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Responses and Comments #2
April 22, 1997

Question:

Hello and congratulations on your good progress so far. I know that the longer you're exposed to the thin air at altitude the more adapted you become. However, from your past experience what determines the approximate altitude at which you no longer can adapt and altitude sickness begins? Climbing abilities aside, are certain individuals just more adaptable than others or can anyone adapt given optimal training, physical conditioning and diet? Good to luck to you all and especially to fellow Hoosier and friend David Carter.

Paul Kite



Response from Base Camp:
There is no ideal person yet who adapts better to altitude than others, but there are some subtle indicators that have been found that may aid in a person's performance at altitude. By that same token, there are some people whose profiles will say they won't do well, and yet they end up performing well at altitude. Some of the indicators that we think will aid someone at altitude (regardless of physical training and diet) are lung size and capacity, blood oxygen saturation, and hypoxic ventilatory response. There is some evidence that having more intracranial space between your brain and skull will make you less prone to headaches which may make you more prone to acclimatizing. We generally consider going to Camp III as the highest point one can adapt to. We believe that a night or 2 at 24,500 (Camp III) feet is the highest one can positively adapt to. If you're like Ed Viesturs and want to climb without oxygen to the summit a trip to the South Col is probably beneficial. We have not seen any climbers, to date, who can adapt to altitudes beyond Camp IV (26,000 feet). At this point, humans generally deteriorate and become weakened with time.

Dr. Tom Hornbein adds:
Regarding predictors of performance, there are indeed a few physiologic hints but when you get down to the moment of truth, putting one foot above the other day after day, it's what's in the head that seems to count most, that is stubborn commitment (coupled with judgment helps). I suspect our team will concur.

It's generally thought that the maximum altitude at which humans can stay permanently is about that of the Everest Base Camp. This belief is based on the simple observation that that's the highest known habitation, namely at a mining community in Chile. I like to think that above that altitude, man is a transient guest. Initially the benefits of acclimatization are dominant, so net performance improves, but with time a process of wasting—so-called high altitude deterioration—becomes dominant so if we stay too high too long we begin to go downhill (figuratively and likely literally as well). The timeline for crossover of these two competing forces of opposite sign is hard to define but both are probably accelerated the higher one goes. And as the process of acclimatization becomes more complete and slows, the process of wasting becomes increasingly dominant.

Above 8000 m. (approximately 26,000 feet) we don't know whether the rate of acclimatization is increased but we sure do believe m one can linger if not thrive is measured in hours to a few days. These impressions are based on anecdotal experience and the climbers are that the time one can linger if not thrive is measured in hours to a few days. These impressions are based on anecdotal experience and our team of climbers are living with as much of this as anyone has.


Question:

How much equipment must be carried to each camp to get you to the top? How many climbers are making the final summit assault? Vaya con Dios!

M. Reidy



Response from Base Camp:

Equipment carried to each camp will consist of food, fuel, personal gear and oxygen. It is too early to get a number of climbers that will be on the final push to the summit.

David Carter



Question:

I just want you gentlemen to know how happy and excited you have made a 55 year old, Type II diabetic woman from the City of Brotherly Love. For no reason that I can figure out, I have always been fascinated with Everest, and now because of you, I will get the closest chance that I will ever have to being there. My 56th birthday is on the 15th of May. I was just wondering if you will still be on the mountain, or will your climb be over by then? Be safe and blessed by whatever Higher Power you each believe in.

Most sincerely yours,
LoAnn Anderson

Response from Base Camp:

Yes to your question of being on the mountain around May 15. We will be making our summit attempts about this time.

Happy Birthday,
David Carter



Question:

Does going to extreme altitude make you bald like Dr. Hornbein?

TE Lawrence
Seattle, WA




Response from Base Camp:

From Breashears:

"Having read that well known high altitude tome Everest: The West Ridge, it is obvious from the photographs therein that Dr. Hornbein was already receding before he had ever stepped foot on Everest. We think that the lack of hair cover allows for increased oxygenation of the brain, which is why Tom is such a smart guy and Brownie is always trying to catch up.

From Athans:

"Needlessly said, there is an abundance of Rogane and Grecian Formula here at BC."



Question:

Has the tragedy that occurred on Everest last year changed your climbing tactics in any significant way?

