The Science Behind Why Climbing Mount Everest Is A Non-Stop Horror Show

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Everest has always been a dangerous place, and 2016 has just seen its first deaths of the climbing season. Since last Thursday, Everest has claimed four lives, and two people remain missing.

A 25-year-old named Phurbu Sherpa fell while trying to fix a route just 150 meters below Everest’s summit on Thursday. Eric Arnold of the Netherlands died on Friday while coming back from the summit–a heart attack is suspected. Maria Strydom of Australia died somewhere between Camp IV and the summit on Saturday after a rescue attempt to reach her failed. And Subash Paul died of altitude illness at Base Camp II on Sunday. Two of his teammates have been missing since Saturday are still unaccounted for, according to CNN.

Whenever these first deaths of the season happen–and they inevitably do–it’s easy to say that Everest just isn’t what it used to be. Many of those who perish are a part of the guiding industry–either clients, Western guides or Sherpas–that have overtaken the mountain in recent decades. Some might say that Everest was once was the zenith of exploration, and today it’s a circus of guided groups, frozen bodies and undecomposed human waste. And while it’s true that the experience of climbing Everest has changed dramatically, many of the challenges involved in an ascent remain the same. Here’s the science behind why Everest is such a dangerous and deadly place:

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via Forbes

What happens to your body on Mount Everest

“Human beings aren’t built to function at the cruising altitude of a 747,” the voice in the trailer for the film “Everest” warns. “Our bodies will be literally dying.”

The film "Everest" follows two expeditions to summit the peak in 1996.

It’s Rob Hall, played by actor Jason Clarke, as he prepares to lead an expedition up the world’s highest peak. The film, also starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Josh Brolin, is based on a 1996 climb, when eight people died during a blizzard. This particular journey is well known: Its horrifying details were chronicled in Jon Krakauer’s bestselling book, “Into Thin Air.”
But is that sensational Hollywood warning about bodies “literally dying” on Everest true? Those who’ve been there say yes.
With its peak at 29,029 feet, the mountain presents an intense challenge of icy temperatures and altitude where oxygen is limited. It’s not a hospitable place for any living thing, and people’s bodies begin to shut down. In 2016, four people have died on Everest in the span of four days, including a Sherpa, while two others have gone missing.
“Everest is a mountain of extremes,” said Jon Kedrowski, a geographer and climber. “At altitude, the body deteriorates on a certain level.”
Kedrowski summited Mount Everest in 2012, another brutal year on the mountain, when overcrowding combined with a dangerous weather pattern to strand climbers in the “death zone” below the summit. Ten people died.
Still, year after year, Everest draws those willing to study and train for the mountain’s rigors — and willing to take the risk.

Preparing for the climb

One of the first steps for anyone considering an Everest trek should be consulting with a physician to evaluate physical health. It’s also a way to discover any pre-existing conditions that might be amplified by high altitude, Kedrowski said.
If Kedrowski is leading a peak expedition, he screens his clients and designs training programs to help them prepare for the journey. When altitude is a consideration, cardio is the emphasis, rather than strength, Kedrowski said.
The elevation at Everest Base Camp is 17,590 feet, an altitude that decreases oxygen by about 50%. Before attempting a May summit, Kedrowski recommends arriving at base camp toward the beginning of April to acclimatize for a few weeks.
Previously, it was suggested that people arrive as early March, but 10 weeks, rather than five or six, can result in a loss of body mass, strength and endurance, Kedrowski said. This can make the climb more dangerous, or even impossible.
Well aware of the dangerous medical conditions and injuries that can happen on Everest, Dr. Luanne Freer founded the Everest Base Camp Medical Clinic in 2003. Physicians with mountaineering medical expertise and volunteers staff the medical tent during each climbing season.
On average, they treat 500 people between April 1 and the end of May for everything from high-altitude cough and acute mountain sickness to frostbite and high-altitude pulmonary or cerebral edema. They also treat multiple sprained or broken ankles due to the rocky terrain.

