans:
A one-armed climber was making the attempt this year, but has returned unsuccessful. Tom Whittaker, a single amputee (lower leg) will attempt Everest next year. Yes, it is possible.


Question:

To the members of the Everest Expedition: We have been following the 1997 Everest Expedition with great interest and admiration for your courage and skills in undertaking this great adventure. One of the things we noticed in the photo by David Breashears on the Home Page, was the absence of any belay ropes. Has anyone ever slipped off the ladder while crossing the crevasse? It looks like this would be a pretty tricky and dangerous maneuver while carrying a heavy pack and wearing crampons! We both wish you the best of luck and hope the high winds subside pretty soon so you can make the summit attempt.

Roz and Jim Butler
Wayland MA

Response from Pete Athans:
You are correct in observing the problems crossing ladders. Actually there are two protective ropes on either side that a climber attaches his or her harness to.


Question:

Reading your descriptions of what is involved in washing clothes, hair, etc., and the freezing results, I have probably a very simple, practical question. How does anything ever dry out?

Shirley Johnson
Topeka, Kansas

Response from Base Camp:
On a good day we will have enough sunshine to dry our clothes while they hang from makeshift laundry lines strung between tents. However, we frequently get snow showers in the afternoon and have to bring our wet clothes in for the night—sometimes it will take a few days until they are dry.


Question:

Hi everyone. I hope all is well on the roof of the world. I'm specifically interested in how you feel and what you do when you reach the summit, in detail! Do you just take in the view for a while and then head down? Do you go all quiet and spiritual? Or are you overcome with emotion? Do you laugh? Do you cry? Do you hold your arms in the air like an athlete who has just won a race? Do you scream at the top of your voice? Do you kiss the snow? Do you think of your loved ones? Do you perhaps feel more humble and insignificant than triumphant? Is it hard to leave after only half an hour? I'd appreciate any feedback you can give me on this. Good luck guys and thanks for this opportunity to interact.

Colin Sevitt
Sydney, Australia

Response from Base Camp:
Great questions—stayed tuned for our feature "Into the Death Zone" which will give an in-depth look at the summit day.


Question:

We are a 7th grade class from the Seattle area reading Ullman's "Banner in the Sky." We have been following your climb this year, and have read about the 1996 tragedy.
  1. How does Everest compare to the Alps? Have any of you scaled the Matterhorn? How are they different?

  2. Obviously, peak physical conditioning is required. What do you do during the off-season to prepare for the rigors of working out in such thin air?

  3. What does yak tea taste like? Hummm hummm good, we bet!

Best of luck to you all- we look forward to seeing the IMAX film!

John Mejlaender
Carnation, WA

Response from Base Camp:
On average the Himalayan mountains are much taller than the Alps. Because of the high altitude in the Himalayan mountains the conditions can be extreme and more challenging for climbing. There are also huge areas that are uninhabitable because of the altitude.

Please look at former responses to how our climbers train for their climbing expeditions.

Some yak cheese can be very stinky while other types are mild and can be quite good.


Question:

Dave Carter:

Although the combination of deep snow and high winds temporarily prevented the Indonesians from making an attempt on the summit, does the aftermath of such a storm drastically raise the potential for an avalanche? And if so... how long does this period of additional risk last? What additional precautions can be taken to avoid catastrophe? Hope this topic isn't taboo!?!? Anyway, it's been great to follow your trek. Good Luck Dude!

Chris Striebeck
Indianapolis, IN

Response from David Carter:
As of now, there is no real avalanche danger, but in the icefall there is always the potential for a serac fall. Keep following me on the web and i'll buy you a beer when I get back to Indy.


Question:

Dear Climbers,

Hi! I am Staci, I am 12, almost 13! The school I go to is following you, we hooked up the T.V. to the computer and are writing questions! Well here's my question: What do you people do on your spare time?

