Monday, October 21, 2013

Where the voice is not heard: Climbing jargon explained

 Alpine style refers to mountaineering in a self-sufficient manner, thereby carrying all of one's food, shelter, equipment, etc. as one climbs, as opposed to expedition style (or siege style) mountaineering which involves setting up a fixed line of stocked camps on the mountain which can be accessed at one's leisure. Additionally, alpine style means the refusal of fixed ropes, high-altitude porters and the use of supplemental oxygen.
In simpler terms Alpine Style means carrying a very heavy sack. (30 kg per person on very limited food, suffices for 1 week)

The average Italian or Korean expedition to an 8000 meter peak n involves the hiring of between 100-300 porters (the most ridiculous ones hiring up to 600) to carry tons of gear up the Glacier and to their basecamp. There you have everything: from giant kitchen tents that serve three course meals, a weather monitoring tent and an intricately designed system of metal cables and fixed ropes for hauling gear to higher camps. The spectacle resembles a military operation. The plan is to “march” in, and “conquer” the mountain by “attacking” the high camps. Thousands of followers worldwide are following the mountaineers by reading blogs and webcasts.   

During all this hoo-ha no one will even notice the French couple that arrived with maybe a porter and a guide. They carried their own packs, cooked for themselves, got up and down the mountain before the siege-style expedition finished unpacking, and returned home to have a few beers in Chamonix. 
This is the antithesis to the traditional way of approaching Himalayan peaks. A light-weight and super-fast approach: the alpine style. Pioneered by mountaineering legend Reinhold Messner and perfected by Steve House and Vince Anderson’s week-long ascent of Nanga Parbat the style is as pure as it gets. - See more  


Effects as a function of altitude

The human body can perform best at sea level, where the atmospheric pressure is 101,325 Pa or 1013.25 millibars (or 1 atm, by definition). The concentration of oxygen (O2) in sea-level air is 20.9%, so the partial pressure of O2 (pO2) is 21.136 kPa. In healthy individuals, this saturates hemoglobin, the oxygen-binding red pigment in red blood cells.
Atmospheric pressure decreases exponentially with altitude while the O2 fraction remains constant to about 100 km, so pO2 decreases exponentially with altitude as well. It is about half of its sea-level value at 5,000 m (16,000 ft), the altitude of the Everest Base Camp, and only a third at 8,848 m (29,029 ft), the summit of Mount Everest. When pO2 drops, the body responds with altitude acclimatization.
Mountain medicine recognizes three altitude regions that reflect the lowered amount of oxygen in the atmosphere:
  • High altitude = 1,500–3,500 metres (4,900–11,500 ft)- Altitude of Gangotri 
(Altitude of Mont Blanc- Highest mountain in Europe. 15000 ft. In Himalayas, Base camp is established at this altitude. This may give you the relative scale.)
  • Very high altitude = 3,500–5,500 metres (11,500–18,000 ft)- 18K is Altitude of Kamet Advance Base camp
  • Extreme altitude = above 5,500 metres (18,000 ft) Most of the peaks in Indian Himalayas that I have attempted/climbed are in this range
Travel to each of these altitude regions can lead to medical problems, from the mild symptoms of acute mountain sickness to the potentially fatal high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) and high altitude cerebral edema (HACE). The higher the altitude, the greater the risk. Research also indicates elevated risk of permanent brain damage in people climbing to extreme altitudes. Expedition doctors commonly stock a supply of dexamethazone, or "dex," to treat these conditions on site.

Humans have survived for two years at 5,950 m (19,520 ft) [475 millibars of atmospheric pressure], which is the highest recorded permanently tolerable highest altitude; the highest permanent settlement known, La Rinconada, is at 5,100 m (16,700 ft). At extreme altitudes, above 7,500 m (24,600 ft) [383 millibars of atmospheric pressure], sleeping becomes very difficult, digesting food is near-impossible, and the risk of HAPE or HACE increases greatly.

Mountain Terminology

Glacier (River of ice) with Morraine deposit (Debris ):

Crevasses: Wide crack in the basin or glacier (Depth= Thickness of Ice sheet which can be 100ft to 500ft)

Bergshrund ( Large Crevasse that separates the mountain face from the basin)

Corniced ridge

Hanging Glacier

Seracs (Ice towers)

Front pointing with crampons:

Glissade and self arrest

Ice climbing

Belayer and climber

Expansion bolt- Bolt station.

Rope looped through the Carabiner in a Bolt

Jummaring (Asecnding on rope)

Rapelling (Descending on rope)

Mountain boots (With Crampons)

Seat Harness with Carabiner links

Basic info on Carabiners

Basic Jummaring technique

Johnny Dawes -World Class climber
(My friend from Meru Expedition)

All photos are courtesy of other blogs.  Used to create awareness of climbing terms to layman.