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Responses and Comments #6
May 7, 1997



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:
I have been quite interested in last year's tragedy, given Beck Wethers is a local. He's been through much and that just highlights the unfortunate ones like Rob, Scott and the others. If it is too difficult to help injured climbers down, what do you do with those who have died? As someone said last year, you don't want them to be just another slide in some climber's slide show. On the other hand, you have certainly described the terrible ordeal one has to go through just to get himself up and down. Please tell us what has been done and how you feel about the results ... i.e., whether or not they have been removed, buried in rocks, etc.

Mark Enoch
Dallas, TX
Response from Ed Viesturs and Pete Athans:
Given the logistical problems of evacuating bodies, it is very problematic to remove dead climbers from high on the mountain. However, we do try to remove them and put them in a respectful place, if possible.


Comment:
I didn't know that a computer would withstand that much cold and still work, or it is there heat to warm them up? (I know this sounds odd, normally we'd want them cool). As for the climb, you guys have more guts than I have desire of having to have. Scared of heights! But I do think it would be cool! That picture of using a ladder to cross a gorge, not me, no way no how!!! (saw it on PBS Online). Best of luck, and may God be with you all.

David Gruesbeck
Alma, MI
Response:
Once the sun hits our communication tent, the computers usually are warm enough to function properly. When it is really cold, we keep the computers warm in our sleeping bags at night. In extreme cases we have had to put the computer batteries in a Ziploc bag and boil them.


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:
My Physical Science and Astronomy students would like to know if any of you were particularly interested in science when you were in 8th grade. Some of them don't think science has any practical applications to every day life. How has it helped you out in the area of physics? Good luck and thank you.

Marg Freeman
Boise, Idaho


Response from Ed Viesturs:
I'm a veterinarian and am intrigued by physiology. Climbing and exercise physiology go hand in hand.


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:
I am a first year medical student at the Univ. of Massachusetts Medical Center. I would like to know if any of the four climbers have ever had any episodes of HAPE or HACE on any previous climbs? Also are you planning on publishing any of your results? I plan on doing research in high altitude physiology and I will be following this research expedition with much interest. Good luck.

Michael Todd
Millbury, MA


Response from Dr. Howard Donner:
All of the climbers have had symptoms of acute mountain sickness at one time or another including: lethargy, lack of appetite, headaches, and sleeplessness. None of the climbers have ever developed severe forms of mountain sickness such as full blown HAPE or HACE.

The results of this study will eventually be published. Dr. Tom Hornbein at the University of Washington will be able to offer you more specific information on upcoming publication of this data.


Question:
I am interested in whether you are testing the Sherpas during your climb - 1. to see how their test results would compare to your results and 2. to help understand how their bodies handle the high altitude stresses. Are they adversely affected by going down to sea level like we are by going up so high? Best of luck!
Betsey LeBreche
Del Mar, CA
Response from Dr. Howard Donner:
Yes, our sirdar Jangbu Sherpa will be tested along with the other climbers. Interestingly, there has never been any indication of a "low altitude" sickness in high altitude natives descending to lower altitudes. I have often heard local Sherpas speak of "low altitude" illness in yaks that typically inhabit regions of the Khumbu above 14,000 feet. However, many yaks live in low altitude zoos around the world. The illness that the yaks developed when descending to low altitude is probably due to exposure to numerous infectious diseases transmitted by lowland cattle to which the yaks have not developed immunity.


Question:
I am interested in the age of the climbers in your group and how this might effect how they approach the climb. Be careful and have a safe climb.

Sincerely,
David Whicker
Danville, IN


Response from all climbers:
David Breashears (age 41)
Pete Athans (age 40)
Ed Viesturs (age 37)
David Carter (age 34)
Jangbu Sherpa (age 26)


Question:
Many mountaineers take prescription drugs to help negate the affects of altitude. This practice seems most common in areas where climbers ascend from low elevations quickly and have little time to acclimate. Is the use of any type of medication the standard on Everest? We are with you in spirit.

