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May 082019
 

The winds picked back up on Tuesday making the acclimatization climbs a bit of a challenge. Meanwhile a climber death on Makalu.

Headlines

Peruvian mountaineer, Richard Hidalgo, was found dead at Camp 2 on Mt. Makalu. Sherpas from Seven Summits Treks passing by his camp at 6500-meters and found him dead in his tent. He had climbed with them the day before as they were fixing the ropes. No other details are available. He was aiming to summit today, without supplemental oxygen and was using little Sherpa support. He had attempted Everest five times without Os but had summited five other 8000ers. My condolence to his families and friends.

Nepal – Windy

Climbing has resumed with teams at a very windy Camp 2. Adventure Consultants reported in:

High winds made for noisy flapping tents last night, affecting some more than others. I put in ear plugs at 4am and afterwards managed some sleep until sunrise. Our climb up to Camp 3 was postponed and we have been resting. The wind is still gusting through camp and when it is quiet here it sounds like a freight train higher up. Camp 2 is a little busier as teams arrive from lower down. Some other teams are still repairing the damage done to their camps on 03 May, replacing broken tents before climbers return for another rotation. So news is quiet today as we pass the time, mornings are cold, afternoons are hot and nights are long, up to 12 hours long. Tomorrow we’re planning on getting back on the Lhotse Face, weather permitting.

Tibet – Windy

A similar story on the Tibet side with winds at the North Col and below. Adrian Ballinger, Alpenglow, had a nice photo that captured that side of the mountain:

Windy North Col Everest 2019. Courtesy of Alpenglow

The #everest2019 #rapidascent team absolutely crushed today! In their hard-fought push to tag North Col Camp at 23,000’/7,000m, they climbed through hurricane force winds. The team reached 22,486’/6,854m before the winds forced them to turn around. 🌬❄️ Climber @carolinegleich reports that the team is “back to advanced basecamp after a long, windy, painful day.” Way to persevere team!


New Technology on Everest

I reached out to Austrian operator Lukas Furtenbach of Furtenbach Adventures on how this are going on the Tibet side this year. Also I heard he was trying out some new technology and wanted to ask him about it. Here’s Lukas:

Congrats on surviving the Cyclone!  🙂 🙂

Q: How are things on the Tibet side of Everest?
The general mood is very positive and focused. All teams are communicating well, that has not always been like this. Basecamp feels very quiet. A lot of climbers from different teams are in Shigatse now to recover, also our Flash team. It’s a 5h drive from basecamp and it is situated at 3800m. There is a Burger King which seems to be the most attractive asset. CTMA confirmed to me the final official permit numbers yesterday – its 142 foreigners instead of 144 (after 2 of our clients canceled very short term before the expedition for medical reasons).

Furtenbach Adventures Everest 2019 Tibet Base Camp

Q; Did the Cyclone impact your tents or supplies?
Yes! We thought we had a very good and safe spot on North col. The same as in the last years that proved to be safe, covered by the big wall. But wind must have turned somehow and so 4 of our tents were destroyed. Almost all teams lost tents and gear on North Col so the wind must have been really hard. There was no gear in our tents as we never do this for safety reasons. We recovered all 4 tents and brought them down. Not a big deal for us but some extra work for our Sherpas to carry up new tents.

Furtenbach Adventures Everest 2019 Tibet Relax Tent

Q: Have your team(s) finished their acclimatization rotation?Yes. Our classic team did two rotations and is ready for summit push. The first one to ABC and the second with a night on the North Col and even a touch a bit higher. All were doing great. They were also using Hypoxic tents and I am sure that paid off to have more energy up there.

Actually the HCT (hematocrit) is higher when they arrive at basecamp so their body can handle the lack of oxygen better and is powerful. At the end it is nothing else than natural doping. I did one rotation with our Flash team. We were sleeping 2 nights at ABC and almost touching North col (turned back at 6850m because of the weather). That was 6 days after arriving in Lhasa and everybody was doing great. So our Flash team is also ready for the summit push.

It is amazing to see how the hypoxic acclimatization at home works, not only for us but also for the clients. I took my HCT every week since 8 weeks before the expedition started and still do it now here on spot. It is really cool to see the HCT rising continuously and significantly (12% in fact!). I now have the same HCT as last year after the expedition. We fine tuned our hypoxic program and that seems to work even better now.

Furtenbach Adventures Everest 2019 Tibet Sleeping Tent

Q: Tell us a bit about Flash Everest program.
Our top goals is to make expeditions safer. I have been a partner in a study about hypoxic pre-acclimatization in University of Innsbruck almost 20 years ago. Since then I use and experiment with the concept. I had my first expedition with hypoxic preparation about 15 years ago. We used the hypixoc program on Broad Peak and Cho Oyu before.