Staci Flajole
Carnation, WA

Response from Base Camp:
During our spare time at Base Camp we rest, read, hang out with our friends and recuperate our energy for our climb.


Question:

I was wondering if you had any difficulties with route-finding in the Khumbu Icefall. Is the water safe to drink out of the streams or do you treat it? Is Lhotse within reach from Base Camp to climb (within a day or two of trekking). A question for Ed Viesturs: Has he made any outstanding times between camps like he did with Scott Fischer on K2 in 1992? (7500 feet in one day). Have stable weather!

Taylor Woodward
Richaland, WA

Response from Base Camp:
The Icefall is considered by some the most dangerous part of the route due to falling ice. Throughout a given season the route may be reset in certain sections because of the movement in the glacier.

Our main source for water at Base Camp is a frozen pond at the base of the Lho La (which is a huge glacial pass to Tibet). For our expedition alone, our kitchen staff carries 30-35 liter-loads of water each day. This water is boiled for purification.


Question:

Dear Climbers,

Have any of your team members gotten hurt yet? Do you think any of you will get hurt? How would you take care of the injured people?

Sincerely,
The 7th grade
Garden Valley, Idaho

Response from Base Camp:
All of climbers are feeling strong and are in good health. In the event of any injuries we have a doctor, Howard Donner, at Base Camp. When the climbers are on the mountain they always have a medical kit with them.


Question:

I see by today's Newsflash that there will be strong winds at the summit and that this will make the trek even more difficult. I moved from Phoenix, AZ to Iowa City to attend graduate school and found the Iowa winter to be a terrible shock. The winds were strong and the temperature (incl. windchill) that first winter hung around minus 80 for a long time. Last winter we had a week where temperatures, with no winds were at about -20 during the day. My question is this: Will the winds at the summit be strong enough to actually "move" or "push" your bodies, and what impact will the winds have on temperature?

Best Wishes,
Michelle Rhoades
Dept. of History, University of Iowa

Response from Base Camp:
Our most recent five-day forecast show the winds ranging from 5-55 kph, the corresponding temperatures range from -19 F. To -38 F. Climbers generally choose not to climb in winds that will buffet their bodies. If they are caught up high in strong winds, they will usually turn around for safety reasons.


Question:

I have been tracking your progress and things seen to be going according to plan. However, I am curious about the large numbers of climbers and the limited means of access to the mountain. I assume there are other routes to the summit of Everest. Do all expeditions take the same route and are there other potential routes for expeditions?

Walter Lagarenne
Summerville, SC

Response from Pete Athans:
60% of all climbers take the South Col route. Approximately 30% attempt the climb via the North Col. There are about 12 routes on Everest but these two see the most traffic.


Question:

I am over 40 years old. For the older guys how long did it take you to get in shape for your climb. Best of luck.

Brad Reeder
Mesa, AZ

Response from Pete Athans:
We maintain a high level of fitness, aerobic and anaerobic activity. We did not specifically train for this expedition but 12 previous Everest expeditions have put us in good shape for the climb up Everest.


Question:

Over the years the mountain has claimed all too many lives. Are there many who have never been found and recovered? Also, is there anyway to predict the weather on the mountain with any degree of certainty so you will not get caught in life threatening circumstances? Good luck everyone. You all have my utmost respect for your courage and fortitude in the face of that very spectacular and awesome mountain.

John Rogers
Charleston, WV

Response from David Carter:
Yes, especially in the Icefall. We get weather updates from England on a daily basis that give us a five day projection. We always take a conservative approach regarding scheduling for the summit attempt.


Question:

What is the difference between climbing the north side and the south side of Everest. Also I watched Turning Point last night, it was about the climbers who were trapped on Everest last year but it did not say if the bodies of the climbers who died were recovered or will they be. Good luck on your quest and stay safe. (AND WARM)

O.G. Bizeau
Gladstone, MI

Response from Ed Viesturs and Pete Athans
The North Side of Everest is windier and more technical the higher up you go. There are no plans to evacuate any of the bodies from last year as it is extremely difficult to move them due to the high altitude and technical terrain. We will try to cover them or move them somewhere out of the way in a respectful fashion.


