Emergency aids


These adrenaline shots, usually used for allergic shock or severe asthma, are lifesavers as well as killers on a mountain. If in a state of fatal exhaustion, the adrenaline might bring out some power in you, hopefully enough to make it down. Yet, it might just as well give you a heart attack. Obviously, adrenaline shots are an absolute last resort when all hope is out and you are dying anyway. That's the time to shoot up. At all other instances, stay away from it. We always bring them with us, but thankfully never yet had to use them. (Check the expiry date and minimum temperatures).


An emergency drug, sometimes also used to speed up acclimatization. It reduces the increase in blood pH resulting from carbon dioxide loss at altitude caused by faster and deeper breathing. Diamox enables you to breathe easier at night (and avoid the Cheyennes), thus enhancing your performance at daytime.
We tried it on Denali, peed every 30 minutes, felt our fingers and toes tingle and gave it up altogether after a few days. Diamox doesn't do anything for us. Taking your time while climbing and drinking well is the best altitude beater. We bring Diamox only for rescue situations.


This steroid should only be used in emergency situations. Taking it will require immediate evacuation, since Decadron will relieve acute mountain sickness but not cure it. Don't try to rely on Decadron while climbing if you don't wish to die. Bring it with you (pills and shots) for serious situations only.


Another emergency drug, this one for pulmonary edema, since it lowers pulmonary artery pressure. Again, take it and rush down.
We've been told that Nifedipine should be taken in pills slowly absorbed under the tongue. Check with your doctor.


The Gamow-bag is really helpfull when trekkers or climbers suffer from altitude sickness such as HAPE and HACE . The bag rapidly decreases the altitude by a couple of thousands meters and can be the difference between life and death within hours. It works as a converted dive-decompression chamber and builds pressure with a simple footpump. The Himalayan Rescue Association have one at Pherouche and most often there should be at least one around in BC. If your expedition want's to bring the Gamow, it could be possible to rent it. Try your trekking agency. Or buy it at approx US 4000. Surf the net for it.


Use it for all severe altitude illnesses. 2-3 liters/minute - and DOWN. Higher levels can be toxic. Always bring a spare emergency bottle between 2-3 climbers above C2 for rescue.


Ask your doctor about dosages, drug administration and additional drugs for various coughs (Codein), stuffed nose, strong painkillers for frostbite or fractures, and other prescriptions. In addition, bring band-aids, iodine, antiseptics, water purifiers, surgeon tape, and other first aid medical tools.

Have the necessary immunizations and preferably attend some first-aid class (The Red Cross do them). Iron supplements could help females. Take the kind that is easily absorbed by the body. Multivitamins and sunblockers prevent cold sores.

Last words on health at Everest

When we train Karate, our leader "Sensei" always states that we train hard in order to never have to use what we've learned.

This goes for altitude illness too  - preventing it is half the skill to climb Everest. Learn, prepare and practise well, your exam will be to never have to use the emergency aids stated above.

To summarize; there are really just 3 major advises we have for beating altitude at Everest:

  1. Give the climb time.
  2. Take the time to trek down for a rest.
  3. Drink lots of water.

Finally, don't forget to donate left over pills to the people in the valley, preferably to nurse Ann-Kanchi at Rhododendron Guesthouse in Debouche. She runs a voluntary medical clinic there. She has saved many peoples lives and is always short on medical aids.
She'll be very happy to see you. She also has many interesting Everest climbing stories to tell.