It used to be thought that it would be physiologically impossible to climb Mount Everest with or without oxygen. In 1953 Hillary and Tenzing proved that it was possible to reach the summit with oxygen and in 1978 Messner and Habeler demonstrated it was possible without oxygen.
Although Everest has not changed, and we now have a better understanding of acclimatisation, improved climbing equipment, and established routes, it would therefore seem logical that climbing Everest might have become an altogether less deadly activity.
However, this year the unofficial body count on Mount Everest has reached 15, the most since the disaster of 1996 when 16 people died, eight in one night following an unexpected storm.
The death rate on Mount Everest has not changed over the years, with about one death for every 10 successful ascents. For anyone who reaches the summit, they have about a 1 in 20 chance of not making it down again.
So why are there so many people dying on Mount Everest? And more importantly, can we reduce this number?
The main reasons for people dying while climbing Mount Everest are injuries and exhaustion. However, there is also a large proportion of climbers who die from altitude related illness, specifically from high altitude cerebral oedema (HACE) and high altitude pulmonary oedema (HAPE).
This year, the author was on the north side of Everest as the doctor on the Everestmax expedition (www.everestmax.com) and was shocked by both the amount of altitude related illness and the relative lack of knowledge among people attempting Everest.
He writes: "On our summit attempt we were able to help with HAPE at 7000 metres, but higher up the mountain we passed four bodies of climbers who had been less fortunate. The last body we encountered was of a Frenchman who had reached the summit four days earlier but was too exhausted to descend. His best friend had tried in vain to get him down the mountain, but they had descended only 50 metres in six hours and he had to abandon him."
"Some people believe that part of the reason for the increase in deaths is the number of inexperienced climbers, who pay large sums of money to ascend Everest," he says. "In my view, climbers are not climbing beyond their ability but instead beyond their altitude ability. Unfortunately it is difficult to get experience of what it is like climbing above Camp 3 (8300 metres) without climbing Everest. Climbers invariably do not know what their ability above 8300 metres is going to be like."
He suggests that climbers need to think less about 'the climb' and more about their health on the way up.
No matter what the affliction, whether it be HACE, HAPE, or just exhaustion, the result is invariably the same – the climber starts to climb more slowly, he explains. If you are too slow this means that something is wrong and your chances of not making it off the mountain are greatly increased. But with the summit in sight this advice is too often ignored.
When the author visited the French consulate in Kathmandu to confirm the Frenchman's death, the consul, not a climbing or an altitude expert, shook his head and said, "He didn't reach the summit until 12.30; that is a 14 hour climb – it is too long."
Emma Dickinson | EurekAlert!
Smart Data Transformation – Surfing the Big Wave
02.12.2016 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Informationstechnik FIT
Climate change could outpace EPA Lake Champlain protections
18.11.2016 | University of Vermont
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering
02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy