May 22, 2012

"[B]asically hallucinating... he kind of reached out to me, kind of in a zombie-like fashion."

"At that point, there’s not a lot you can do for somebody that’s dying and frozen to death."

On Mount Everest, last Saturday, it was a "traffic jam" as 150 people tried to take advantage of a window of good weather. With the crowding, it took longer, and they hadn't carried enough oxygen. 4 died.

92 comments:

Original Mike said...

Traffic jams have become the biggest risk on the mountain.

Michael K said...

Read Krakauer's book, "Into Thin Air." There are far too many people there who have no business on that mountain. One of the most poignant stories in Krakauer's book is about the New Zealand guide who called his wife on his satellite phone to say goodbye after his client died and he had run out of oxygen to get down.

AJ Lynch said...

Perhaps that is where all our traffic has gone?

On a aerious note, I read the book, Into Thin Air, the great account of the disaster on Everest, when 8-10 people died.

I was surprised to learn that the mountain does get crowded and there are discarded, empty air tanks strewn all over the higher parts of Everest.

AJ Lynch said...

I see Michael K was a step ahead of me.

ndspinelli said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ndspinelli said...

MichaelK, Into Thin Air is a great read.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

I put these people on the same level of stupidity as those who go for extreme body piercings. Neither deserve any sympathy.

Amartel said...

Fifth on "Into Thin Air." Great read. One thing to note is that the air is quite thin, even at the last camp before the summit, and even experienced people tend to make bad decisions when deprived of oxygen, and not realize they are doing so. Plus, having climbed that far up and paid that much $, there is a strong motivation to go all the way.

Patrick said...

I think climbing Everest would be cool, but I am tired of the lionizing of those who have done it. These days, most who go there are little more than average climbers who have paid a lot of money for the experience of having some Nepalese sherpa lug their stuff to base camp, and then wait for an opening. It was a big deal when Edmund Hilary did it, thus giving a name to our Secretary of State (snicker). Now, it's a matter of the available cash and time for a vacation.

One comment from Krakauer's book stayed with me. He described most good climbers as having grown up climbing, or at least having spent years training, climbing, and learning. Now, a few weekends of lessons, and a lot of money can get you to the top of Everest.

It can also get you killed, and does, regularly.

Michael K said...

Into Thin Air describes lots of frozen bodies, some many years old, in the top zone. That's one reason it's called the death zone. A friend of mine, an anesthesiologist, spent several months in the lower zone of the mountain and told me how critical it is for people to spend some time and get acclimated. That is one reason for the cerebral edema, not enough time.

There is a book about the finding of Mallory. Interesting read.

Ron said...

One, if there already frozen stiff....why not ZombieBoard down the mountain on them?

Two, I actually have a board game about this... 'Assault on Mt. Everest'. I saw it -- and didn't buy it! -- in a camping goods store in 1976....but when I had a chance to get it in 2010, I had to take it!

Ron said...

Oops, "they're", not "there"

Lyle said...

I like that people are free to try and climb the mountain. If they die, they die. They chose to climb the mountain.

Rob said...

In the interest of scientific inquiry, we must ignore sentimentality about their deaths and consider the possibility that they did not merely act in zombie-like fashion but in fact became zombies. Occam's razor.

Original Mike said...

"I like that people are free to try and climb the mountain. If they die, they die. They chose to climb the mountain."

Me, too.

Rusty said...

Stupid people die in stupid ways.

PatCA said...

Yes, I was mesmerized by Into Thin Air. Great read. I then read Anatoli Boukreev's book, which was very angry about the new vogue of amateur climbers trying to top Everest. He thought it silly (and deadly) to try to be "the first" whatever to top Everest -- no respect for it as a dangerous sport.

Chip Ahoy said...

This hurts me right in the heart where my blood gets pumped around. It's how my best friend Fred died. My heart-squirting emotion was anger then and it still is now because Fred did know better and so did everybody hiking with him. He was a widely respected oncologist who knew exactly what he was doing and the side affects of the arthritis medication he was taking. Everybody knew that, even non doctors. It was a national news thing. Atheist. I did not go to his reception but apparently it was huge. At that time I was so angry that I regarded the hikers as murderers and I still kind of do. That happened right before I met you guys.

chickelit said...

...I wonder if bats hallucinate before they die of hypothermia...

Michael said...

The ethics of climbing have devolved considerably through the decades. At the outset it was a gentleman's sport with people, for the most part, acting properly. People in trouble were sent help. People went to extremes, risking themselves, to help others. Now, not so much. Note how the doctor describes the man, clearly still alive, as being frozen to death. Nothing to be done here.

