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Why attempt to climb Mount Everest without oxygen?

At the top of Everest there is only 33% of the oxygen that is available to us at sea level

The risks are many, the consequences are great, and the margins of safety are slim...

so why attempt to climb to the top of the world without bottled oxygen?

Simon Ferrier-May on the summit of Manaslu, 8163m, without oxygen

When I climbed my first 8000 metre mountain, the question of whether to use supplemental oxygen was one that I pondered for a very long time, given the huge implications either way.

Climbing the highest peaks without bottled oxygen is generally regarded as the "purest" form of high-altitude mountaineering. Of course, it leaves little margin for error (the statistics for any of the fourteen 8000 metre peaks without O2 are fairly sobering).

The flip-side to that, of course, is that you have far bigger problems if you use oxygen and it runs out while you're above 8000m. It's a classic pros/cons situations, with around 95% of climbers opting to use it.

So why did I choose not to use oxygen?

For me, the point of climbing the highest peaks is to see what I am capable of, to explore myself and my boundaries, to push myself to new limits and to experience a whole other world of beauty.

I want to see if I can climb up to Everest’s level and, if the mountain gods allow, stand on her summit. I don't want to bring the summit down to my level, which is effectively what you're doing by strapping on an oxygen mask; you reduce the relative altitude.

I want to be fully immersed in the environment; to experience everything, not to be hidden behind a mask.

When I made the decision that I wanted to try Everest without O2 I left myself enough time to train for it. I have had some injury setbacks, but I hope to be where I need going into the expedition. If I'm not, then I'll pull the plug, and do the climb with. The purity or prowess of climbing Everest without oxygen is not worth my life.

On my last 8000 metre expedition I ran 100km - 120km each week (6 days training, 1 day rest) averaging just under a half marathon every day. It worked for Manaslu... I’m hoping it will work for Everest, but no matter how prepared I am for this expedition, I am under no illusion, I know it's a monstrous challenge -- the biggest of my life so far.

Be sure to follow me on Instagram for training and expeditions.


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