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Responses and Comments #3
April 25, 1997


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.


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?

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.


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.


Hello, I am Tristan and I am 6 years old, my sister is 5 years old. We hope you are having a good climb and that you are not too cold. Take care, and watch out for Yetis.

Tris and Laura
Cambridge, Ontario

Thanks for your e-mail. David and Pete say hello from Camp II.


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

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.

With tourists being ferried in by heliocopter to snap a few pictures then leave, is there a danger that Mount Everest will become what the Grand Canyon has here in Arizona, cluttered with fixed wing planes and heliocopters scattering noise pollution and sometimes people in crashes?

Wels Musgrave
Kingman, AZ

For the most part, we didn't have any fixed wing flights over Everest last year, so we don't think this is going to be a problem. Since the Japanese Expedition has left this year, there has been no unnecessary air traffic above and around Base Camp. We hope it will never happen again.

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

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


Hi to every brave soul attempting Everest! My question to you ... because of the many people climbing Everest the garbage must be enormous. Is this breath-taking mountain taking on the appearance of a "junk yard"? One day I hope to hear of an expedition to Everest where the goal isn't only to summit but to clean-up the rubbish left behind. Best of luck for a safe return!

Tracy O'Hara
Binghamton, NY

There have been multitudes of clean up expeditions but those have been centered on Base Camp. Yes, on parts of the mountain the garbage is increasing . The higher you go, the greater the difficulty in removing waste. It should be noted that very little if anything is being done on the north side. However, as mentioned in a previous e-mail, people are trying to make an effort.


Hi guys. Hope that everything is going well on the mountain. My question: what is the difference in oxygen levels at the top of the mountain from what it is at base camp? Also, how is the team coping with the altitude sickness they must be experiencing?

Robert & Alicia Tindall
Lexington, KY

At the summit, there is 1/3 of the oxygen available at sea level. At Base camp it is about half. To date, none of us have experienced altitude sickness.


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.

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