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Ask the Expert #3
Posted June 11, 2000
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Question:

What is the temperature at the top of the peak? What is the rock composition on the peak? What is the shape of the top of the peak?

John
Michigan



Response from Liesl Clark:

Keep an eye on the web site and we'll report what the temperature will be when we're there. Most of what you see on the south summit here is granite and on the north summit there is mostly a black sedimentary rock similar to shale.



Question:

When you will be climbing, what kinds of physical or mental tests will you have to go through to make sure you are healthy?

Christen
Michigan



Response from Liesl Clark:

Walking a straight line is often a good test to make sure you don't have High Altitude Cerebral Edema or Acute Mountain Sickness. We also watch each other for any lack of energy or attention, which might indicate fatigue.



Question:

In your past experience of climbing what part of the expedition takes the most energy, mental or physical?

Janna
Michigan



Response from Liesl Clark:

The preparations and planning before the trip is often the hardest mental task for an expedition like this. Physically, summit day is the hardest because you are at such a high altitude and exposed to extreme cold. Also, getting along with your expedition members can be a big deal for some climbers.



Question:

How well does the altitude and cold preserve organic materials? At what altitude do you have to begin wearing an oxygen mask? What happens if you don't put it on? About how far can you see from the peak?

Nathan
Michigan



Response from John Grunsfeld:

Our food up here freezes, so we have to boil it to warm it up to normal room temperature. We use shredded cheese, for example, instead of blocks of cheese because it melts easier shredded.

We don't breathe supplemental oxygen when climbing Denali because it isn't high enough.

On a clear day you can see the ocean which is over 100 miles away.



Question:

What would happen if a giant storm came? Would you ride it out or descend?

Keegan
Michigan



Response from Liesl Clark:

We would ride the storm out in our tents and 'hunker down' until the conditions allowed us to move. We had such a storm at 11,000 feet and therefore didn't move up the mountain.



Question:

Does it get hard to move? Because when I'm outside in the winter and my hands get cold they are kind of stiff and get difficult to move.

Nate
Michigan



Response from Liesl Clark:

Yes, our hands get stiff and frozen too.



Question:

Did you even have any idea of how difficult climbing a mountain would be? How much preparation did you have to go through, and how long? Why did you want to risk your life to climb a mountain? Even after all we have heard from movies and books like Into Thin Air, why do you still want to do it?

Emily
Michigan



Response from Liesl Clark:

With everything in life that brings rewards involves great risks and we take those risks knowing we will come home challenged and fulfilled.



Question:

How does being on the mountain compare to being up in space?

Melissa
Michigan



Response from John Grunsfeld:

The expedition preparation and training is very similar, having to account for all the details of what you have to take with you. Both on the mountain and in space, if you forget something, you can't run out to the hardware store.



Question:

How do you think the challenges that come up in space will effect your decisions on Mt. McKinley?





Response from John Grunsfeld:

I'm much more conservative than I was ten years ago. My participation in the space program has changed my acceptance of risk.



Question:

What methods does your team intend to use to cope with altitude sickness? What equipment does your team plan to use on Mt. McKinley?

Josh
Michigan



Response from Liesl Clark:

We use climbing hardware like ice axes, crampons, pickets, ropes etc. We use pots and pans and stoves for cooking. We use solar panels and a laptop and satellite phone for communicating with you and we use lots of good warm clothing to keep us warm.



Question:

How long does it take for spit to freeze? Does it hit the ground, or freeze in the air?

Charlie
Michigan



Response from Liesl Clark:

At 50 below zero, we think spit freezes before it hits the ground. But don't quote us on this.



Question:

How can you drink at high altitudes? Wouldn't they freeze before they got to your mouth? Wouldn't the food be too hard to chew?

Alex




Response from Liesl Clark:

As I type, I have an insulated water bottle tucked inside my down parka. If I leave it next to me when I sleep, the water will be frozen by morning. All of our warm food freezes after time, if not eaten.



Question:

What type of animals are found on top of Mt. McKinley, or aren't there any? What's the lowest temperature that a person can survive in on a Mt. McKinley?

Brianna




Response from Liesl Clark:

Ravens are known to fly over the summit of Denali.

We know of an expedition on Denali that took place in the winter and they recorded a wind chill factor of minus 148 degrees Fahrenheit.



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