The Story Behind Another Deadly Year on Everest


Irmak arrived at the base camp on April 19, after having ridden his bicycle from Kathmandu. The higher he went, the worse the roads became. Eventually they turned into narrow paths and coarse gravel trails, and he often had to carry his bike. He usually sat by himself under a boulder on the edge of the camp. The other climbers referred to him as "that crazy guy," and they were concerned that they would end up having to rescue him on Everest if he ventured up there with his bicycle.

The ascent from the base camp to the summit of Everest takes four-and-a-half days, but first climbers have to spend weeks accustoming their bodies to the extreme altitudes. They do this by making repeated trips to one of the three camps at higher altitudes, where they sleep and then return to base camp.

Flag on the Summit

Schaaf and Thelen tried to eat as much as possible, hoping to counteract the adverse effects of high altitude on metabolism. On average, mountain climbers lose about 10 kilograms (22 lbs.) on Everest.

In early May, seven officials with the national park's environmental authority turned up at base camp, looking for Irmak. They had heard about his record-setting ambitions. The men took away his bicycle, which he had been keeping in his tent the whole time, saying that a bicycle didn't belong on Everest. Irmak waved the Tourism Ministry permit in their faces, but the officials were not to be persuaded. Irmak was furious. He painted a picture of his bicycle on a small flag, so that he could at least plant the flag on the summit.

There is no weather station on Mount Everest, because the cold temperatures would cause the equipment to malfunction. Since 1997, expedition leaders have been able to use reliable weather forecasts sent to them from halfway around the world.

A company called Meteotest has its offices on the ground floor of an old, brown building on Fabrikstrasse in the Swiss capital Bern, where seven meteorologists sit in front of their monitors. They use software that can predict weather at 10 different locations in the Everest region. The system spits out new data twice a day, and the Swiss experts then send emails and text messages to Everest base camp, providing expedition leaders with the latest forecast for the coming days.

Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...