The Summit

 Climber summits using existing ropes.

Climber summits using existing ropes.

 

The Summit

You will never acclimatize to the conditions above 8,000 meters.  No physical conditioning and no preparatory climbs will enable you to spend more than 48 hours in the Death Zone.

The oxygen at that height is one third the pressure at sea level.  Which means your body is using the oxygen faster than your breathing can replace it.  It feels like being choked.  Some people begin to hallucinate.  Climbers must use the oxygen bottles they’ve carried throughout the climb.  Even then, you’ve got to put forth the physical effort to continue climbing in sub-zero temperatures.  In such conditions it takes most climbers up to 12 hours to walk the final 1.72 kilometers (1 mile) from the South Col to the summit.

It seems funny, but climbers typically spend less than half an hour at the summit.  We have oxygen tanks to manage. And we’ll want to be back at Camp IV before the weather changes, the snow softens or darkness sets in.

But as writer Robert Pirsig so accurately said,          “It's the sides of the mountain that sustain life,        not the top.”