Kerry, Jodi, Mike, & Kip Hanson
Shorewood, WI
Response from Dr. Howard Donner:
Most climbers on 8000-meter peaks prefer to acclimitize without the use of prescription drugs, when possible. However, the climbers generally carry a number of high altitude prescription drugs for use in emergencies. These drugs include: Nifedipine for High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE), Decadron for High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE) and Diamox. Even in an acclimitized climber, Diamox is often used in very small doses prior to bedtime to decrease or eliminate periodic breathing. This makes for a much more restful night's sleep at extreme altitude.


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:
Hi David! I am a sports still photographer. I wish I was up there with you! Photographing on Everest must be the ultimate but incredibly difficult. I would like to know what lenses, filters and type of film you are using for your still photography. I'm sure you must have numerous backup bodies as well (what a drag if something decides to break down)! I was also wondering, after many trips to 'the top of the world' and despite the journey getting there, has it been the same experience for you emotionally once you are sitting on the top. It must be an incredible feeling that can only be experienced. Thanks so much for letting us on this journey with you!!!!!!

Tracey Frankel
Encinitas, CA
Response from Liesl Clark:
Most of the photography that we have been shooting for our website has been shot on 35mm Provia 100 still film. I use a Nikon 8008 and my lens package includes a 28mm, 35-70mm, and 80-200mm lens. All f2.8 is always preferable. We are also using Apple QuickTake digital cameras, which we love. We send the cameras up with the climbers. The climbers are able to send down the RAM cards that cache up to 40 images which we download and then transmit back to WGBH the same day.


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 Harbor, MI


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


Question:
David, How are you. My name is Matt. I am 13 years of age, I recently saw a show on my TV talking about the May 10th, 1996 tragedy on Mt. Everest. I would like to know, were you on the mountain at that time?? And if you were I would like to know about what happened and what it was like. I think it was very sad. Also, have you ever been climbing and passed like a skeleton on the mountain? I also wanted to know, how many times have you climbed the mountain?? Well if you could please E-mail me back I would really appreciate it. Well thanks a lot. Bye

Matt Vogt
Vancouver, WA


Response:
David was on the mountain during last year's tragedy, but he was not up at Camp IV where most of the tragic events transpired. It was a very difficult time to be on the mountain. Now as the climbers head back up the mountain they all feel a great sense of sadness for their friends that they have lost.


Question:
I am curious what kind of sleeping bag and tent you have. I also would like to know what other kind of special gear you have. How may layers of clothes do you have to wear every day? Also how do you cook your food, and doesn't your water freeze? Thank you and good luck

Corono, CA
Response from David Breashears:
I use Mountain Hardwear gear at Base Camp and on the mountain. Up high, I also have a down suit. We generally wear Goretex outer layers for Camp III and below and use polypro close to the skin for its ability to wick away moisture. At night, I sleep with my water bottles so they don't freeze.


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:
I have just read Jon Krakauer's book, "Into Thin Air", about the 1996 tragedies on Mt Everest. Is Krakauer's account reasonably accurate? What is the general feeling among experienced climbers about Krakauer's role in the 1996 expedition? How hard has it been to assure that the hired guides don't focus on their own goals vice those of their clients? Specifically I have in mind the multiple accounts of Anatoli Boukreev (sic) on Scott Fischers 1996 expedition where he comes off as both hero and villain. He seemed to place his need to achieve the summit (without oxygen) and to get back down above that of the clients; while later he did venture out multiple times and save clients, we are left to wonder if his role wasn't pivotal in precipitating at least a part of the disaster.

Thanks
Neal Vinson
Burke, VA


Response from Base Camp:
None of us has had a chance yet to read Jon Krakauer's account of last year's events as we have been at Base Camp for over a month.


Question:
What a wonderful opportunity this is for ordinary people to follow your progress on this amazing expedition. Our question is: exactly what do you wear on your feet while climbing? Do you have to wear boots, crampons, or snow shoes? Do you know approximately how deep the snow is when you're walking on top of it? If you don't have the proper equipment on, would you sink out of site or do you tie each other together with ropes?

Wishing you all a safe passage.
The Wante family
Littleton, NH


Response from David Carter:
We wear plastic double boots with insulite liners and crampons while climbing. The snow is fairly firm right now on the mountain. You would only sink if you fell into a crevasse.


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, Indiana
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.
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