By STEPHEN REGENOLD
Pack the duffel bags. Snap the Pelican cases closed. It’s time to head up the mountain trail. The approach crew for Expedition Hanesbrands — including Jamie Clarke, Wally Berg, Scott Simper, myself, the porters, and our Sherpa guides and staff — trekked higher into the Khumbu today. We loaded three zopkyo animals (ox/cow hybrids). Our porters shouldered huge hauls, and each expedition member carried a backpack filled variably with personal gear, Hanesbrands outerwear and apparel, cameras, radios, laptops, cables, cords, lenses, MP3 players, satellite phones, chargers, storage media, and all the other mandatory miscellany required to make an expedition happen.
For the past two days, the group has focused on gear. But we’re not talking ice axes and mountaineering boots. We’ve configured laptops and camera systems. Soldering irons were brought out to customize a radio terminal. With the aid of Ang Temba, the expedition’s Sirdar (head Sherpa), the crew has even erected a 20-foot radio relay antenna in Pangboche at 13,100 feet.
All these items serve to create an infrastructure that will allow the Expedition Hanesbrands team to function cohesively from Mount Everest Base Camp, up the mountain, and down the valley to lower elevations. “If we need more eggs at base camp, we can radio for more eggs,” said Jamie Clarke, expedition leader.
Beyond culinary reinforcements, Clarke notes safety advantages to the radio system. A message from high on Mount Everest via handheld VHF radios can be relayed instantly through the antenna at Pangboche and further down to Namche Bazaar, a village at 11,000 feet where cell-phone coverage picks up again. “A radio call routed to Namche can then get out to the world,” Clarke said.
Technology provides a safety net. It offers communication for the climbers and expedition members to stay in touch with the outside world. From radios and ruggedized laptops to Bgan satellite terminals, Expedition Hanesbrands is able to blog, load photos, post Tweets, and transmit videos from Everest.
Behind the scenes, the Sherpa members of the expedition are already in the thin air of Base Camp leveling platforms for tents. They’ll work to build a kitchen and a latrine. By April 10, when Clarke and crew plan to arrive, the small tent city at 17,000 feet will be coming into shape. At the base of Mount Everest, the Hanesbrands team will plug in to solar panels hooked to marine-battery arrays. We’ll flip on radios and send test signals to team members lower on the trail. The system in place, the team will look up and begin concentrating on the route. Mountain climbing is not all ice axes, boots and tents. Radios, laptops, sat phones — not to mention soldering irons and ad hoc antennas — will help Expedition Hanesbrands make it to the top.
—Stephen Regenold will blog live from the Everest Trail this week and through the month of April. Monitor Expedition Hanesbrands’ progress at ClimbWithUs.com and on Gear Junkie at the site’s Everest Blog, http://gearjunkie.com/everest-blog.