Climbing Everest: Sport & Action

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Crampons attach to the bottom of a mountaineer's boots and provide additional traction on hard snow and ice. For loose snow, crampons are less suitable, and snowshoes or skis may preferred. Ascending and descending a steep snow slope safely requires the use of an ice axe and different footwork techniques that have been developed over the past century, such as the French technique and German technique. Teams of climbers may choose to attach everyone together with a rope, to form a rope team.

The team may then secure themselves by attaching the rope to anchors. These anchors are sometimes unreliable, and include snow stakes or pickets, deadman devices called flukes, or buried equipment or rocks. Bollards , which are simply carved out of consolidated snow or ice, also sometimes serve as anchors. Alternatively, a roped team may choose not to use anchors; instead all members of the team will prepare to use their ice axes to self-arrest in the event should a team member fall. It is not always wise for climbers to form a rope team, since one falling climber may pull the entire team off the mountain.

However, the risks of individual, unprotected travel are often so great that groups have no choice but to form a rope team. For example, when travelling over glaciers , crevasses pose a grave danger to a climber who is not roped in. These giant cracks in the ice are not always visible as snow can be blown and freeze over the top to make a snowbridge. At times snowbridges can be as thin as a few inches, and may collapse from people walking over them. Should a climber fall, being protected by a rope greatly reduces the risk of injury or death. The other members of the rope team may proceed with a crevasse rescue to pull the fallen climber from the crevasse.

- The Washington Post

For extremely slippery or steep snow and ice, climbers must use more advanced techniques, called ice climbing. Specialized tools such as ice screws and ice picks help climbers build anchors and move up the ice. Often, mountaineers climbing ice will not use a fixed belay. Instead each climber on the team will climb at the same time while attached to anchors, in groups of two.

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This allows for safety should the entire team be taken off their feet. This technique is known as simul-climbing or a running belay and is sometimes also used on steep snow and easy rock. Traditional belays are also used; in this case, this is sometimes necessary due to mixed terrain, steepness, or other factors. Climbers use a few different forms of shelter depending on the situation and conditions.

Shelter is a very important aspect of safety for the climber as weather in the mountains may be very unpredictable. Tall mountains may require many days of camping. Short trips lasting less than a day generally do not require shelter, although for safety, most mountaineers will carry an emergency shelter, such a light bivouac sack. Typical shelters used for camping include tents and bivouac sacks. The ability of these shelters to provide protection from the elements is dependent on their design.

Mountaineers who climb in areas with cold weather or snow and ice will use more heavy-duty shelters than those who climb in more forgiving environments. In remote locations, mountaineers will set up a "base camp", which is an area used for staging attempts at nearby summits. Base camps are positioned to be relatively safe from harsh terrain and weather.

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Where the summit cannot be reached from base camp in a single day, a mountain will have additional camps above base camp. For popular mountains, base camps may be at a fixed location and become famous. The Everest base camps and Camp Muir are among the most famous base camps. Camping is not always an option, or may not be suitable if a mountain is close to civilization. Some regions may legally prohibit primitive camping due to concern for the environment, or due to issues with crowds.

In lieu of camping, mountaineers may choose to stay in mountain huts.

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The European alpine regions, in particular, have a large network of huts. The mountain huts are of varying size and quality, but each is typically centred on a communal dining room and have dormitories equipped with mattresses, blankets or duvets, and pillows; guests are expected to bring and use their own sleeping bag liners. The facilities are usually rudimentary, but, given their locations, huts offer vital shelter, make routes more widely accessible by allowing journeys to be broken and reducing the weight of equipment needing to be carried , and offer good value.

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In Europe, all huts are staffed during the summer mid-June to mid-September and some are staffed in the spring mid-March to mid-May. Elsewhere, huts may also be open in the fall. Huts also may have a part that is always open, but unmanned, a so-called winter hut. When open and manned, the huts are generally run by full-time employees, but some are staffed on a voluntary basis by members of alpine clubs.