Question:

Thank you for sharing your experiences on the net. In reading previous responses, I noted that you may only stay at the summit for 30 minutes or so depending on time and, I'm sure, weather. Is it difficult to spend so much time preparing and climbing only to be there for such a short time? Is it hard to turn around and go back down given that you have achieved what so few people will ever achieve? Are you tempted to celebrate in some fashion just as you reach the summit or is the celebration mental? Best wishes to you and I look forward to following you the rest of the way. I'll bet the view sure beats Kansas.

Deb Snellen
Leawood, Kansas

Response from Ed Viesturs
No. Getting to the summit is only part of the process. As a matter of fact, getting to the top is optional. Getting down is mandatory. You don't totally celebrate until every last person is off the mountain.


Question:

Our class was wondering if it was difficult being away from your families for such a long period of time? Are you able to keep in touch with them?

Gayle McLaughlin
Bethlehem, PA

Response from Ed Viesturs and Pete Athans
Yes, it is hard. We feel guilty that we are away so long. We have been in touch with our families via telephone and e-mail but it is a poor substitute.


Question:

First of all, great website. It can't be easy for you to put the time in for this after a hard day on the mountain. It is greatly appreciated. I have a question for Ed. Are you climbing w/o supplemental oxygen as you have done so many times before? Were you picked for these tests because of your ability to adapt above 8000m? How about Dave? If you are w/o oxygen, how do your clients on the ACL team feel about you guiding them under these conditions? Lastly, is Mr. Boukreev guiding the Indonesians w/o oxygen? The best of luck and weather to all of you. Oh yeah, give Childum, Ang Tshering, Ang Dorje and most of all, Guy, a big hug and Namaste! from me. Thanks and take care.

Robert Stevens
Turlock, CA

Response from Ed Viesturs
  1. Since I am guiding for Adventure Consultants this year, I am climbing with supplemental oxygen. I have always been adamant about guiding with oxygen on Everest for safety and liability reasons. When I am guiding, I am there for my clients and not for my own personal goals. I find that with oxygen I tend to be warmer and if any situation would arise I believe that I would be stronger and more capable of assisting others in need.

  2. Part of the reason I was selected for these tests is that I tend to do very well at altitude. The scientists wanted to compare myself with David Breashears and David Carter to see whether our bodies behave differently.

  3. I do not know whether Anatole Boukreev was guiding with or without oxygen this year.



Question:

Winters here in eastern Kansas can be quite cold, with strong winds and associated high wind chill factors. I have tried to bicycle and exercise in subfreezing temperatures using different clothing layers, but have always been uncomfortable due to perspiration soaking the inner layers of clothing, especially when my level of exertion decreases i.e. when I coast down hills or stop at intersections. Based on the heart and breathing rates you have reported, you are working quite hard on the mountain. Would you please describe the clothing you wear; how it is layered; what fabrics are used; how it is invented; what skin level temperature you consider comfortable? Basically, how is your clothing designed to handle the problems created by varying wind speeds and air temperatures and the resulting perspiration you generate while you are climbing and working around the camp? How would you define "toasty and warm" with respect to the level of comfort you can achieve in these conditions?<

Thanks,
Robert Potty
Overland Park, KS

Response from Pete Athans:
Basically we utilize several layers of synthetics (insulative) underneath an outer layer skin of windproof (shell) fabrics. The inner layers wick moisture to the outside and, theoretically, through the outer wind layer. On the summit day, we climb in down one piece suits with synthetic layers beneath. We don't have significant "coasting" periods similar to cycling; our output is more constant. Further, we use supplemental oxygen which greatly increases warmth and metabolic well-being. We try to avoid perspiring by regulating layers closest to the skin. "Toasty and warm" means perfectly regulated temperatures that is—no net gain or loss—containment of heat.


