"We analysed the barometric pressure measurements and found out that during the Mallory and Irvine summit attempt, there was a drop in barometric pressure at base camp of approximately 18mbar. This is quite a large drop, in comparison the deadly 1996 'Into Thin Air' storm had a pressure drop at the summit of approximately 8 mbar," said Moore. "We concluded that Mallory and Irvine most likely encountered a very intense storm as they made their way towards the summit."
"Mount Everest is so high that there is barely enough oxygen near its summit to sustain life and a drop of pressure of 4 mbar at the summit is sufficient to drive individuals into a hypoxic state," said Dr. John Semple an experienced mountaineer and the Chief of Surgery at Women's College Hospital in Toronto.
The authors conclude that with the additional stresses they were under with extreme cold, high winds and the uncertainly of their route, the pressure drop and the ensuring hypoxia contributed to the Mallory and Irving's death.
This research not only contributes a new, and perhaps final, chapter to the Mallory legend, but is also of importance to modern mountain climbers as the same types of storms and hypoxic stresses continue to confront those who take on the world's great mountains.
The Mallory and Irvine storm serves as both an example and a warning of the magnitude of the pressure drops that can occur and the severe physiological impact they can have.
"Over the 8 decades since Mallory and Irvine died we have learned a lot about Mount Everest and the risks that climbers attempting to climb it face", concluded Moore. "The weather is perhaps the greatest unknown and we hope that this line of research will help educate modern climbers as to the risks that they face."
|Contact: Ben Norman|