NOVA Online
Site Map

Responses and Comments #11
May 20, 1997

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.

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.

I would appreciate if you could post this question for me, as my internet mail service does not work properly. Has anyone attempted to modify an oxygen rebreather system for use in mountain climbing? It seems that oxygen is often a limiting factor in an ascent of Everest, and the rebreather would provide a long-lasting oxygen source at nearly body temperature. Also, does any team member have any recommendations for books about Everest? Hope the weather improves. Best of luck.

Steven B. Bird, M.D.
Pensacola, FL

Response from Dr. Howard Donner:
Since the 1950's climbers have experimented with rebreathing systems on Everest. From an informal survey at Base Camp, it seems that these systems have been fraught with problems primarily associated with freezing. I am aware that there are current generation rebreathing systems for marine use that are very compact and efficient. I am not aware of any field testing of these units as of yet.
Response from David Breashears:
Some of the best Everest books are: West Ridge by Thomas Hornbein, Everest by Peter Gillman (photo and editorial analogy), Everest by Walt Unsworth (chronological history), Everest: The Mystery of Mallory and Irvine by Tom Holzel and Audrey Salkeld, Everest the Hard Way by Chris Bonnington.

This is a two part question.

1. I have read some literature that indicates that women are less susceptible to HAPE than men because their blood doesn't "sludge" as much. Is this true? And if so, why? What are the medical-anthropological implications of this?

2. David Breashears, according to interviews, Krakauer's book, and a recent ABC special, has been very critical of the traffic of climbers and "clients" descending (or rather ascending) upon Everest. Could it be that your team, even in the name of science, is promoting exactly the wrong message? It is common knowledge that Everest is horribly polluted, and becoming a geographical cure for anyone with enough money and chutzpah. (It seems that climbing Everest does have some long range neurological implications—the loss of common sense, as I see that Anytoyli Bokureev & Breashears are back even after the ridiculous loss of life last year.) I *do* wish you all a safe climb. I see that the mountain has already claimed many lives this year as well. Treat her well.

Allegra Blake

Response from Dr. Howard Donner:
Although I have heard anecdotes about this, I do not know of any research that supports this idea.
Response from David Breashears:
How could our team be promoting the wrong message if 1) it is only a two-person climbing/filming team versus the average 10-person team; 2) if our purpose for being here is to study the effects of high altitude on the body and brain so we might know more when we (and hopefully other climbers) climb high in the future? To date, none of us on our team (with a combined 26 years of Everest climbing) has been diagnosed with any neurological problems or lack of common sense. Furthermore our combined seven successful summits shows that we may have an excess of common sense. If the increased traffic brought with it experienced Himalayan veterans all would be okay. It is the influx of inexperienced climbers on Everest that brings with it the problems.

To Pete;

Hello my fellow Coloradoen, and congratulations on your success. While I climb fourtneeres here I will be thinking of you and your team, and hope to do Everest someday. My questions is, when I am mountaineering I lose my appetite and have to force myself to eat, do you guys run into that problem? And second, when you are at high camps and near the summit, are you cooking meals or do you eat things like energy bars to conserve the weight of food, stove, fuel? Good luck, and I look forward to hearing you speak about your trip when you get back to Colo.

Scott McCune
Colorado Springs, CO

Response from Pete Athans:
Dear Scott,

Thanks for your kind message. Altitude and appetite have an inversely proportional relationship. In Base Camp, we have cooked meals prepared, but by the time we get to Camp III and IV, we are reduced to eating snack food and soup. Good climbing.

WOW! What can I say? What you folks are doing is awesome! I have "been there with you" through your use of QuickTime VR and I must say the work you are doing to bring this experience to the world is appreciated VERY much! All of us here at Apple Computer wish you a safe and productive journey to the top of our world! What sort of photography equipment are you using and how are you processing the QTVR movies? Are you doing this on-site up there?

David Palermo
QuickTime VR Evangelist
Apple Computer, Inc.
Response from Base Camp:
Funny you should ask....we have two Apple QuickTake cameras (loaned by Apple) that we're using for our digital imagery that we transmit via satellite phone and a Powerbook 1400C (also loaned by Apple). The QuickTime VR nodes are shot on a Nikon 35mm camera with a tripod and a special QTVR rotator head. We send the film out immediately by runner from Base Camp who throws the film on a helicopter in Lukla within a day (or two) and then the shipment is sent via DHL to NOVA in Boston where the film is processed and our extremely creative Technical Director, also known as the world's greatest QTVR stitcher (check out our site on the Pyramids of Giza), Annie Valva, works around the clock to get those 360s up for you as soon as possible.