Question:

Hello! My husband and I are tracking the climb on the Internet for both personal interest and we are friends of Dave Carter. Thank you for providing this opportunity! We were wondering what makes the two weeks in May the ideal time for attempting the summit. We assume it is weather related. What factors make this time ideal and what are the possibilities other times of the year? Thanks for providing a wonderful educational opportunity for so many.

Our thoughts and prayers,
Susan Sveen
Fisher, IN

Response from David Carter:
This time of year is ideal because it is pre- and post-monsoon season. There is also less chance of avalanche danger than there is in the fall.


Question:

Are there times when climbers have reached the summit and have not been able to experience the heavenly view because of poor visibility? If and when this happens, is it because of unexpected bad weather? Thank you for this opportunity to participate. Take care of yourselves and each other.

Laura Woolley
Ann Arbor, MI

Response from Pete Athans:
Yes. Yes. Thanks for writing.


Question:

What are the highest and lowest temperature, and the highest wind speed? Good Luck and come home safe.

Lloyd E. Young
Greenfield, IN

Response:
Temperatures on the mountain can range from the extreme of -40 F. to the more standard temperatures of -10 F. The winds for the next five days on the summit are projected to reach a maximum speed of 70 mph.


Question:

First, congratulations to the Indonesian team on their successful summit bid. I noticed they reached the summit after 3PM and one member turned around due to the degrading weather. Were they in any eminent danger? In light of the fact that most deaths occur on the descent from the summit and especially given last year's tragedy does there seem to be an added emphasis on turn around times and safety in general? Did the Indonesian team have a turn around time? It would be a shame if nothing was learned from last year's events. Good luck to everyone!

Sincerely,
Kent B.
Woodland Hills, CA

Response from Ed Viesturs
Apparently there did not seem to be an added emphasis on turn around times in the Indonesian team's case. They wound up having to spend the night at an emergency Camp 5 because they were descending very late. Some people seem not to have learned much from what happened last year.


Question:

To David Carter:

First of all, my daughter, Michele is in Mrs. Russell's second grade class at Smoky Row Elementary. They have been following your expedition and have gotten me hooked. The Star did an article on your expedition and their class in today's paper. I have learned so much from reading your e-mail responses and the newsflashes. I really appreciate the extra effort that this takes you. It certainly has brought the possibility of having great adventures right into our living room, but in a very realistic way. My question is, I noticed that your list of food included an awful lot of sugar...wouldn't instant protein type foods be better fuel than quick burning sugars like snickers bars? I noticed that the teams doing the Artic crossing last year had more success when they changed their diet to include better protein lower fat foods. Have you considered consulting a nutritionist about how diet changes could improve your climb? Thanks again for bringing us along on this climb. Michele's class is hoping that David will be able to visit when he returns.

Yours,
The Pieples family
Carmel, IN

Response from David Carter:
We eat a lot of pasta. For lunch today, we had rice and lentils (dal bhat). We also eat a lot of carbohydrates and fresh vegetables. While climbing, sugar products are easily metabolized for energy. I am also taking multi-vitamins.


Question:

I know that there is usually only a small window of opportunity in which the summit of Everest can be reached. With so many climbers on the mountain how do you decide which teams will be eligible to attempt a summit bid during the "window"? There isn't a lot of time to spend waiting in line when you get above 26,000 feet. Thanks for sharing your adventure with the world and good luck!

Renny Sumprun
Austin, TX

Response:
It is up to the individual teams, based on their acclimitization schedules, to decide when they feel ready to make a summit attempt.


Question:

To David Breashears, We are all watching the ascent and thinking of you. Thank you for helping us get Turning Point. Do you have any comments on what makes a successful leader of an expedition? We are exploring concepts of leadership, and wondered if you had input. Thank you. Take care.

