NOVA Online
Everest
Site Map

Responses and Comments
Technology/Equipment

May 29, 1997



Question:

I am overwhelmed with the number and quality of questions and responses coming from the climbing team and base camp (BC) support group. Do you keep all the info flow in electronic form? If you were to print out all the communications, BC would be a massive clutter of paper and used supplies. Usually camping requires a major plan to conserve resources to the very minimum. Does having a yak train and lots of porters mean that you can plan a 3 month stay at the base of Everest to have lots more amenities than you would if you were hauling the materials yourself? Do you hear the cry go out each day that "The 12:52 yak train is arriving on Path 7?" How do you decide what records to keep for later film production out of the massive flow of information that you have established at BC?

Peter B. Clark
Hamilton, MA

Response from Liesl Clark:
Hey, great last name. Yes, we do keep all information flowing in electronic form as we have to respond to the e-mails and then retransmit them back to NOVA. We also print out all of the e-mails, which results in about 15 pages-worth of cut and pasted e-mails every two days or so. It's nice for those who are unable to hover around our two laptops to be able to read the e-mails on a hard copy and then respond in ink. Associate Producer Kate Churchill and I then type them up. Our resources are conserved to a relative minimum, but since we're producing a live web site, we need to have laptops, satellite phone, printer and paper for that. Our 'office supplies' are confined to two medium size cases. Yes, having yaks and porters enables us to carry in much more than we would if we were to carry these things in ourselves. For example, I would've immediately nixed the three hole punch if I knew I had to carry it in on my own back. The CD player and stash of CDs from home certainly helps for ambiance up here, too. Yaks do come and go, carrying in local foods (sometimes even beer), but we only see the large "trains" when an expedition is moving in our moving out of Base Camp. To answer your question of how do we decide what records to keep for later film production—we keep all records. Basically all info is stored in the computers in a folder called "get high" aka "going higher." We then have folders for camera notes, sound notes, climbers' e-mail (in and out) from the Web site, personal e-mail, research, newsflashes, text for the website, still photo logs, digital images, images transmitted by sat phone, pulse oximeter readings, transcriptions of all interviews conducted on digital audio tapes here, vital statistics of the climbers at various camps on the mountain, notes on the neuro-behavioral tests we're giving, etc. All of this info will be useful (and imperative) for the film.


Question:

I am in the film business and living in Minnesota we have shot in a lot of extreme conditions. Obviously nothing comes close to the conditions on Everest. My question is how do you recharge your batteries ?? Do you bring enough to last the entire trip ? How many rolls of film do you bring up above Camp III? And, on the IMAX expedition how much footage did you actually shoot in these higher camps ? I cannot imagine reloading that camera in those conditions !!! Please comment and I wish you a safe trip and no hairs in the gate.

S.C.
Minnesota

Response from David Breashears:
We had specially designed lithium batteries. Three of these batteries powered the camera for the entire expedition. They are disposable and non-rechargeable. In the course of the expedition we shot 120 rolls of large-format film. The real challenge of filming IMAX on Everest is that 500 feet of film only lasts 90 seconds.


Question:

WOW! What can I say? What you folks are doing is awesome! I have "been there with you" through your use of QuickTime VR and I must say the work you are doing to bring this experience to the world is appreciated VERY much! All of us here at Apple Computer wish you a safe and productive journey to the top of our world! What sort of photography equipment are you using and how are you processing the QTVR movies? Are you doing this on-site up there?

Thanks!
David Palermo
QuickTime VR Evangelist
Apple Computer, Inc.
Response from Base Camp:
Funny you should ask....we have two Apple QuickTake cameras (loaned by Apple) that we're using for our digital imagery that we transmit via satellite phone and a Powerbook 1400C (also loaned by Apple). The QuickTime VR nodes are shot on a Nikon 35mm camera with a tripod and a special QTVR rotator head. We send the film out immediately by runner from Base Camp who throws the film on a helicopter in Lukla within a day (or two) and then the shipment is sent via DHL to NOVA in Boston where the film is processed and our extremely creative Technical Director, also known as the world's greatest QTVR stitcher (check out our site on the Pyramids of Giza), Annie Valva, works around the clock to get those 360s up for you as soon as possible.


Question:

Are you connected anyway to satellites or weather service to help protect you from dangerous weather or is that impossible? Are there any weather stations on the mountain? best of luck-it is unfortunate that the climbs on the mountain have become news worthy because of the tragedy last year and now this new situation with those reported deaths.

Cheryl Popielasz
Mt. Airy, Maryland

Response from Pete Athans:
We receive sophisticated weather reports every other day from a UK organization that specializes in winds at 24,000' and 29,000'. Thanks for your concern.


Question:

David, Glad to hear you are back on the mountain.

Tomorrow night is the NY section of AAC film festival ... understand we have a "tease" of your IMAX that is going to be shown. Looking forward to it. Curious what the various expeditions are doing for weather forecasts this year? Good luck on the climb.

