As the Operation Deep Climb hikers make their way up Mauna Kea, not only does the team tire, but some are experiencing altitude sickness. This is because they live at sea level, and air pressure lowers as they get higher. By the time they stopped at 10,500 ft (3200 m), the air pressure was about 696 hectoPascals, and the air density was about 0.87 kilograms per cubic meter, compared to sea-level values of 1016 hectoPascals for air pressure and 1.2 kilograms per cubic meter for air density. This means that the oxygen content of the air was 73 per cent of its value at sea level. The symptoms of altitude sickness — headache, nausea, and dizziness — are rather common at higher altitudes for people who live at sea level. (For this reason, I had to abandon my first attempt at a “fourteener” here in Colorado — “fourteeners” are 14,000 feet [4268 meters] or higher).
To avoid altitude sickness, serious mountaineers wanting to summit 8,000-meter peaks not only spend a lot of time exercising to bring their body to a peak fitness level, but they try to spend some time at higher elevations before the climb to get their bodies acclimated to higher elevations. For comparison, the height of Mt. Everest is roughly 8,850 meters. Using the data from the Hilo sounding for 14 October the air pressure at that height is 332 hectoPascals, the temperature is -32 degrees Celsius, and the air density is 0.48 kilograms per cubic meter, which is 40% the value at sea level.
Day 5 – 15 October 2007
Anna – 16
Operation Deep Climb participant
Once I woke up this morning I began to pack my things. We talked with the cameramen and producers and today our teams would be different. Savannah was a team leader; in her group were David, Andrew and Collin. Mack was the leader of the team I was in; also with us were Santannah and Evan. We were also told that the groups would be kept together and so when would take a break so would the other. Today we started off hiking through very thick, knee high grass. Then we started to see rocky ridges and valleys. Then the terrain changed entirely to rocks, gravel and few trees. At one point Sergeant Gregory explained to us how to identify a poisonous plant, and most of us ate a dandelion. I tried it and it was a little tart.
Soon I noticed that there were no more trees or plant life and the landscape seemed more “like Mars.” At one point I had found a very interesting lava rock that I wanted to keep as a souvenir, but when I asked Bebe if I was allowed to take it, she said no and that Madame Pele would curse me if I did. Later I found an old horseshoe that Madame Pele would let me keep, so I am carrying that with me now. Today one of the members of the team I was in started to feel a little lousy. Mack was a good team leader and adjusted the rest of the team to help out our teammate. I also helped by helping to get my friend’s mind off of their condition by singing, you are lucky you couldn’t hear us.
Our camp tonight is at around 10,500 feet (3,200 meters) of elevation, we were told that we were getting close and then the time went a lot more slowly. We finally saw where we would be spending the night. It was within walls of rocks that seemed to tower over our small tents. The view from this location was one of my favorite sights of this trip so far. We had passed the cloud level today and we were lucky enough to see the sunset at the cloud level.
I don’t know how but the producers brought us hot chocolate for our Nalgene bottles. I was told that the wind chill made it feel like it is in the forties (4.4-10 ° C), which is freezing to this Florida girl. Tonight I shared a tent with Santannah and Savannah. It seemed that everyone went to bed pretty early, I think that this happened mainly because it was so cold once the sun went down; there was nothing to do, but go to sleep. So far I have enjoyed this trip, I like the people that I am with and the production crew is also really fun. Everything we have said on camera is our own words, I have never been asked to say something or read off of a card. Sometimes when I was being filmed while answering a question, just to someone say, “Can you repeat that in a full sentence?” I think the strap of my pack may be bothering my neck, but this won’t stop me.
Mack – 15
Operation: Deep Climb participant
Day five started before the sun even rose, we had to get an early start because we where going to be covering a lot of ground today. The terrain for the beginning part of the day was long grass that was annoying to hike on but the worst was yet to come. At about noon we crossed the cinder line, which is where the trees end and the lava rock begins. The rock was really had to walk on especially up hill. People kept slipping and falling on the loose rock. We stopped for the night by a rock pile where we set up our tents, cooked our food, and went to sleep; for we were all very tired and knew the next day was going to be the day we summited.
Santannah – 14
Operation: Deep Climb participant
The next day of the hike was the longest and most exhausting. Like yesterday, in the beginning of the hike I felt terrible. It was hard to breathe, I had a splitting headache and my body had not had time yet to recover from yesterday’s adventure. Then suddenly I felt amazing, better than amazing, as if I was a new person. The was around the same time that the scenery changed from a rolling hills like terrain to one that look as if it came straight off of Mars. Nothing but red rock and sand surrounded us. Soon my “buzz” wore off and I was back where I started, the back of the pack. I was cold, tired and my body just wanted to shut down. The closer I go to camp the further away it seemed.
When we finally reached camp we set up our tent and I put on as many layers as I could. I drank a lot of water and then slept.