Virginia Squier
Jackson, WY

Response from David Breashears:
An expedition leader is only as good as his team. The first priority is to choose good people to surround yourself with—a good sirdar, a good sherpa climbing staff, a good cook staff and of course strong and talented expedition members. Other important attributes include communication, delegation and trust in your team.


Question:

What do you do when nature calls during the climb? Good Luck From all our science class students!

Elizabeth Vera
National City, CA

Response from David Breashears:
Pete and I are both using 'pee bottles' in our tent. You have to be careful not to mix up your pee bottle with your drinking bottle. During the climb, you have to undo the leg loops on your harness and then work your way through the many layers that you may have on.


Question:

1. The task of route setting through the ice fall and on up is dangerous, extremely critical and consumes precious energy. Who (generally) is selected for this and how are they selected?

2. There have been many articles on the large increase of inexperienced climbers buying their way onto Everest and creating very dangerous conditions. One article said that after the deaths a few years ago, the quantity of people allowed was reduced from 300 that year to 240 the following year (last year I think). Your newsflash has said you have 400 this year. What is the experience levels in general? How does this relate to safety on the mountain this year? And how is the team vs team hierarchy (climbing order, decision making, etc.) managed?



Response from Pete Athans:


Thanks and good luck!
Eric Stiverson
San Diego, CA

Response from David Breashears:
In this day and age of 10 expeditions on Everest and 3-4 expeditions on Lhotse that share the same route, there's a designated team that fixes the route. This year we have 50 8-foot sections of ladders for crossing crevasses. We all contribute toward the cost of fixing and maintaining the Icefall.

The team vs team climbing hierarchy is mostly survival of the fittest and who is ready to go at certain times. We have already addressed the issue of inexperienced climbers in a previous email response. The overcrowding issue is definitely a problem. I would say that 10% of the climbers on the mountain are of expert ability, not including the Sherpas, 30% have some previous Himalayan experience, and 60% are relatively inexperienced and unlikely to be able to take care of themselves in a severe storm or an emergency.
Response from Pete Athans:
At least 50% of the people climbing this mountain are not on commercial expeditions, meaning they're outfitted, and are supposed to be looking after themselves.


Question:

My experience climbing at altitude is limited to 14,400 feet on Mt. Ranier. The climb up Everest, even under ideal climbing conditions, must be the ultimate physical and mental challange for most who attempt it. My question for you is how much more demanding would it be to "quick climb" Everest as Reinhold Messner did while becoming the first person to reach the summit of all the worlds 8000 meter peaks?.

Tom Folts
Broadalbin, NY

Response from David Breashears:
We assume you are referring to Messner's solo climb on the north side in 1980, not his climb with Peter Habeler without supplemental oxygen in 1978 which was a normal expedition-style climb ... It's not easy to do what Messner did. There's a half a dozen people in the world who can do what he did. For us mere mortals out here, expedition climbing is the way to go. Doing what Messner did is very risky, he was alone, he had no fixed ropes. His was an ultimate adventure for an ultimate mountaineer.


Question:

Hello, to you on top of the world. The scenery has to be truly breathtaking (pardon the pun) around you and I cannot even begin to imagine what the view is like once you make it to the top. I am an avid hiker/backpacker and of course high energy food is extremely important which I would think would be even more critical for you. What types of foods are you consuming particularly when you reach altitudes over 20,000 feet and do you try to do a lot of cooked foods?

Jim Shireman
Greenwood, Indiana

Response:
High energy food: We have Snickers bars, M&Ms, cheese, beef jerky, tuna fish, ramen noodles, soups, chocolate bars, corn nuts, cookies, dried milk, cold cereal, oatmeal, salami, biscuits.

Cooked food: We have our favorite 'gag in a bag' meals like lasagna, turkey dinners, hawaiian chicken, beef stroganoff, mac and cheese, beans and franks, scalloped potatoes, green beans, etc.


