Drones in the high mountains

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The drone is becoming more and more a natural part of professional alpine climbing, in addition to filming and photography, it is used to locate missing climbers as well as to map current climbing routes, road conditions or to deliver medicines and other (even vital) devices to impossible locations. It’s easy to think about: it gets to places, where appropriate, in, easily and quickly, where no one else is able to, so it’s really being deployed in more and more backups.

So it was in the summer of 2018, when a certain Polish drone video man named Bartek Bargiel was filming his brother on Karentum, the second highest mountain in the world, on the 8611-meter-high K2 in northern Himalayas, when he spotted a troubled climber on nearby Broad Peak; Rick Allen tried to descend on an unfamiliar path when he suddenly crashed. The cameraman immediately sent the camera drone there, and the recordings allowed the rescue helicopter to reach its destination in time.

Bartek Bargiel was no longer “living in vain,” but he was also able to deliver medicine on another volunteer deployment. Already in these times, an important limitation of drones seemed to be: short flight time, as batteries dive very quickly at extreme altitudes and cold. In many cases, therefore, they do not begin to deploy expensive drones for Himalayan rescue operations, where wind alone is no small obstacle.

For the time being, it is fortunate that, for example, the Pakistani authorities (to which K2 belongs) do not regulate the use of drones for Himalayan hobbies – away from military bases. Nepal, the country of Mount Everest, is already much stricter, drones lighter than two pounds can “go” until they rise more than 120 meters above the ground and get more than 500 meters away from the pilot. Those who would go up the mountain with a larger model – or a smaller one, say in the Annapurna Nature Reserve – would even need to get a film permit from the local authorities. It’s good to know that the license costs $ 5,000 – in extreme cases it can digest 45 days and $ 18,000 based on serpa reports due to the involvement of nine agencies – but there is no chance of filming with the Mount Everest drone, for example, because “the Chinese border is too close”.

In any case, a group of professionals interested in alpine droneing are skilled at operating at least heavy-duty devices that can deliver oxygen to the camps. By the way, this would also make the work of the serpas safer, but – contrary to some fears – they will not provoke them. One thing is for sure: it is worthwhile to do all such activities officially, as the authorities are relentlessly striking down anyone who would blackly drone in the Nepalese part of the Himalayas.

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