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10 people died on the mountain today, although it wasn't entirely their fault (this time).

 

 

Wiki says so far 250 people have died on Everest since people first started climbing it, but I don't know how out of date that count is.

 

There have been some big screw-ups over the years resulting in big group deaths. I don't get the draw to it, though I like watching movies about Everest and its history. 

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Mountains kill people. Tall mountains kill proportionally more people. Mountains with parts in the death zone kill the most of all.

As someone who regularly does passes in the Drakensburg and did Kilimanjaro years ago (where a bunch of folk in another group died while we were doing the summit and one of our group had to be rushed down due to altitude sickness), this is pretty much non-news.

Edit: the above is not intended to buff my credentials or anything - I'm very much not a pro hiker. It's just to point out that even a bit of exposure teaches you that mountains kill.

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Mountains kill people. Tall mountains kill proportionally more people. Mountains with parts in the death zone kill the most of all.

As someone who regularly does passes in the Drakensburg and did Kilimanjaro years ago (where a bunch of folk in another group died while we were doing the summit and one of our group had to be rushed down due to altitude sickness), this is pretty much non-news.

Edit: the above is not intended to buff my credentials or anything - I'm very much not a pro hiker. It's just to point out that even a bit of exposure teaches you that mountains kill.

 

 

Altitude sickness is pretty weird with how it hits people. I never got it during my time in Colorado, even when I went up Pikes Peak or a couple other mountains (could definitely tell the difference in air content, though). On the other hand, there have been cases of people in good shape dying from altitude sickness at 9500 feet.

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Agreed. The guy who got sick (he went from perfectly healthy to drowning in his own lung fluids within a few hours) was younger and fitter than me. His dad, who's a slovenly polish physicist, had no problems.

What does help is living at altitude and having mutations for the same, both of which my family ticks off on. None of us had issues.

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Which is just another small disaster movie, like many before. Is it "based on reall events"?

 

More of based on a book written by a journalist (Krakauer) who was there during the disaster; which in itself apparently became pretty controversial in the mountaineering community because the author criticized one of the guides (Anatoli Boukreev).

 

Essentially, Krakauer claimed the Boukreev turned tail and ran while his clients were still on the mountain. because Boukreev was trying to be macho and climbed without supplemental oxygen, leaving him too exhausted to help his clients. Boukreev's defenders point out that none of his clients actually died, he actually went up the mountain later and saved several people, and that he didn't use supplemental oxygen because the weight of the bottles would have tired him out.

 

I think both sides are missing the simpler and inescapable fact that everyone was supposed to turn around and run (screaming like a little girl) back towards base camp by 2pm - whether they reached the summit or not - because they all knew days in advance that a massive storm was coming in. If they didn't turn back by 2pm, then they ran a very real chance of being caught in the said massive storm. Boukreev was thus criticized for being sane enough to try and get off the mountain before the storm hit, even though he stayed at the summit until after the deadline up to 2:30pm.

 

Problem is, most members of the expedition WERE idiots who kept climbing to the summit way past the 2pm deadline, including the two lead guides who should have known better and should have told everyone to start running. Instead the two leads stayed until something like 4pm. Unsurprisingly, they both died along with several other people who stayed with them that high up when the storm hit. 

 

But Hollywood tends to shy away from pointing the finger at two dead guys, especially when one of them managed to call his pregnant wife to say goodbye so the audience can cry their eyes out. Drama beats reckless idiocy in Hollywood every time.

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Back in 2005, a Polish guy won Everest.

 


In 2005, this middle aged Polish guy arrived at Base Camp without a permit to climb on Everest, but fully intended to try anyway, going unnoticed. He had very little money and basic equipment, but felt stong and capable enough to take on the mountain and at one point made it all the way through the Icefall and up to Camp I. Some of the larger guide services made note of his presence but he spoke little English, wasn't very friendly, and seemed to be able to take care of himself. So they left him alone and only saw him on the periphery while they looked after their clients. As we have seen from our limited time here, the Nepalis take their high dollar Everest climbing permits VERY seriously. But, we have also seen that if you were to go incognito enough, there is a good chance that you could go unnoticed. That is, unless a dramatic or tragic event changed your anonymous status quickly.

