effects. At sea level the air we breathe contains about 21% oxygen at a
standard air pressure of about 760 mmHg. As the altitude increases the air
pressure becomes lower and less oxygen becomes available with each breath.
This makes it harder and harder to breath as the air becomes "thinner."
For many people a period of acclimation to extreme elevations is possible.
If this period is too short or ascent is too fast then severe high-altitude
sickness or Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) can set in. AMS can ultimately
result in two very fatal conditions, High Altitude Cerebral Edema wherein the
brain swells and ceases to function properly and High Altitude Pulmonary Edema
that occurs when the lungs fill with fluid.
The use of bottled oxygen helps to prevent these and other symptoms. For many
people, especially on Everest, it is absolutely required, even for those well
acclimated to such heights. The lack of oxygen during high-altitude climbing
presents a real and constant danger to climbers who endeavor to reach the
summit of the world's tallest mountain without the use of supplemental oxygen.
There are few willing to make the attempt and fewer still that succeed and
return to our safer elevations to tell of it.
There have been oxygenless attempts at Everest as long as there have been
climbers on its slopes. Though the science of the times labeled it an
impossible folly, mountaineers as far back as the days of Mallory and Irvine,
the 1920s, decried the use of oxygen as an "artificial advantage" over the
mountain. In 1922 Mallory, Norton and Somervell reached a height of about
27,000 feet without oxygen before turning back. Though other oxygenless summit
attempts followed the first successful ascent was by Peter Habeler (Austria)
and Reinhold Messner (Italy) via the South-East Ridge in 1978.
Delgado, who founded the Nueva Vision Alpina (Nuvalp) mountain guide agency
in Mexico City, has an impressive Himalayan resume including Cho Oyu, K2,
Pumori, and Broad Peak. He summited Everest in 1997 using supplemental oxygen
for only the last 400 meters and is determined to return to the summit without
using oxygen. Although Delgado is the official leader of the expedition the
team will operate along democratic principles with all team expedition members
having a voice and a vote in decision-making.
Mountain guide Luis Espinoza is Delgado's co-worker at Nuvalp. He is 32
years old and has performed the impressive feat of scaling Aconcagua in
Argentina (6959 meters) in just 8 hours. Two or three days is a more typical
time for that climb. Espinoza is also a veteran of many self-propelled
endurance races including kayaking, swimming, biking and running.
At 36 years of age Alejandro Rojas is an experienced climber and triathlete.
In 1996 he and Delgado climbed Cho Oyu (8201 meters) without supplemental
Richard Cartier is a 42-year-old Canadian (one of two on the expedition)
doctor specializing in palliative (end of life) care. He began climbing in
1997 and has developed a high level of technical skill in rock and ice
climbing. He is also a former climbing monitor in the Fédération Québecoise de
la Montagne (1982). Cartier also has an impressive climbing background. In
2002 he climbed the west face of Huayna Potosi (6088) in Bolivia in 8 hours,
and has climbed in both the American and Canadian Rockies, as well as in
Europe and South America.
Martin Boileau, age 38, is the second Canadian on the expedition. An
Ophthalmologist by trade he is a former member of the Quebec-Canada Team of
Athletics. He has run a mile in under 4-minutes and stills holds many Quebec
records in middle-distance running. His climbing history is equally impressive
including an ascent of Aconcagua by the direct Polish Glacier Route in one
push as well as climbs in the Rockies, Mexico, Ecuador, and on Elbrus, Mount
Kilimanjaro, and McKinley.
Ian Dobson will be base camp
manager. According to the expedition itinerary the team will arrive at
base camp (5300 meters) on March 31, 2004. The expedition will then
acclimatize and set up a series of higher camps reaching 7,400 meters at camp
3 on April 18th. On April 30th the team will make a trial attempt at the
summit. On May 9th the expedition will establish Camp 4 at 8,000 meters. From
then till then end of May there will be 3 attempts at the summit from the
highest camp. The team is scheduled to return to Montreal on June 15th
successful or not.