Climbing these big mountains is a big test of will and physical stamina and strength. The ultra high mountains are not forgiving of mistakes.

RIP

Original Mike said...

"Note how the doctor describes the man, clearly still alive, as being frozen to death. Nothing to be done here."

There's ususally little that can be done. There's no way in hell you're carrying somebody else off that mountain.

Rick67 said...

A couple years ago did a lot of reading on the subject of climbing mountains above 8000m. What's fascinating and frightening is that Everest is *not* the most dangerous. There are some mountains where the fatality rate is quite higher.

It's one thing for people to die because of bad luck, or even bad decisions. But *crowding*? That's disturbing.

Chip Ahoy said...

Fred died in Colorado, I forgot to say, but somehow I keep imagining gondolas to Everest with a nice little alpine snack/coffee thing up there where you can get a hot chocolate for something like $225.00 like Vail.

Michael said...

Original Mike: Mostly true, although many climbers have been rescued when left for dead. A quick shot of amphetamine, a breath of oxygen, have revived many climbers enough to be assisted down from as high as the Hillary Step. Check out the story of Beck Weathers, the Dallas doctor who survived the 96 storm. The book "To the Last Breath" describes two people in dire trouble being revived from high on Everest.

Big Mike said...

I guess I'm the n-th person who read the phrase "traffic jam" and thought immediately of Krakauer's "Into Thin Air."

I agree with Lyle and Original that people ought to be free to risk their own lives, but the thought that they shelled out $60,000 for the privilege of climbing, money that their widows and orphans could use to get on with their lives, is saddening.

Michael said...

Chip Ahoy: Lots of doctors and physicists like the climbing life. I wonder if they feel a particularly strong ability to measure risk. I have met one person who climbed Everest. He died later in a helicopter crash. Danger is a magnet, a drug, to many.

Wally Kalbacken said...

You pays yer money and you takes your chances. As long as there is no chance of them falling off the side of the mountain and hitting me (and in S. FL I think I'm safe), then I say give it your best shot!

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Every year there are several morons who go climbing on a nearby glacier clad mountain (14,179 feet only...No where as tall as Everest. Makes the Everest people twice as stupid) and get stuck, not even hurt....just stuck. The rescue patrols have to go out and save their butts and it not only puts other people in danger trying to save their asses, it costs an arm and a leg to mobilize. Cost which is born by the local people, who have more sense than to go and climb a mountain.

Usually, the tourons (retarded tourists) are not prepared, go when a storm is coming, have no idea what they are doing and think that the wilderness is Disneyland. Rarely is it anyone who is experienced or sane.

Dopes.

Michael K said...

"the story of Beck Weathers, the Dallas doctor who survived the 96 storm."

He lost both arms, as I recall, but it is an amazing feat to survive that.

There are many fatalities on Mount Hood, mostly due to poor preparation. You don't have to spend all that money and go that far. I remember one sad story about a woman trapped on Mount Hood in a storm. She had a nursing baby. Her husband dug them a snow cave and went for help. He got back and found the baby fine but the mother dead. She had kept nursing and died of hypothermia from the heat loss.

CWJ said...

I have little patience for John Krakauer. Into Thin Air is self serving blame shifting claptrap. But everyone's read it, so John's version is the established narrative. Someone else described Boukreev's account as "angry," and I suppose it is. But if you're a true mountaineer, having your professionalism and commitment questioned by a poseur like Krakauer, perhaps you too might have a chip on your shoulder.

That said, Krakauer did reveal the central ugly truth about Everest. It is not a technically difficult climb. So combined with being the tallest place on earth, there will always be enough amateurs with much more money than brains insisting on the right to climb it.

I have no sympathy whatsoever for what may befall them. Those they leave behind, and those who have to care for their self-inflicted infirmities are another matter.

Q said...

Those of you who liked "Into Thin Air" and have Amazon Prime or Netflix might like to check out "Touching The Void", probably the best mountaineering movie/survival story ever to hit the big screen.

Original Mike said...

@Michael: I'm familiar with Beck Weathers. He is very lucky to be alive.

I agree that, if there is something to be done, it's noble to try. I'm just very non-judgemental of people in that situation. It's often all you can do to haul your own ass out of danger. Everybody climbing knew the risk going in.

Amartel said...

How embarrassing, expiring on Mt. Shasta. The "tourons" probably think it's easy because it looks easy and it is, by comparison to Rainier for example, which is only a few feet higher but several hundred miles to the north and worlds away in terms of difficulty. Still, things are different up above timberline, whatever latitude you're at.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

I remember one sad story about a woman trapped on Mount Hood in a storm. She had a nursing baby.

