Using a tablet while climbing in the mountains

Apple's promo with an iPad staring pro climber Emily Harrington. A pretty neat ad.Of course, people will jump on the "an iPad would never last up there!in the mountains!!". Supposedly with some proper care it would (video at bottom from a UK mobile insurance provider).

 

Climbing makes it onto Forbes website:

"According to Ballinger, who has summited Mount Everest six times, as well as many of the other 8,000-meter peaks throughout the world, technology has allowed climbers to go further faster and more safely, while telling their stories in real time.

For example, Ballinger brings Wi-Fi to base camp for his teams, hauling in full Wi-Fi satellite terminals and routers to let his teams access unlimited data plans for full Internet access. Nepalese telecom company Ncell installed 3G service at the base camp of Mount Everest in 2010, and last summer Huawei and China Mobile China Mobile installed 4G service there. Last year, Dubai-based mobile satellite communications provider Thuraya introduced satellite sleeves that turn cell phones into satellite phones that now provide smartphone capabilities for other peaks that lack wireless service........"

Gone are the days of being isolated while in the mountains! Seems crazy to think there is enough of a business justification to warrant the installation of mobile phone towers at Everest base camp - probably shows just how much of an industry it has become.

 

Downside and Danger of the tech

"The downside is that communications technology can also divert climbers from the climb. Thanks to laptops and improved communications on the mountains, many sponsors expect daily expedition updates, notes professional climber Ed Viesturs, the only American to climb all 14 of the world’s 8,000-meter peaks. “That becomes a distraction. Rather than enjoy the moment, climbers are busy updating their blogs.”

Before mounting an expedition, Ballinger also downloads all the maps he may need onto an iPad, which performs well in cold, wet conditions. “Everest has fixed lines, so you don’t need maps, but I use the iPad on other mountains to help find routes in whiteouts,” he said.

 

A balance

"Despite all the tools now available to elite climbers, technology is no replacement for knowledge and technical skills. Viesturs, for example, only uses technology to provide ancillary information. Weather reports may determine a window of opportunity for a climb, “but I check the clouds and my own barometer,” he said. “If things change, I’m willing to turn around and go down.”

Viesturs recommends climbers use a combination of high- and low-tech methods for climbs. “The technology almost makes climbs more dangerous,” Viesturs said. If the technology fails, there are many climbers today who may lack the necessary survival skills, including route finding."

Wise words from a highly regarded mountaineer. I wonder is this more of a risk in more 'normal' hill surroundings - i.e. the local small hills of Ireland for example, where there are a lot of recreational walkers?

 

 

Durability

I'm always interested to hear people ruining phones/tablets quickly. Is it because we all were used to Nokia brick-phones that could be dropped frequently, washed (one of my own survived the washing machine three times!), kicked, etc - but mainly because everything including the screen was made of plastic? Habits only need to be changed I guess?

Why is it glass on most of the devices instead of plastic? From the words of Steve Jobs on BusinessInsider:

"When his lieutenants were assembled, he pulled the prototype out of his pocket and pointed angrily to dozens of scratches on its plastic screen.

People would carry their phones in their pockets, Steve said. They would also carry other things in their pockets--like keys. And those things would scratch the screen. And then, with Apple just about to ramp up iPhone production, Steve demanded that the iPhone's screen be replaced with unscratchable glass."

Of course, it's not unscratchable but the Corning Glass used in almost all devices is a lot tougher than the glass in your home windows.

Has anyone tried using an iPad/iPhone while out in mountains or on trips? I've traveled with a device/laptop/phone combo (and more frequently with a tablet/phone combo) for several years - this was my first 'tablet' all the way back in 2007 - thankfully we've come a long way from that :)

My original Macbook (plastic, interestingly) did two laps around the world over two years without any major damage (bar lots of scratches due to the plastic). My incentive to look after it? I usually have spent a personal fortune on such devices so I'd like them to last as long as possible - I'm one of those people who prefers quality over quantity so will always spend more to ensure long-run.

 

What do you think? Has anyone tried using electronic devices for a map or guidebook? Biggest hindrance would be battery life I assume?


Please share as always - I'm sure you know someone who has a good insight on all this!


Durability test video is below and link to the article with more details here:

Neal McQuaid