Then we started on Everest in 2016 on the south side, where all members and guides did our hypoxic program succesful. In 2017 we had again a full team pre-acclimtaized with our hypoxic program (amongst them the first blind climber from the north side) and all of them summited. In 2017 we experimented also with a 2 weeks program on Everest on the north side with a intensive hypoxic program and new hypoxic gear. In 2018 we had the shortest successful commercial Everest expedition ever related to our own hypoxic program with our adapted and customized hypoxic equipment. It took 21 days from home that all members (no professional climbers, regular clients) reached the summit. This year we planned a one week program from home but skipped this as we have several other projects on Everest for 2019 that seem more important to us and need our full attention.

It is interesting to see that now several other operators are following ours and Alpenglow`s idea of shorter expeditions and are trying to offer similar products next year. All of them where amongst the hardest critics. Running short expeditions needs a lot of experience with hypoxic programs and with the right tactic and schedule on the approach and on the mountain. I think without this experience, there is a high risk that things go wrong.

Q: I understand you are testing some new ideas to improve safety. Can you share some of this with us?
We have several projects this year. One thing is the wearable telemedicine we are testing. Basically we made a liner glove with a very high quality medical SpO2 and HR sensor in it, that is connected to a small monitor on the wrist. This monitor is connected to a smartphone app and streams data via satellite. Microsoft, WICIS and Thuraya are partners in this project. The idea is to set the oxygen flow rate according these data and not according to a subjective impression from the climber or guide. Doing this we can keep the oxygen saturation always above the critical number that could trigger HAPE or HACE. I am testing this system this year and if it turns out good we will have it for all members next year. The idea behind is to take out risk, not to make the mountain more accessible. We have always been and are still very strict on choosing our members. We only accept members of whom we are confident that they are able and prepared (technically, physically and mentally) to summit. We still reject almost 50% of the bookings that are coming in for Everest.

The other innovation is a new oxygen system that I will be testing this year. All systems that are in use now are constant flow systems. That means they are basically very inefficient and have a lot of oxygen loss even with big reservoirs. In medicine, aviation and military on demand systems are standard. Neil Greenwood from Summit Oxygen is working on such a system for climbing since years and he provided me a very sophisticated prototype of a new pneumatic pulse dose (on demand) system that works without batteries or any electronics. A pulse dose system has several advantages over the standard constant flow systems. It is much more efficient, so more oxygen reaches your body in a better and faster way. That makes it beneficial for the climbers. One safes a lot of oxygen as there is almost no loss and the whole system is more efficient. So this makes it very attractive for the operators, as they will need less bottles. And at the end also the Sherpas would benefit of the system as they would have to carry less bottles up and down the mountain. So, if this new system is ready for the market one day, it will be a win-win situation for everybody.

For next year we roll out a really big innovation, but I am afraid I cannot talk about it at this time. My goal is always to take out risk of climbing high mountains. Not to make them more accessible to people that are not prepared! We have the possibilities and technology to make it safer so why not minimize the risk to die when climbing Everest? Of course there will always be a certain risk that we can`t control. But we can minimize this risk and I think it is our obligation as expedition operators to try everything we can, to minimize this risk. I understand that some people don`t like this idea. If you take out or minimize the risk to die on Everest, this takes out a lot of the adventurous idea of danger that feeds the ego of climbers. In fact this is the traditional and very macho philosophy of climbing mountains. This is the basis for heroic characters and tragedy in alpinisim and climbing. No risk, no tragedy, no heroes, no accomplishment. It becomes strange if you compare that to motor sports. Every innovation and new technology that makes racing cars safer, is available and implemented immediately. Nobody would complain about more safety in Formula 1 or Nascar cars.

He also sent me this amazing photo took of the Great couloir (left) und Hornbein couloir (right) in the North Face of Everest in May 2019.

 


Great couloir (left) und Hornbein couloir (right) in the north face of Everest in May 2019. Courtesy of Lukas Furtenbach

Climb On!
Alan
Memories are Everything!

  6 Responses to “Everest 2019: Another Himalayan Death”

  1.  

    Alan,

    Fantastic interview with Lukas Furtenbach on his implementation of hypoxic preparation……also on the measurement of hematocrit levels in the blood, etc, etc.

    I was riveted by the discussion of a system wherein the O flow is determined by various blood level metrics and NOT by subjective factors.

    Do you think that all of this is the forward edge of the way things will be going in the future…..or….to soon to know.

    •  

      The technology is new and improving but my personal opinion is that this is a dangerous tool that will give inexperienced climbers and unqualified guides a placebo that if they get in trouble they will be saved. As we have seen this year with four deaths already on the 8000ers, there is no certainty.

  2.  

    So sorry for the death of the Peruvian climber Richard Hildago. It sounds like he died alone in his tent overnight though we may never know exactly what happened.

    I always admire the spirit and tenacity of these climbers, but I also regret their deaths.

  3.  

    Is it common for Norton Couloir to be so rocky? I thought there was usually more snow on the couloir. For example, the late Marco Siffredi snowboarded the Norton Couloir in May.