Sport: Climbing: Mt Everest
Everest Airship Rescue Corps   (+11, -2)  [vote for, against]
You can't helicopter people off Everest, so...

[Posted under "Public" without qualifier in the absence of Public:Safety or Public:Airship]

While reading accounts of the 1996 Everest climbing disaster, your Uncle Nutsy noticed that several climbers died who were clearly in serious trouble before the storm hit. However, injured or failing climbers on Everest have to be taken most of the way down the mountain by muscle power, because much of Everest is so high that there's insufficient atmosphere to keep a helicopter afloat, while conventional aircraft simply can't pick anyone up.

A dirigible, though, can combine high-altitude engines and a pressurized cabin with the ability to hover. While it couldn't do anything once a storm hit, it could pull people off the mountain with proper weather warning and would be better than nothing. Even if conditions stopped it and it couldn't manage to take someone off or insert high-altitude medical personnel, it could drop oxygen, shelter, food and fuel.

(The broader question, "Are too many people climbing Everest?", is not something I want to address under this topic.)
-- Uncle Nutsy, Jun 04 2001

Into Thin Air
Excellent eyewitness account of the 1996 Mt. Everest disasters. [Uncle Nutsy, Jun 04 2001, last modified Oct 05 2004]

Ballooning Over Everest
The nearest thing I found via web searches; no details, but apparently some of the technical obstacles can and have been addressed. [Uncle Nutsy, Jun 04 2001, last modified Oct 05 2004]

Airship rescue is not new... http://www.aht.ndir...irigible/aw9899.htm
[angel, Jun 04 2001, last modified Oct 05 2004]

... http://www.utdallas...tion/utrosen13.html
...but it's a good idea anyway. [angel, Jun 04 2001, last modified Oct 05 2004]

Panoramic view from the top
Whatta view... munch munch munch... pass the butter. [FloridaManatee, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 05 2004]

Aren't those kind of bad conditions for operating a blimp? The peak of Everest is in the jet stream, where I understand wind speeds can approach 250 miles per hour. Also - is it feasible to operate what amounts to a balloon in conditions of extremely low air pressure? Wouldn't it just pop?
-- snarfyguy, Jun 04 2001

Yes, wind conditions are often bad, but not always, and the killer storms that hit Everest in 1996 had warning periods of under an hour- not long enough to help a climber, but long enough to recall an airship. On moderately windy non-storm days, an airship would have to drop anchor, but TIPUET.

As for air pressure, there needn't be a problem. As noted in the links, people have already sailed over Everest in a balloon. In point of fact, while researching this idea I looked up the altitude record for a balloon; it's over 113,000 feet- almost four times the height of Everest. This required special equipment, but more for the crew than the balloon.

In fact, I was thinking that, as an emergency abort, an Everest Rescue Airship could blow ballast and rise to 40,000 feet, where the chances of it blowing into anything would be minimal (though its return trip post-storm might be anything but).

Obviously, this is not something I would want to try without a well-trained, well-equipped daredevil crew and a custom-built vessel. A good Everest Rescue Airship would have a semi-rigid frame, a pressurized cabin, a lifting mass made from thousands of individually-inflated Kevlar cells (to minimize chances and consequences of punctures). Heck, armor the dang thing if it'd help.
-- Uncle Nutsy, Jun 04 2001

Isn't floating over in a balloon quite a bit different than maneuvering to and holding a position long enough to be of any help?
-- PotatoStew, Jun 04 2001

PS (PeterSealy): Weight restrictions and atmospheric pressure. Everest climbers already have to leave behind a great deal of safety equipment- "unnecessary" oxygen (which becomes far more necessary when the descent is delayed), "redundant" tents (which become less redundant when the guy with the tent gets split off) and the like. Secondly, prolonged low-pressure and -temperature exposures are two of the big dangers of Everest, and an airship with a pressurizable heated cabin would provide immediate relief (for people requiring gradual repressurization for whatever reason, the crew could endure a brief period of lowered pressure).

PS (Potato Stew): Sure, it'd be a lot harder; the balloon example was just to address the "air pressure" problem. However, harder != impossible. A "walking" anchor system (drop one anchor safely away from where you want to hover, fire a second anchor closer to where you want to be, jettison first anchor, shorten tether on the second anchor until you're directly over the second anchor, repeat) would make hovering fairly near a designated target, if not easy, possible for a skilled crew.

Marine Air Rescue crews operate in hurricane-force winds and they can- not always, but often enough to make trying worthwhile- put rescue swimmers down within reach of individual people in raging seas. While Marine Air Rescue has the advantage of powered vehicles, Everest Rescue Airships wouldn't attempt to operate in winds of quite that force and would generally have immobile targets to balance things out.

Man, you people are a tough audience. I should just figure a new use for custard.
-- Uncle Nutsy, Jun 04 2001

Well shoot. Most of my immediate objections have been answered quite handily. Nice idea, Uncle--I'll vote you a croissie.
-- Dog Ed, Jun 05 2001

I think this is a good idea along the lines of dropping supplies (like say, a caravan or something...) to stranded climbers
-- CasaLoco, Jun 05 2001

I'm in favor of anything involving airships.