See!!! What kind of a moron goes mountain climbing with a nursing baby. Or a baby of any kind???

In a storm too. No weather reports available? Yes. I know a sudden storm can arise without warning.

I bet these are the kinds of people who drive a Pious, shop at Whole Foods for organic veggies, would never dream of not having the very best most safety conscious baby paraphernalia and always always use their seat belts.

Morons.

dreams said...

Someone may already have mentioned it but the 42 year founder of Intrade died last year on Everest, such a waste, in my opinion.

Original Mike said...

Not every body wants to sit home in their rocking chair.

Michael K said...

"Not every body wants to sit home in their rocking chair."

I agree. Some kid recently said to me, surprising me, "you've had an interesting life." I guess I have, sailing to Hawaii and all but I don't think having some guide drag my ass to the summit of Everest is a qualifying experience. This is ego candy; that's all. If you have been climbing all your life, maybe, but most of these folks just have too much money for their own good.

Like buying a Lamborghini and driving it 200 mph on the freeway. What the hell is that about ?

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Not every body wants to sit home in their rocking chair.

Yah. But if you fall out of your rocking chair it doesn't cost thousands and thousands of dollars to pick you up or put other people in danger for their lives trying to get your butt back into the chair.

Personally, I don't give a flying eff if people want to kill themselves on mountains, hang gliding, parachuting, whatever. Attrition. Culling the herd. Darwin's laws in action. Just don't expect everyone else to pick up after you and pay your tab.

If you want to experience danger and get an adrenalin high, post a bond so when we have to scrape you up it is on YOUR pocket book.

Shanna said...

See!!! What kind of a moron goes mountain climbing with a nursing baby.

That does seem kind of insane.

Some people want to do something just because it is there. I can respect that, but it does seem like cheating to pay 60k and a sherpa. It doesn't seem like you should be going somewhere on land when you need an oxygen tank to live. That's a bit much.

Give me somewhere you can get in a few hours with a pretty view and I'll be perfectly happy.

jimbino said...

Funny,

All those Everest climbers will be fully insured under Obamacare, assuming they are paying the premiums. They will, of course, have to continue to pay Obamacare premiums during the months they are in Nepal or they will be subject to a fine. Never mind that there is no Obamacare available in Nepal.

If they die, they will be lucky. If they only get seriously injured, there will be no Obamacare treatment available.

They will have to pay again for medical treatment there in Nepal or India or they will have to rely on the kindness of strangers.

victoria said...

If it is a contest between you and Everest, duh, the mountain wins every time.


Vicki from Pasadand

CWJ said...

Jimbino,

What?!?!?!?!?!

1. None of the four confirmed dead idiots was an American.

2. Can we have even one comment thread that does not invoke Obama or Walker?

AprilApple said...

I think it's a shame what is happening to that mountain in the name of the ego.

Original Mike said...

"Just don't expect everyone else to pick up after you and pay your tab."

I agree, of course.

Michael said...

"I think it's a shame what is happening to that mountain in the name of the ego."


What is happening to the mountain other thsn the trash on it. Removable trash.

Icepick said...

What is happening to the mountain other thsn the trash on it. Removable trash.

No one is going to remove the trash. It is far too difficult to reach. Typically those that die near the summit are left where they die.

Paul Zrimsek said...

"Altogether, 14 expeditions were at his heels."

Jason said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kj4RHYJdcE4

Lady Franklin's Lament. For another adventurer.

The great version by Michael O'Domnhaill, Triona Ni Domnhaill, Kevin Burke and Donal Lunny. One of my favorite love songs and expressions of loss ever.

AprilApple said...

Who is removing the trash and the oxygen tanks?

Original Mike said...

"No one is going to remove the trash. It is far too difficult to reach."

Wrong. Capitalism and self-interest is cleaning the mountain. They pay sherpas a bounty for empty canisters they bring back. Reports are the level of trash is going down (it's not zero by any means, but decreasing is better than increasing).

Chip Ahoy said...

Although saddened by this story, my favorite part is where they named Hillary Rodham after Sir Edmund Hillary.

Roger J. said...

New candidates for the darwin award--good riddance--four less idiots in the world who might otherwise breed.

AprilApple said...

Chip you have it backwards. Sir Edmund Hillary was named after Hillary Clinton.

carrie said...

This link is to a blog post by a member of this year's National Geographic's Everest Expedition was interesting. I posted this link another day when someone mentioned the "me" generation, but it probably is more pertinent to this topic: http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/everest/blog/2012-05-14/what-nobody-talks-about

Kirk Parker said...

