Friday, April 20, 2007

Climbers Hit By Acute Mountain Sickness

I was able to speak to Everest Summiter Erwin 'Pastour' Emata at around 6:00 p.m. yesterday via satellite phone. He said the team is now resting and acclimatizing at Advanced Base Camp. They have slight headaches because of the altitude, but everyone is well. He said they will do some trekking later today to keep themselves active and help speed up the acclimatization process.

According to Pastour, the more than a thousand meter climb to ABC took a toll on some climbers. The team met some climbers yesterday going back down to the Chinese Base Camp, which is at around 5,000 meters, after they were hit by Acute Mountain Sickness. The only remedy for AMS is to go down to the altitude you last felt well at. Diamox and other drugs can only prevent you from getting it, but when you're hit, that's it -- you have to go down.

Pastour was also able to talk to other climbing teams at ABC. The news is that the fixed ropes on the south or Nepalese side of Everest have been set until Camp 3, which is at 7,200 meters. On the north or Tibetan side, where the team is, the route has been fixed until Camp 1 or the North Col, at 7,000 meters.

He also recounted that there is a team of Sherpanis climbing on the north side with an International team. The Pinay climbers have met them and the women hit it off really well.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Weather Forecast in Everest Area

Here's a forecast from team member Voltaire Velacso who is an Environmental Physicist. Voltaire's forecasts will be crucial in guiding the team when they set their summit date. I'm trying to confirm this, but I think Voltaire works for NASA? Hi-tech! :)

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Weather Forecast 18 April 2007

Precipitation: up to 2-3 cm of snow per day prevailing until Saturday.
most precipitation expected around 6pm local time.

Partly cloudy to cloudy until the weekend.

Winds near ABC remain light.
Strongest of up to 20 km/h on Friday and Saturday evening near ABC.
Direction East.

Summit winds of more than 20 - 30km/h starting Friday, will remain until the weekend or early next week.
Direction: East.

ABC: steady -8°C to -11°C until the weekend.
Summit: -36°C until the weekend, warming up a bit to -32 to -34°C by next week.

More detailed forecast will follow soon.

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.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Everest Team Video On The Summit Of Gokyo Ri

**updated Tuesday, April 17

We finally have video footage of the Philippine All Women Everest Team in action.

Early last week, the team climbed a 5,000+ meter peak in the Everest Region called Gokyo Ri. This was a training climb to allow the womens' bodies to get used to the thin air at high altitude. According to the team physician, Dr. Ted Esguerra, the women performed extremely well. While in an e-mail, team member Noelle Wenceslao said the climb up Gokyo Ri boosted their morale, as the perfect weather enabled them to see Mt. Everest in its full glory.

Now we have the video showing that the women were indeed in top shape and in high spirits. Here's a quick edit of some clips. Will post more in the next few days.

Music: Adiemus from The Official Athens 2004 Classical Album