Michael Hergert
Coronado, CA




Response from Base Camp:

No, it hasn't but it has reaffirmed why we have always taken a very conservative tact in our summit attempts in regards to the timing, amount of oxygen, number of Sherpas, and weather conditions.



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:

What is the weather like today? Has anyone had problems with the altitude? How much does it cost to go on an expedition like this?

Best wishes from the Gilbert, Iowa elementary school.

Response from Base Camp:

We woke up this morning to clear sunny skies and a temperature of 5 degrees F. As is typical for the region it clouded up in the afternoon with gusty winds and a high of 40 degrees. At the moment it's 5:00 p.m. and overcast with a temperature of 30 degrees and my fingers are frozen typing this message. So far, there have been no major problems for us here up high. But we've all felt the affects of the thinner air more here than at our homes in the USA. It costs approximately $20,000 per person to run an expedition like this to Mount Everest.



Question:

It's interesting to read the questions and responses. Here's my question, which you can post if you'd like: What photography equipment is along on your expedition this year? Did the IMAX camera (a.k.a. "The Pig") make the trip again?

Deb Karl



Response from Base Camp:

We did not bring the IMAX camera this year as the principal photography for that film produced by MacGillivray-Freeman Films and Arcturus Motion Pictures has been completed. We are currently shooting digital video and 16mm film on the mountain. Other 'photography equipment' includes 35mm cameras for the Quick Time VR and Apple QuickTake cameras for digital stills.



Question:

Hello Liesl and David! Hope all that traffic on the mountain isn't slowing your work down? How have you been managing? We're doing our own physiology and endurance project and are wondering if we could get the team's resting, walking around basecamp and active pulse rates at whatever altitude it's taken. We'd like to compare ours with yours. We'll also be collecting data on breaths/minute at rest, walking and active moments. Could you give us that data, too? It could be at different times, convenient to you. Thanks. Warm hugs, Nancy Ferguson's third graders. PS. We love your webpages and read them almost every day.

Nancy Ferguson's Third Grade Class
Newton, MA




Response from Base Camp:

Hi to Nancy Ferguson's third grade class from Liesl and David. Here are a few stats on our pulse rates: Our resting pulse rates at Base Camp are around 60 - 65. Walking around camp, our pulse rates are around 85 - 95. Working around camp or hiking is around 130. David and Pete report that on a hot day in the Western Cwm carrying a load their pulse rates are around 160.Breaths per minute at Camp II while lying on back in tent is about 22 per minute. It varies at ABC from 22 at rest to 40 at mild work to 60-70 at hard work. All our best and good luck with your own results.



Question:

We have two grandchildren that are home-study students and we have made this an assignment of current events (well, my daughter has) but grandpa likes to help! We, being in Indiana are expecially concerned and delighted to have you, David Carter, taking part in the wonderful event! We are also forwarding everything we can to our son, stationed in England, to keep him informed of your progress! Bless you all! Claire wants to know your different ways of keeping warm and do you sing songs?

Thanks,
Charles Stanton
Indiana




Response from Base Camp:

It is good to hear from a fellow Hoosier. I stay warm by drinking a lot of water so I can stay hydrated. I also have good quality gear. I really don't sing a lot. I have a problem, I can't hold a note.

David Carter



Question:

As a Television News Photographer, equipment maintenance & preparation for assignments is essential. Briefly, describe ways to protect your film equipment from the harsh elements of Everest.

Bryan Rager



Response from Base Camp:

1) Our major concern is our power supply. Conventional batteries will not power up in low temperatures and they also they have to be recharged. We use a non rechargeable lithium battery which ounce for ounce has 5 times the power of a Nicad and operates at full power to 35 below zero. 2) We've had custom neoprene camera-tight covers made to prevent windblown snow from getting into fragile mechanisms on our digital video camera. The filmmakers are much more concerned about their abilities to perform in the cold and altitude than the camera's ability. 3) We have to keep all film equipment sealed in plastic bags in our tents because of the fluctuating temperatures and the condensation caused inside our tents from our breaths. Later, when we go outside the steam from our breath can condense and freeze and then fog the lenses.



