Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Everest on Bad Oxygen

MountEverest.net is running a fascinating series reporting that several companies and individuals allegedly have supplied faulty oxygen bottles to climbers on Mount Everest in the past few years. The web site suggests that many of the deaths on The Big E that are attributed to exhaustion, exposure or heart attack may, in fact, have been the direct result of failed oxygen systems. Strong stuff! "New systems are continuously introduced without proper tests at altitude," the report states. "....There are no regulations on the mountain, mainstream media generally doesn't understand the subject, climbing magazines stay away and the customers are mostly new kids on the block. A sneaky part is also that oxygen failure closely resembles general altitude problems—and dead climbers' oxygen gear is rarely retrieved."

MountEverest.net writes that oxygen systems are a $2 million a year business on 8,000-meter peaks, offering plenty of incentive for shady outfits. These articles are rich with inflammatory language (the headline is "The Highest Death Lab in the World"), accounts of drug dealing, potshots at rival EverestNews.com and other material that, if published in mainstream press, would probably have the lawyers cranking up their fax machines. Journalistically speaking, I'm not sure if this website is fearless, reckless, naïve or all three, but it's certainly the only media outlet covering stories like this one. Read the stories and decide for yourself.

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