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Rescue from Everest

2007-02-15 23:54:36.240943+00 by Dan Lyke 9 comments

There's a site called Rescue On Everest which I'm not completely sure about, but looks like a way to publicize a product of TGR Helicorp. The product is an unmanned rescue helicopter, and one press release says:

"The pilot sits in a virtual reality environment and could effectively be considered to be sitting astride the bulbous nose with a wide angle of view forward and down. Once a stranded climber has been located, the Alpine Wasp communicates with them using an 8.5-metre extendable proboscis with a camera and a small speaker attached to its end," New Scientist quoted Rogers as saying.

Which, to some extent, brings me to a question: At what point does climbing Everest become so much like a theme park ride, with lots of perceived dangers, but with most of the actual dangers mitigated, that the experience loses all meaning? Already, in my perception, at least, there's more of a cachet to someone saying "I climbed K2" than "I climbed Everest", because it implies that there was more personal involvement, it wasn't just "I got in really good shape and followed my guide's instructions".

My opinion in this matters not a whit, I'm sure, but I find it amusing that there's so much energy, even if it's only media energy, around the notion of mitigating risk in an assumed risk situation.

[ related topics: Nature and environment Consumerism and advertising Aviation - Helicopters ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2007-02-16 16:09:31.328021+00 by: meuon [edit history]

There is a magical moment in caving, hiking, biking etc.. when you realize that YOU are in control, and what and where you go is up to you. Especially when you have no information other than: I am here, and that way looks interesting.

That is missing when I'm going with someone else who knows the way, or is guiding. I used to dislike Clem for sharing little information on a trip, now I enjoy it.

#Comment Re: made: 2007-02-16 16:30:33.62156+00 by: mvandewettering

I'm not a climber, but I have a friend who is. He has told me stories of a significant fraction of climbers whose primary qualifications are simply a lack of self awareness. They typically climb with less than adequate equipment (because carrying all the equipment you might need when you get beyond 15,000 feet is kind of a drag) and merely believe that if they get into serious difficulty, someone will get a rescue chopper up to save them. Strangely enough, these people aren't very often killed, with the net result that their climbing strategy is often validated, and it has become more popular.

#Comment Re: made: 2007-02-16 17:41:00.331779+00 by: ebradway

There is a good article in the latest "Outside Magazine" discussing the media hype around the climbers who died on Mt. Hood. They were all well-seasoned climbers with the appropriate gear. They just got caught in an unlucky storm.

There really is no way to completely safety-proof nature. It's a very interesting contrast when I hear about mountain lion attacks in Boulder County. Folks here generally accept the fact that their are lions in the hills. People put bells on their dogs' collars (helps more with the bears than the cats). People continue to hike, run, ride in the mountains and they don't expect all the cats to be killed. But I think people in Colorado in general accept (and even enjoy) the fact that nature can be dangerous.

And if Everest seems too wimpy, there are plenty of dangerous peaks in South America.

#Comment Re: made: 2007-02-17 19:14:46.94426+00 by: jeff

Mt. McKinley (aka Mt. Denali) is probably as challenging a climb as you'll find on the planet, and it's in our 49th state:


I sometimes wish I had the skills and guts that some of these climbers possess. Instead, I'm sticking to my own mountain hikes (Mt. Whitney, Longs Peak, Mt. Kilimanjaro, et al).

#Comment Re: made: 2007-02-18 22:47:59.565435+00 by: ERTrust [edit history]

Dan, just out of interest, why aren't you sure about rescueoneverest.org? I kinda like it but then I am biased I suppose as I did write most of it. So, I'm genuinely interested in why you aren't sure about it, we welcome comment so we can improve the site. I've also been a climber for 15 years or so and therefore, understand the mindset of climbers and why they do what they do so I was keen to comment here.

So, I just thought I'd see if I could change your mind, or at least provide a counter to some of your own comments, which clearly come from a position of inexperience and show a lack of knowledge:

Everest, while certainly not the most difficult mountain from a technical climbing perspective (that honour is generally recognised to go to K2), isn't a pushover by any stretch of the imagination. Everest is a serious undertaking and a very serious mountain. You can't be dragged up it by a guide or a Sherpa, they are in as much pain as anyone else in the Death Zone. You have to be ultra-fit, a good climber and committed to spending up to two months slogging up to and down from different heights on the mountain multiple times in order to acclimatise enough for the summit push. Granted, it's been done in amazing style by the likes of Reinhold Messner (first man to summit solo without O2) and others but those guys (and girls) are superpeople, not normal human beings like the rest of us!