To David Carter,

Greetings from Indiana. Thought you might want to know Arie Luyendyk won the pole this year at 218.263. Steve Kinser also got a ride and qualified at 210. Also, Larry Bird will be introduced as the new coach of the Pacers tomorrow. Hope the winds calm down soon so you can make your summit attempt.

Good Luck,
Dave Roberts
Greenfield, IN

Response from David Carter:
We probably will be moving up the mountain over the next few days. The winds have still not died down, but we're still going to position ourselves on the mountain to be ready for when the winds do die. Drink a beer for me at the race!

Hello!! My name is Tony, and I was wondering, How does it feel to be climbing the most dangerous and highest mountain on land? And how do you cope with the fact that you might die on a big icy rock that few people have conquered?

Tony S.

Response from David Breashears:
Climbing Everest has had its ups and downs for us and because it is the highest mountain in the world, we take extra caution to be careful and use common sense when on its upper slopes. Climbing Everest is not nearly as dangerous as it's made out to be. For well equipped and cautious climbers it's not a "Death Sentence." It is very common to climb Everest without any mishaps at all.

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.

Are you connected anyway to satellites or weather service to help protect you from dangerous weather or is that impossible? Are there any weather stations on the mountain? best of luck-it is unfortunate that the climbs on the mountain have become news worthy because of the tragedy last year and now this new situation with those reported deaths.

Cheryl Popielasz
Mt. Airy, Maryland

Response from Pete Athans:
We receive sophisticated weather reports every other day from a UK organization that specializes in winds at 24,000' and 29,000'. Thanks for your concern.

During climbs in my local mountains to about 10,000 feet, I have noticed that my hands and feet swell quite a bit, and can cause my boots to become very uncomfortable. When climbing at extreme altitude, is such swelling a factor? If so, do you have a means to control it? Best wishes to all of you. My thoughts and energies are with you.

Dirk Petchul
Orange, CA

Response from Dr. Howard Donner:
There are many reasons for swelling at altitude. At any altitude, especially in the heat, swelling of the hands and arms may occur due to centripetal force of the swinging arms or lymphatic and venous constriction from pack strap compression over the shoulder. At altitude, peripheral edema may occur in some individuals (studies have shown peripheral edema to be more common in women). Peripheral edema at altitude may be benign or may be associated with other symptoms of AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness).

Treatment for peripheral edema involves either resting at the same altitude or very small doses of diuretics which speeds up resolution. I usually don't put patients on diuretics when they are climbing.

Information returning to Wisconsin concerning the missing party seems a little sketchy. Was Anatoli Boukreev or his party involved? Kick it!

K. Hanson
Milwaukee, WI

Response from Base Camp:
Anatoli Boukreev was not among those that died on the north side of Everest on May 8. Getting news from the north side (as explained in a recent newsflash) is very difficult. As far as we know (and according to a source close to him), Anatoli was on the permit with the Kazakh climbers attempting the north side of Everest. However, we have reports today that Anatoli is now back in Base Camp here on the south side.

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.

To Howard Donner,

I heard about your adventure and this website on KOTO. I just had to let you know that all of our thoughts are with you back home. I hope all is going well for your party, it's a little far for San Miguel Search and Rescue to respond to. Will you be home for "Mountain Film"? NOVA should present this segment next year. Be safe, have fun, and be prepared for a million questions at the next SAR meeting.

Axel Koch
Telluride, CO

Response from Dr. Howard Donner:
High winds have delayed the summit climb. Mountain film is now an impossibility. Look forward to seeing you as soon as I return. Say hi to everybody on SAR.
Previous set of responses
Next set of responses

Lost on Everest | High Exposure | Climb | History & Culture | Earth, Wind, & Ice
E-mail | Previous Expeditions | Resources | Site Map | Everest Home

Editor's Picks | Previous Sites | Join Us/E-mail | TV/Web Schedule
About NOVA | Teachers | Site Map | Shop | Jobs | Search | To print
PBS Online | NOVA Online | WGBH

© | Updated November 2000