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  6. The manager of the hut, termed a guardian or warden in Europe, will usually also sell refreshments and meals, both to those visiting only for the day and to those staying overnight. The offering is surprisingly wide, given that most supplies, often including fresh water, must be flown in by helicopter, and may include glucose-based snacks such as candy bars on which climbers and walkers wish to stock up, cakes and pastries made at the hut, a variety of hot and cold drinks including beer and wine , and high carbohydrate dinners in the evenings.

    Not all huts offer a catered service, though, and visitors may need to provide for themselves. Some huts offer facilities for both, enabling visitors wishing to keep costs down to bring their own food and cooking equipment and to cater using the facilities provided.

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    Booking for overnight stays at huts is deemed obligatory, and in many cases is essential as some popular huts, even with more than bed spaces, may be full during good weather and at weekends. Most huts may be contacted by telephone and most take credit cards as a means of payment. In the UK the term "hut" is used for any cottage or cabin used as a base for walkers or climbers. These are mostly owned by mountaineering clubs for use by members or visiting clubs and generally do not have wardens or permanent staff, but have cooking and washing facilities and heating.

    In the Scottish Highlands small simple unmanned shelters without cooking facilities known as "bothies" are maintained to break up cross country long routes and act as base camps to certain mountains.

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    Where conditions permit, snow caves are another way to shelter high on the mountain. Some climbers do not use tents at high altitudes unless the snow conditions do not allow for snow caving, since snow caves are silent and much warmer than tents. They can be built relatively easily, given sufficient time, using a snow shovel. The temperature of a correctly made snow cave will hover around freezing, which relative to outside temperatures can be very warm. They can be dug anywhere where there is at least four feet of snow. The addition of a good quality bivvy bag and closed cell foam sleeping mat will also increase the warmth of the snow cave.

    Another shelter that works well is a quinzee , which is excavated from a pile of snow that has been work hardened or sintered typically by stomping. Igloos are used by some climbers, but are deceptively difficult to build and require specific snow conditions. Mountaineers face a variety of hazards. When climbing mountains, there are two types of hazards, objective and subjective. Objective hazards relate to the environment, and may include inclement weather conditions, dangerous terrain, and poor equipment. Subjective hazards relate to a climber's poor judgement, poor planning, lack of skills, or inadequate conditioning. In terms of objective hazards, the dangers mountaineers face include falling rocks, falling ice, snow- avalanches , the climber falling, falls from ice slopes, falls down snow slopes, falls into crevasses, and the dangers from altitude and weather. The primary dangers caused by bad weather center on the changes it causes in snow and rock conditions, making movement suddenly much more arduous and hazardous than under normal circumstances. Whiteouts make it difficult to retrace a route while rain may prevent taking the easiest line only determined as such under dry conditions.

    In a storm the mountaineer who uses a compass for guidance has a great advantage over a merely empirical observer. In large snow-fields it is, of course, easier to go wrong than on rocks, but intelligence and experience are the best guides in safely navigating objective hazards.

    The Khumbu region is considered to be conducive to physical and mental well-being, as well as a means for social distinction. Just as tourists visit Chamonix and Zermatt to admire Mont Blanc or the Matterhorn, they come to the Khumbu region to see the world's highest and most spectacular mountains. What sets the Everest region apart is clearly a matter of dimensions. The altitude only amplifies the processes by which individuals push themselves to their limits since the landscapes, obstacles, and sense of commitment take on new proportions. Furthermore, the historical and geographical context of the Khumbu and other Himalayan regions long sheltered them from the development of tourism, thereby preserving a profoundly heterotopian character in addition to the exoticism they naturally possess.

    Although, as in other tourist areas, the growing integration of the Khumbu region into a globalised context and the increasing number of visitors are often seen as threats MIT team, by the trekkers interviewed, these aspects do not have an adverse effect on contemplation or the feeling of renewal.

    Instead, the development of telecommunications networks has allowed trekkers to share and create narratives about their experiences more instantaneously.