April,

Ah! The story about naming never made sense the other way.

pj (lowercase) said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
PatCA said...

CWJ, I referenced Boukreev's book and I didn't mean to sound like I disagreed with him. On the contrary, I thought the people in Into Thin Air were reckless and stupid, and agreed totally with Boukreev.

If you don't want to "die in a rocking chair," don't get married and have kids and even bring your babies with you on your so-called adventures!

JAL said...

Hubby and I listened to "Into Thin Air" while driving somewhere years ago. Chilling. No pun intended.

One thing about Weathers -- everyone thought he was dead and he was left for dead. Then he got up, IIRC, and walked into camp?

I knew someone whose ex was an Everest mountaineer. He was part of the crew years back (10?) that started the move to clean up the mountain.

As for interest in Everest ... we recently listened to (and then got the book out of the library to check out the maps) Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of Everest. (Things you probably never knew about WWI.)

A rather exhautive (<-- understatement) look at the why and how and what the h*ll leading up to the climbing of Everest.

For the history geeks among us.

Brits are insane.

Pogo said...

"...the awful thing is that if you're really saying that it's necessary to take everybody to Everest, it's really tough! Because everybody can't be taken to Everest! I mean, there must have been periods in history when it would have been possible to "save the patient" through less drastic measures. I mean, there must have been periods when in order to give people a strong or meaningful experience you wouldn't actually have to take them to Everest!"

JAL said...

I think it's up to 7 dead?

bagoh20 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
William said...

The story about the nursing mother is disturbing. It's one thing for you to want to climb a mountain but to take your infant along for the ride is another matter. This borders on child abuse. Stlll one must respect the woman's technical proficiency.

bagoh20 said...

Besides, I hate waiting in line. If I was waiting to summit Everest and had to risk my life to wait in line, there would have been a lot more fatalities that day. I might have ended up as the sole survivor.

Pogo said...

@william
What gets left out of the story is that the mother was attachment nursing, so the kid was like 10 years old.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Stlll one must respect the woman's technical proficiency

Not really. If she were so fabulously proficient, she wouldn't be dead in such an idiotic way. There is absolutely nothing to admire about this stupid woman.

At least the child survived. Hope he/she has a smarter stepmother now.

bagoh20 said...

A friend of mine who is a Paraglider pilot died last week on the top of our local mountain site. He had just inflated his wing and was about to take off when he just collapsed of a heart attack. He was 69, and I know he loved going out that way. I would too, although I would rather be in the air at the time and somewhere I wouldn't do any damage when I eventually came down.

Hang gliding and paragliding is nowhere near as dangerous as climbing Everest, but it is very life affirming and a glorious sport to enjoy. I would be very disappointed if I was forced to give it up due to illness or just fear. So, I appreciate the value of taking such risks for excitement and experience, but climbing Everest does not seem like the same life affirming kind of activity. It seems more like simply paying to take a huge risk that is tedious work to actually do, painful, exhausting, and freaking cold too. and you are completely dependent on others to succeed. I just don't get the attraction. It's does not sound enjoyable or rewarding beyond the ego thing. I mean, would you take that risk if nobody would ever know you did it? I think if people couldn't brag about it, a lot less people would want to do it.

Petunia said...

You're correct, JAL, Beck Weathers was left for dead. But he got up on his own, had the presence of mind to walk in the correct direction, and got back to camp on his own. The next day he actually walked down to the next camp almost entirely under his own power, and actually made jokes on the way. A truly heroic Nepalese helicopter pilot made two trips to the camp to evacuate him and another climber.

What are people's thoughts on the teenager who decided to walk past warning signs and wade/swim above a huge waterfall and had to crouch on a ledge for hours before rescuers got to him? Apparently his father, who failed to stop him from going in the river, didn't call his ex-wife, the kid's mom, until the kid was safe.

Rusty said...

The first guy that did it. That's the guy with the big pair of nuts. Everybody that comes after? Not so much. With these people it's a status thing. The "I climbed Everest" trophy they can shove in other peoples faces.
Well. The gene pool is better off.

Petunia said...

Amazing how Hillary Rodham's parents had the prescience to name her after Edmund Hillary six years before he climbed Everest!

AJ Lynch said...

DBQ said:

"Driving a Pious".

Heh- was that a Fordian slip!

AJ Lynch said...

Q:

Touching the Void- I will check it out cause I enjoy adventure tales and flicks. Thanks

bagoh20 said...

"didn't call his ex-wife, the kid's mom, until the kid was safe.

