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Crowds of Climbers Rely on Standards to Rise to the Top of the World

New York, Jan 11, 2008

As the world mourns the death of Sir Edmund Percival Hillary, the New Zealand-born adventurer who first reached the peak of Mount Everest in 1953, an ever-increasing number of climbers are planning to conquer the tallest mountain on Earth.

Although thousands have already climbed the Nepalese mountain, the trek remains dangerous and potentially deadly. A comprehensive standard from ASTM International, a member of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and accredited standards developer, ASTM F1773-97(2004) Standard Terminology Relating to Climbing and Mountaineering Equipment and Practices provides good guidance for planning a successful expedition to the highest summits.

Climbers must overcome the challenge of physical activity in a hostile environment and need to acclimatize to both altitude and cold temperature. An experienced sherpa can suggest a schedule that allows enough time for preventing illnesses, but a standard developed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), INCITS/ISO 6709-1983 Standard Representation of Latitude, Longitude and Altitude for Geographic Point Locations provides a scientific tool for climbers to plan the progression of their ascent. The standard was developed by ISO Technical Committee (TC) 211. The ANSI-Accredited U.S. TAG Administrator for ISO TC 211 is the InterNational Committee for Information Technology Standards.

Headaches and sleeplessness are not the only complications that come with high altitude: freezing temperatures and strong winds can cause the body to rapidly lose heat. To avoid frostbite and hypothermia, climbers can test their gear against a standard from the European Committee for Standardization, DIN EN 342:2004 Protective clothing - Ensembles and garments for protection against cold.

Sleeping bags, tents, and ropes are critical to the safety of the ascent. Standards such as ISO 10966:2005 Sports and recreational equipment - Fabrics for awnings and camping tents and ASTM F1774-99(2005) Standard Specification for Climbing and Mountaineering Carabiners help climbers make accurate and informed equipment choices.

In case of emergency, physicians assisting climbers in distress can turn to a standard developed by ISO TC 159, ISO 12894:2001 Ergonomics of the thermal environment that provides advice on the medical supervision of individuals exposed to extreme temperatures. The ANSI-Accredited U.S. TAG Administrator for ISO TC 159 is the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (HFES).

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