What can happen on Everest

High-altitude cough and acute mountain sickness are common ailments among Everest climbers. Mountain sickness results in headaches and shortness of breath, but can be managed by ascending no more than 1,000 feet a day, Kedrowski said.
No one is immune to high-altitude cough, Freer said. It may sound innocuous, but the cough results from breathing at an elevated rate in cold air at high altitude, which can dry out the lining of the lungs and cause it to crack. People have been known to break ribs with this cough, Freer said.
Climbers know to expect the shock of excessively cold temperatures and the possibility of frostbite as they ascend Everest, but they might not be prepared for the other extreme: heat. On Everest, the snow and ice act as a giant reflector for the sun’s glare. The potential for sunburn is particularly great in the Khumbu Icefall and the Western Cwm, near base camp, where daytime temperatures can reach 90 degrees Fahrenheit during climbing season, Kedrowski said.
Climbers also risk high-altitude pulmonary edema and high-altitude cerebral edema, known as HAPE and HACE, Freer said. They’re more likely higher up the mountain, in low-oxygen situations, when the body also reacts by creating pressure and excess fluid — in this case, on the lungs or brain.
Climbers can have a range of symptoms, from extreme fatigue and shallow breathing to dizziness and coughing up blood. The lack of oxygen to the brain, called hypoxia, can cause people to make poor, rash and sometimes deadly decisions in the confusing landscape.
The best and quickest treatment is for climbers to descend to a lower altitude, although many can’t do this on their own and must be helped or carried.

Eating to live

Food plays a major role in how someone’s body reacts to being on Everest. Digestion slows as climbers reach higher altitudes until the intestine becomes hypoxic and can’t send nutrients to the muscles, Freer said.
Kedrowski recommends small meals before ascending to different camps. Consuming too much food at once will send all of the blood toward the stomach to aid in digestion, which could redirect it from other imperative functions of the body at altitude.
At higher altitudes, the body begins craving more sugars and it becomes harder to digest protein. Kedrowski and his fellow climbers usually rely on plain noodles, canned vegetables and meats, rice and beans, soups and snacks like trail mix, chocolate, cookies and crackers.
Climbers rely on melting snow for water, which can also come with its own set of problems. As Everest’s popularity has increased, the number of climbers rises each year. This has created an accumulation of trash and human waste on the mountain. As a result, there are bacteria in some of the snow melt used by climbers, which can cause diarrhea.

Coming back to life

Freer and Kedrowski recommend following up with a physician after an Everest trek, especially if a climber encountered a medical issue. Many experience complications after frostbite and edemas can create scar tissue. Should a person choose to climb Everest again or tackle another similar feat, they’re more susceptible to those conditions in the future and could even die, Kedrowski said.
Join the conversation

But he understands why people strive for the achievement. When he reached the summit amid nearly impossible conditions in 2012, Kedrowski felt accomplished to stand on top of the world — and relieved that he could descend and go home.

For those still dreaming of the ultimate height, Freer has some advice: “Be prepared for the ultimate stress test.”
via CNN

2 climbers die on way down Everest

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Two climbers who reached the summit of Mount Everest died on the way down from apparent altitude sickness, according to reports.

Eric Arnold, whose Twitter account said he was from Rotterdam, reached the summit on his fifth attempt. He was in a group of more than 40 climbers who reached the 29,035-foot summit on Friday, according to Reuters.

Employees of the Seven Summit Treks agency in Kathmandu told reporters that Arnold died at Camp IV and had been suffering from weakness and frost bite.

Hours later, another member of the expedition team, Australian climber Maria Strydom, died after showing signs of altitude sickness, the Associated Press reported.

Their deaths were the first confirmed this year on Everest. It was still undecided when and if their bodies would be brought down from the high altitude and it would depend on the team and family members.

The last tweet on his account was Friday and included a picture of him in full gear and an oxygen mask and, translated from Dutch, read “Mountaineer Eric Arnold reached top Mount Everest at fifth attempt.”

Strydom, a finance lecturer at Monash University’s business school in Melbourne, was attempting to climb the seven summits of the world with her husband, according to the AP. She had already climbed Denali in Alaska, Aconcagua in Argentina, Mount Ararat in Turkey and Kilamanjaro in Kenya.

Two of Arnold’s previous attempts to climb Mount Everest, in 2014 and 2015,  were cut short by deadly earthquakes, according to The Himalayan Times.

Arnold had told a local Dutch television station last year that climbing Mount Everest was a childhood dream, the Associated Press reported.