Sincerely,
Joe Witte
New York, New York

Response from Base Camp:
We do not know what the other expeditions are doing for their weather forecasts. We receive a daily forecast from a UK organization that specializes in upper air forecasts for the Himalayan region.


Question:

Hello! I'm not a climber myself but I've been reading a lot of books and checking the web site and have become intensely interested in your Everest expedition. My question is pretty simple. How do you know the way? I realize that you keep going up but I imagine that the landscape must change with the ice and wind and snow. Is this true? What sort of navigational tools do you have? Good luck, my thoughts are with you! I really admire your courage and determination.

Mellisa Rinehart
Akron, OH

Response from Base Camp:
The traditional Southeast route on Everest is well-travelled and easy to find: through the Icefall ropes and ladders and the well-trodden route will show you the way; the same would go for the Western Cwm. Its well-trodden route is hard to avoid as the Lhotse Face is mostly fixed with ropes. Climbers work their way up without having to use compasses. Beyond Camp IV we believe it is best for climbers to always have a compass with them in case they get caught in white-out conditions or the dark.

As Mal Duff's expedition Sherpas have for the past few years set the route through the Icefall, there has been little chance for first-timers to get lost in the labyrinth. The first climbers to go through the Western Cwm in a given season have to set the ladders across the many crevasses that traverse the high mountain valley.


Question:

Hello from the Pacific Northwest! My 7th grade class is following your progress with great interest. They are curious how many e-mails you are receiving? Nationally? Internationally? This has been so exciting for them- they are going home and doing all kinds of research. Also- what does yak tea taste like? hang in there! Russell Coney says hello to Todd Burleson!

Carnation, WA
Response from Dr. Howard Donner:
We are overwhelmed with e-mails and try our best to answer them on a daily basis. Most of our mail comes from the United States, but we do receive mail from all over the world; for example, today we received mail from Italy.

Yak tea is not a favorite of ours here at base camp, we prefer hot lemon or milk tea.


Comment:

I didn't know that a computer would withstand that much cold and still work, or it is there heat to warm them up? (I know this sounds odd, normally we'd want them cool). As for the climb, you guys have more guts than I have desire of having to have. Scared of heights! But I do think it would be cool! That picture of using a ladder to cross a gorge, not me, no way no how!!! (saw it on PBS Online). Best of luck, and may God be with you all.

David Gruesbeck
Alma, MI

Response:
Once the sun hits our communication tent, the computers usually are warm enough to function properly. When it is really cold, we keep the computers warm in our sleeping bags at night. In extreme cases we have had to put the computer batteries in a Ziploc bag and boil them.


Question:

Hi David! I am a sports still photographer. I wish I was up there with you! Photographing on Everest must be the ultimate but incredibly difficult. I would like to know what lenses, filters and type of film you are using for your still photography. I'm sure you must have numerous backup bodies as well (what a drag if something decides to break down)! I was also wondering, after many trips to 'the top of the world' and despite the journey getting there, has it been the same experience for you emotionally once you are sitting on the top. It must be an incredible feeling that can only be experienced. Thanks so much for letting us on this journey with you!!!!!!

Tracey Frankel<
Encinitas, CA

Response from Liesl Clark
Most of the photography that we have been shooting for our website has been shot on 35mm Provia 100 still film. I use a Nikon 8008 and my lens package includes a 28mm, 35-70mm, and 80-200mm lens. All f2.8 is always preferable. We are also using Apple QuickTake digital cameras, which we love. We send the cameras up with the climbers. The climbers are able to send down the RAM cards that cache up to 40 images which we download and then transmit back to WGBH the same day.


Question:

I am curious what kind of sleeping bag and tent you have. I also would like to know what other kind of special gear you have. How may layers of clothes do you have to wear every day? Also how do you cook your food, and doesn't your water freeze? Thank you and good luck

Corono, CA
Response from David Breashears:
I use Mountain Hardwear gear at Base Camp and on the mountain. Up high, I also have a down suit. We generally wear Goretex outer layers for Camp III and below and use polypro close to the skin for its ability to wick away moisture. At night, I sleep with my water bottles so they don't freeze.


Question:

What a wonderful opportunity this is for ordinary people to follow your progress on this amazing expedition. Our question is: exactly what do you wear on your feet while climbing? Do you have to wear boots, crampons, or snow shoes? Do you know approximately how deep the snow is when you're walking on top of it? If you don't have the proper equipment on, would you sink out of site or do you tie each other together with ropes?

Wishing you all a safe passage.
The Wante family
Littleton, NH

Response from David Carter:
We wear plastic double boots with insulite liners and crampons while climbing. The snow is fairly firm right now on the mountain. You would only sink if you fell into a crevasse.


Question:

Greetings from sunny Arizona! I would like to know from which spot on the mountain that you are last able to report back to the outside world via e-mail on the status of the crew, climb, conditions, etc. and approximately what date that might be. Also, how do you physically get to the starting point, i.e., do you hike in, bus in, helicopter, etc. and what destination is considered the starting point?? Best of luck to you all!!

