Into Thin Air

Into Thin Air Glossary


A life-threatening, altitude-induced blood clot.


Technique where one climber holds a rope secure and tight so that a climber attached to it can be quickly arrested if they fall.


The head Sherpa of a climbing expedition. A Base Camp sirdar manages all Sherpas employed by an expedition, while a climbing sirdar manages any Sherpa who climbs above Base Camp.


A malnourished person.

High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE)

Illness where the lungs fill up with fluid, brought on by climbing too high too fast.

Gamow Bag

An inflatable plastic chamber within which atmospheric pressure can be increased to simulate lower altitude; used to treat people suffering from serious altitude-induced illnesses.


Thin layer of ice crystals formed by water vapor from plants or exhaled breath.


Small device used by climbers with a metal clamp that grips a rope when weighted down and slides over rope when pulled upwards.


A Buddhist religious ceremony.

High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE)

Deadly disease where brain swells with fluid leaked from weakened blood vessels, brought on by climbing too high too fast.


A coarse rock that is made up of of layers of different minerals and can be split into thin plates.


A technique where a climber assists another injured or struggling climber using a very short length of rope, making it easier to guide them and support their weight if necessary.


Welsh word for a valley or cirque, pronounced koom.


A deficiency in the amount of oxygen reaching the brain and other tissues.

Seven Summits

Term for the highest peaks on all seven continents. The most common definition lists Aconcagua (South America), Denali (North America), Vinson Massif (Antarctica), Elbrus (Europe), Puncak Jaya (Oceania), Kilimanjaro (Africa), and Everest (Asia). Climbing all seven is a celebrated mountaineering challenge.


A surveying instrument with a rotating telescope for measuring horizontal and vertical angles.


A temporary, improvised shelter or camp site. Can refer to either sleeping outdoors in an insulated bivouac sack, or to a shelter built of rocks, sticks, and other natural materials.

Free Soloist

A climber who climbs without the assistance of ropes, harnesses, or any other equipment.


Prefix meaning original, as in "ur-climber" Sir Edmund Hillary.


A deep open crack, particularly one that occurs in a glacier.


A Buddhist religious monument, usually made of stone and containing sacred relics. Also called a stupa.


Small, flat rocks carved with Sanskrit symbols and piled along trails to form long, low walls.


Ethnic group indigenous to the Himalayan regions of Nepal, also found in Bhutan, Tibet, and northern India. They are often hired as guides and porters for mountaineering expeditions due to their high altitude expertise.


Honorific term in Tibetan language used to address religious figures.


A ceremonial silk scarf often presented as a gift in Himalayan Buddhist culture.


A metal plate with spikes that can be attached to a boot to improve grip when walking on ice.


A deep crack or crevasse that marks the upper edge of a glacier, where it separates from the stationary ice and rock above it.


A large, often unstable block or column of ice on the surface of a glacier.


A metal loop used to quickly and securely attach and detach component parts, particularly important for safety lines and harnesses.