On Everest, a Path of Outdated and Defective Oxygen Gear


In 2005, his father, David Matthews, introduced manslaughter costs in opposition to members of the expedition’s organizer and the oxygen gear provider. (In England, a citizen can convey a non-public prison prosecution.) However the subsequent yr, a decide threw out the case, ruling that there was no proof proving that Michael Matthews, whose physique was by no means discovered, had skilled gear issues on the day he disappeared.

Nonetheless, the business remained largely unregulated, and climbers continued to report issues.

Robin Moore, an American doctor, was close to the highest of Everest in 2017 when she began gasping for air. Guides mentioned her gear seemed positive and Moore had oxygen, however she quickly fell unconscious. A Sherpa modified the cylinder, and oxygen started flowing once more, snapping her awake, she mentioned.

In 2012, Ted Atkins, a British engineer who based Topout, an oxygen methods firm that provided one of many first aggressive alternate options to Poisk, was screwing a Russian regulator onto a brand new European cylinder when it exploded in his face.

After the accident, Atkins discovered that issues with oxygen methods had been extra pervasive than broadly thought. Ten p.c of used Poisk cylinders he had examined had been leaking by means of their valves, he estimated, a placing quantity contemplating that the majority climbers use a number of cylinders every for a summit try.

In the meantime, regulators — which assist climbers gauge their oxygen provide — had been generally freezing, allotting no oxygen or giving inaccurate readings. Extra lately, Atkins discovered that a smaller variety of cylinders had been dropping oxygen by means of the physique of the tank, seen when submerged in water as gasoline effervescent out.

“Each time you fill a cylinder, if you put the gasoline stress in it, it expands,” he mentioned in an interview with The New York Instances final yr. (Atkins died in an unrelated climbing accident in August.) “That growth causes steel fatigue.”

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