Monday, May 21, 2012

Death on Mt. Everest (audio)

Madeleine Brand Show (KPCC/; AP; Wisdom Quarterly

Three mountain climbers died and two others remain missing after attempting to descend from the summit of Mt. Everest over the weekend.
The deaths have caused many to question as to why so many are allowed to attempt to climb to the world's tallest peak.
About 150 climbers tried to reach the peak of Sagarmatha, as it is known in Nepal, or Chomolungma in Tibet (called Everest by the West), as they rushed to use a brief window of good weather, according to the Associated Press.
Many had been waiting at a camp for several days for their chance to head to the summit. But the good weather brought extra climbers and created a traffic jam; "climbers had a longer wait for their chance to go up the trail and spent too much time at higher altitude. Many of them are believed to be carrying a limited amount of oxygen, not anticipating the extra time spent,'' Nepali mountaineering official Gyanendra Shrestha said.
A study published in the British Medical Journal in 2006 stated that, on average, there had been one death for every 10 successful attempts to scale the mountain. LISTEN
  • Ed Viesturs -- the country's foremost high-altitude mountaineer and the only American to reach the summits of all of the world's 14 24,000+ foot peaks without supplemental oxygen -- visits with Madeleine.
Training for our Himalayan ascent
Wisdom Quarterly
Layer clothes to survive wintry hikes (Michel Bazin/
Wisdom Quarterly will train for a Himalayan ascent. This is how editors will do it with only suburban materials, no budget, and our coach from Tibet Nepal House:

We will bundle up in as many layers as possible, which is far more than practical. Then we will turn on the air conditioning full blast. Wearing skiing goggles and carrying walking sticks, we will then waddle up and down the stairs tied to a partner. Repeat 1,000 times. 

The first thing to expect is finding ourselves alone in a virtual Insein Prison between our ears. This is where having a Sherpa would come in handy. What we do with the mind has more to do with reaching the summit than physical fitness.

Then lay down for a fitful bout of sleep on one of the steps contemplating the arduous fact hat there are no toilets in "low altitude space," which is what Sagarmatha is. We must stay hydrated and give no mind to mind the blisters, which are easy to tolerate by contemplating: "At least it's not frostbite."

Somewhere between collapsing and figuring out a way not to fog up the goggles, we will focus wholeheartedly on the breath. We will make it a walking meditation. When arriving at "base camp" (500 flights), we read Climbing Everest by flashlight or practice making cryptic journal entries:
  • Night 1. Think pulled hamstring getting on Gore tex boots.
  • Wish learned to still this monkey mind with Flatlanders.
  • Cat almost killed me on steps. Next time put out cat.
  • Could swear saw yeti. Maybe was spouse yelling about A/C.

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