All is suffering

…in a recent travel program :

“Hold your breath , for a long time , and follow our team to the deep end , on a dive at the edges of possible :

Down , down , down … we have now passed in to total darkness , nothing is visible beyond our diving lights. The pressure around us builds up relentlessly , a cold hard vice with us in the middle , at the same time as the pressure in our tanks rapidly dwindlles. We push on and manage to glimpse the masts on the sunken schooner with low tanks , and claw our way to the surface on the the very last pound of air pressure. Should have brought a second tank. Topside ,with drinks in our hands and the sun setting over the South Sea it´s hard to believe that this world exist paralell to ours , just over the railing of the boat.
After two hours Lisa is able to move her legs again. “

No , this show never aired. Somehow losing control is not seen as cool in the context of diving. This is however how a diving story would have been presented if you had brought in the team from Packat & Klart , with the same perspective as they recently portrayed high altitude trekking in Nepal.

This is probably the part where I start losing the attention of my Ladakhi & Tibetan friends , negative criticism is seen as an ego boosting trap. But there are times when it is useful to see how things go wrong , what mindsets takes you there. So bear with me as we tag along again with the reporters to Everest Base Camp and beyond.

suffering , part 1

suffering , part 1

“This has to be worst I´ve gone through, ever. Up . up , in to ever thinner air. Never have have I pushed my body this far .. “

This is the first shot of the lead reporter , one week in to the trek. It´s an attention grabber , good TV. It´s also the beginning of a consistently broken timeline which is poor public television , in the sense of getting a good understanding of the subject at hand. Timing is everything in high altitude trekking and climbing : it decides everything from how you see colors to if you can hold down your breakfast. Ultimately it also decides how many come down from the mountain , every year a number of people develop pulmonay and cerebral edema , and at that point mortality becomes high.

Some may also argue that timing is everything in media : early in to the show we are presented with an ironic view of the flight to Lukla , shown three weeks after the catastrophic landing that killed all but one . The programe is also aired the same week as the French ambassador in Kathmandu calls for better awareness and training in dealing with altitude sickness , after three French deaths in the same early in the season.

suffering , part 2

suffering , part 2

The introductory theme of …suffering will be repeated a number of times from now. The back is suffering , the boots are suffering , dhal bhat is probably also suffering,  the packs … somehow the two magical limits of twenty kilos and two packs are broken , on what basically is a teahouse trek , with a shared incomplete kit. Somehow not only the reporter but also the editors seem to read in a meaning in this suffering , the themes of pushing the envelope , taking yourself to the edge of endurance are repeated again and again. Self realisation through exhaustion. In a viewers submitted section we find another video from EBC , with the comment from the editors that the footage is TV quality images , but lacking emotional content and presence : they specifically ask for a description of aching lungs.
Meanwhile , with or without packs we all will struggle in this situation : everyone who just has arrived at 3000+ meters has the same physical capacity as someone with chronic lung disease. It will get better , but not fast .

cold , suffering ?

cold , suffering ?

“-..and here is Annelie , cosying up …
“-I´m wearing just about everything I have , and the sleeping bag on top of that !”

This is October , around four thousand meters , and in shelter . It´s not that cold , especially in Swedish terms – in numbers. Which takes us back to time , and acclimatisation to altitude. There is no way to understand from the programme how fast they have arrived at this altitude , but this shot tells us one thing : fast. Being cold is intimately linked to incomplete adaption to altitude , with white cold hands and feet from constricted blood vessels in the periphery.

Number, numbers

numbers

numbers

Putting on the reporter hat , we are presented with some numbers to understand the physiology : “here at 5000 meters my pulse is over 100 , and my oxygen saturation is 88 – normally it should be 100 % “

So there is stress , and an oxygen saturation that normally would mean a change of pace in the emergency room or ICU. Before this acclimatisation has been mentioned a number of times , but without any real attempt at describing what it is . Is it how fast you walk , is it where you sleep , is it hours , days or weeks we are talking of here ?