Question:

Is the footing all ice all the way to the top of the mountain? Or does part of the mountain becomes water from the daytime sun? Good luck and keep a close eye on each other.

George Wild
Montvale, NJ

Response:
Ice and snow top to bottom, except 100 feet in the Yellow Band. No water.


Question:

Has the increased numbers on the mountain led to deterioration of safety for all? I was amazedby stories of traffic jams along the fixed lines.Having climbed at altitude, I realize there is a fine line between teamwork and individual ability which may not always be easy to define.Would increased profits for a guide mean increased liability for all others in that setting? Everest is clearly not a place for tourists with the budget but lacking the skills or experience. But who is checking resumes at the door?

Wishing you all the best.
Scott Kriscenski
Boston, MA

Response from Pete Athans and David Breashears
It certainly has increased the responsibility for other teams with rescues or assisting injured people. It's not the same as it was when there was 1 team per route on the mountain. Increased numbers doesn't mean the route is unsafe. It's just that with more people comes more inexperience, and therein lies the problem. Nobody's checking resumes at the door, obviously. To the Nepalese Ministry of Tourism one climber is as good as another. They shouldn't be the ones to make that decision. As far as your comment about increased profits for guides ... as usual it depends on the guide and the reward. Life is a balance between risk and reward. Guides up here tend to be very conservative especially in light of what happened to Rob Hall and Scott Fischer.


Question:

I think NOVA's Alive on Everest effort is just terrific. It allows us ordinary folk to vicariously experience a dangerous yet beautiful place. I do have a question for the mountaineers though. For most people, climbing Mount Everest is practically impossible. Are there any activities closer to home and more accessible to the general public that give you similar rewards or experiences? How does climbing Mount Everest compare to climbing other peaks? Is there no comparison?

James Kao
Cambridge, MA

Response from Base Camp:
There are many other great peaks in the world which present equal or greater technical challenges than Everest. While no longer the sina qua non of mountaineering challenges, Everest is the highest and it is the lack of oxygen at its great elevation that differentiates it from lesser peaks.


Question:

Hi guys! We heard there has been a lot of late snowfall in the Khumbu this year. Have climbing schedules changed as a result? What do the other expedition groups think of your web access and the media attention it is bringing to basecamp? How many groups are climbing and what countries are they from? How will the groups determine summit bid/attempt dates? Best Wishes to all teams this year!

Erin Kittleman
Response from Base Camp:
Snowfall in the Khumba has not been a problem. We have had snow flurries in the late afternoon. It really has been a dry year. There are a lot of people on the mountain this year. There are about nine teams. I would say that there are a lot of people on the mountain this year. There are about nine teams. I would say that there are more than 150 people on the route this year.

David Carter

Of the nine or so expeditions at Base Camp, several of them have web sites of their own. We know that the Malaysians have 7 satellite phones and a web site. Our neighbors, the Colliers Lotus Everest Expedition, also have their own web site at www.everest97.com.


Question:

I am 9 years old and my daddy who is 40 years old wants me to climb Mt. Everest with him. Do you know how old I should be to try this, and do you know who the youngest person to summit was? My dad wants to know if there are any MRI studies of the brain after repetitive exposures to high altitudes. He hopes the participants will have post-climb MRI's that will be reported. My 7 year old brother wants to know if you have "Game-Boys" along! My mothers says be careful.

Nicole Fenton
Response from Base Camp:
We believe the youngest person to have summited Everest was a 17-year-old French student who summited in October of 1990 with his father, Jean Noel Roche. They were also the first father-son team to reach the top.We don't think there are any MRI brain studies that have been done on climbers who have had repetitive exposures to altitude. Our climbers have had pre-climb MRI scans and will also have scans done after the climb. Sorry to say we don't have any "Game Boys" along.


