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Icom Two Way Radios Summit Mt. Everest

Icom Two Way Radios Summit Mt. Everest

Icom two way radios have sailed the ocean, flown the sky, and now they’ve climbed the highest peak on earth. In May, a climbing team led by Mountain Link, a Bend, Ore.-based mountaineering guide service, summited Mt. Everest with Icom radios in hand. At 29,035 feet in elevation, Mt. Everest is the tallest mountain peak in the world.

Equipped with Icom IC-F14 two way handportable radios (The American equivalent to the IC-F15), the 13 members of Mountain Link’s team spent nearly four weeks moving from base camp up the mountain, acclimatizing to the altitude and waiting for a window of good weather, before their final push to the summit.

Nearly 450 international climbers reached Everest’s summit this year. Eleven climbers died on the attempt, and another uncounted number were forced to turn back before reaching the summit. Extremely harsh and quickly changing weather conditions, as well as icefalls and avalanches, pose a significant risk to climbers. A lack of oxygen and illness also prevent many climbers from ever reaching the summit.

Because of these hazards, safety always comes first, says Robert Link, the owner of Mountain Link. A seasoned guide who’s trekked up Mt. Everest four times, Link says radio communications play a critical role in promoting safety. Up-to-the-minute weather and news reports help prevent accidents from occurring. And in the case something goes wrong, guides can use their radio to call for help.

“On every expedition we do, we rely on our radios,” says Jeff Justman, a Mountain Link guide on the recent Everest expedition. “Two way radio communications are crucial to the safety of the team.”

Using their Icom portable two way radios, the climbers kept in close contact with the other Mountain Link team members, an important component in maintaining team morale. “On a mountain like Everest, you have different team members at different camps. People are progressing at different speeds, and you rely on radio communications to keep the team together,” Justman says. “You’ve got to be a team and look out for each other. Radio communications lets you know how everyone is doing. It’s the comfort factor.”

Two-way radio communications also lets climbers stay in touch with base camp and contact the other expeditions climbing Mt. Everest. The separate expeditions reserve a central channel where the various groups can share information on weather conditions and route changes, or call for rescue.

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve relied on two-way radio,” Link says. He vividly remembers the time he used his Icom radio to talk a helicopter into a remote mountain rescue. Only six inches of thin air buffered the rotors from the mountain’s rock and ice. Carefully, he directed the copter down as it settled its front tires on a remote ledge. “Without good communications, a mountain rescue can be very dangerous,” Link says. Although the majority of climbers still do not use two-way radio, it is gaining traction in the mountaineering and expeditions market. VHF is powerful enough to allow climbers to communicate from the summit to base camp. VHF is also less sensitive to geographical obstructions that might cause line-of-sight-problems for CB radios.

Using Mountain Link’s Icom radio system, Justman was able to communicate from base camp to two team members on the summit of Everest. “Communications was clear, and I was 12,000 feet below them,” Justman says. “It sounded like they were right next to me.”

VHF is commonly used by guide services in South America, the Himalayas, and sometimes in Mexico. “For Mt. Everest, CB doesn’t cut it,” Link says. In the Himalayas it would be nearly impossible to reach from base camp to the summit, he says. “It simply doesn’t have the power.”

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