Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Philippine Everest Team At Advanced Base Camp

The Philippine All Women Everest Team is now at Advanced Base Camp (ABC) on the Tibetan side of Mt. Everest. The team arrived at 7:30 tonight after a nine hour trek from the Chinese Base Camp through fresh snowfall. At 6,400 meters, the ABC is higher than any mountain on all the continents, except for the Andean peaks in South America, and of course the Himalayan giants.

The team took it easy on the trek up as they had an altitude gain of more than a thousand meters. Trekkers climbing higher than an altitude of 3,000 meters are usually advised not to exceed climbing more than 300 vertical meters per day. That's because they can easily be hit by Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) at those heights. Symptoms of AMS include headache, shortness of breath, nausea, and vomiting. If untreated, it could lead to High Altitude Pulmonary or Cerebral Edema which could be fatal.

It's hard to imagine if you haven't experienced it yet, but AMS feels like a very, very bad migraine. You will also feel very weak and lethargic, para kang naging lantang gulay (like a wilted vegetable). The ABC has less than half the oxygen present at sea level. If you were brought to this altitude immediately from sea level, you'd be unconscious in six minutes. And while breathing is difficult during the trek up, you will really feel the thin air when you go to sleep -- or try to. It is hard to get a good night's sleep because, aside from the cold, you will regularly wake up gasping for air. Doctors say this is due to high-altitude sleep apnea, where your body temporarily stops breathing due to a number of reasons -- then makes you gasp for air in reflex.

Some climbers use the drug Diamox to help the body adjust to the thin air. Diamox is actually medication for the kidneys, but one of it's side effects is increasing your respiration rate. That means even if you're in a relaxed or unconscious state, your body breathes faster than normal -- sparing you from the frequent gasps for air you would normally need. The other side effect of Diamox though is that it is a diuretic and makes you pee like a horse. So while you may not have to gasp for air, you will still have to wake up occasionally to go to the bathroom. In the freezing cold. Which is why you'll need to have a pee bottle right beside you -- but that's a story for another blog.

Back to the Philippine Everest Team. Our communication with the team may become less frequent, as there is no longer any cellphone signal that high on the mountain. The team is equipped with a satellite phone though, so we'll be posting our calls to the team as often as we get through to them.

For the next few days, the team will rest and acclimatize at ABC, check their gear and probably talk to the other teams to get information on movement on the mountain. They will also conduct a "puja" or religious ceremony there. After the puja, the team will begin the actual climb of Mt. Everest. The team will pass through three camps above ABC when they climb Mt. Everest --
Camp 1 on the North Col at 7,000 meters,Camp 2 at 7,500 meters and Camp 3 at 8,300 meters.

After Camp 3, it is a nine to twelve hour trek to the summit of Mt. Everest at 8,850 meters. But the team won't climb straight up the mountain from ABC. They will have to yo-yo up and down the camps to allow their bodies to adjust to the thinner air. The acclimatization process should take about three weeks, so the women should be poised to go for the summit from May 12th to the 14th. On those dates, I'm sure we'll all be praying hard for their success.


Anonymous said...

Congratulations ladies on making Advanced Base Camp, and I would like to thank Dr. Ted for the advice with my AMS at Goyko too! Godspeed

Canadian in Egypt

R. Messner II said...

take good use of the time as the weather confer mildly favorable break in your trek to summit...

you're all on... be cool... dont be too hasty... be wiser enough with the weather conditions... this is the primal factor must be considered on your way up to top.

i guess...this expedition is publishing a record for Pinays... not a mainly a competition... so make good use of the chances...

go! go! go! Philippines! Mabuhay!!