Supplies
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  • Crampons - a cleat-like attachment to boots, giving the climber significantly more traction when climbing a snowy mountain.
  • Supplemental Oxygen Tanks - vital for most climbers at high-altitudes, especially over 26,000 feet. The tanks do not provide a flow of oxygen comparable to that of sea level, but rather they simply provide enough oxygen to sustain the climber and give him or her the amount of oxygen he or she is acclimatized to.
  • Satellite Phones - necessary to communicate with the outside world, including family around the world. Satellite phones are also used in emergency situations, such as calling in a rescue helicopter.
  • Short Wave Radios - permit team members to communicate with one another while on the mountain. Climbing can be fairly spread out, while wind and snowdrift can be noisy and extremely difficult to speak over. The radios make communication possible.
  • Food - For the most part, food consists of products that are cooked simply by heating in their containers. Most food remains frozen while climbing the mountain due to extremely low temperatures; therefore, all food is heated with a of some sort inside a tent.
  • Heating Supplies - critical for cooking food and providing climbers with water. Water is not carried up the mountain, as water is available everywhere in the form of snow. The snow is heated and the produced water is purified, giving climbers an essentially unlimited water supply. Water is absolutely critical on the mountain, as the extremely dry air and frequent coughing causes constant dehydration. Climbers consume multiple liters of water each day.
  • Harnesses and Ropes - prevents the climbers from falling off of mountain sides and steep cliffs.
  • Clothing - any exposed skin is likely to become frostbitten, so profuse amounts of clothing must be worn to insulate the climbers.
    • Boots - a good pair of boots that insulate even at high-altitudes are essential to prevent frostbite in the toes.
    • Multiple Layers of Coats - multiple layers wonderfully insulate the climber, keeping him or her warm throughout the climb. If the climber becomes too warm, it is easy to remove particular layers of clothing while still staying warm.
    • Gloves and Hats - Without a good pair of gloves, frostbite would occur rapidly at such high altitudes and under such frigid temperatures. Also, the majority of body heat is lost through the head, so a warm hat that surrounds the entire head is extremely important.
  • Goggles - snowdrift and wind makes it difficult for a climber to open his or her eyes; therefore, goggles are essential to protect the climber's eyes and to allow the climber to see (at least somewhat) on the mountain--snow blindness is also a risk.
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  • Booking a Guide
    • Cost to be a client on Adventure Consultants in 1996: $65,000
    • Obviously, this can be very expensive; however, you cannot put a price on your life! It is better to be safe than sorry.
  • Training
    • Being in good shape significantly increases a climber's chances of surviving the dangerous climb up Mount Everest.
    • Though physical fitness is important to surviving the expedition, luck also plays a major factor.
  • Acclimatization
    • Base Camps
      • When climbing Everest, climbers do not focus solely on reaching the summit. Rather, they set smaller goals for themselves, such as reaching the next base camp. Everest is divided into sections. The lowest point, ironically at a whopping 17000 feet, is known as base camp. There are four other camps on the mountain prior to the summit, aptly named Camp I, Camp II, Camp III, and Camp IV. When the climbers reach each camp, they spend some time acclimatizing (getting used to the minute amount of oxygen in the air) before moving on. This can be a very lengthy process; however, it is necessary to help prevent many of the health risks listed below.
  • Summitting
    • Obviously, reaching the summit of Mount Everest is every climber's goal from the very beginning of the trek. However, it is critical that climbers do not compromise their safety to reach the summit. Climbing groups set a particular turn-around time when summitting Everest to ensure that they will be able to make it back to the lower base camp. During Krakauer's expedition, a turn-around time of 2:00 PM was established on summit day, meaning that all climbers would have to turn around and return to base camp at that time, regardless of whether or not they had actually reached the summit. Unfortunately, this turn-around time was not enforced during Krakauer's expedition, leading to the deaths of many climbers. These climbers were not necessarily physically unfit; however, they made a poor decision by not observing this critical turn-around time.


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Health Risks

  • Altitude Sickness
    • The air's depletion in oxygen can cause significant mental and physical problems among climbers. Despite taking significant amounts of time to acclimatize to different levels of oxygen, the effects of altitude sickness are still obvious. Climbers become easily disoriented and extremely fatigued; for example, one climber during Krakauer's expedition was convinced that fresh oxygen tanks were empty simply due to confusion as a result of altitude sickness. This altitude sickness can also cause numerous other problems, as seen below.
  • Frostbite
    • The extremely frigid, bone-chilling air quickly freezes any exposed flesh. For this reason, climbers cover every part of their body using the equipment mentioned above. Frostbitten flesh needs to be amputated after the expedition, as the flesh cannot be resuscitated. One member of Krakauer's team was particularly affected by severe frostbite.
  • High Altitude Pulmonary Edema and High Altitude Cerebral Edema
    • Both diseases are potentially lethal and result from climbing too high too quickly. With HAPE, fluid enters the lungs, making breathing difficult and eventually impossible. Under normal circumstances, fluid in the lungs is still a problem; however, when oxygen is scarce to begin and breathing is difficult to impossible, death becomes probable. With HACE, swelling occurs in the brain and causes disorientation, nausea, vomiting, hallucinations, and other problems associated with brain disfunction. Eventually, coma can occur unless the affected climber is brought down to a much lower altitude. Unfortunately, both disorders affected different members of Krakauer's climbing team.
  • Other Complications
    • Various other complications can impede climbing progress. For example, the air on Everest is so dry that it causes frequent coughing. Krakauer himself suffered from two separated ribs from coughing so violently. Other complications can include sunburn from being at such a high altitude, as well as hypothermia from the extreme cold on Everest