Last night I went to a talk by Ronnie Muhl about climbing Everest. He is a South African guy who had to turn back 200m from the top in 2006, but went back last year and made it to the summit. It was an interesting talk overall, and actually helped me to get over my drive to climb Everest.
Anyway, some of the interesting things from the talk:
- The Chinese have a massive presence at base camp where they are preparing for the Olympic torch. They are planning on taking the torch to the summit of Everest on the way to Beijing and have been preparing since last year. While Ronnie was there they were experimenting with torches that could stay alight in the cold, wind and low oxygen of Everest!
- It is said that acclimatisation is so important that if you dropped someone off at the top of Everest they would be unconscious in 3 minutes! Ronnie and his team spent 4 months on the mountain getting acclimatised. Imagine 4 months living in a tent in freezing conditions like that…
- Ronnie talked about how climbers keep things in their sleeping bags to prevent freezing. Water bottles and electronics (to prevent batteries from draining) are kept in there and make rolling over tricky. He also explained that there is just no way that you will get up for a pee, so you keep a bottle handy for those purposes. The cheeky thing is that you have to keep the pee bottle in your sleeping bag too otherwise it will also freeze!
- On his last expedition Ronnie walked past the corpses of 7 other climbers
- In his 2006 expedition 2 of the climbers in Ronnie’s team died on the mountain
- Ronnie himself had several close calls during his climbs – mostly related to falling and not being able to get back going. One story he told was about tripping on some old rope and landing up hanging upside down over a steep 3km fall! Ronnie hikes with a personal sherpa and in this case, as well as several others, it seems that his sherpa was the difference between life and death
- There is quite a lot of junk on the mountain – discarded by decades of desperate climbers. You have to be really careful not to hook onto some old decaying rope while climbing (apparently they color code the newer ropes – so you just have to remember to hook onto the blue rope!). In an effort to clean things up, the sherpas get $20 for each empty oxygen canister they bring down. Apparently one of Ronnie’s sherpas was able to go back up the mountain and brought down 5 empty canisters!
- There is a restaurant near the base of the mountain where those who have summited can eat for free for the rest of their lives
- Due to the crazy stuff the Chinese government is doing in Tibet at the moment all expeditions have been canceled!
- Accurate weather reports are really important for a successful climb – but they are expensive. Ronnie and his team paid R40,000 for weather reports in 2007!