With or Without Oz
people talk about climbing without oxygen, yet few actually do it. Even
the sherpas will usually use oz.
In 1999, we climbed Everest with a Sherpa named Babu.
He stayed on the summit for 22 hours with no
supplementary oxygen. That year, no other sherpa climbed on the south
side without oz.
Babu had an extraordinary genetic ability even for a sherpa (together
with a strong mind) to climb without oxygen. In addition, a safety net
had to be built around Babu for his attempt.
Babu had then a history of seven Everest summits without oxygen. The
attempt was prepared for a full year with added sherpas, ropes and
oxygen for rescue. During the night of the attempt, we stayed at C4 with
additional rescue sherpas positioned at C2. We monitored Babu all
through the night, continuously asking him his name, age, number of
children and other things, to check him for signs of AMS and HACE.
Even with all these precautions in count, Babu's attempt was still
highly dangerous (and actually looked pretty bad for a while). Babu made
it against all odds and Nepals first international climbing hero was
born. A few years later, Babu sadly died in a crevasse at C2.
Do not attempt Everest without oxygen, unless you are an experienced
+8000-meter/26000 ft climber, with at least one previous experience at
8500-meters/28000 ft without oz. Your sherpa should carry a spare oxygen
bottle for emergency. And remember to drink plenty of fluids.