Friday, May 19, 2017
Climbing has let me share drinks and stories with some of the greatest adventurers of our time. It has forced lessons in situational awareness while traveling, medicine and physiology while caring for self and others, strength and humility, generosity and reciprocity, ego and death. We break language, economic, gender and social barriers; all without plumbing or even the basics on the hierarchy of needs at times. I won't pretend to have some great perspective on life but I can tell you a lot of the noise fades away when, in the cold, silent, vast, beauty of your surroundings can be summarized by grunt and a laugh. The thin line between safety and comfort is there to be pushed; by technology and mindfulness, by brute force of will and ego, by human fragility and creativity. And as much as this curmudgeon would love to stagnate in front of a screen for a good while; there are friends and family, technology and science conferences, pets and new projects (boy, do I want to build an electric skateboard for Burning Man), food and music to cherish. Then, when we've become too comfortable and start to lose the perspective this deprivation has wrought, the right people will assemble in the right place and time and we will collectively stare up at another hill and hatch a plan... Some will be selfish, some will have learned an expensive lesson, and some of us will just be in it for the stories to share at cocktail hour and the helicopter rides. I will be there with my toys, ready to learn, solve problems and climb until suffering and contentment become one and the same.
I appreciate the tireless efforts of friends at work that supported me with technology and time.
I appreciate the friends that inspire adventure and build their business and dreams on appreciating life under the big blue dome.
I appreciate all of the weird, wonderful and kind short messages sent to my sat beacon. Someday, you're all going to get published...
360° Photos at Camp 4 and about 8000m on the Southwest route (interactive Google Photos viewer)
Just hop over the crevasse (looking south at ridge that boarders Bengali India and Nepal)
Not all that glitters at 7200m...
View from a tent at 7300m, almost sunset (then setting out at 10:30pm for summit)
Finally looking down a Janu just after sunrise (with a few of the other big ones way in the distance)
I can see my tent from here... (8000m on Kanch looking down at C4)
"Nearly Dinner Time, come in and wash up", near C2 after summit push
Growing with every step... into a yeti.
Wednesday, May 10, 2017
The deli-copter made it in today in a small gap in the snow storm to pick up an injured Italian expedition cameraman and brought in supplies including fresh veg and toys! My lovely colleauges managed to deliver a pocket sized drone that is packed with acoustic and stereoscopic vision sensors and really cool computer vision systems to allow for amazingly stable, autonomous flight. Thanks to everyone who's contributed to OpenCV ARM, NEON and Mali optimizations. Aside from just being an amazing camera platform to shoot the beautiful rugged terrain with, it is also small and light enough to carry in a backpack and orders of magnitude less expensive than using a manned helicopter or tasking a satellite for updated images of the route. Those that remember our expedition on Annapurna last year might recall that we have a difficult time finding a route through the winding seracs, crevasses and towering ice blocks between camp 2 and 3. It took several dead-end attempts in the falls to find safe passage. We even hiked up the mountain across from Annapurna with a telescope to see if we could spot a clean route from a distance. Our camp 3 is situated under a similar ice block (see photos below) and the trip up to camp 4 looks like it will involve descending in to a giant crevasse and climbing up the other side (Ascent of Rumdoodle style). I'm hoping to pre-scout some better lines in real time from relative safety behind my smart phone screen. This type of technology is already being used to inspect infrastructure from bridges to power lines to buildings, even deliver packages. I expect we'll see much more of this autonomous, inexpensive ARM powered technology doing everything from improving safety in dangerous environments to making and sharing art.
Tonight is the full moon which means today is Buddha's birthday. We woke to several camps playing chants and all of the Sherpa are in high spirits today, playing card games, burning juniper and playing on the giant boulders around camp. It is a fun atmosphere with fresh snow on the ground and dozens of prayer flags criss-crossing our camp, floating on the wind. I celebrated by taking my first 'shower' in two weeks and doing laundry while it was snowing. Ahhh, the glamorous life of base camp.
Lakpa building furniture and melting snow at our C1 just before the "down jacket" (first sunlight) hit our tents.
Giant ice blocks above lower Camp 3
Nearly full moon night lights up the mountains around base camp as a sea of clouds floats up the valley
360° photo of lower C3 under construction. (Best viewed interactively using Google Photos on a smartphone, VR headset or desktop)
You can follow our progress and send me short messages via my sat beacon:
@why_mutate_dup on Twitter and FB
Thanks to @ARMCommunity for the support and technology that drives my training, safety, communications and photography; all with a couple of tiny solar panels. I can't wait to get to an unmetered internet connection to share video and full res photos!
