Glass Direct and the Mountain Climber David June 21, 2014 Home Inspiration, Home Styling, Narrow Blocks The second highest mountain on earth is K2, also known as Chhogori/Qogir, Ketu, Kechu and Mount Godwin-Austen. It is known as the Savage Mountain soaring above 8000 feet into what climbers call the Death Zone. For at altitudes above 8000 feet the air is so thin that climbers begin to experience hypoxia. This is when the air they breathe doesn’t contain enough oxygen to sustain them. In effect they are slowly suffocating with every step. At this altitude the clock is ticking – you need to make your ascent and return to the lower altitudes before the organs of your body are so starved of oxygen they die One in four climbers who have attempted the ascent K2 has died. Not failed – died. And of the three in four who returned not all of them returned whole. This was Renee’s response when I asked him why the shower screens in homes were all made of glass. Think about it: The shower screens in public areas are made of wood or some other opaque substance. You can’t see in or out. So why is it different in private homes? Renee is a friend of mine. He works for Glass Direct Australia. They install glass balustrades, swimming pool fences, splashbacks and … shower screens. To be honest I thought Renee would answer with something about glass being able to make a room look bigger, or the romance of partially seeing a soapy body through steamy glass; I never expected a story about climbing one of the world’s most dangerous mountains. But that’s what I got. In 1998 a group of Australian climbers attempted to be the first ever to summit K2 in winter. History will show they failed. (As of writing this story no one has yet summited K2 in winter) The Australian group made their attempt on the mountain from the Pakistani side (the Chinese ascent being way too hazardous for this time of year). They were all fit, well provisioned, and highly trained climbers. K2 ate them up and spat them out. Of the three man group only one returned. And he returned broken in mind and body. His nose, toes, fingers and face were severely frostbitten. He was maddened with dehydration, his organs beginning shut down from lack of fluids (the snow is too cold to put in your mouth; you’ll lower your core temperature and die in minutes if you try that). He’d broken his elbow from a short fall, twisted his ankle from a misstep, spent several hours unconscious from a hypoxic delirium, lost the sight in one eye from snow glare, and was literally crawling in circles when the rescue team found him. The poor guy spent the better part of nine months in hospital undergoing a series of operations to salvage his organ functions, amputate his extremities, and rehabilitate him for his new life. When he returned to Australia and his family home in Sydney he was changed more than physically. His two youngest children, eight year old twin boys, were horrified. The blackened stumps where his fingers should be, the greyish pallor of his oxygen starved skin, the ping pong ball orb where his eye should be, the raw-meat redness of his cheeks … These and other changes were a lot for two young boys to take in. He and his wife discussed the changes that would need to be made. The first change, they agreed, would have to be made to the bathroom. Without fingers the ex-climber couldn’t lock doors. And neither he nor his wife wanted either of their young boys walking in when he was having a shower. The terrible injuries they could see were nothing compared to the injuries they couldn’t; or wouldn’t see, unless they stumbled in on him naked in the shower. They needed to be protected from that at any cost. And this was the question put to Renee when they phoned Glass Direct Australia: ‘Can you install a shower screen that doesn’t close off the bathroom – making it appear smaller – and yet can’t be seen through?’ Glass Direct Australia doing the impossible Like any suburbanites this family had to consider the resale value of their home. They could have partitioned off the shower from the rest of the bathroom; but if they ever needed to sell their home such a change would have taken tens of thousands of dollars off the sale price. But they also needed something that would protect innocent eyes should one of the boys charge in by accident. I looked at Renee with a puzzle expression. Surely the two things were mutually exclusive? Either you can see through it and the room appears larger, or you can’t see through it and the room is closed off? ‘They’d been to about five other glass installation businesses,’ Renee said in response to my look. ‘They all believed the same as you. When I got the question I asked if I might discuss it with the rest of the Glass Direct Team and see what we could come up with. We phoned them back an hour later with a solution.’ To Renee’s everlasting shame he played the story out a bit at this point. I had no idea how you could achieve both these things at once. He was obviously relishing my confusion because he talked around the subject before eventually telling me. ‘The solution,’ Renee eventually continued, ‘we figured, was definitely glass.’ ‘But glass is transparent,’ I said – somewhat needlessly. ‘Yes, but the solution wasn’t just glass. We asked the clients if we might engage an electrician to make small alterations to their bathroom lights. We installed a very sheer glass shower screen; something very transparent in normal daylight (opening the room), but very reflective of the overhead bathroom light (hiding the shower’s occupant). All the client had to do was make sure the light was turned on when he had a shower and all anyone would see when they entered the bathroom would be the light reflecting off the glass. The light had to be especially chosen and fitted, just as the glass had to be specially constructed and installed. The clients were very happy.’ Share this:Click to share on TwitterClick to share on Google+Click to email this to a friendShare on Facebook Leave a Reply Cancel Reply Your email address will not be published. Name* Email* Website Comment Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Notify me of new posts by email.