Leave aside climbing, even writing about such a vast subject is an everest of a write up…:)….but with my limited knowledge and my never ending interest and inquisitiveness I will try to pen down some words which I think over and over again…..
Into the Death Zone, at 25,000ft and above where human beings are not designed to survive because the surroundings and conditions do not permit so. Yes, we are talking about the edge of the Earth, the Third Pole, the roof of the world…..the highest peak and mother of all peaks in the world….Mount Everest, at 29,029 feet above sea level. Also known as Chomolungma in Nepal and 珠穆朗玛峰 (Zhūmùlǎngmǎ Fēng) in China, Everest is not just a mountain, it is the ultimate goal of human limits, human endurance with religious attachments and epic proportions of what human imaginations and fantasies can even reach. From my childhood, I have great interest and love for mountains in general, and hill stations are always my favourite destinations. But I have never even dreamed of even trying to go nearer to the great mountain, nor I know whether given a chance, I will even have the courage of doing so…..but the mere thought of attempting to climb this great mountain for once in my lifetime haunts me, attracts me all the times. And thus my deep interest in anything related to the top peaks of the world and their mysterious world…..a world which has been repeatedly challenged and conquered by brave men and women the world over and many who have laid their lives on the slopes of these towering massifs………….it’s mind boggling how seasoned mountaineers constantly defy their own records and are ready to go over and over again…..the rush is unavoidable….
Both from Tibet side and Nepal side, climbers attempt Everest, starting their final ascent from the base camp and then covering the various routes or calls as popularised by climbers before and the standards set by Sir Edmond Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, the first climbers to summit Everest. The south call route from the Nepal side is the most widely used route to attempt Everest, the north call from the Tibet being far more deadly and dangerous route to go through.
Many Climbers, writers, chroniclers, journalists have given their first hand views on Everest climbing for such a long time. I will concentrate to talk about a book written by journalist climber Jon Krakauer from his 1996 summit attempt with Adventure Consultants, is according to me an amazing first hand personal account of the entire Everest journey in such details and also the fact that he is one of the surviving members of this 1996 journey Team who’s majority of the members lost their lives in a deadly accident on the summit of Everest from a violent storm which hit them while on descent. This storm is said to be the deadliest to hit Everest in it’s history and the highest number of people, eight to be precise, died that day. Here’s a view of that Team from the 1996 expedition. Rob Hall, the chief of adventure consultants and an experienced Everest climber died that day too.
‘Men play at tragedy because they do not believe in the reality o the tragedy which is actually being staged in the civilised world’…………..Jose Ortega y Gasset.
Excerpts from Jon Krakauer’s book ‘Into thin Air'[which is now a major movie too in the name of Everest, as most of you might be knowing…:)]
Many writers and climbers have criticised this book for various reasons. But if you ask me personally, I think for anybody having any remote interest in the world’s most unattainable and dangerous expeditions, this book provides the reader with every bit of information connected with it from his personal travel experiences and also of the tragedy which struck him and his team members in 1996. I am just thrilled to read his book and recommend it highly to all of you, if you haven’t read it yet.
It is an amazing fact that an astronaut who survived space probe and came back to earth, ultimately laid his life on the north base camp on Everest on a scientific mission. The US astronaut Karl Gordon Henize was on a mission to Everest to study radiation, but came down with a fatal case of high-altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) in October 1993 and died at north base camp. At the time he was the oldest astronaut to have flown in space. He had a doctorate in astronomy. He died on 5 October 1993 and was buried on Mount Everest.
Such is the sheer danger of this climb, and Everest is merciless to anybody and always has the last word. Still, from time immemorial humans get attracted to this sheer magnitude of the challenge to conquer the 29,029 feet summit and successfully do so with sheer determination and motivation, apart from all technical support which had advanced from years on. The biggest challenges faced by Everest expeditioners is the ever moving Khumbu icefall just ahead of first base camp which every climber must pass in order to advance to second base camp….the highest number of people have died while crossing this dangerous Khumbu icefall.
In 2008, a new weather station at about 8,000 m altitude (26,246 feet) went online.The station’s first data in May 2008 were air temperature −17 °C (1 °F), relative humidity 41.3 percent, atmospheric pressure 382.1 hPa (38.21 kPa), wind direction 262.8°, wind speed 12.8 m/s (28.6 mph, 46.1 km/h), global solar radiation 711.9 watts/m2, solar UVA radiation 30.4 W/m2.The project was orchestrated by Stations at High Altitude for Research on the Environment (SHARE), which also placed the Mount Everest webcam in 2011.The solar-powered weather station is on the South Col.
One of the issues facing climbers is the frequent presence of high-speed winds. The peak of Mount Everest extends into the upper troposphere and penetrates the stratosphere, which can expose it to the fast and freezing winds of the jet stream.In February 2004 a wind speed of 280 km/h (175 mph) was recorded at the summit and winds over 160 km/h (100 mph) are common.These winds can blow climbers off Everest. Climbers typically aim for a 7- to 10-day windows in the spring and fall when the Asian monsoon season is either starting up or ending and the winds are lighter. The air pressure at the summit is about one-third what it is at sea level, and by Bernoulli’s principle, the winds can lower the pressure further, causing an additional 14 percent reduction in oxygen to climbers.The reduction in oxygen availability comes from the reduced overall pressure, not a reduction in the ratio of oxygen to other gases.
In the summer, the Indian monsoon brings warm wet air from the Indian Ocean to Everest’s south side. During the winter the west-southwest flowing jet stream shifts south and blows on the peak.
It takes courage, heartful of…..and the use of all your energy and training, determination and attitude to beat this mother of all journeys…..at the end of which the beauty of the mountains remain to be appreciated……Everest will stand guarding the Earth for generations to come, and humans will keep challenging it, living and dying of the dreams….in the blizzards, in the strong winds, in the freezing temperatures, in the avalanches, in the icefalls, on the Hillary step, along the Lhotse face……and the beauty will drive hapless romantics like me in search of the views, the feel….:)…..
‘I came here to climb Mt. Everest. I came here for the challenge, adventure and type of friendship that has become a mark of this place for me. On this expedition, I have had some of the best times of my life, laughing into the late hours with friends who were supporting each other’s goals. I have had some of the worst times — standing in front of those same friends to protect them from unexplainable violence and anger. Something shifted the balance for a moment. My only hope is that it shifts back quickly, and everyone can resume their jobs, their passion and their goal of climbing’.