“I used to have a poster of Mount Everest above my bed,” he said.

via USA Today

Everest triumph and tragedy as Australian teen summits but compatriot dies

everestA Queensland teenager’s feat in becoming the youngest Australian to climb Everest has been thrown into stark relief by the death of a compatriot on the same day.

Alyssa Azar, 19, reached the summit on Saturday, making her the youngest Australian to conquer the world’s highest mountain.

On the same day, Dr Maria Strydom, a finance lecturer at Monash University in Melbourne and experienced climber, reportedly died of altitude sickness as she made her way down after reaching the top. A Dutch climber has also died of altitude sickness while another Australian has been injured.

Strydom, 34, fell ill on Saturday afternoon while moving between camps on her descent from the summit, according to Seven Summit Treks board director Pasang Phurba Sherpa. She had been undertaking the climb while travelling in Nepal with her husband, Rob Gropel, who was also injured and being assisted down the moutnain.

“After reaching the summit yesterday she said she was feeling very weak and suffering from a loss of energy … signs of altitude sickness,” Pasang Phurba Sherpa said.

Dutch mountaineer Eric Arnold died on Friday, Sherpa said, with altitude sickness blamed in both cases. “A Dutchman died [on Friday] and an Australian died [on Saturday],” he said.

Strydom’s family found out about her death when they were worried and Googled her name. “Before I went to bed last night, I came across this article in the Himalayan Times naming my sister as having died on Everest and that is the absolute first I’d heard of it,” Strydom’s sister Aletta Newman said.

“Praying for Rob’s [Gropel’s] safety,” Strydom’s mother, Maritha Strydom, wrote on Facebook on Sunday.

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs said it was providing consular assistance to the family of an Australian woman reported to have died on Everest. “DFAT is also providing consular assistance to an injured Australian man accompanying the woman. Due to our privacy obligations we will not provide further comment.”

The bodies were at an elevation of 8,000 metres and it would be a couple of days before they could be airlifted to Kathmandu and handed over to relatives, who had been informed, he said.

They are the first fatalities on the world’s highest peak since expeditions resumed this year. Climbs in 2014 were cancelled after 16 sherpas died in an icefall avalanche.

In 2015 another avalanche triggered by a 7.8-magnitude quake killed 19 mountaineers at Everest base camp, prompting the cancellation of all trips.

Azar reached the summit on Saturday night.

“We can confirm that Alyssa has successfully summited Mount Everest. This has been a goal she has been determined to achieve for several years,” a spokesperson said on her Facebook page.

As the deaths underline, the journey is not over for her yet. “The descent off the mountain is equally as challenging, it will be a couple of days before she is back into base camp,” the spokesperson said.

Earlier in the week clear weather helped climbers reach the summit for the first time in three years after devastating avalanches derailed the 2014 and 2015 campaigns.

“It’s been many years in the making and a lot of work, but it all comes down to this one week,” Alyssa’s father and fellow adventurer Glenn Azar said.

via The Guardian

Indian climber dies after scaling Himalayan peak

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An Indian mountaineer became the second climber to die in the Himalayas this week after falling ill while descending Mount Dhaulagiri, the world’s seventh-highest peak, an expedition agency said Friday.

Rajib Bhattacharya, an experienced climber who reached the top of Mount Everest in 2011, was on his way down after scaling 8,167-metre high Dhaulagiri when he passed away on Thursday afternoon.

“He had suffered a bout of snow blindness earlier in the day and stopped breathing around 4:00 pm,” Mingma Sherpa, managing director of Seven Summit Treks told media.

The 43-year-old mountaineer had also complained to teammates about feeling unwell during his descent, Sherpa said.

“We will know more about the cause of death once his team returns to base camp,” he said.

A Nepali sherpa guide fell 2,000 metres to his death the same day while guiding Indian soldiers on an attempt to summit Lhotse, the world’s fourth-highest peak.

The deaths cast a shadow over a successful season on Mount Everest, which has seen nearly 300 summits since last week, ending a years-long drought after two disasters.

Nine Nepalis last week became the first group of climbers in three years to summit the world’s highest peak, paving the way for others to follow.

“So far 290 climbers have successfully scaled Mount Everest. Of them 202 summited on Thursday alone,” said tourism department chief Sudarshan Prasad Dhakal.

