- Climbers who climb higher than 7,920 meters on Everest enter the “death zone”.
- Oxygen is so limited in this area that the body’s cells begin to die and judgment begins to deteriorate.
- Climbers can also suffer heart attack, stroke or severe altitude sickness.
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The human body functions best at sea level. At the same time, the amount of oxygen is sufficient for our brain and lungs. At extreme altitudes, such as Mount Everest, our bodies cannot function properly.
But if climbers want to reach the summit of Everest, the world’s highest peak, which stands 8,848 meters above sea level, they must brave the “death zone”.
This is the area whose altitude is more than 8,000 meters; There is so little oxygen that the body begins to die minute by minute and cell by cell.
In the death zone, climbers’ brains and lungs receive so little oxygen that their risk of heart attack and stroke increases, and their judgment deteriorates rapidly.
“Your body breaks down and basically dies,” he explains. business Insider Shauna Burke, a climber who climbed Everest in 2005. “It becomes a race against time.”
In 2019, at least 11 people died on Everest, almost all of whom spent time in the death zone. It turned out to be one of the deadliest seasons on Everest in recent memory.
Some shipping companies blamed the crush for these deaths. According to him, a large number of climbers stayed in the Death Zone for a very long time. 250 climbers attempt to reach the top on May 22, 2019 kathmandu post, In fact, many climbers had to queue to get on and off.
These additional and unplanned hours in the death zone could have increased the risk for the 11 people who died, although it is difficult to determine the specific causes of each death.
One climber said that climbing Everest is like “running on a treadmill while breathing through a straw”.
At sea level, the air contains about 21% oxygen. But at altitudes above 3,000 metres, oxygen levels drop by 40%.
Dr Jeremy Windsor, who climbed Everest in 2007 as part of the Caudwell Extreme Everest expedition, told blogger Mark Horrell that blood samples taken from four climbers in the death zone showed they were alive on only a quarter of the oxygen. on the sea floor.
“These numbers were comparable to patients who were on the verge of death,” Windsor said.
According to mountain climber and filmmaker David Breshears, at five miles above sea level, the amount of oxygen in the air is so low that even with secondary air tanks, it can feel like “running on a treadmill and breathing through a straw”.
Lack of oxygen forces climbers to adapt
The lack of oxygen causes serious health risks. When the amount of oxygen in the blood falls below a certain level, the heart rate increases up to 140 beats per minute, which increases the risk of a heart attack.
Climbers have to give their bodies time to acclimatize to the lung-crushing conditions of the Himalayas before attempting to climb Everest. Expeditions usually make at least three ascents from Everest Base Camp (which is 7,000 meters taller than most mountains in Europe), climbing a few thousand meters before attempting to reach the summit.
When you spend those weeks at altitude, your body begins to produce more hemoglobin — a protein in red blood cells that helps carry oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body — to compensate. For. But too much hemoglobin can coagulate the blood and make it harder to pump through the body. This can lead to a stroke or a build-up of fluid in the lungs.
High altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) is common on Everest: a quick examination with a stethoscope may reveal a clicking noise. This is because when this fluid gets into the lungs, it makes thunder. Other symptoms include fatigue, a feeling of choking at night, weakness, and a persistent cough that brings up white, watery, or frothy fluid. Sometimes the cough is so strong that it can break or separate the ribs.
Climbers with EPAA always have shortness of breath, even at rest.
In the “death zone,” brain swelling may begin, leading to nausea and psychosis.
He said that acclimatization is not possible at the altitude of the death zone PBS Peter Hackett, altitude specialist and physician.
One of the biggest risk factors at 8,000 meters is hypoxia, a lack of adequate oxygen circulation to organs such as the brain. If it doesn’t get enough oxygen, it can start to swell, causing a condition called high altitude cerebral edema (HACE). Essentially, it is an EPA for the brain.
This inflammation can cause nausea, vomiting, and difficulty thinking and reasoning.
A lack of oxygen to the brain can cause climbers to forget where they are and become delirious, which some experts consider a form of altitude psychosis. Hypoxic climbers have impaired judgment and have been known to do strange things, such as start taking off their clothes or talking to imaginary friends.
Other potential hazards are insomnia, blindness, and vomiting.
Burke said that he had a persistent cough during the climb. Plus, the air was so thin that I couldn’t sleep properly. “Every two or three breaths, your body gasps and you wake up,” he said.
“Humans tend to deteriorate,” Hackett said. “Sleep becomes a problem. Muscle mass is lost. You lose weight.”
Nausea and vomiting caused by altitude-related illnesses such as EPAA and HACE also cause loss of appetite. The glare of endless snow and ice can lead to snow blindness – a temporary loss of vision, or rupture of blood vessels in the eyes.
The temperature in the death zone never exceeds zero degrees. “Any exposed skin freezes immediately,” explains Burke.
Loss of blood circulation to climbers’ fingers and toes can lead to frostbite and, in severe cases, gangrene if the skin and tissue die. It is often necessary to cut out the damaged tissue.
All this physical weakness and impaired vision can lead to a sudden fall. According to Burke, fatigue is always present.
“All it takes is to put one foot in front of the other,” he says.
Bad decision-making can cause climbers to forget to attach to a safety rope, lose their way, or fail to properly prepare life-saving equipment such as oxygen cylinders.
Climbers can queue for hours in the “death zone”
As he described, climbing into the death zone is “hell”. PBS David Carter, Everest climber and member of the NOVA expedition in 1998.
Typically, climbers attempt to climb up and down in a single day, spending as little time as possible in the death zone before returning to a safe altitude. But this frantic race to the finish line is the culmination of weeks of climbing.
Lakhpa Sherpa, who has scaled Everest nine times (more than any other woman on Earth), previously stated business Insider The day a group attempts to climb Everest is by far the most difficult period of the trek.
To be successful, everything has to be perfect. Around 10 am, climbers leave from Camp Char at an altitude of 8,000 meters above sea level. The first part of the climb is done with starlight and headlamps only.
After about seven hours, they usually peak. After a short break filled with festivities and photos, the expeditions turn around and begin the 12-hour journey back to safety, arriving (at best) before nightfall.
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