Everest oxygen blowup take three: word from Ted and Summit

Posted: Apr 13, 2012 02:27 am EDT

(Newsdesk) Last week 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 three days ago, 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.

Last week Ted Atkins was 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 now urges 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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Supplementary oxygen on Everest has a long and rocky history. This image of David Rosa, leader of the UPV Valencia team, testing the Summit Oxygen system in BC in 2005. Everything worked fine there - the failures started in the death zone above 8000 meters, on the team's summit bid.
Image by David Rosa courtesy UPV Valencia Everest team

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