Hundreds of climbers fled the 8,850-metre peak last year after an earthquake-triggered avalanche at Everest base camp killed 18 people.

Only one climber summited the mountain in 2014 after an avalanche killed 16 Nepali guides. China’s Wang Jing reached the top after using a helicopter to transport tent equipment to higher camps following the cancellation of that year’s mountaineering season.

Nepal issued 289 permits to foreign mountaineers for this year’s brief spring climbing season, which runs from mid-April to the end of May.

Mountaineering is a major revenue-earner for the impoverished Himalayan nation but last year’s earthquake, which killed almost 9,000 people, threatened the future of the country’s climbing and trekking industry.

How Everest is changing: we watched Zoolander 2 on a screen in the tent

Matt Dickinson, official ‘writer-in-residence’ on the roof of the world, writes from Everest Base Camp about what it is like to report from the world’s most famous mountain.

As writing gigs go, it was a tough one to beat; an offer from the Sheffield-based company Jagged Globe to join their 2016 Everest South Col expedition as ‘Writer in Residence’.

Five British climbers would be attempting the summit. Eight experienced Sherpa mountaineers would be supporting them. A Base Camp staff of 10 (including Anthony Dubber, a top British chef!) would keep the team fed and watered and medically supervised.

The whole show was under the supervision of David Hamilton, a hard-as-nails and highly respected Glaswegian expedition leader with no fewer than seven Everest summits to his name. We left the UK in the last week of March, travelling via Kathmandu. It wasn’t my first visit to the Nepalese capital; 20 years ago I had passed through on my way to the Northern (Tibetan) side of Everest whilst filming the actor Brian Blessed’s third attempt on the peak. Brian almost made it.

Matt Dickinson
Matt Dickinson at the Puja ceremony (white flour is spread on the face to form a ‘beard’ of wisdom and to encourage the spirits to grant a long and happy life) CREDIT:MATT DICKINSON

Rather to my surprise, I did make it, (just), filming three precious minutes of footage on the top of the world and pinching myself virtually every day of my life since to believe it really happened. This was my first journey to the Nepalese side of Everest, and something of a long cherished ambition. Paying my respects, as it were, to the side of the mountain which hosted Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay’s successful 1953 expedition was long overdue.

Everest
The author steps, somewhat shakily, out onto an ice fall ladder CREDIT: MATT DICKINSON

These have been painful times on Everest. The past two years have seen deadly disasters strike the mountain. In 2014 a glacier collapse in the ice fall killed 16 Sherpa climbers. On the 24 th of April 2015, an earthquake triggered an avalanche which killed 18 climbers from many different nationalities. Both seasons were cancelled after stressful scenes of debate and disagreement.

The mess tent had a cinema screen and a projector. One night we watched Zoolander 2. The scale of the Everest operation is impressiveMatt Dickinson

Everest means big money and it is clear that fault lines are developing between western leaders and the upcoming generation of young Sherpa climbers who (justifiably, in my opinion) question why they should be taking the lion’s share of the risks for relatively slender rewards. Jagged Globe had lost a Sherpa climber in the 2014 incident and an America client in 2015. One of the first acts of our expedition was a moving ceremony of remembrance for these two men in the monastery of Khumjung.

Three of our team – Steve, Nick and Ian – were on repeat trips having had their original expeditions cut short. Their permits ($11,000 US per head) had been extended by the Nepal government. Mary, our only female climbing member, was on her first trip to Nepal but had six of the ‘seven continental summits’ under her belt. Richard Parks, a former Welsh International Rugby player, had already summited with the same company in 2011 and was now on a bold mission to reach the top without supplementary oxygen.

Jagged Globe
Members of the Jagged Globe team, with Matt Dickinson (centre) CREDIT: MATT DICKINSON

There was an extra dimension to Nick’s climb; Cystic Fibrosis meant he had roughly 14% less lung function than the other team members. If he reached the summit he would be the first person with the condition to reach the top of the world. The level of climbing experience in the team was impressive. These were not the bucket-list ‘social climbers’ of media myth. “Some Everest operators will take pretty well anyone,” the leader David told me, “you know, Saudi Princesses that have never seen snow until they get to base camp. We try to be a bit more selective.”

