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Apr 072012

Kind of a quiet day today as most teams are in the upper  Khumbu and perhaps a few have arrived at Everest Base Camp on the south (Nepal). It is not surprising that they have not updated their sites. Arriving at EBC is a busy time so perhaps a quick call home is all that is required. More next week on those first few days at BC.

Overall, everything is going well for being extremely early in the season, with one exception I will discuss at the end of this post. Here is today’s roundup:

Teams Nearing EBC -South

Eric Simonson has a good update today with a couple of nice pictures. I encourage you to click on all these links to see the pictures and read the entire dispatches.  Looks like EBC is coming together nicely:

Up at Everest Base Camp, Ang Jangbu reports 4 inches of fresh snow this morning. Down at Lobuche Base Camp, our Hybrid team also reported about 4 inches of snow overnight, so it sounds like the whole valley got tagged. The climbing Sherpas will be reporting to Base Camp today. Their plan is to start working to establish Camps 1 and 2 on Everest over the coming week. That way, those camps will be established when the climbers are done with their acclimatization and ready to head up the hill!

Teams in Tibet

Adventure Peaks reports they crossed the Nepal/Tibet border today and are now in Nyalam with a short walk under their belt. Altitude Junkies is quickly behind them.

A Mallory Quote

I am enjoying the writings of Greg Paul wth Himex. This is his recent and the Blog of the Day:

George Mallory was an English mountaineer who took part in the first three British expeditions to Mount Everest in the early 1920s. He was asked the question ‘What is the use of climbing Mount Everest?’ and his answer was ‘It is no use’. “There is not the slightest prospect of any gain whatsoever. Oh, we may learn a little about the behavior of the human body at high altitudes, and possibly medical men may turn our observation to some account for the purposes of aviation. But otherwise nothing will come of it. We shall not bring back a single bit of gold or silver, not a gem, nor any coal or iron. We shall not find a single foot of earth that can be planted with crops to raise food. It’s no use. So, if you cannot understand that there is something in man which responds to the challenge of this mountain and goes out to meet it, that the struggle is the struggle of life itself upward and forever upward, then you won’t see why we go. What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the end of life. We do not live to eat and make money. We eat and make money to be able to enjoy life. That is what life means and what life is for.”

Oxygen Problems

Of all the systems Everest climbers count on, their supplemental oxygen is critical. Even though you spend weeks acclimatizing your body through creating more red blood cells, you are still extremely dependent on the extra Os during the summit push. If you had been planning on using them and suddenly they are not available, you are in more danger than if you had never planned on using it in the first place.

The products involved are from Summit Oxygen (SO), a UK based maker of oxygen products. Providing the updates is Ted Atkins who provides SO bottles plus his proprietary TopOut Oxygen masks, the gold standard on Everest. The other player here is the decades old Russian company Posix, who has been the standard for oxygen bottles, regulators and masks but has lost market share to these new alternatives over the last several years.

I contacted SO for a response to the following incidents but have not heard back from them. Given the importance of this situation, I wanted to get this information out and have paraphrased the following from direct emails from Ted Atkins. Atikns has said “I urge you to disseminate this information.”

You can download the emails with photos in this PDF file.

First, Atkins reported that a Posik regulator exploded sending shrapnel into his neck as he was attaching it to a SO bottle. Then a 7 Summits Club Sherpa showed his burned hand after a SO regulator caught fire. Finally today, Atkins passed on an email to his members using his product in conjunction with SOs that SO had a explosion last year back in the UK where they are based. These are the direct quotes:

  • I [Atkins] was injured testing a Poisk regulator in conjunction with a new Summit cylinder yesterday. I chose to use the new cylinder because it was a new introduction to climbers and it is delivered as being higher pressure than the Poisk cylinders.
  • Mingma Sherpa of Seven Summits earlier emailed the attached photos. While attaching a Summit regulator to a Poisk cylinder for the first time the regulator exploded.
  •  Neil greenwood of Summit Oxygen. He informs me [Atkins] that there was a similar incident last year which he feels was due to a seal. This only effects an older type of Summit regulator and there should only be a small number in circulation.

Atkins is working with SO’s Neil Greenwood to resolve the situation as follows:

I have just had a long chat with Neil greenwood of Summit Oxygen. He informs me that there was a similar incident last year which he feels was due to a seal. This only effects an older type of Summit regulator and there should only be a small number in circulation. Neil has asked me to help to remove these from circulation. I suspect that most equipment will now be at BC or en-route. I am happy to help to resolve any issues and advise when I get there. Summit have promised to replace these regs with new ones being shipped out from UK end of April. Asian Trekking will get them to me and I will take care of any exchange required. I hope this eases discomfort about this situation. Please contact me if you have doubts or would like advice. Meanwhile please take the extra precautions we advised: fit cylinder to reg with the gauge down, wear goggles, wear gloves. Thanks Ted.

I applaud Atkins for being transparent about these issues. I cannot confirm these claims but according to operators using SO bottles:

“the bottles are manufactured in the Czech Republic and come with the German TUV standard. The bottles have the same valves as the Poisk bottles and so the Poisk regulator can be interchangeably fitted on both bottles. According to the suppliers, the reason the new bottles are better is because they can contain higher pressures and so contain about 25 Bars more oxygen, which is almost an hour more oxygen at 2 liters per minute.  Also the bottles are solid construction instead of welded (Poisk) making them more robust. When empty, the British bottle is only 100grams heavier than the Poisk.”

I know that a few operators were hoping to use the SO system but also had Posik bottles as backups. Of note, most companies on Everest use Poisk bottles and regulators and TopOut masks. A few use their own designs such as IMG. There have been no incidents with any of these systems.

Climb On!
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  2 Responses to “Everest 2012: Oxygen Issues, EBC is Ready”


    Thanks to Greg and yourself for allowing us to see his photographs.Hope the oxygen bottle problem gets sorted satisfactorily sooner rather than later.


    Although I will never be able to climb those mountains, I will continue to climb Capitol Hill.