Ted Atkins urges all climbers to double check their gear, "I urge everyone with Summit regulators to test them before committing to use high," he wrote. File image of Chris Davenport trying out his Toput mask last year.
Image by Unknown courtesy Chris Davenport, SOURCE
Heads-up climbers on Everest and Lhotse: Double-check your oxygen gear

Posted: May 21, 2012 08:39 pm EDT
(Newsdesk) Ted Atkins issued an alert this morning to all climbers shooting for the next summit wave around May 25:
 
"I leave BC tomorrow heading for Lhotse on the 25th," he wrote to ExplorersWeb. "We know conditions are 'marginal' for this route."

"Topout has issued a number of new Summit regulators out at the request of Summit. Two of these have failed before getting onto the mountain."

"I urge everyone with Summit regulators to test them before committing to use high. We realize this is late but these failures only came to light today so I have walked to Gorak Shep to get a mail out."

The failure rate is two out of a  batch of 20, so a check is important. Failing oxygen can lead to increased risk of frostbite and other altitude related illness for climbers not acclimatized for an ascent without the aid.

Previously on the 2012 oxygen issues

In April Ted Atkins was injured when testing supplementary oxygen. Turned out Ted was not alone. Mingma Sherpa of Seven Summits suffered injuries to his fingers after a Summit regulator exploded while attaching it to a Poisk cylinder.

"This is different and potentially more serious that the previous accident as this was an ignition," Ted said.

An engineering consultant told Atkins that, "If accidents like this happened in the UK the operation would be shut down, and the failed parts taken for analysis into the root cause." Ted passed word to Summit Oxygen and awaited a response. In a follow up email, Ted wrote:

"I have just had a long chat with Neil Greenwood of Summit Oxygen. He informs me that there was a similar incident last year which he feels was due to a seal. This only effects an older type of Summit regulator and there should only be a small number in circulation."

"Neil has asked me to help to remove these from circulation. I suspect that most equipment will now be at BC or en-route. I am happy to help to resolve any issues and advise when I get there."

"Summit have promised to replace these regs with new ones being shipped out from UK end of April. Asian Trekking will get them to me and I will take care of any exchange required."

"I hope this eases discomfort about this situation."

ExplorersWeb Is there a way for a climber to identify the older Summit regulator?

Ted Atkins Yes, in the main body where it screws onto the cylinder there is a blanking plug. This is not on the newer regs. I am going to Everest Base Camp to de-pressure the new Summit cylinders and while there Summit has asked me to help identify and quarantine the dangerous regulators.

I am expecting a delivery of new Summit regulators to BC at the end of April and I can exchange 'old for new' then. I will be staying on at BC to climb Lhotse this season so will be around for the whole period if anyone has any oxygen issues they need help with.

Meanwhile I re-iterate earlier advice which holds good as best practice at all times when handling pressure vessels:

1. Connect the cylinder onto the regulator keeping the gauge facing the ground (the gauge is the weak link, exposed to the full pressure but with moving parts. It was the gauge on the 1st regulator incident that exploded. I had a piece pulled from my neck with pliers).
2. Wear gloves (high pressure gas can enter the blood stream through the skin and is a known industrial danger. Mingma Sherpa of Seven Summits had his hand badly burnt in the second Kathmandu incident when the O2 ignited).
3. Wear your ski goggles or other eye protection.

Early May, Ted updated: "We have now reduced the gas pressure in all of the Summit O2 cylinders and I would be confident these are safe now," Ted reported to ExWeb early May adding, I am now at EBC and no one has brought any Summit regulators for my evaluation. I have authority from Summit to replace any of the defective types."

Ted Atkins was initially injured testing a Poisk regulator in conjunction with a new Summit cylinder, delivered as being higher pressure than the Poisk cylinders. The regulator that failed was not an old style nor was it the newest style. Having sold a number of these cylinders Ted felt obliged to inform all of a potential problem.

Mingma Sherpa of Seven Summits was injured after the Summit regulator exploded while attaching it to a Poisk cylinder. "This is different and potentially more serious that the previous accident as this was an ignition," Ted said.

Trying to get on top of the situation, "Please contact me if you have doubts or would like advice," Ted urged users, "meanwhile please take the extra precautions we advised: fit cylinder to reg with the gauge down, wear goggles, wear gloves."

An Aero Systems Engineering Officer working with the RAF Mountain Rescue Service Ted is known for his very popular Topout oxygen mask that he decided to build in 2004 after he ran out of oxygen on Everest and was saved by a Sherpa.

Ted Atkins, 
Topout Oxygeneering Ltd www.topout.co.uk Call in Kathmandu 00977 9803149195
 Twitter @topoutoxygen
Use no oil or grease - return equipment after each season for service. See web site for user guide.


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