I like CasaLoco's point. If it's not actually necessary to evacuate a climber, the airship could just drop supplies (medical supplies, food, equipment, whatever). This could also be done if it's too windy to actually anchor, but the airship could fly over.
-- wiml, Jun 06 2001

One problem that hasn't been discussed:

Not knowing too much about the climbing culture, I suspect anything that makes ascending Mount Everest easier would be considered watering the experience down for many climbers, and they would complain that it will make it too easy and therefor no longer a desirable effort. Maybe if you promised to also populate the mountain with abominable snowmen they'd go for it....

"I ain't climbing no Everest!"
"Why not? It's there, isn't it? That's why you climb?"
"Yeah but since they added the rescue blimp, it's like a cake walk."
"Well, didn't you hear about the Yetis?"
"Yetis? There are dangerous bloodsucking snow monsters to combat as well? I'm THERE!"
-- globaltourniquet, Jun 06 2001

-- AfroAssault, Jun 07 2001

You seem to have covered the physical problems fairly well Nutsy but, assuming people still want to indulge in the new namby-pamby, softies only, Everest experience, who gets to pay for this?
-- DrBob, Jun 07 2001

In response to the good Doctor's question, I dunno. This is still a speculative idea. Climber's fees? Equipment costs for Everest climbing expeditions are so high that a typical expedition contains at least one multi-millionaire, and most climbers have a higher net worth than Bush cabinet appointees. Climber's fees currently pay for Sherpa teams to comb Everest to pick up litter; the Everest Airship Rescue Corps could maybe operate on a similar basis. Or maybe "Mountain Dew" would buy naming rights for the fleet.

Nice to see that other people saw the "aerial resupply" and "flying doctor" potential too, as an intermediary stage between landing and being grounded at the aerodrome.
-- Uncle Nutsy, Jun 08 2001

A great Idea. Unfortunatly someone already beat you to it.

The Good year blimps have been used on several rescue mission most in the Grand Canyon, but I think I remember one time when airship was used for resue in the Rocky Mountains. And right now the Turtle Dove company is already building a huge airship that can be used for almost any rescue effort. The Ship will be the first Plastic Clad airship ever made and it will be big enough to carry an entire hospital inside. So it can be used for emergency's like if there is another majoir flood in Louisiana, or an earth quake in Califorina; we can quikly fly the turtle dove airship there to try and save everyone still alive.

Blimps have a great deal of limitatons .one speed fly to fast and the nose cone will crush. .two controlability Blimps can not resist side winds moveing faster than about 30 mph. But Zepplin airships and Plastic Clad airships can brave almost any storm and can fly at any speed.
-- wood2coal, Aug 30 2001

i gave up flying in aeroplanes (heavier-than-air-craft) about 5 years ago because they damage the environment so much.

the only way i'll get to the united states from old europe in the air is in a dirigible/blimp LTA lighter-than-air-craft (airship).

zeppelin NT :- http:// /en/zeppelin/ malmsheim_2002_1.html

cargolifter (SADLY THEY SEEM TO HAVE GONE BUST) :- /www/2002/repository.nsf/ HTML/index_e.html? OpenDocument&id= C1256B02002F132A/html/ f6d1b8d7dfff2f45c1256b 6f004d8722.html

advanced technologies group :- about/aboutus_data.htm
-- josiebelle, Jul 04 2003

They should install a cable car.

[Uncle Nutsy], are you going to to climb Everest? We'll see you at the top. I've already made reservations in the non-smoking section of Qomolangma Brasserie for 7pm. Don't be late or we'll lose the table.
-- FloridaManatee, Jul 05 2003

Any idea that includes a blimp is 90% likely to get a croissant from me...
-- dbsousa, Jul 05 2003

Although globaltourniquet's Yeti Idea seems good in theory there is always the chance that the yetis could be recruited by al-quaida and armed with shoulder fired rockets, thereby creating an even more disaterous situation on Everest than the one that the dirigible was meant to fix. We don't need a repeat of the Hindenburg on the slopes of everest, although the idea of terroristic yeti might create an even bigger drawing point for the extreme sport crowd.
-- Apologetic_Cynic, Jan 23 2004

I think people keep forgetting here that a balloon ain't an airship. VERY different ratios of size and weight. Look at any high altitude balloon, and compare its size to the size of its load.

Moreover, the winds alone at the top of Everest could render an airship completely unusable... tethers or not.

I've actually flown a blimp... this is a nice idea, but I'm smelling fish in a bag, not helium.
-- zigness, Feb 22 2004

I think this is a brilliant example of common sense gone right - which makes a change +
-- Ossalisc, Feb 23 2004

Now if the envelope was made of super thin, super light, super strong material it could be filled with custard then when the custard was drawn out there would be a vacuum, which is lighter than even hydrogen, and the custard could be reused.
-- KiwiJohn, Feb 24 2004

random, halfbakery