Thanks Altitude-Seven.com for weather forecasting support and adventure inspiration.
Thank you all, friends and family, for the kind electronic epistles of support, bits of news from the real world and overwhelming kindness. They are much needed, appreciated and entirely undeserved.
Wednesday, April 26, 2017
Saturday, April 15, 2017
Wednesday, April 5, 2017
Monday, May 16, 2016
I've just descended to basecamp at 4600m from 5700m on Dhaulagiri. We went up on a summit push yesterday and I managed to keep up with some of the Sherpa all the way to camp 1 (of 3) but I pushed too hard in the heat. I could list losing half of my gear, blisters, significant muscle and weight loss, that 80% of the fixed lines from BC to C1 have been swept by avalanche, a persistent cough that rattles my ribs and back but those things are part of every summit push on an 8000m peak in some way or another. When I found a guide in Yosemite Valley to teach me how to climb big walls, he told me he takes most trad, rock climbers new to big-wall up the Washington Column because it has a huge ledge to sleep on and a positive angle all the way up but when he saw I'd climbed Everest, he offered up the Leaning Tower as my first overnighter on a big wall. A completely overhanging slab of granite with a very small bivy half way up. He said, "you know how to suffer;" a high complement from a big wall expert. High altitude mountaineering is many things at different times. It is cooperation, planning, strength, endurance, rehearsal, safety systems, technology but it almost always requires suffering. One doesn't get up high on a mountain and then decide they're too tired, sick, scared, cold or injured to quit. You just keep moving, carefully, no matter how much you want to stop, or you lose the game. Of the excuses I listed above, the simple reason I turned around was I had used up my willingness to suffer and still be able to make good decisions while on Annapurna. I'd hit my personal tolerance for risk. I'd never attempted back to back 8000m peaks but since Dhaulagiri was right across the valley from Annapurna, it seemed like a nice plan B or bonus peak that Chris and Lakpa were planning on anyway. Chris and Lakpa are truly bad-ass to continue up. Of the 21 people that made a summit push on the 15th, yesterday, all turned back. Lakpa had the same respiratory problems I had after getting sick at high altitude. The Spanish team, our friends, are now less than half their size after Annapurna took its toll and the remaining are burnt out after 75+ days of expedition so they aren't even going above base camp before flying out. Still Chris and Lakpa go up! I'll monitor the radios and forecasts from here and report their status on my sat beacon site.
And if I still have a job (I didn't expect Annapurna to take more than my sabbatical time), I look forward to dissecting some of the other cool technology I've seen up here. The British joint military expedition have heart rate/blood O2 sat chips implanted in their chests, an ARM powered quad-copter they've used to film the route above 7000m and more weather forecasting technology and tracking systems than I've ever seen on a mountain before. And be warned, we're past my 1 month absence threshold required before hugging co-workers and I miss you all. Even you Brits that hate hugs.
I have now summited Everest, K2 and Annapurna, 3 of the deadliest, most written about mountains in the world, each on my first try. I'm not sure that has been done. I owe so much to the teams that helped me climb each. I'm still an amateur here, a mountain tourist but I understand the wisdom, experience and morale those teams shared to contribute to all of our success. If you'll allow some chest-puffery; I'm the 17th American to summit K2 and the 5th (6th or 7th?) to summit Annapurna but I know I have a lot to learn and look forward to the chance to climb with friends and the greatest climbing masters of our time. So, thanks to my brilliant friends that taught me the best climbers have the wisdom to recognize when to turn around. The connections we form while climbing and traveling together makes us family. The support I get from all of you in 160 character chunks (and occasional photos of my niece learning to walk) fill me with more joy and gratitude than I could ever express. The months spent in tents, on glaciers without modern conveniences is a welcome reboot of perspective and privilege. Well, except for the riding around in helicopters part. I may not have a shower, microwave, full internet, clothes washer or even a toilet but I have 360° cameras and satellite beacons and GPS watches and a tiny solar panel to keep it all alive, record and share the journey. I look forward to sharing more when I get home in a week or two. Thank you for indulging this silliness and watching my "what I did for my summer vacation" videos. I miss and love you all.