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May 152018
 
Lhotse Face Line 2003

Urgent: Oxygen Failure on North Side

Everyone is safe, including guides, Sherpas, and members but there is a serious situation on the North side of Everest early Wednesday morning 16 May. Teams are turning back from the summit.

I spoke live by satellite phone with Adrian Ballinger, founder of Alpenglow, at 6:47 am, Everest time. He was at 8500 meters, near the 2nd Step on the Tibet side when he said they had 10 of 39 oxygen bottle regulators fail and had to turn back. During our call, he said everyone was safe and below C3 at 8300 meters.

The regulator controls the flow of oxygen between the bottle and the mask. If it fails, there is no oxygen in the mask. Alpenglow was using Summit Oxygen (SO) systems. I reached out them but could not connect with such short notice. I have used SO several times with complete success. Adrian was strong to say he was not criticizing SO but wanted to get the word out that there may be a bad manufacturing batch out there in use. He has used SO for 6 years with no problems.

The guides and Sherpas descended without supplemental oxygen as they gave up their regulators to the members. All are safely descending. Adrian said the regulators spontaneously failed without warning within 3 minutes.

He said all members were below Camp 3 now, but there was a large Chinese team above. He was not sure what oxygen system they use. Furtenbach also used Summit Oxygen and promoted a special mask developed for them to run at 8lpm and just reported all members have summited with no issues so this may be a localized issue.

In my experiences over 16 years, this is an extremely rare event. I know the Summit Oxygen team well and they have the utmost focus on quality as do the other oxygen system suppliers. I will update this post as new information is available.

Update at 9 am Everest time from Adrian:

all alpenglow now at or below c2, 7700m. 4 more regulator failures since we spoke (all 4 recent failures happened between 8300 and 7700).”

This is the official statement from Alpenglow at 10 am Everest time

Due to a mass equipment failure, teams on Everest have stopped their summit push and have descended below 7,700m. All members, guides, and Sherpa are safe and accounted for at this time.

Both of our Alpenglow Expeditions teams, along with other teams on Everest, were utilizing an industry standard supplemental oxygen system during their summit push. When multiple of the team’s oxygen bottle regulators malfunctioned, the team made the difficult decision to stop their summit push and return to lower elevation.

Since this time, it has become apparent that a defective batch of oxygen bottle regulators was released. Multiple teams using the same device have experienced similar oxygen system failures. There are no reported injuries at this time.

Update from the supplier of the Summit Oxygen system Neil Greenwood. I spoke with him five hours after Adrian’s call and he told me:

With regard to the report from Alpenglow Expeditions that they suffered regulator failures on the North Side of Everest at 8500m.  It is very difficult to ascertain the cause of such a failure at this time without being able to inspect the equipment.  The manufacturing and testing process of the regulators has not changed, nor have any of the materials used or our suppliers and all of the regulators supplied to Alpenglow for the 2018 season had been previously used.  The connection and disconnection procedure of the regulator to a cylinder is particular to this application and if the dynamic O ring is broken in the process it can cause problems, however, I suspect this is not the case in this situation.  Based on the information we have from Adrian Ballinger – the failures occurred within 3 mins of each other at 8500m, leads me to suspect that the pressure relief valve (PRV) has functioned.  The PRV is a safety mechanism to protect the low pressure side of the regulator from high pressure.  If this is the case we will need to investigate what caused the developed pressure to increase and thus the PRV to function.  I must at this point again restate my earlier point that at the moment this is guess work and until I see the equipment I won’t know for sure what the cause was but I’m extremely glad to know that all the team members are safe.

In my experience this level of regulator failure is extremely rare. There may be one or two but not 10 like Alpenglow experienced. They were Summit Oxygen regulators not POISX or Top Out but here is where it gets complicated. A guide can use Brand A oxygen bottle, Brand B regulator and Brand C mask so trouble shooting a problem is difficult. Also, it is standard procedure to switch oxygen bottles as they run empty. Alpenglow had at least one swap near Mushroom Rock.
These devices are a bit fragile and if you screw the regulator onto the bottle with the incorrect angle, it can cause the seal to not be solid and leak. Also, if dirt or water gets in the seal it can cause problems. I’m not suggesting “operator error” by the extremely experienced Alpenglow team but more of a comment for others in the future.

UPDATE 1

Tibet – North

Furtenbach Adventures said all of 5 members of their classic team with 5 Sherpas summited safely are now going down.

Alpenglow Expeditions have turned back due to Oxygen systems failure

Ani Lhakpa Sherpa summiting for the 9th time on 16th of May from North Side. (Local Nepali time at 5:40AM). New World Record for women! Breaking her own record.

