Following a surge in COVID-19 cases in Nepal, Everest operators are preparing to gather and airlift empty oxygen cylinders to medical facilities to be refilled and used to treat COVID patients. Over 9,000 new daily infections were reported yesterday, 11 May, and hospitals are beyond breaking point as they battle an oxygen shortage.
If I were a cynical man I would read this as "big business desperately try to cover their own arse after publicity showing them to be total b*rstards so they can continue to rake in the $$"
It would be nice if they could donate the full ones, still I suppose they are at least making at effort.
It would be a tad more impressive if it was "expeditions have been cancelled to allow for the full oxygen cylinders to be immediately provided to the ill".
Virtue signalling at its best!
Most of these bottles, by nature of being portable, are to small to be of any practical use!
The basic physics of:
Pressure cylinder X Volume cylinder =
Pressure atmosphere X Flow (L/min) X Time
The underlying issue will be lack of oxygen producing facilities and possibly very large cylinders to fill, with very few medical facilities having piped gas facilities in Nepal.
A 4L Armatec cylinder is pressurised to 280-300 bar, so holds around 1200L of compressed 02.
Which gives you 5 hours @ 4L/min ( a low rate) not very long if you require O2 therapy for days.
Apparently CV patients require between 2-15 flow rates for up to 16hrs per day. Some of the O sets being used have up to 8L flow rates, with climbers having up to 5 bottles plus whatever the Sherpas carrying it all use (at about half the rate).
Add it all up, consider the amount of O up there, and it's enough to make a difference. Add the load China is willing to send (which plays in the political tug-of-war over Nepal with India). I'd argue that by being smaller self-contained units they will have advantages in some places.
To my mind the equation is; there's stuff in the country - but it's currently been locked away with affluent foreigners on holiday far from the needy masses who will die in droves if they don't get it. The bottle neck is a corrupt admin element that already channels 30% of a climbers payment into 'fees and permits' (whilst <5% goes to the porters - another subject). O sets make up about 10 - 20%% of a trips costs, so perhaps the companies could reschedule the trips to next year, donate the O to hospitals and still come better than even.
Yes, the good people of Nepal need to stay afloat through all this - which includes the majority in the lowlands not just the relatively better earning folks in the Khumbu (per capita Sherpa's are among the highest earning people in the country).
It's not virtue signaling, it's developing world economics. It could be a quick foreign dollar from oil, guns or heroin but in this case it's bottled oxygen and climbers are the syndicate.
Quite aside from the Covid question and morality of expeditions being there, I ask what the hell any expedition, past or present, is doing leaving used oxygen cylinders there in the first place? The rubbish of abandoned gear being left on the mountains is a disgrace.
I wonder if they'll raid the mass stack of O2 cylinders on display in the Pokhara mountaineering museum when they were brought down from Everest on a mass clean up.
The great part of all this below the water line.
These operations are industrially organized to get as many people as possible up a mountain and away again, meaning there's a huge surge of resources up at the start of the seasons with porters and helicopters from across the country to move it all, then the entropy and randomness as it all does what it does then trickles away again. The resources and motivation to move stuff out again weeks later just doesn't match up. Whatever the value of the O bottles, it simply doesn't match the labor cost to carry it away again, and stuff left in some areas for 'removal next season' accumulates, with enough deteriorating or being frozen in to not move before the next layer arrives. In Nepal it's 2 seasons generally a year, x +30 years now.
Another sad baseline is that the environment of EBC, the Baltoro etc isn't that of wilderness, they are shanty towns on glaciers. The very locations these days are physically made of shredded tents, frozen waste, buried cans and dumps of spent gear - all bearing labels in every language you can think of. Like tossing a paper cup during mardi gras, the general landscape of already dumped junk makes it feel a drop in the ocean. O bottles are just part of the wallpaper, even despite actually being quite valuable, but recall this is an industry paying $1000 for shoes (the parallels to the high fashion industry are ubiquitous).
It is a disgrace - our ilk has turned the worlds highest and most fragile wilderness ecosystems into trash heaps. You can't touch the ground in some places it's so filthy. We've known this for decades and only accelerated. I had a decade gap between visits to some peaks I've been on and it's simply and utterly beyond words. The decade before what was a tiny and isolated cluster of tents and some barely discernable tent sites on the route had become stepping stones of yellow nylon, frozen piss and meal packets and a macramé of bleached rope to the soundtrack of the clunk of O bottles being stepped over. I won't go back, but two will fill my place.
As my partner often says, "if they can clean up after Burning Man why the hell can't they do it here?". And the answer is the industrial model used to do it. It's a blend of struggling economies locked in seasonal employment, corrupt authorities, new industries experiencing a gold rush with no regulation, product companies falling over themselves to sell shit to it, new and redirected affluence and 24/7 hype.
There's an interesting, recent interview with Adventure Consultants' CEO, Guy Cotter, here...
AC made the call a while back not to run their usual pre-monsoon Himalayan trips this year and their NZ operation is in hibernation for the coming winter, too.
Hearing rumours covid is rife in base camp, challenged immune systems at altitude, less o2 in air anyway, isn't likely to end well. The o2 supplies there might be their saviour.
> Hearing rumours covid is rife in base camp, challenged immune systems at altitude, less o2 in air anyway, isn't likely to end well. The o2 supplies there might be their saviour.
Nah it's all fine. Instagram says so.