Climbing Olympus Mons
March 30, 2015 4:36 PM   Subscribe

Based on what we currently know from satellite imagery, would summiting Olympus Mons be likely to require technical climbing skills, or would it just be a long, long walk up?
posted by chimpsonfilm to Science & Nature (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

"Olympus Mons is a gently sloping shield volcano, much like the volcanoes that make up the Hawaiian Islands. If you were placed on the flank of Olympus Mons and not told that you were standing on the slope of the volcano, you could probably look around and think that you were standing on a gently sloping plain. You would see a gentle slope upwards in one direction and a gentle slope down in the opposite direction.

If you were placed on the rim of the summit crater and looked down the slope of the volcano, your horizon would be located on the volcano's flank. The volcano is that gently sloping and that immense."
posted by bottlebrushtree at 4:44 PM on March 30, 2015 [3 favorites]

Best answer: You can see a cliff in your link about where the image of the mountain overlaps with the state of Arizona. Wikipedia says that cliff is 5 miles high, but otherwise the slope of the mountain is so gentle that someone standing at the top wouldn't be able to see the non-mountain horizon because the planet curves away. Wikipedia also states that the average slope is 5%, which is less steep than a disabled access ramp.

So, you could try looking around for how difficult the cliff portion is - there may be routes up it where it's more of a slope than a cliff. This image doesn't look too tough; maybe class 3. You'd actually have to do the route to determine the rating - the toughest move required is the rating for the whole route.

Here's an actual response from NASA, they say it's technical.
posted by LionIndex at 4:53 PM on March 30, 2015

These guys don't seem to think it's too tough.
posted by LionIndex at 4:57 PM on March 30, 2015

There is a good novella in Kim Stanley Robinson's The Martians about climbing one of the most difficult routes on Olympus Mons.

I have no expertise in this area, but my understanding is that his writing is usually very scientifically and geographically accurate.
posted by ripley_ at 5:25 PM on March 30, 2015 [2 favorites]

Yep, came in to point you to KSR's The Martians. I'm inclined to trust his descriptions, which make it sound hella technical.
posted by ottereroticist at 6:21 PM on March 30, 2015

Here's a video describing the 'slow steady' ascent - you can also see how the edge of the shield could well be your horizon as well.
posted by quinndexter at 9:35 PM on March 30, 2015

Best answer: Expedia is offering climbing expeditions to Olympic Mons among its Mars packages, but it's tough to get flights. I wouldn't take it as authoritative, but they say "Climbers of all ages and physical levels are encouraged to participate," and call it a 15-50 day climb. 50 days sounds like a lot, but you typically have to spend 3-4 months on Mars between your arrival and your best departure window.

Keep in mind while plotting your climb that Martian gravity is under half of Earth gravity. Might be a tougher climb if you were born on Mars and grew up as a willowy stringbean, but your Earth muscles will feel very powerful when you get to Mars. Could be deceptive, though-- gravity will feel like a piece of cake, but you'll still have the same difficulty there as here when it comes to driving in pitons or ice-climbing.

You also don't have to acclimatize on your ascent, because you'll be breathing pressurized nitrogen/oxygen the whole way anyway. Your suit doesn't have to be sealed, as long as physical pressure, whether by air pressure or just a very advanced bodysock, pushes on your skin. Don't want to rip that, though-- could lead to a nasty hernia. After that you just need insulation, heat, heated gloves, pressurized helmet, and a way to attend to the various bodily needs.

If you find yourself in Cydonia, may I recommend hiking the Face on Mars? NASA has proposed a trail-map following its 1998 re-mapping of the strange feature first seen by the Viking lander. Looks like a pleasant day-hike, with some time left over in the evening to explore the nearby pyramids.
posted by Sunburnt at 9:59 PM on March 30, 2015 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone!
posted by chimpsonfilm at 5:38 AM on March 31, 2015

« Older Lean, athletic women: what do you eat?   |   How to evaluate prospective tenants? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.