Useful numbers missing in this context are :

*numbers of nights above 2000 meters
*maximum safe ascent rate
*production time for red blood cells
* number of urine producing organs ( I kid you not , wearing the reporter hat there is talk of the kidney (singular) , and altitude sickness involving it “freaking out” . High urine output is actually one of the first defence mechanisms when exposed to high altitude. )

“Here I am , waiting for Annelie, at Kala Pattar , 5200 meters . She has never been this high before. She is feeling sick , feverish , her stomach is acting up and she has a headache…”

descend

descend

In short this is a close match for the LARGE! signs you find at every major trailhead in Nepal , from the doctors of The Himalayan Rescue Association beginning with “all symtoms above 2500 meters ..” and ending with (big capital letters ) “DESCEND ! DESCEND ! DESCEND ! “

…even before Annelie turns up on camera , with slurred speech. It´s also the same symtoms the lead reporter recapitulates in the beginning of the program.

So what comes next ? Of course they ascend even further (collective groan from the HRA clinic in Pheriche ) , the option of descending or even just remaining at that altitude isn´t even discussed in the program . Not surprisingly , they don´t make it to the top of Island Peak – but at least they make it down to Namche afterwards.

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6 thoughts on “All is suffering

  1. Oh my , indeed – jag mailade redaktionen medans jag skrev det här, inget svar. Programmet skall läggas ned , stämningen är antagligen inte på topp.

  2. Jackass verkar ju vara på en något högre nivå , vad jag förstår så börjar i alla fall programmen med ” don´t try this at home ..” , men här uppmanar man folk att göra samma sak , varnar för att fel kängor kan bli en “katastrof”..
    Det bli värre , jag har läst två andra versioner av förloppet , och fått mail från SVT, men det får vänta till nästa år.

  3. Jackass, finns det ett program som heter också, vad? Jag har själv inte sett det. Men har fått för mig att de cyklar in i betongväggar och snortar ammoniak och liknande. Verkar ju vara på samma nivå eller missar jag nått?
    Ingen respons från packat-gänget?

  4. I got a reply from the production company , shown below for Swedish speaking and Babelfish-savvy .

    Basically it´s a header and footer from the producer saying we trust the judgement of the sufferer ( Sebastian Näslund ) , and his reply. They make a point of describing him as a elite athlete , which is beside the point/ counter productive : this is the profile for people for getting AMS.

    It gets worse though : afterwards I find a two more versions of the climb from himself ( freedivers association site, and personal blog ) where he describes himself as feeling “drunk” and slow minded before giving up the climb , and the hidden member of the team appears : the Sherpa that hauls up the 28 kilo base camp , which enables them to break ascent rules … again.

    Hej Per och tack för mailet! Skickade dina synpunkter till Sebastian och
    här är några kommentarer från honom:

    TV-programmet är cirka 15 minuter långt. Trekkingen varade om jag inte
    minns fel ca 12 dagar.

    1) Tempot var anpassat till deltagarna, därför hamnade olika deltagare
    efter ibland. Vi var fullt införstådda med riskerna och iakttog noga
    våra symptom av höjden och ansträngningen.
    Detta är anledningen till att vi inte fick höjdsjuka.

    2) Kalla Patar är en topp, man kan inte fortsätta upp därefter. Innan
    nästa topp gick det några dagar, precis så många dagar vi behövde.
    Anledningen till att Imja Tses topp inte nåddes redovisas i programmet
    och hade mycket lite med acklimatisering att göra.

    Bergsklättring är en sport om man vill se det som det, det är tufft.
    Så är också marathon och andra sporter där man tar ut sig til sitt
    yttersta. Det är en mänsklig drivkraft att testa sina gränser. Det
    var bl.a. om det inslaget handlade.

    Jag kan bara instämma med Sebastian – han är en erfaren extremsportare som
    bland annat fridyker på SM-nivå, och han är utrustad med både
    äventyrslystnad och gott omdöme. Hans medverkan i programmet är ett sätt
    att visa resande som går utöver det vanliga. Jag är dessutom övertygad om
    att helhetsintrycket hos tittarna efter inslaget var att höjdsjuka är något
    mycket allvarligt och inte något att ta lätt på.

    Mvh
    Jacob Wikmark
    producent Packat & Klart

  5. Major climbing scandal now , involving the same media tactics taken one step further , by the other member in the program, Annlelie Pompe. . A reported climb on Shishapangma , Tibet, shows on closer inspection be of a non-technical peak in the same range – with a photoshopped picture from another climb used to support the bogus claim.

    English link : http://www.mounteverest.net/news.php?id=18758
    Swedish : http://outsideonline.se/2009/10/20/shisha-pannkaka/
    http://www.utsidan.se/forum/showthread.php?threadid=58384

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