Selected Notes About High Altitude Mountaineering
By Carlos Buhler
a) About twelve months are necessary to plan and organize an expedition
to the Himalayan or Karakoram Mountains.
b) An average expedition to a peak in Asia will need approximately 50
to 70 days to complete.
c) The percentage of successful expeditions(those that achieve their climbing
objective) to the larger peaks in Asia is less than 50%. Since most of
the expeditions attempt well known peaks, by relatively easy routes, the
percentage of successes for difficult ascents (i.e. new routes in good
style) is probably no more than 10-15% of attempts.
d) Expeditions generally require a 1.5 to 2.5 month supply of food, fuel
and equipment to be transported to the base camp. A typical "small"
expedition of four members will require anywhere between 40 and 60 porters
to carry 2400 to 3600 pounds of gear to their base camp.
e) Approximately one out of every 30 climbers dies each year in the expeditions
going to Asia.
f) The most dangerous and difficult summits on the planet are climbed
very seldom. They are usually very technical climbs in remote areas where
weather conditions are unstable. However, it is impossible to name the
one most difficult mountain. The style of the ascent must be considered
in order appreciate the overall difficulty of the climb. Where one ascent
of a mountain might be considered spectacular, another climb of the same
peak, might be nothing out of the ordinary. Apart from the style considerations,
altitude, technical difficulty, size, weather conditions, and objective
danger all contribute to give a mountain route it's overall difficulty
g) Going to the top of one of the great peaks requires enormous physical
and mental stamina. The body protests under conditions of low oxygen.
Above 24,000 feet, the cells cannot get enough oxygen to survive for long.
Signals from the brain instruct body systems to preserve what little strength
they have. Dehydration robs the body of it's ability to perform normal
chemical activities. The result is finding the mental energy to push the
body to perform at the high level required for climbing and survival.
Above 26,000 feet, I estimate only about 50 % of the energy the body produces
is available for anything besides survival. Above 27,000 feet this is
reduced to 40%. Above 28,000 feet, probably only 30% of energy is available.
Given the cold, and additional stresses of the environment, these figures
are reduced even further.
h) Dehydration, Hypoxia, Hypoglycemia, Hypothermia, and lack of deep sleep,
are key difficulties and concerns at high altitude.
i) Budgets for a Himalayan Expedition cover a wide range. A small two
person expedition to a peak may cost as little as $7000.00 or as much
as $25,000.00 depending on the approach, the style, and the personal preferences
of the team. In general, I find that the average cost to climb in Asia
is between $3500 and $10,000.00 per person for the entire expedition.
A real consideration today is the price of the peak permit paid to the
governments of the Asian countries in which the peak is located. These
fees range from under one thousand dollars, for a small peak of 6000 meters,
to Everest, which costs about $12,000.00 per climber today.