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Mount Everest (8848metres) seen from the Khumbu glacier  CREDIT: MATT DICKINSON

I was amazed by how much had changed in the 20 years since my last expedition to the mountain. Back then we sat in a bone-chillingly cold tent eating kerosene flavoured angel delight and pot noodles that were a year past their sell by date. Today’s Base Camp mess tent has a heater and lip-smackingly good food. Don’t fancy organic bangers and mash tonight? Chef Anthony will knock you up a nice salmon steak with buttered spinach or a warming cottage pie with a Parmesan crust. In 1996 I lost eleven kilos on the expedition.

In 2016 I realised pretty quickly I would be returning home with a couple of kilos of extra bulk. Group meals made sure we got to know the Sherpa climbers,a characterful and highly committed team who would be working alongside the westerners all the way to the summit. They liked a laugh, and the odd tot of whisky. It was a well-run team and a happy one. The mess tent had a cinema screen and a projector. One night we watched Zoolander 2. The scale of the Everest operation is impressive.

Ben Stiller, Penélope Cruz and Owen Wilson in Zoolander 2
Ben Stiller, Penélope Cruz and Owen Wilson in Zoolander 2 CREDIT: PARAMOUNT PICTURES/WILSON WEBB

Base Camp is a temporary town of more than a thousand people spread out over two square kilometres of the Khumbu glacier at 5400 metres. The Himalayan Rescue Association runs a medical tent to cater for the sick. Helicopters buzz in at regular intervals, bringing in crates of whisky and fresh burgers, and taking out those who have succumbed to altitude sickness or frostbite.”Base Camp is becoming an airport,” one Everest veteran complained to me. “There’s no peace any more.”

The Everest Ice Fall, a chaotic glacial zone in which many climbers have lost their lives
The Everest Ice Fall, a chaotic glacial zone in which many climbers have lost their lives CREDIT: MATT DICKINSON

The ominous crash and rumble of avalanches is the other sound that echoes round the valley. Chunks of ice the size of office blocks casually smashing themselves to pieces. Nature at its most powerful and unpredictable. Given the choice, I preferred the sound of the choppers.

Base camp tents pitched on the edge of the ice fall
Base camp tents pitched on the edge of the ice fall CREDIT: MATT DICKINSON

David ran a pretty tough show. Training climbs were fast and testing. I found myself panting at the back as we made rapid 600-800 metre ascents of nearby mountain slopes. Acclimatisation is everything. The body has to adapt to a world which offers just 30% of the oxygen we normally breathe. Day by day our blood was thickening. We were pushing up towards the six thousand metre zone where altitude sickness (Pulmonary Edema, Cerebral Edema) starts to become a real threat.

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Base camp sign at Gorak Shep CREDIT: MATT DICKINSON

We all had our health problems at Base Camp. Nausea,pounding headaches and stomach upsets are pretty well standard, at least for a few days. There may be plastic flowers on the dining table but it’s still a hostile environment for the human body. Ice fall training began, and things didn’t get off to a very good start for me; “You’ve put your helmet on back to front,” David growled, as we kitted up for our first pre-dawn excursion into the chaos of the ice fall, “and your headtorch is upside down.”

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Crossing ladders wearing crampon spikes requires a delicate technique CREDIT: MATT DICKINSON

I don’t think he was very impressed with his resident writer. I have to admit I was pretty rusty after 20 years off the mountain. (There was mildew on my wind suit when I finally found it in the garden shed). The ice fall was terrifying and breathtakingly beautiful in equal measures, a seven hundred metre high obstacle course of moving, fractured, sometimes vertical glacial ice. The ‘ice fall doctors’ (a crack Sherpa team specifically dedicated to the task) had done a good job, lashing ladders together to cross the wider crevasses, laying down fixed ropes to give a lifeline up the steeper terrain.

Crossing the ladders wearing metal crampon spikes was a uniquely nerve-jangling experience. The dark void below really does look like it falls away to the centre of the earth. The ropes give an illusion of safety but a casual glance to the higher slopes reveals a nightmare vision of overhanging glaciers and seracs which could avalanche at any moment. Being attached to a rope would be irrelevant in such an event as hundreds of thousands of tons of iron-hard ice cascaded down.