Question:

You must have to take along an incredible amount of supplies. Do you carry ALL of your own supplies, and how much weight would that be? About how many bottles of oxygen do you use, and do you personally carry all of them? Good luck and good weather to all of you.

Greygoat



Response from Base Camp:

The bulk of the load carrying is for the Sherpas. Pete and I carry some of our own gear, but we have to carry film and stills gear with us so we can shoot along the way. The Sherpas have carried approximately 35 loads up to Advanced Base Camp (CII) and each are about 45/50 pounds. On the summit day, everyone on the South Col is allocated 1 bottle for sleeping at flow rate of .5 liters per minute. On the summit climb, we carry 2 bottles at 2 liters per minute. It takes 2 bottles to get up and part way down, and then we go without oxygen on the rest of our descent to Camp IV. Two additional bottles will be carried by 2 of our Sherpas for emergency use. Unlike many of the guided parties, we do not use oxygen from Camp III to Camp IV.

David Breashears



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:

Hello to the NOVA Mt. Everest Expedition! We are anxiously following your journey up the mountain passage to Mt. Everest. We have followed other journeys from NOVA in the past. The Ice Mummies of Peru were also inspiring. We certainly wish you all the best fortune in the world and will continue to follow your journey. One of the members of your staff named on the Web Site is Liesl Clark. She was a member of the expedition in Peru. She served as the photographer in that expedition. In what capacity is she serving this Mt. Everest expedition? The Web Site mentions photographer, but exactly where is she and what are her duties. Will she be joining this climb at any time? If so, at what point will she join the climbers? Ms. Clark had written a very nice message to my fifth grade class and the students recognized her name. They are wondering what her job is in this expedition.Again, best of luck!

Sharon Simon,
Fifth Grade Instructor

Helen Smith,
Adult Assistant

Barboursville, WV



Response from Base Camp:

Hello to Sharon Simon's Fifth Grade class. I'm here at Base Camp co-producing the NOVA high altitude documentary with David Breashears and producing, writing, and photographing (sometimes) the web site in situ. Those are my official duties. I have been with the climb from Day 1 in Kathmandu, but unfortunately I must stay at Base Camp while David, Pete, Ed, Carter, and Jangbu go into the Icefall and beyond. Perhaps some day... All my best to you from the frozen world of glaciers, avalanches, and clanging yak bells.

Liesl



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:

Our 7th and 8th grade reading class at Jim Hill Middle School will be following your climb up Mt. Everest. Do you know anybody from last year who died during the climb and is this making the climb any harder emotionally? Katie and my 7th and 8th grade class.

Katie Thiel
Jim hill Middle School




Response from Base Camp:

Yes, we did know some of the climbers from last year who died on the mountain, in particular, Rob Hall and Scott Fischer. Their deaths will always weigh heavily on our minds as we climb everest.



Question:

Greetings from Colorado! How much sleep do you manage to get each night, and how does it change with altitude?Does the quality of your sleep change? For example, do you wake up often, and are your dreams different (pleasant vs nightmarish, intense vs unmemorable)? I assume you feel a great spiritual connection with the mountain when you are on it. Do you ever feel fear on the mountain? How do you reconcile the possibility of death with your will to live? Best of luck, we are all pulling for you!

Gregg Somermeyer



Response from Base Camp:

We usually go to bed after dinner (by 8pm) and usually wake-up between 7-8am. It's not a sound sleep. People generally wake up 3-5 times a night because you have to go to the bathroom. The higher you go, the more disrupted your sleep pattern. At camp IV, you usually take 15-30 minute catnaps. A climber must prepare to leave by 11pm at camp IV. At camp III your sleep is often disrupted by wind noise and altitude problems and the need to go outside the tent to answer the call of nature. On the mountain, it's cold and dark and there's not much to do. You're in your sleeping bag for a long time (11-12 hours). By and large, dreams are not more intense but are more memorable. They are typically shorter, more abstract, and usually are interrupted. Yes. We feel a spiritual connection with the mountain. We feel honored and reverent to be able to climb on this mountain. Fear is not an emotion that enters into our psyche very often. However, fear makes you cautious and it's a natural feeling. It's a wonderful struggle and fear is an important element in high altitude mountaineering. The views are stupendous. It's a wonderful place to be. I.E., It's not all fear, suffering and danger.

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