In terms of publicising TGR's products, the Everest Rescue Trust really has very little to do with TGR apart from the fact that TGR are building the Alpine Wasp and the founding trustees are the owners of TGR. The Everest Rescue Trust is a non-profit organisation and all the funds generated through the Trust are going to be put back into Nepal and the Nepalese. As you can see from http://www.rescueoneverest.org/page/beneficiaries, the money from the rescues will be put to very good use. All of the facilities in Namche Bazar will be staffed by Nepalese and TGR is donating the Alpine Wasp to the Trust, there's no money changing hands at all. We believe that this is a good thing that we're doing and that it will help save lives, help a proud people earn a good wage in one of the harshest environments imaginable and generally, do some good.

In terms of mitigating risk, having a helicopter that has the ability to pluck someone off the top of Everest if they get into trouble is very different to having a helicopter that will pluck anyone off the mountain who's in trouble, it simply doesn't work like that. There are many other factors to consider when deciding whether a rescue is achievable – the weather, the position of the climber, the safety of the other climbers on the mountain, all sorts of other variables. I agree that having the possibility of rescue does lessen the risk but let's be honest here, it's by a very small margin, it doesn't drop the risk to zero. You can kill yourself on any mountain in the world in a multitude of ways extremely easily, having a rescue helicopter like the Alpine Wasp doesn't make any of those ways go away.

And to close, you might find it amusing now but I bet you wouldn't find it too amusing if you were stuck on a mountain in trouble and we hadn't put our energy into developing this technology. Or if someone you knew and cared about was in the same position because I get the impression that you wouldn't ever find yourself in that position. And remember, this technology has many other applications for other types of rescue so you never know, one day, you might find yourself needing it.

If you'd like to chat further or have additional questions, please don't hesitate to get in touch at matt@rescueoneverest.org


Matt Wilson

#Comment Re: made: 2007-02-23 00:44:53.505118+00 by: Dan Lyke

Hi Matt! Sorry for the delay in my response, somehow I missed your message.

What I'm not sure about is whether it's more than an "astroturfing" effort for publicity for TGR. Given that most of TGR's products are about military missions, it just seemed kind of like a PR move to say "by the way, we're working on this civilian application, warm fuzzies, warm fuzzies". That's great, I just don't know how acheivable it is.

But anything that's helping the Nepalese make some tourism money sounds good by me.

As for the risk, it just seems like, whether or not it is, people are treating Everest as though it's an amusement park, and that attitude will only increase. So it's becoming less and less a measure of achievement.

Jeff, I'd put an ascent of Devil's Thumb over Denali, even with the lower altitudes involved.

#Comment Re: made: 2007-02-23 02:12:46.494758+00 by: jeff

Dan--you wouldn't get any argument for me, based on your photos of Devil's Thumb during your Alaskan cruise. It looks like a beast!

#Comment Re: made: 2007-02-25 19:34:00.566581+00 by: ERTrust


Fair enough, you're entitled to be sceptical I guess but the Wasp is a definite reality, it's sitting in bits, ready to be put together right now! And while a lot of TGR's helicopter manufacture is for the military markets, that same technology can definitely be applied to other areas, as has been the case with the Alpine Wasp's development. And if you look at the website, this is more about the owners of TGR feeling good than getting non-mil PR for TGR. We have consciously tried to not promote TGR on the www.rescueoneverest.org website as it is a separate entity and bar making the helicopter, not involved with the Everest Rescue Trust.

Anyway, we'll keep you informed about the project and you can make up your own mind.

#Comment Re: made: 2007-02-25 22:36:45.742282+00 by: Dan Lyke

Cool! The TGR folks are entitled to feel good, and it's even cool if they're doing it for PR, I guess I'm just a little jaded about the whole "Everest as Disneyland" thing.

But it's definitely some neat technology, and you've got me excited about seeing it come together!