I’ve had a few great questions about this adventure from various wonderful folks, so I thought I’d do a post of them. Feel free to comment or send me a note if you have one and I’ll try to include in another post.
Q: Will I have oxygen with me, just in case?
A: Definitely. Plus a mask and all I need to get me back down with it. Also emergency medicines, color coded so we don’t mess up when we are hypoxic. I also carry a radio so we are in permenant contact with base camp (and we check in during each climb). So there are multiple safety nets.
Q: Will my Sherpa guide be using oxygen?
A: Yes. We all want him with a clear head and strong body up there! The Sherpa climb on lower flow rates than clients but they still use it.
Q: Once I summit do I use oxygen on the way down?
A: No. General (and my) experience / consensus is that it’s much easier to descend, so if you summit you shouldn’t need it. Also, for a climb to be officially recognized as without Os you can’t use it at ANY point during the climb or any rotations. Or at base camp. So I’m staying well away from from any bottles I see!
Q: Is the summit route / date the same?
A: Yes, broadly. The route is identical as you follow the fixed lines. However, things like timing changes a bit. For example, most people leave for the summit between 8pm and 11pm. That’s too cold for a ‘without Os’ climb, so I will leave much closer to dawn.
Q: What are my chances?
A: Good question! Officially since 1978 (the first oxygenless ascent) the success rate for no Os climbers has been about 10%, and 192 people have summited. 51 of these have been Nepali, so 141 ‘foreigners’ have made it, of which a number have been professionals. 3 Brits have summitted, the last in 2001. 12 Americans have done it, out of interest.
There have been 45 ‘no Os’ deaths, giving a fatality rate of 2.7% per attempt, so a ratio of approx. 24% deaths-to-summits. Not sure that is a great metric, but it’s commonly used for other peaks.
In any case, these are just averages, and we have worked hard to bring that risk number way, way down! So mum, don’t worry!!