Nepal- South

Kami Rita Sherpa summited for a record 22nd time with a Seven Summit Treks team

Adventure Consultants reports summits at 5:43 am 16 May 2018 by Guy Cotter and Leow Kah Shin:

Guy Cotter calls from the summit of Everest: “What an amazing place to be”. In perfect weather, the team is standing on the highest point on earth. Guy reported that it seemed a little harder than what he remembers, but regardless is thrilled to be on top. An enormous thank you from him to the whole support team, both the Sherpa team here in Nepal and all in New Zealand that have got them there.
Congratulations to:
Leow Kah Shin – Singapore, 1st summit
Guy Cotter – New Zealand, 5th summit
Pasang Bhote – Sangkhuwasaba, Nepal, 9th summit
Nima Chiri Sherpa – Phortse, Nepal, 9th summit
Pemba (Prakash) Sherpa – Solu, Nepal, 1st summit

The team that stood on the summit this morning now collectively have 25 summits!
Supporting this team has been Dawa Bhote from Sangkhuwasaba, Nepal. He has been assisting the team at the South Col with radio communications and cooking. The focus for them will now be for a safe descent back to South Col.

Kaitu Everest Expedition team also put 6 members and 8 Sherpas on top between 8-8:30 am.

Jagged Globe was going for the summit but are not giving any updates until they are back to the South Col.

Kenton Cool and Ben Fogel are also headed up but no updates yet.

Over on Dhaulagiri, Carlos Soria is art Camp 1. If he can summit, the 79 year-old will only have SHishapangma left to complete all of the 8000ers. Speaking being 79, Japanese climber Matsumoto Tatsuo became the oldest person to summit Lhotse yesterday


With conditions being reported as “perfect/calm/clear” look for a big and busy Tuesday night on both sides of Everest. Climbing conditions are being reported as good meaning decent footing on the snow, with a bit less than usual on the north side, but that could just be one person’s perception. All in all the season continues safe with few surprises. It appears that there are summit pushes underway on almost all the 8000ers being attempted this season.

The Horia Colibasanu and Peter Hámor team looking to traverse from the West Ridge to Everest then Lhotse is leaving for their summit push today. Expect them to check in with their progress in a couple of days. They go to Camp 2 first to begin the climb of the West Ridge proper. Also, look for Jon Griffith‘s live stream of Tendi Sherpa’s attempt Everest/Lhotse back to back with no Os around the 21st.

But for right now, we know these teams hare currently climbing and many, many more. I expect to see 100 summits combined in the next 12 hours.

Nepal

  • Adventure Consultants Private
  • Jagged Globe
  • Kenton Cool/Ben Fogle

Tibet

  • Alpenglow
  • Furtenbach
  • Kaitu

The Adventure Consultants team posted at 9:07 pm Nepal time 15 May:

The call came down to base camp that Guy and Kah Shin, with the expert guidance of Pasang Bhote (Climbing Sidar), Nima Chiri and Prakash Sherpa (Climbing Sherpas), have departed the South Col for their summit attempt. Stars punctuate the sky, winds are light and the team is set.

With oxygen flowing through their high altitude masks and head torches lighting the way the team will climb the steep Triangle Face towards the area know as The Balcony, at 8300m.  As the team sets out into the dark and cold towards the summit of Everest we wish them safe travels and will update with their progress as we hear from them.

Kara Stinson with Alpenglow posted a nice picture of C3 (not sure about the C4 comment, depends on how you cut the camps) on the Tibet side around noon Tuesday 15 May along with: “Just pulled into high camp around 27,000ft! 11 hours til we begin our summit push!

C4 on North side Everest by Kara Stinson

Best of luck to all for a safe and positive experience.

Trekker Death at EBC

On a sad note, trekker Christopher Lam Koon-wah from Hong Kong died at base camp suffering from high-altitude cerebral oedema according to a report in the South China Morning Post  The headline of “Hong Kong man dies climbing on Mount Everest in Nepal” is inaccurate as he was trekking and not climbing. There have been no deaths on Everest thus far but one on Makalu, Dhaulagiri and probably on Shishapangma. Also there was a death earlier this year on Nanga Parbat.

Climb On!
Alan
Memories are Everything

Comments on/from Facebook

  4 Responses to “Everest 2018: Summit Wave 3 – Update 1 – O’s failure on North Side”

  1.  

    Alan is Adrian using an additional camp on his climb? Traditionally it has been BC, ABC, C1, C2 and C3 but he refers to C4. Did he break up the long day from C2 to C4? I don’t think it is possible to camp higher than the normal C3 on the north side. Thanks for the awesome coverage!

    •  

      Hmm, not sure Robert. They posted on Facebook that they arrived at C3 and will depart from there at 2 am 16. https://www.facebook.com/pg/alpenglowexpeditions/posts/?ref=page_internal

      •  

        It’s really hard to tell. Here is the post I am seeing on FB:

        4:09am Everest Time: Teams are on track to summit!
        The Everest Rapid Ascent Team left C3 at 2am (Everest time) and made it to the 1st Step (27,890′ / 8,500m. The 1st Step is the first of three rocky features to climb through before the summit).
        Adrian Ballinger and the Cho+ Everest Lightning Ascent Team departed from C2 at 2am, they stopped for a short break at C3 (25,600’ / 7900m), now they are moving quickly and hope to meet the main team at the summit!

        It all makes sense for the Rapid Ascent Team but then it falls apart on the Lightning Team. The traditional C2 is about 25,500′, the elevation cited here for C3. That would make their C2 even lower yet and it sounds like they are trying for the summit from there?! This would make for a near-Killian-Jornet sized day. Someone has got to be reporting this incorrectly. It will be interesting to hear the accurate story from Adrian when he returns.

  2.  

    Any word on the Hilary step?

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