Question:

To Thomas Hornbein: I bought your book, Everest, The West Ridge many years ago. It continues to be one of my favorites. The photographs are spectacular. I have traveled up Everest in my mind through these photos. My Question. How long do you stay on the summit, and what will you leave there and why? Best of luck to all of you. Thank you for bringing this experience to the Web.

Rob Carley
Response from Base Camp:
Climbers generally stay on the summit for a limited amount of time only (on average about half an hour), as the climb down to Camp IV can take 4-6 hours and climbers don't want to get caught out after dark. We will leave nothing on the summit, as we want to leave it as pristine as we found it.


Question:

We thank you for returning our e-mail question from my sixth grade geography class at Holley-Navarre Middle School. We would like to ask you some more questions!!! What are you eating on the trip and how are you keeping it from freezing? When do you expect to return to base camp? Has anyone been injured? How do you stay warm? How long will you stay at the summit? Best of luck to all of you. Looking forward to hearing from you again!!!

Barbara Legee
Santarosa, FL

Response from Base Camp:
The food we are eating up here is a combination of local food brought up from the lowlands by porter or yak (potatoes, cabbage, cauliflower, tomatoes, greens, garlic, onions, rice and lentils). We augment those local foods with food that we brought from the United States: pasta, pasta sauces, snack foods, condiments like mustard and ketchup, cheeses, crackers, etc. Tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, etc inevitably arrive frozen and we make do with sorry looking vegetables. The constant freeze/thaw/freeze process here generally hasn't hurt any of our food. David and Pete will return to Base Camp from Camp III on the 26th. Ed and Carter have already been to Camp III and will go up for acclimatization one more time. They leave on the 26th. To date, no one on our team has been injured, just a few minor illnesses. Okay, I admit, I (Liesl) did slip on some ice this morning while carrying the laptop from my tent to the dining tent. Both knees hit hard on a glacial rock, BUT I SAVED THE LAPTOP! How do we stay warm? Warm clothes and sleeping bags. That's the secret. When the sun disappears behind a cloud the temperature plummets and we layer up with warm clothing like down coats and capilene long underwear.


Question:

To David Carter (and team): All of us in Indianapolis wish all of you safety, good weather, and God speed as you make your way to the top of the Earth. It is great to be able to follow your progress in real time. My question is which component do you consider more challenging: the physical or the mental? We look forward to your safe return and compliment all of you on the advancement you are making to science and mountaineering.

Garry Rollins
Indianapolis, IN

Response from Base Camp:
Climbing Everest is certainly both a physical and mental challenge and the two are inseparable. To put one foot in front of the other up in the thin air beyond 26,000 feet is a physical barrier that takes some mental discipline. Without the mind, the body would ultimately give up and just turn back down the mountain. Of course, there are the natural fears for one's safety and survival when climbing on Everest and the anxiety caused by not mastering those fears is much more debilitating than the physical effort of climbing the mountain.


Question:

We are a sixth grade geography class at Holley- Navarre Middle School in Florida. We are following your quest to the summit of Mt. Everest. We wish you lots of luck. Our question, today, is once you reach the summit, how will you get back down? And are you Americans?

Barbara Legee
Holley-Navarre Middle School, Florida

Response from Base Camp:
Once we reach the summit, we will turn around and climb back down the same route we came up. It will take us approximately 4-6 hours to climb down to Camp IV at 26,000 feet where we'll sleep and then the next day begin our descent down to Camp III and so forth. David Breashears, Ed Viesturs, Pete Athans, and David Carter are all Americans and Jangbu Sherpa is from Nepal.


Question:

Do any of the climbers have a sense that perhaps they have crossed this path before, assuming none of them have knowingly made this journey in the past?

Christopher H. Johnston
Minneapolis, MN

Response from Base Camp:
All of our climbers have made this journey, knowingly, in the past and are back to climb Everest again for many different reasons, one of which is the quest to understand what is happening to them physiologically at altitude.


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