one month to go celebration blog!

Woo Hoo! Only a month to go until we fly to Kathmandu and start our adventure. I feel like I should do a little dance, jump up and down and shout huzzah! at the top of my voice, as I’m getting quite excited about it now.

The only thing dousing my enthusiasm is the amount of stuff left to do before we go.

And that I’m pretty knackered now I’ve started training properly.

And that I’ve got a major project at work to deliver that looks like it is going live 5 days before we fly.

And that I’m still a bit worried about our complete lack of contingency for weather delays on the internal flights, particularly looking at the current Kathmandu weather forecast. It looks suspiciously like the monsoon is still going, which really should have buggered off by now.

Oh well, looking on the bright side, if that work project had been on time I’d originally planned on going out at the end of next week, which could have meant major delays and absolutely no chance of getting close to Everest base camp. At least going a month later there’s a far better chance of stable weather.

It’s also a far brighter outlook than portrayed in the image I found when looking for one to go with this post.

What makes this creepy is it is from one of those oh-so-worthy and deeply spiritual yet somehow very well funded American Christian sites that happens to have numerous helpfully priced packages to distribute the message to other churches. Who could resist the One Month to Live Churchwide Challenge kit, or the perfect gift for your child – a one month to live wristband.

Sorry, just me being cynical. I digress…

So with a month to go, what’s the situation?

Well on the positives, I think that all the organisation and kit list are pretty much there. I’m still waiting for a couple of pieces – a new rucksack currently in the post for one – but I think everything is bought, listed, weighed, calculated etc, at least from my side. As for my companion, that’s anyones’ guess, but we’re meeting up on Monday so I’ll get a better idea then.

For the Film, I’ve got all the technical doohickies, geegaws and whojamaflips you could need – guess which of those I’ve actually got – and I’ve also started to play around with the intro to the film, which I have mostly storyboarded now. Latest test below, which is a first attempt at part of the intro sequence covering the planning & preparation. I call this the Flight of the Memory Cards.

As you can tell this part of the film relinquishes some verisimiltude. I also forgot to reset the white balance so it’s rather orange, but will fix along with doing the rest so I can post the intro up as teaser before we go. By the way, if anyone knows anyone who works at the Heathrow Media Centre, can you tell them they are rude so and so’s as they still haven’t even acknowledged my request to photograph there.

What else is there? Oh yes there is still one thing missing. You. We know who you are..

Come on, give me a bit of sponsorship love. I’m not doing this just for fun.


Is that the time? $£!!!

Anyone who has idly navigated to the home page of this blog may have noticed a countdown widget that I’ve added. When I did I got a bit of a shock, as it tells me today there is only one month and three weeks left until the trek.

Normally I would be quite sanguine about this, after all there is a lot you can achieve in the 53 odd days I have left. However it is a little more concerning as in those intervening days I have to fit in;

  • 34 days of work. A drag, but someone’s got to fund the trip. Oh that’ll be me then.
  • 3 days in Paris. It is our wedding anniversary after all.
  • 3 days of weddings – and probably 2 days of recovery to go with them.
  • My father’s 70th birthday party; another day and another day recovering.
  • 4 days of weekends either away or with visitors where I won’t be able to get much else achieved.

Not even counting the ad-hoc bits pieces (small child wrangling, band practices, fish maintenance) exaggerated tabloid-style maths tells me I have only 5 days left to prepare.

How did that happen?

Next thing you’ll be telling me I should use early mornings and evenings to train….

Perhaps you could help my motivation, and if you haven’t already I could give you a gentle nudge in the direction of sponsoring me?

Sherpa required for gadget freak’s gear

It’s been a little while since my last post, and I’m guessing all three of you who read this claptrap are wondering what I’ve been up to. Well the basic answer is displacement activities. Rather than anything sensible like getting off my backside and doing a bit of training I’ve been working on logistics. Not the logistics of the trek itself – I’m fairly confident I’ve got that down. It basically goes;

  • Fly to Kathmandu
  • Fly to Lukla *
  • Walk as far as we can (many variations on this theme depending on timing / acclimitization / knackeredness)
  • Fly back

* this being the most uncertain part

The logistics that have been more taxing are those around my self-imposed millstone of a film. As previously posted, there is the requirement for a lot of memory, a lot of battery, and a lot of other gizmos. Classic boy logic – throw some money at the problem, buy some gadgets and it will work out. So far I have added to my filming kit

