My 7Summits campaign is all about raising awareness of the issues people living with inflammatory bowel disease and ostomy face. At first, when I started climbing in remote places, I'd take along a satellite phone and give family and loved ones back home a call to let them know I was doing ok. They'd call their friends, or email them, and word would get out that I was on the climb and why.
Several years ago, when I became the Great Comebacks® Global Ambassador and ConvaTec began promoting my climbs in the media, we realized we'd need a way to get more interesting news out to the world in a more timely manner. I started taking a small video camera with me on my climbs (you'll see some of the early footage on the Great Comebacks® YouTube™ Channel). Along with the video camera, I'd take still photos for my talks and for use in media.
In 2008, when I first attempted Everest, me and everyone at ConvaTec realized that technology had changed dramatically since I'd first started my No Guts Know Glory campaign. People were reading blogs, using Facebook to share stories and videos, publishing video on the internet, and perhaps most importantly, advances in satellite technology made it possible to do this virtually anywhere in the world. Knowing how interested people are in the story of an ostomate climbing Everest (no ostomate has been to the top of the world yet), ConvaTec decided to make this technology available to me to use from the mountain.
Here we are in 2010, I'm currently in camp two, and I can send you updates on GreatComebacks.com almost instantaneously. I bet you're wondering how we do it? Most of the images and videos we're sending you from up on the mountain are taken by myself and my guide John. We're trying not to plan too much, just give everyone back home a taste of what it's like to be on the mountain. So we're pulling the camera out as often as possible when we're in a safe place to do so. All of the videos and photos are edited back in base camp, then optimized to be small file sizes (satellite internet is extremely expensive) and then uploaded to GreatComebacks.com.
Surprisingly, the amount of equipment we need is small. But it has to be extremely durable and cold proof. We try to recharge everything with our solar panels as much as possible. Sometimes the weather doesn't cooperate though, so we have a very small generator that burns fuel to provide electricity. We've been pretty lucky so far, only having to use the generator about once per week. We have a couple of ruggedized laptops to do our work on. They both have solid state hard drives - Flash based, like those little pocket memory drives that everyone seems to have these days. All of our cameras have lithium ion batteries, which are rechargeable and seem to withstand the cold fairly well. We also have a couple of really small back-up cameras that take AA batteries that we can carry next to our bodies on summit day when we expect temperatures to be -30 or worse. Keeping the cameras warm will be a big priority - it would be terrible to climb all the way to the top and have no pictures to prove it!
I hope you've enjoyed this post about some of our technology. We often get asked questions about how we're getting the story out. From the sounds of some of those questions, people were beginning to think that base camp had wireless Internet access. It doesn't. But it did just get cell phone service - the nearest town is only about two miles away - though our North American cell phones aren't working, and data plans don't exist in Nepal. So the "No Guts Know Glory" team is using satellite internet and phones to keep people back home updated and to spread our important message: you can live a full, healthy, active life with an ostomy.
For more details, visit Rob's No Guts Know Glory Everest Expedition blog.