Everest climbers waiting for better weather

The 1998 American Mount Everest Expedition is planning to transmit audio, video and bio-data for live Webcast during its summit ascent. If it sounds like a complicated operation, it is.

The 1998 American Mount Everest Expedition is planning to transmit audio, video and bio-data for live Webcast during its summit ascent.

If it sounds like a complicated operation, it is.

The summit attempt, scheduled to begin in the next few days -- as soon as the weather permits -- will bring with it an array of gear for gathering information about the world's tallest mountain and about the mountaineers' own vital signs at high altitude.

Mountain Zone plans a to Webcast events live from Mt. Everest.

The latest high tech gear is being used in this year's summit assault.

But they will also bring along some lightweight equipment that will transmit audio and video back to base camp, where it will be relayed to the U.S. for Webcast on The Mountain Zone, a Seattle Web site.

Of course, nothing is a certainty. The climbers may decide to leave their a/v equipment behind, in the interests of lighter baggage.

And even if they do take it along, the rugged equipment might prove unequal to the extreme weather at the 29,028-foot peak.

Because it's there? Morbid curiosity? Why are we fascinated by Mt. Everest climbs. Add your comments to the bottom of this page.

"People forget what it's like up there, with 50-below to 150-below temperatures," said Mountain Zone co-founder Greg Prosl. "The wind's blowing at an outrageous rate. You take off your gloves for a second, and your hand's frozen solid. These extreme environments play havoc on gear ... but if we're successful, we might have live video from the summit."

So far, Mountain Zone has been posting daily dispatches from the mountain, including fairly substantial audio and video clips, as the mountaineers have made trips along their intended route to acclimatize themselves to the peak's conditions.

The basic gear the team has been using would be familiar to any field correspondent in the digital age: laptop PCs, a digital video camera, and a data-capable satellite telephone.

Video and audio from the expedition's forays are digitized on the laptop, in the form of stills and audiovisual clips, and then relayed over the satellite telephone, which resembles a laptop.

Goodies included
For the summit ascent, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Media Lab is supplying a stash of additional goodies, including sensors to collect environmental and biometric information, and lipstick-tube-sized video cameras that will perch on the climbers' shoulders.

The climbers will attempt to keep in contact with base camp via compact satellite telephones, which are about the size of ordinary mobile phones.

The communications tent at base camp -- which is itself in the remote wilderness -- is powered by two large arrays of solar panels, which put out about 150 watts during the day.

Charles Corfield, the expedition's technology expert, reports the array can also be used to charge two large car batteries.

El Nino's revenge
"(They) will give us about a five days' supply in the event of a nuclear winter or eclipse of the sun which lasts a little longer than anticipated," he said in one of the dispatches to Mountain Zone.

It remained to be seen late Friday whether the expedition would get the chance to try out its live-Webcast tech, as the weather continued to send El Nino-inspired danger signals.

The covering of slightly wet snow laid onto the hard blue ice covering the ascent route inspired expedition leader Wally Berg to coin the description "dust on crust."

This is the third article in ZDNN's series on the 1998 American Mount Everest Expedition. The next article will deal with the increasing pervasiveness of Global Positioning System technology.


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