There are many things that can go wrong on the mountain. Some of them, such as the weather, are not under our control. Others are partially controllable – health, for example.
Getting sick is my biggest fear. Recovery can be difficult to impossible, and getting sick frequently means having to go home, or sometimes even worse…
A good friend who attempted Mount Everest last year went through this. He ended up with E. Coli AND Giardia; a fairly devastating combination. His advice to me: “You just have to be incredibly diligent/paranoid with regard to keeping your hands clean, using hand sanitizer, and so on…”
The image below gives you an idea of what precautions I’m taking-
- To the left you see a respirator mask. It’s used for the time that I am spending in Kathmandu; supposedly the third-most polluted city in the world.
- Next to the respirator mask you can see piles of disinfecting wipes and hand sanitizer – for obvious reasons…
- Also pictured: countless medications. Some of them just painkillers of various strengths, an impressive collection of antibiotics, and multiple drugs to treat severe altitude sickness including cerebral and pulmonary edema which, without treatment, are deadly.
- I’m also taking chemical hand and toe warmers with me. The specs of my boots say that they are good down to approximately -80°F, but better safe than sorry; I certainly don’t want to lose any fingers or toes.
- The red gadget below the hand and toe warmers is an inhaler. I may need it to deal with the infamous Khumbu Cough. It’s an extremely violent cough, resulting from the combination of low humidity and low temperatures. A friend ended up with broken ribs; that’s how violent it can be. Fortunately, he made it to the summit, despite the broken ribs!
- And last but not least, there’s a roll of duct tape that will be good for pretty much everything else. I don’t go anywhere without it.
With all these precautions (which are standard), I’m fairly optimistic that things will work out.
One thing is for sure: Even if everything goes perfectly as planned, the climb will take its toll on my body physically (and maybe even mentally!), and I will therefore look different on the way back home.