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The Puja ceremony aims to ward off evil spirits CREDIT: MATT DICKINSON

Moving through the ice fall is nature’s version of Russian Roulette but (on this side of the mountain at least) it is the only way to get to the higher camps. The team got into the higher ‘rotations’, pushing up into the Western Cwm, where camps one and two had been established. My ‘Writer in Residence’ stint came to an end and it was time to return to the gloriously thick air of normal altitudes where breathing is easy and you don’t wake up with your hair congealed with ice. It had been a fascinating experience.

For the second time in my life I had been bewitched by the extraordinary power of the Everest spell. I had been able to share the adventure with hundreds of schools that followed my blog, tested my body at altitude and met some very inspiring people. Is Everest’s siren song calling again? Will I tread those dangerous slopes once more? Only time will tell. Hopefully, next time, I will get my helmet the right way round!

STOP PRESS: Former Welsh International Rugby player Richard Parks had to pull out of his attempt at camp two when a test revealed his blood was thickening too fast, leaving him at risk of stroke or heart attack. Ian made a personal decision not to continue having completed several successful rotations and reached camp three. The rest of the Jagged Globe team successfully summited at 09.45am on Friday May 13. Expedition leader David Hamilton (it was his eighth Everest summit) was accompanied by clients Steve Waterman, Nick Talbot and Mary Scannell and the climbing Sherpa team of Pem Chhiri (Sirdar), Tamding, Nima Gyalzen, Chhimi and Ang Rinji. Nick Talbot became the first individual with Cystic Fibrosis to stand on the highest point on earth.

Matt Dickinson is the author of The Everest Files series for young adult readers (Vertebrate Publishing). He will be appearing at the schools programme of the Hay Festival on Friday 27 May.

via Telegraph

British man becomes first person with cystic fibrosis to climb Everest

It  was a case of third time lucky for a British climber who has become the first person with cystic fibrosis to climb the world’s highest mountain after his previous two attempts nearly claimed his life.

Nick Talbot, 40, reached the summit of Mount Everest on Friday. He took medication to cope with the lack of oxygen at high altitude, but carried the same kit as everyone else and managed to complete the challenge in around seven weeks – the same length of time as it would take someone with normal lung function.

I tried to talk him out of it last year … but it lasted about five minutes and it became very apparent he was going backKeith Talbot, Nick’s father

His previous two attempts, last year and the year before, ended in disaster. In 2014, his first attempt was foiled when 16 mountain guides were killed scaling the treacherous passes, forcing Nick and other expeditions to turn back.

Last year he nearly died when an earthquake triggered an avalanche, leaving him seriously injured and killing his friend Dan Fredinburg, a Google executive. Mr Talbot was left with broken ribs, cuts, bruising, and worst of all hypothermia, which badly affected his lungs.

The altitude also affected his digestive system, meaning he struggled to eat as much as he needed to and lost 2 stone, leaving him at just 11 stone, incredibly slim for his 6ft 2in frame.

His father Keith – who tried to persuade his son not to go through with this third attempt for fear he would lose his life – has hailed his “superhuman” achievement.

Nick Talbot took extra medication to cope with the lack of oxygen at high altitude but carried the same kit as everyone else
Nick Talbot took extra medication to cope with the lack of oxygen at high altitude but carried the same kit as everyone else CREDIT: ROSS PARRY

Keith Talbot, 67, told the Telegraph: “I think it’s absolutely astonishing because no one with cystic fibrosis has been to this altitude before so no one really knew how badly it might affect someone.”

He added: “Both Gay [Nick’s mother] and I tried to talk him out of it last year, after he was so badly injured but it lasted about five minutes and it became very apparent he was going back.”

Cystic fibrosis sufferers have problems with breathing and digestion because their lungs become clogged with a thick mucus.

The respiratory disease affects around 10,000 people in Britain and only half of those with the illness live to the age of 40.

The summit of Mount Everest, seen from the peak of Gokyo Ri in Nepal. 
The summit of Mount Everest, seen from the peak of Gokyo Ri in Nepal.  CREDIT: AP

Only a few years ago Mr Talbot, who has worked as a senior manager for Ernst and Young and KPMG, was struggling in his city job, with his persistent cough making meetings and presentations difficult.

