Ted started work before he left UK using the basic bladder reservoir system. This had several problems: the efficient diversion of gas and containment until required being the core problems. The idea he wanted to see work was where the O2 would be diverted into a reservoir while breathing out then feed ‘on demand’ while breathing in. He started work with a Tornado pilots mask and attached the reservoir to the mask as on other systems. This worked to an extent but he didn’t get the time needed to see it fully through.

The thing finally fell into place at Base Camp (BC). While walking to BC he picked up a couple of discarded 500ml pop bottles that he was using for ‘pee bottles’. He later used them for tea and water on the mountain (after rinsing; this is a good tip, tell everyone that you do this and pee in your cup when desperate and no one will ever want to ask you for a drink, therefore less chance of you picking up infection!)

It occurred to him that he could cobble these into an improved O2 delivery system. As mentioned it was not going to be difficult to beat the ancient competition. He had no doubts about using a prototype system for his 3rd and final attempt on the mountain. However if it could fail, it would fail safe, (therefore carry on working, if with less efficiency) in which case it would still outperform the competition In practice it works exactly as it says on the packet with some added advantages.

If a gasp for extra breath is made there is reservoir capacity to cope with a bulk delivery.

You can watch it working, confirming O2 delivery.

The system is ‘tuneable’. In that the reservoir must not be allowed to completely fill or remain full. If it does O2 will be spilling past the valve into the mask while exhaling; perfectly safe, but wasteful.

Should the valve or the reservoir fail it will never deliver less O2 that the current systems and will only lose a percentage of efficiency.

It fails safe.

This system has now been used extensively on Everest and functioned perfectly. It was slightly daunting to use a prototype and mainly unproven system on such an ambitious project. Ted had perfect faith in the science of the principle and the intrinsic reliability built on simplicity. No gimmicks, no batteries, low technology; so far 100% ‘TopOut’.

When Ted returned to Everest in 2004 it was almost certainly going to be his last shot. He had to get it right and the single most important tool in the box to improve performance and therefore success – is oxygen. If there was only one item to get right it is this and it would not prove difficult to improve on the existing systems which had not evolved after many years.

His aim was simply to produce a better, more efficient system. What has come about from 16 years of thinking about the problem is all of this and more. Top Out ensures that every last molecule of O2 that leaves the cylinder is processed through your lungs. Not only is there no waste but the O2 used is tuned to your demand and needs. The current available systems can only deliver at a set, very slow rate even when your body demands are high. In order to try and overcome this dilemma the flow rate must be increased which means even more wasted gas during the breathing out phase!! Top Out uses less gas because none is wasted, but you consume more gas and so have a faster, safer ascent that can be enjoyed instead of endured!

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