  1. A shoulder mount for the camera (beautifully modeled in the previous post), with a remote shutter release to help. Someone has since pointed out I may also need the ‘jar of nipple grease’ accessory to make this comfortable for extended wear.
  2. An extended battery pack / grip for the camera – why take one battery to the shower when you can take two. Apart from having to root around in the bag for batteries less often, this allows the camera to run on AAs in an emergency.
  3. More spare camera batteries. 6 more to be precise, although I will hasten to add these have been procured from a man in china at a much reduced price. They are either really good fakes or off Hooky Street for the one fifth of rrp I paid as they look the part, work with the camera’s battery recognition software (which retains a count of shots / age for each individual battery) and have neither randomly lost charge nor exploded even once. If anyone is in need of camera batteries I can point you to the seller.
  4. A Freeloader Globetrotter Pro kit, which is a a small solar panel linked to an internal battery and charging device, the idea being over the course of a day the panel trickle charges the internal battery, which then can be used to quick charge the camera batteries using the included ‘cam caddy’. This is a great idea, and I got it half price, however only after purchasing did I realise in the real world it will probably only generate enough juice for one camera battery charge a day. I will probably need 2 or 3 (and nearly 5 on ‘summit’ day). So on to
  5. A Power Gorilla battery pack. Despite being in the mountains, there are a few places that you can plug in to re-charge, so the total power carrying capacity needs to cover the periods between. This can probably do around 8 additional camera battery charges when fully charged. I also found it one morning on Best Buy’s website for half price, so thought why not?

There are still a few notable exceptions. The power carrying capacity I have is around half what I think I need, so I may have to add 50 or so Lithium AA batteries (highly recommended by Arctic explorers, apparently). More weight. Or alternately invest in a serious piece of solar kit – there are some 20 – 30w foldable panels that you could strap to a backpack and would do a stirling job. Unfortunately they are £300 plus, so maybe not.

The other big omission is memory. I’ve now done a detailed shot plan, and taking into account extras I do need around 150Gb of storage space. That’s a lot of SD cards. Even the cheapest 16gb ones I’ve found, which I’m not sure I’d trust, come in at £10 each. Decent ones are two or three times that. A cheap notebook would cost around the same, but require more power and add extra time (and even more power) transferring stuff onto it. And I really can’t justify the new Macbook Air I’ve been lusting after. May just have to take the hit and then sell them on after.

Of course a friend then pointed out I could avoid all this techno hassle by going old school, and getting an 8mm cine camera with a single frame release option. Cameras are cheap as chips, it would all fit on a single reel of film and cost £30 for processing & transfer to digital. So I’ve bid on this.

Ain’t she a beauty?

Of course with real film all you have to do is load it incorrectly and the whole lot is stuffed, with no option of checking this on the way (or going back to re-shoot). So obviously what I want to do is take it as well for additional atmospheric shots.

More Sherpas please…..

Planning…sort of

So at the weekend finally, despite the great distance between us, Beccy and I managed to catch up to do some planning. Given that she lives in Penzance and I in Leamington Spa, the obvious place to meet was Cambridge.

Now there was another reason for catching up, that being the an imminent birthday on the part of my trekking partner. Delicacy (and a probable kick in the knackers) forbids me from stating a number. But it was a good excuse to get together in any case, as we haven’t caught up for a while regardless of our planned trip.

Normally when you want to go through plans for something that is at least fairly challenging, there are quite a few things to think about. You need itineraries, packing lists, contingency & emergency plans, and to decide all sort of important things like who’s going to get the top bunk. Traditionally this is done with a notepad, a fresh HB pencil (with rubber attached), and to keep you going a nice pot of tea and some biscuits. I go for strong English breakfast and some Hob-Nobs personally. With tea, biscuits and a well sharpened pencil you can achieve pretty much anything. That’s all the British Empire was based upon – that and clever commercial exploitation mixed with devious flattery of the local ruling classes, subtly interspersed with brutal repression, of course – but you can’t plan a good crackdown without tea and biscuits. I digress…

However this was a birthday party, and so the refreshments were a little more on the..

potent side. And I don’t remember there being a single Hob-Nob in sight. Disgraceful, I thought. So this, and the distinct lack of books / maps / paper / sharp HB pencils brought meant that the planning was at best limited.

In fact it mostly consisted of talking a load of cobblers and not really achieving anything, other than planning to have a planning session, and perhaps if we can get our arses into gear a training trek up Snowdon together to test pack weights & camera gear as much as fitness. Although I seriously did start having my doubts about the whole thing when Beccy asked where Snowdon was. My facetious answer of ‘Wales’ probably didn’t help.

For your information Beccy, its here

So it was pretty much a case of competition drinking for the evening and regretting it in the morning.


Happy Birthday Beccy

On the proper planning side I have two more pieces of technology that may help with the film; a Freeloader solar battery charger, which according to my calculations won’t be quick enough to charge all the batteries I need but may reduce the attrition, and a shoulder mount to stop my arms from falling off holding up the camera to take photos every 10 seconds.

As you can see below, it makes me look a real  twat  professional.