Firstly, Summit Oxygen would like to express our sincere thanks and deepest respect to the Sherpas, guides and leaders of the various expeditions who were affected by these events for their swift decision making, and in cases sacrificing their own oxygen system to ensure the safe descent of their clients from an extremely exposed position on the mountain. The outcome could have been significantly worse if their actions had been delayed.
During the spring season 2018 on Mount Everest there were reports of equipment failures of the Summit Oxygen regulators. These reports were confirmed when Summit Oxygens’ Managing Director visited Nepal, shortly after receiving news of the reported incidents, to interview witnesses and those directly affected. The genuine cases were less than originally reported, nevertheless a problem had definitely occurred and a full investigation was warranted. I’m very pleased to say we are now in a position where we have finished our investigation and testing, and have concluded the cause of the problem. Quite early on in the investigation it came to light that all the genuine cases occurred on the night of 15th/16th May 2018, with one exception on the night of 16th/17th May 2018. During this period humidity levels were exceptionally high (80% at times), there were lots of reports of frost on down suits etc. This level of humidity in a very ‘clean’ atmosphere, when compared to the particles in the atmosphere at lower elevations, allowed solid ice to form on the regulator blocking a critical vent path. The vent path exists to allow any small leaks from the piston o-rings not to develop to a pressure that can cause a problem. Because these vents paths were blocked solidly the gas could not escape, the pressure subsequently increased to the point that the piston could not seal which then allowed full cylinder pressure to enter the low pressure areas of the regulator. Fortunately, the low pressure side of the regulator is protected by a Pressure Relief Valve (PRV), this activated releasing the excess pressure and preventing an even bigger tragedy. The down side of this of course is that the climber losses the contents of their cylinder in a couple of minutes, so even if they have a replacement regulator they also need a replacement oxygen cylinder.
Summit Oxygen has issued a Product Recall Notice and is currently conducting a modification to the regulator design the prevent this issue reoccurring. Any customers who have purchased the products listed in the Notice should contact us immediately to arrange for the modification to be carried out.
Click here for the Product Recall Notice Himalayan Regulator.