Unless it looked hopeless, I think I would do the same. I would hate to put the mother through all that fear and anxiety for nothing, but four hours, I don't know. That's asking for a beat down when you get home.

Methadras said...

Lyle said...

I like that people are free to try and climb the mountain. If they die, they die. They chose to climb the mountain.


The ultimate in meritocracy. No pussy self-esteemer will be running up there to hand you a trophy if you lose so they can make you feel good about it.

Methadras said...

William said...

The story about the nursing mother is disturbing. It's one thing for you to want to climb a mountain but to take your infant along for the ride is another matter. This borders on child abuse. Stlll one must respect the woman's technical proficiency.


This just proves that there is no dignity in death. Period.

Titus said...

Donald Driver won Dancing With The Stars!

Swede said...

I find it fitting that so many bodies are left on that mountain.

Frozen tributes to their stupidity.

CWJ said...

PatCA

A bit late, but if you're still there, gotcha. Were on the same page.

MadisonMan said...

What are people's thoughts on the teenager who decided to walk past warning signs and wade/swim above a huge waterfall and had to crouch on a ledge for hours before rescuers got to him?

Teenagers aren't known for wisdom in decisions. Not sure where the Dad was when the decision was made.

I wouldn't have called the Mom either.

LakeLevel said...

Doing something that might be dangerous and slightly beyond your ablilities in order to become a better person should be a personal private experience. There are a million places and things to do on Earth for this. Everest is for show offs.

Michael K said...

"The story about the nursing mother is disturbing. It's one thing for you to want to climb a mountain but to take your infant along for the ride is another matter. This borders on child abuse. Stlll one must respect the woman's technical proficiency."

As I recall that story, they were just hiking, not climbing. A sudden storm caught them out. Hypothermia is no joke.

The Drill SGT said...

MadisonMan said...
Teenagers aren't known for wisdom in decisions. Not sure where the Dad was when the decision was made.


read an interesting comment the other day, it went like this. Teenage males must be allowed to participate in organized risky activities. (the context here was skin diving), else, they will participate in unorganized risky behaviors

better to let your kid skin dive, white water, rappell, etc, than have him drag racing the family mustang on the local highway.

Lem said...

Google has the coolest doodle tonight.

A working minimoog synthesizer.

bagoh20 said...

"better to let your kid skin dive, white water, rappell, etc, than have him drag racing the family mustang on the local highway"

It seems so. The young men I have known who participate in risky sports do tend to not have a need for crime and other similar risky behavior. Still risky, but vastly preferable, and as you say, it's impossible if not unhealthy to try and prevent them from seeking it somehow.

madAsHell said...

The last mountain I climbed had a chair lift, and the trip down the mountain was a blast.

...and then I did it again!!

Tank said...

Titus said...
Donald Driver won Dancing With The Stars!

Only because none of the World
Champion New York Football Giants competed.

Well, just sayin.

MadisonMan said...

Google has the coolest doodle tonight.

Maybe. But I'm not updating my browser so I can see it.

Sorry google.

DADvocate said...

It's been mentioned a couple of times already, but the Beck Weathers' story, told in Left for Deac gives an intense accounting of the deadliness of Everest, plus the lure of climbing. The writing is average, but the story compelling.

DADvocate said...

That should be "Left for Dead."

Peter said...

I think I preferred the way things were before there were satellite phones, when video and other electronic equipment (and their batteries) were too heavy and bulky to hump up the mountain.

Whether or not there are crowds, somehow I could do without the instant blogging and photos and whatnot and just wait for climbers to get themselves down carrying only their personal paper journals.

Is the mountaneering experience truly enhanced by all this instant electronic connectivity (let alone the ability to have a last chat with your wife as you freeze to death)?

carrie said...
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carrie said...

If you are interest in the 1996 disaster, the 1996 IMAX film about Everest is currently on Netflix and is about the triumph and tragedy of climbing Everest. It just happened to be filmed during the 1996 disaster, so it covers that. But it also shows Ed Viesturs climbing Everest, and that is breathtaking to watch. If you read Into Thin Air, remember that Krakauer was spinning his role in the disaster and, as someone else suggested, you also should read Bourkeev's book, The Climb, for the other side of the story. Also, Matt Dickinson's book about Everest in 1996 is a good read too, although he was climbing on the other side of the mountain from Kraukauer so he has no new insight into the disaster on the south side of the mountain that year.

James Graham said...

The loss of lives will cause their families to suffer for decades and for what reason?

What's to prove?

People who think boxing ought to be banned need to look at this stupid activity.


Everest climbers are selfish idiots.