Climbing Mount Everest
Mount Everest is the world's highest mountain, rising 8850 meters above sea level. Ever since Edmund Hillary and his sherpa Tenzing Norgay became the first people to reach the summit in 1953 mountain climbers from all over the world have tried to do the same. While more than 2,200 people have succeeded in reaching the top nearly 200 have also left their lives on the slopes of Mount Everest.
Mount Everest climbers need a lot of special equipment, like clothing, tools and other utilities. Special lightweight climbing boots give you more room for your feet and reduce the risk of frostbite. Jackets should have several insulated layers that can regulate the temperatures. Headlamps with batteries, ski goggles and gloves are also important. Climbing tools include an ice axe and crampons, carabiners and ropes.
Cameras and batteries that work at high altitudes are essential and walkie-talkies might be a good idea. If you have a lot of money to spend think about buying a video camera or a satellite phone.
Everest climbers do not climb the mountain in one leg. Instead they set up base camps at certain heights. Larger tents are usually set up at lower elevations and smaller ones when you get higher up. Titanium burners and pots are needed for cooking as well as matches and lighters.
Beginning in the 1990s experienced climbers started organizing group tours for climbers. It costs you about 30 000 to 50 000 Euros to get an expedition leader, other guides and sherpas to help you get to the top.
Most climbers try climbing Mount Everest during April and May. In the winter low temperatures and winds make climbing very difficult and between June and September the monsoon causes storms and a lot of rain and snowfall. A typical expedition takes about two or two and a half months. Climbers often fly to Nepal's capital Katmandu and spend a few days there buying supplies and getting travel visas. Then they proceed to Lukla, a small town at 2800 meters sea level.
All in all, there are about 15 different routes to the top of Mount Everest. Most climbers take the route Hillary and Norgay took in 1953 – from the south. Climbers use five different camps as they get used to the thin air and the high altitude. Base Camp is located at 5364 meters. During the spring climbing season about 300 people live here including doctors, scientists and others.
From Base Camp climbers must pass through the Khumbu Icefalls. Even with ropes and ladders this part is extremely dangerous. Moving ice and deep crevasses as well as avalanches have killed many mountaineers and sherpas. Another dangerous area is Western Cwm, a valley with little wind and very intense sunlight – a place in which it can get extremely hot and uncomfortable.
The last part of the ascent includes The Hillary Step at 8440 meters sea level. Only one climber can go up or down at a time. At this point climbers often lose their concentration because of the very low temperatures and the thin air.
Early Everest climbers thought that climbing the mountain without supplemental oxygen would be totally impossible. When Edmund Hillary and Tensing Norgay climbed to the peak in 1953 they did so with the help of bottled oxygen. In 1978 Reinhold Messner and Peter Habeler were the first to reach the top of Mount Everest without it. Even though many others have also done, so most expedition members take bottled oxygen along with them.
Ecological effects of mountaineering
After 1953 more and more climbers began to tour the Himalayas. This flood of visitors brought the region a lot of money. Today there are new schools, hospitals as well as stores selling western goods. As tourists came more and more trees were cut down for firewood and they also left a great deal of waste on the mountain slopes. Today the government and other organizations are doing a lot to protect the environment around Everest.
The greatest Everest tragedy occurred in 1996 when eight people died on a single day. Altitude sickness, overcrowding at the summit and unexpected storms led to the disaster.
Mount Everest is an extremely unfriendly place. Temperatures at the top are around 36 degrees below zero. Avalanches are a constant threat and storms come up unexpectedly. Glaciers can create crevasses that are covered with snow so that you cannot see them.
The region above 8,000 meters is called death zone. There is only a third of the oxygen in the air. This leads to changes in your body. At such high altitudes you may suffer from headaches, hallucinations or you may even lose consciousness. That's why it is important to stay at certain altitudes for a few days. By doing this the body will produce more red blood cells. Frostbite and hypothermia are other dangers that occur in these regions.
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- altitude = the height of a place above the sea
- altitude sickness = you get ill when you are in very high places
- ascent = to climb or move up
- avalanche = a large mass of snow that falls down the side of a mountain
- base camp = place where you rest and prepare yourself before you start climbing up a high mountain
- boot = show that covers the lower part of your leg
- bottled oxygen = air that is filled into a bottle
- capital = the main city of a country
- carabiner =a metal shaped like a circle with a lock; you use it for mountain climbing
- certain =special
- constant = always the same
- crampon = a piece of metal with sharp points that mountain climbers wear under their shoes to stop them from slipping on ice or snow
- crevasse = a deep crack or hole in the ice of a glacier
- disaster = a sudden event that causes a lot of damage
- elevation = height
- environment = the world around us
- equipment = the things you need when you do something or go somewhere
- essential = very important
- experienced =skilled, qualified
- firewood = wood that is cut or collected so that you can use it to make a fire
- flood =a large number of
- frostbite = when it is very very cold your fingers and toes swell and become darker; sometimes they fall off
- get used to =to do something very often so that it is no longer surprising or difficult
- glacier = a large mass of ice that moves slowly down a mountain
- gloves = something that you wear on your hand to keep warm
- goods =products
- headlamp = a lamp you have on your head
- height =how high something is
- hypothermia = when you get ill because you have been in the cold for a long time
- including =together with
- instead =ion something’s place
- insulated layer =here: material that protects you from the cold weather
- ladder = tool used to climb up and down places
- leg = one part of a longer journey or trip
- lighter = a small object that produces a flame for lighting cigarettes
- located = the exact position of something
- match =a small wooden stick with a special material at the top ; you use it to light a fire or a cigarette
- mountaineer = mountain climber
- occur = happen
- overcrowding = when too many people are in a small place or area
- peak = the top of a mountain
- pot = a metal container that you use for cooking
- proceed = to go on; continue
- protect =defend, guard
- reach = get to
- reduce = to make smaller
- rope =a very strong thick string ; made by twisting thinner strings together
- satellite phone = telephone which you can use everywhere ; it uses satellite connections
- scientist =a person who is trained in science
- sea level =the average height of the sea; it is used for measuring how high mountains or other places are
- Sherpa = a person who lives in the Himalayas and often works as a mountain guide : sherpas also carry the equipment of an expedition
- ski goggles = glasses you wear when you go skiing or move around in higher areas
- slope = the side of a mountain
- succeed = to do what you tried or wanted to do
- summit = the top of a mountain ; peak
- supplementaloxygen = oxygen or air that you take with you when you climb up to high places
- supplies =food and other material that you need to survive for a certain time
- tent =a place to sleep that you take with you when you go camping ; it is made of cloth that are connected to the ground by poles or ropes
- threat = danger, risk
- tool =something that you hold in your hand and use for certain jobs
- uncomfortable =if you are not able to rest or relax
- valley = the lower area of land between two hills
- walkie-talkie = one of two radios that you carry with you and with which you can speak to someone
- waste = unwanted materials that are left after you have used something