Mark, Debbi, Cody and Kaley
Scottsdale, Arizona.

Response from Pete Athans:
Our starting point is Lukla (8000'), an airstrip and village. From Lukla it takes us abut a week to walk up to Base Camp (17,6000). We can report from the summit via radio (walkie-talkie) to Base Camp and our crew there sends our news out via e-mail.


Question:

My question is, what is the size and weight of the equipment that allows you to receive & send E-mail messages and how far up the mountain do you plan to take it? I'm amazed with the level of technology that allows us to do this.

Good Luck ! ! !
Victor Winstead
York, PA

Response:
We transmit all of our e-mail from base camp (17,600') via an Apple Computer laptop (5300cs or a 1400c) and a satellite telephone. All of the news from the higher camps is transmitted to us via walkie talkie.


Question:

Hello to David Carter,

I grew up with you in Sylvan Ridge. I know that many Hoosiers, myself included, are praying for your safe return. I wondered if this climb was any easier, either mentally or physically, because of your earlier climb on Everest? Also, how far up the mountain are the laptops going? And, what kind of computer equipment is there?

Nancy Johnson Heck
Carmel, Indiana

Response from David Carter:
Dear Nancy,

Yes. The climb is a lot easier because of my earlier attempt on Everest. This time I know what to expect and it makes things much easier for me. Mentally, I'm not as stressed as I was in 1991. The computers live full time at Base Camp. We are currently using two Apple Powerbook computers (one is a 1400c and the other is a 5300cs) that connect daily to our satellite phone so that we can download all the e-mail coming into our site. Thanks for your support.

All the best,
Dave Carter


Question:

How much equipment must be carried to each camp to get you to the top? How many climbers are making the final summit assault? Vaya con Dios!

M. Reidy
Response from David Carter:
Equipment carried to each camp will consist of food, fuel, personal gear and oxygen. It is too early to get a number of climbers that will be on the final push to the summit.


Question:

It's interesting to read the questions and responses. Here's my question, which you can post if you'd like: What photography equipment is along on your expedition this year? Did the IMAX camera (a.k.a. "The Pig") make the trip again?

Deb Karl
Response from Base Camp:
We did not bring the IMAX camera this year as the principal photography for that film produced by MacGillivray-Freeman Films and Arcturus Motion Pictures has been completed. We are currently shooting digital video and 16mm film on the mountain. Other 'photography equipment' includes 35mm cameras for the Quick Time VR and Apple QuickTake cameras for digital stills.


Question:

As a Television News Photographer, equipment maintenance & preparation for assignments is essential. Briefly, describe ways to protect your film equipment from the harsh elements of Everest.

Bryan Rager
Response from Base Camp:
  1. Our major concern is our power supply. Conventional batteries will not power up in low temperatures and they also they have to be recharged. We use a non rechargeable lithium battery which ounce for ounce has 5 times the power of a Nicad and operates at full power to 35 below zero.

  2. We've had custom neoprene camera-tight covers made to prevent windblown snow from getting into fragile mechanisms on our digital video camera. The filmmakers are much more concerned about their abilities to perform in the cold and altitude than the camera's ability.

  3. We have to keep all film equipment sealed in plastic bags in our tents because of the fluctuating temperatures and the condensation caused inside our tents from our breaths. Later, when we go outside the steam from our breath can condense and freeze and then fog the lenses.



Question:

You must have to take along an incredible amount of supplies. Do you carry ALL of your own supplies, and how much weight would that be? About how many bottles of oxygen do you use, and do you personally carry all of them? Good luck and good weather to all of you.

Greygoat
Response from David Breashears:
The bulk of the load carrying is for the Sherpas. Pete and I carry some of our own gear, but we have to carry film and stills gear with us so we can shoot along the way. The Sherpas have carried approximately 35 loads up to Advanced Base Camp (CII) and each are about 45/50 pounds. On the summit day, everyone on the South Col is allocated 1 bottle for sleeping at flow rate of .5 liters per minute. On the summit climb, we carry 2 bottles at 2 liters per minute. It takes 2 bottles to get up and part way down, and then we go without oxygen on the rest of our descent to Camp IV. Two additional bottles will be carried by 2 of our Sherpas for emergency use. Unlike many of the guided parties, we do not use oxygen from Camp III to Camp IV.


Lost on Everest | High Exposure | Climb | History & Culture | Earth, Wind, & Ice
E-mail | Previous Expeditions | Resources | Site Map | Everest Home

Editor's Picks | Previous Sites | Join Us/E-mail | TV/Web Schedule
About NOVA | Teachers | Site Map | Shop | Jobs | Search | To print
PBS Online | NOVA Online | WGBH

© | Updated November 2000

Support provided by

For new content
visit the redesigned
NOVA site