In 2005, something happened at Camp I that everyone prepares for, but almost never happens- a huge avalanche calved off of Everest's West Face that was large enough that it literally washed over Camp I. More or less a hundred year avalanche. Dozens of tents were flattened from the air blast alone, almost all were covered, and if you hadn't placed your tents on the high ground fingers (like where ours are located), you were in jeopardy. By some stroke of luck though, most climbers were down in Base Camp that day and at the time the avalanche struck, Camp I was almost deserted. The Polish Guy was unique- he had elected to stay in Camp I along with a small handfull of others that day. When the avalanche hit, he apparently jumped out of his tent to film the thousand tons of snow and ice as it moved in on Camp I- not exactly something that's recommended. But he was a tough old guy and must have thought he'd be ok. As an avalanche moves forward, it is preceeded by a wall air- a blast wave that pushes things down quickly and with force before the mass of snow comes along and washes everything in white and sweeps it along as the avalanche travels on it's way.

It was this wall of air that seems to have done the most damage to the Polish Guy, who had his camcorder pressed up to his face at the time he was hit. Out in front, the solid air slammed the camcorder with such force that it cut his face in many places and people afterwards wondered if you might be able to read "SONY" imprinted backwards on his forehead. Word of the avalanche reached Base Camp, and rescuers quickly pressed out, reaching the Camp I record time. Dazed and confused, the Polish Guy was already staggering down the mountain with only what he had on, still bleeding and face all smashed up. He clearly knew that he'd be found out and didn't want to pay a massive fine, thrown into a Nepali jail for climbing without a permit. As he passed several rescuers enroute down the Icefall, he gruffly waved off care and just kept on going. The confused rescuers didn't know what they would find up at Camp I, so they kept moving up and figured the Polish Guy would be taken care of by someone else further down below.

Upon arrival at Camp I, the rescuers found what remained of the Polish Guy's tent- just an old, small job barely bigger than a kitchen table. Peering inside, they found: gas for boiling water, and a very large bottle of vodka. That was it. Nothing more, nothing less. Gas and vodka. To climb Everest. The rescuers radioed that back, almost laughing in disbelief at how Spartan this guy's tent was. But by now the Nepali authorities knew about him and also knew he didn't have a climbing permit so they were actively looking for him with vigor. They didn't think it was very funny for sure. He wasn't in Base Camp, so the Nepalis figured he must still be coming down through the Icefall and focused their energy there. After a few hours he was nowhere to be found and they realized that despite their best efforts, he had somehow slipped the noose.

Several days later, the climbing community at Base Camp learned of his fate: Somehow, the Polish Guy had made it all the way to New Delhi, India and repatriated back to Poland from the Embassy there. New Delhi? Apparently, the Polish Guy had managed to walk close to 100 kilometers in the exact same climbing clothes that he had been wearing when hit in an avalanche at Camp I in the Western Cwm. Bleeding, injured, and only with the clothes on his back, he downclimbed through the Icefall, and no one noticed as he traveled all the way through the Khumbu Valley, out through Lukla and into Kathmandu.

From there, he likely took a bus across the border and all the way to New Delhi. He didn't have much money, so people speculate that he sold his climbing boots in Kathmandu for just enough money for bus fare to leave the country unnoticed. Even today, when you enter the Sagarmartha National Park gate near Lukla there is a picture of the Polish Guy looking all gruff and dazed on a ratty wanted poster that has likely been there since a few days after he ran off in 2005. My guess? He made it home, started putting back his loved vodka, told his tale to friends and family who called him a crazy nut, and he gave up on Everest completely.

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