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Responses and Comments #8
May 12, 1997

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.

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.

Do your lungs have a burning sensation all the time because of the air pressure? How far can you climb without a major rest? Is the wind constant? Or does it come in bursts? How do you keep the tents in the ice without blowing away? Good luck and we are all watching your climb.

George Wild
Montvale, NJ
Response from Pete Athans:
We do not experience any burning sensation. We usually rest about 10 minutes per each hour of activity. Wind is variable. The tents are attached to ice with ice screws or snow pickets.

I've been diligently following your online reports, and find myself unexpectedly anxious and expectant as the team departs on its summit push. I'm writing simply to express my best wishes to David, Pete, Ed, Guy, Veikka, Jangbu, Tashi, and the rest of you bound for the top (and to send my regards to Howard at BC as well). You are all in my thoughts. Climb hard, be safe, and keep up the good work.

Sincerely yours,
Jon Krakauer
Seattle, WA
Response from Ed Viesturs:
Jon: Thanks for your note. All is well, we're ready to go but it's very windy up high, so we're patiently waiting for a break in the weather. We had hoped for a May 7 summit, but the wind gods did not allow us to make our attempt. So, the waiting game begins. Hope your book is a great success. Let's have a beer when I get back to Seattle. Ed.

Here is a difficult question: In Jon Krakauer's book, "Into Thin Air," he tells of the massive efforts made by many expeditions to keep Everest clean by removing spent oxygen bottles and so forth. Yet in the book he recounts his sighting of two frozen corpses on the mountain as his team approached Camp II in 1996, one of which had been there for over a decade according to his guide. Why are bodies left on the mountain? That seems odd.

Danny Evans
Irvine, CA
Response from David Breashears:
Bodies are much heavier and much more difficult to remove than garbage. For instance, a Sherpa can easily carry 4-6 empty oxygen bottles down from the South Col. But it would require 6-8 Sherpas to carry down one body. To further complicate the issue, the Sherpas, who always provide the man-power for the removal of bodies, are extremely superstitious and wary of dead bodies and often refuse to go near them, even if the deceased are familiar to them. We feel that it would be improper to demand that the Sherpas move the bodies of the deceased when they are often so opposed to it. Also, although it is rare, the relatives of the deceased sometimes request that the bodies be left on the mountain. But, it is the difficult logistics and enormous effort required to bring a body down that often precludes us from removing bodies from Everest. It is important to note that bringing bodies down Everest is also a time consuming and dangerous activity and one has to ask if it is worth risking lives to bring down someone who is dead.

To David Carter, I was wondering if any climbers have ever tried taking a blood transfusion before their summit attempt, to see if that would help deliver more oxygen to the brain during the climb? Good luck,

Dave Roberts
Greenfield, IN

P.S. Maybe we could climb Red River Gorge sometime.
Response from Dr. Howard Donner:
At altitude, it is not simply a matter of oxygen carrying capacity (the amount of red blood cells), but rather how efficiently oxygen can be delivered to the necessary tissues including the brain, heart, lungs and muscles. With increasing red blood cells ("hematocrit"), blood viscosity can increase to the point where profusion (or delivery) is impaired. On ascent to altitude hematocrit goes up almost immediately due to mild dehydration, i.e. an increasing the concentration of red cells. Within weeks new red blood cells are produced at altitude at a rate that the body can use efficiently. In 1983, climbing scientists on Everest attempted to remove red blood cells, and found no change in their performance.

What effect does high altitude have on metabolism? Is the extreme cold also a factor? What changes in weight can be expected as a result, especially at Camp IV and above?

Response from Dr. Howard Donner
Metabolism is a very broad term. Initially on ascent, there is an increase in adrenaline-like compounds which increase metabolic rate and result in increases in blood pressure and heart rate. The body also attempts to become more efficient by increasing mitochondrial density and increasing oxidative enzymes (enzymes involved in metabolism). Mitochondria are the power factories for human cells. Interestingly, actual metabolic depression of membrane Na+/K+ ATPase, in the brain, is not seen at levels of hypoxia typically encountered in climbers. This means that the brain remains normal from an energetics (metabolic) standpoint. If by metabolism you mean performance, VO2 Max (maximal oxygen uptake) has been shown to decrease steadily with increases in altitude. The extreme cold requires greater caloric intake to maintain normal body temperature, and at altitude climbers feel they have more trouble staying warm. The amount of weight loss seen in climbers at Mt. Everest is variable. Our climbers often lose little weight. Historically, Everest climbers have lost up to 40 lbs or more on a single expedition. Climbers arriving with less excess body fat tend to lose less body fat.

Hello Dave Carter and team. My name is Jason. My dad and I have been following your trek and want to wish you luck for the summit, and for your safe return. I hope you can reply back. But if you can't, then I just hope you reach the top!!! Thanks.

Jason Donahue
Uniontown, PA
Response from David Carter:
Thanks for your interest. It's great that you two are able to follow us on the Web site. Keep logging on as we attempt our summit climb.

To: David Carter

Hello from Methodist Sports Medicine Center in Indianapolis! We were wondering how your reconstructed ankles were holding up during your climb. We also know that you have had some knee tendonitis that we have treated you for over the last couple of years and were curious as to how, if at all, it was affecting you. Are you wearing any ankle or knee braces for support? Best of luck from the staff of M.S.M.C. and everyone at Peak Performance Fitness Center.

Indianapolis, IN
Response from David Carter:
My ankles are holding up well. I've had no problem whatsoever. Concerning the knee tendonitis—nothing. Basically the only problem I've had in my legs is I have an infected big toe. Other than that I feel fine, and hopefully we won't be doing any further business together! Thanks for your support.
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