But three years ago a new drug, Kalydeco, was made available to him, helping his lung function and reducing the risk of infection.

Speaking to the Telegraph ahead of his climb, Mr Talbot, now a director of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, said he hoped the medication would make it easier than when he conquered Cho Oyu, the sixth highest mountain in the world, in 2011.

His intensive six-month training for the Everest climb involved running up the 12 flights of stairs to his top floor London flat with weights attached to his ankles.

Nick Talbot at base camp
Nick Talbot at base camp before he took on the summit of Everest CREDIT: CF-VS-EVEREST.TUMBLR.COM

He said it was about “putting yourself through a lot of duress and building up your leg muscles; but not too much because it’s a real trade off.

“You need a lot of muscle to get up there, but equally, the more muscle you have, the more oxygen you need. It’s a difficult thing to balance.”

Even at peak physical fitness, he found himself struggling at high altitude.  He wrote in his blog: “It took me quite a number of breaths for each step and as anticipated I went from being one of the stronger team members to a very slow one.

“This seems to happen once over 6,000m as despite my deliberately high fitness level I can’t overcome the increasingly thin oxygen levels forever.”

He has raised over £80,000 for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust with his inspirational climb.

Pretty amazing what Nick @CF_vs_Everest has done! Now my daughter @kristianahunt wants to go with you next time!!

His father emphasised that his son’s aim had been to “raise awareness of cystic fibrosis, and to raise money for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust.”

“He’s not done this to get himself in the Guinness Book of Records or for his own glory,” he said.

Keith and Gay Talbot are yet to be able to speak to their son and congratulate him after an electric storm affected the communication system at base camp.

“We have had two short emails from him and that’s all we have had so far,” his father said.

“It just said ‘all good’, that sort of thing, just to relax his mum.”

“We are proud and relieved in equally large measure,” he added.

After reaching the summit, Nick thanked the hundreds of supporters who had contributed to his fundraising efforts.

“Felt incredible… just myself and a Sherpa friend called Pem on the summit for 15 minutes, amazing looking over the world!

“Thanks for all of your support, be back in touch on my return.

“I will write more soon but our main internet link was destroyed in an electrical storm so please bear with me for a few days as we pack up.”

via Telegraph

The Mountain That Tops Everest (Because the Earth Is Fat)

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Move over, Everest. Scientists say that by one measure, the world’s highest peak is actually Mount Chimborazo in Ecuador.

The summit of Chimborazo, an inactive volcano in the Andes, rises about 20,500 feet above sea level, far short of Everest’s renowned 29,029 feet. But it’s a different story when you measure from the center of Earth: Chimborazo’s apex rises the farthest, at about 21 million feet or 3,967 miles, while Everest’s doesn’t even crack the top 20.

This is because, while Earth is not flat, it is also not a perfect sphere. The planet flattens at its poles and bulges slightly around its waistline — don’t we all? — making its radius about 13 miles greater at the Equator. Chimborazo is close to the Equator, but Everest is 28 degrees north latitude, nearly one-third of the way to the pole.

Mount Chimborazo has been anthropomorphized as a man in a stormy relationship with a shorter and more active female companion, the Tungurahua volcano, which is known to belch ash that lands on Chimborazo’s icy slopes. Josefina Vásquez, an archaeologist at the Universidad San Francisco in Quito, said that Chimborazo “has been venerated since pre-Columbian times” and is “still a sacred mountain where it’s thought to be close to God.”

On a recent climb to commemorate the 280th anniversary of a 1736 mission by the adventurer Charles Marie de La Condamine, a research team led by the Institut de Recherche pour le Développement in France found that Chimborazo was about 15 feet shorter than previously thought, but reaffirmed its status as the highest from the Earth’s center.

So why does Everest get all the glory? It’s all about the climb.

Scaling Everest typically requires a 10-day trek to base camp, six weeks of acclimatizing, and a seven- to nine-day trip to the top. Climbing Chimborazo can be done in about two weeks, with a one- or two-day hike after acclimatization, according to Todd Burleson, president of Alpine Ascents International, a mountaineering company based in Seattle.

“Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t belittle the mountain,” he said. “It’s an excellent training ground for big mountains.”

Ouch.

via NY Times

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