Getting high in the Himalayas
Three Whistler mountaineers are preparing to climb Nanga Parbat, one of the highest Himalayan peaks, in an attempt to test a new mountaineering theory and the edges of their skis on a first descent from the 8,126 metre summit.
Whistler's Chris Kettles, Peter Spricenieks, Arnold Zukuta and Australian Andrew Lock are leaving June 14 for a mid-summer climb up Nanga Parbat, the ninth or tenth highest mountain in the world, depending on who you talk to. Rumour had it someone has skied Nanga Parbat, but it remains just that, a rumour.
The expedition is on the cutting edge of mountaineering as Spricenieks and Kettles plan on making the ascent without the aid of bottled oxygen. Although many climbers have made ascents without bottled oxygen, none of them have done it drinking hydrogen peroxide. Spricenieks, Kettles and Zukuta will be trying a natural oxygenation theory that involves drinking hydrogen peroxide. Most people scoff at the thought of drinking something they usually consider as a disinfectant that boils and bubbles when put on a cut.
That boiling and bubbling is what turns on high altitude dudes like Spricenieks.
"It's a totally natural thing in the body," says Spricenieks, a 27 year-old-global ski tourer and cosmic consciousness raiser. "Hydrogen peroxide is in mothers milk and just about all raw fruits and vegetables."
When ingested, hydrogen peroxide reacts with oxygen in the blood and actually produces another oxygen molecule, oxygenating the blood — naturally and without the hassle of lugging bottled oxygen up an 8,000 metre-plus mountain.
While Kettles and Spricenieks will provide the hydrogen peroxide know-how, Australian Lock is the most experienced on the expedition, with summits of Mount Everest, K2 and Broad Peak under his belt — all without the aid of oxygen.
Hydrogen peroxide has been promoted by a number of doctors and health professionals as a natural cure for a number of afflictions ranging from acne to AIDS. But Kettles says, if your body is clean hydrogen peroxide can be used as natural fuel.
The expedition has been over a year in the making and the whole thing almost fell apart last month when American expedition leader Ed Derek called of the climb after being told he would have to post a $4,000 US rescue bond. All the other paperwork had been completed, the permit was in place and Spricenieks and Kettles decided rather than call off the expedition, they would take it over.
"The permit was there, all the paperwork was done and the organizational dancing was in place," Spricenieks says. "This is a once in a lifetime permit, so we might as well use it in this lifetime."
The expedition will cost over $20,000. Ten porters and a Pakistani army officer will be involved for the duration of the permit, which runs from June 23 to Sept. 23. The party will set up base camp at 4,350 metres, advance camp at 4,950 metres and will push to 6,900 metres to acclimatize themselves to altitude and work on the hydrogen peroxide program.
They will be making the push for the summit in early August and then ski off the mountain. Kettles, who has skied at over 6,000 metres, says skiing down is the quickest and safest way off the mountain.
"We will know if the snow is good because we will have climbed the route first," Kettles, 27, says. "There has been a lot of snow in that part of the Himalayas this year so we are very optimistic. Next to parapenting, skiing down is the quickest way off the mountain." The steepest lines will be 45-50 degrees.
Both Kettles and Spricenieks say they are doing the trip very light, alpine style, forsaking all of the weight of a traditional expedition-style trip.
"We're not the kind of dudes who go to conquer the mountain. That's not our trip," says Spricenieks. "It's up to the mountain… if it doesn't want us there it will just toast us."