Friday, 25 May 2012

Ethics on Everest (2012 edition)

The Everest Conga Line

The issue of ethics on Everest is raised every year, usually round about the time the annual deaths occur in the Everest climbing season (blunt way of putting it, but true none the less). For me my interest in the subject came a number of years ago while watching “Everest Beyond the Limit”; a series on the Discovery channel following a number of climbers attempting to summit Everest in 2006. The series became famous for the footage of climbers on the expedition finding a dying climber (who would later be named as David Sharp). David Sharp had attempted to climb Everest unsupported and unguided using a minimalist package from Asian Trekking. He was discovered barely conscious at Green Boots cave; a small shelter containing the body of Tsewang Paljor; an Indian Climber who died on Everest in 1996. It is estimated that before David died he was passed by more than 40 climbers who did not render any assistance to the dying man. The first man to encounter David was Mark Inglis - a double amputee from New Zealand. Inglis stated in an interview when he found David on his ascent, he thought he was already dead, and had continued on. Another climber from the same group (Max Chaya) encountered David on his descent from the summit and attempted to give assistance, along with a Sherpa from the group, but to no avail – David was unable to walk even with assistance and an hour of trying. David died on 15th May 2006. Much of the criticism was (unfairly in my opinion) levelled at Russel Bryce – the expedition leader of the Chaya and Inglis expedition group, because it was felt he did not offer enough assistance to David.
1 week later an Austrailia climber; Lincoln Hall was left for dead on Everest after he fell ill with altitude sickness. His sherpa’s had attempted for hours to get him moving but eventually he was left for dead. It was widely reported in the media that he had died. The next day a team lead by US climber Dan Mazur
encountered Lincoln:
Lincoln Hall 

“Sitting to our left, about two feet from a 10,000 foot drop, was a man. Not dead, not sleeping, but sitting cross legged, in the process of changing his shirt. He had his down suit unzipped to the waist, his arms out of the sleeves, was wearing no hat, no gloves, no sunglasses, had no oxygen mask, regulator, ice axe, oxygen, no sleeping bag, no mattress, no food nor water bottle. 'I imagine you're surprised to see me here', he said. Now, this was a moment of total disbelief to us all. Here was a gentleman, apparently lucid, who had spent the night without oxygen at 8600m, without proper equipment and barely clothed. And ALIVE”

A rescue on a massive scale swung into action with a team of 12 Sherpa’s plus Dan Mazur and his team (who had abandoned their summit bid) worked to get Lincoln down from Everest. He survived.
After seeing Everest Beyond the Limits and seeing the genuine emotion from expedition members who encountered David Sharp, there was no lack of desire to help him, but 2 people can’t drag a dying man down a mountain in the death zone, but 40 people might have been able to. Anyone wanting to read more about the controversy regarding the 2006 Everest deaths, should consider reading “Dark Summit” by Nick Heil, it gives a balanced and detailed account of what happened and why.

Ms Shuttleworth 
I didn’t write this article because of David Sharp, I wrote it to illustrate the parallels between the 2006 season in which David Sharp died (amongst others), and this years deaths. This was sparked after reading about Leanna Shutterworth, a 19 year old girl who has just completed a climb of Everest. What made me angry is not the current culture of people being desperate for daddy to pay for them to become the “Worlds youngest ”, I couldn’t care about that, if it makes you happy then do it. No, what made me angry was on reading the news articles and blog posts from Ms Shutterworth she makes reference to the bodies of dying climbers they stepped over on their way to the summit. 

 "There were casualties from the day before, which was tragic and horrendous.
“There were quite a few bodies attached to the fixed lines and we had to walk round them.
"There were a couple who were still alive.”

I had to read this several times for it to sink in; “We had to walk round them”, “Couple who were still alive”. She makes reference that one Sherpa helped one of them but they were “to far gone”. To reference back to the Lincoln Hall incident, is it the case that “too far gone” has become something which people judge differently on Everest, do they want to believe they are “too far gone” to alleviate their own guilt at walking past/around/over them, or are they genuinely too far gone. Lincoln hall was placed in this bracket yet he lived, how many others are judged to be "too far gone" where they could in fact be saved. Easy for me to judge sat in my living room on a warm summers day, but I know myself, I know that were I ever in that situation I would never allow myself to carry on to the summit while there were living people dying behind me. Perhaps there is often nothing that can be done for these people, but I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t try, and I find it worrying how many Everest tourists these days (people with no mountaineering background or skills) devalue human life in exchange for the bragging rights of climbing Everest. 40 people passed David Sharp, if 20 people had stopped, maybe he would have been saved, maybe he wouldn’t. These people Leanna talks about walking around, maybe they were dead already, or maybe if she (and others) had helped then they wouldn’t be. Leanna will get a hard time from the climbing community unless she comes forward to justify herself (difficult to try and do I suppose), (lead by Simon….) have already started a frank discussion on the matter:, she perhaps doesn’t deserve the stick she is going to get, she is just another ambitious teenager who didn't realise what she was putting her foot in, but should maybe have considered the implications of bringing up such a sensitive issue in this manner whilst in the public eye, many would consider her use of "people dying on the ropes" just a way to emphasise her achievement; I'm not one of them. It should also be stressed at this point that my anger is not directed solely at Leanna, she is simply a public face of the otherwise faceless horde of walkers who seem to disregard human life in favor of achieving their own goals.

Nadav Ben-Yehuda (left) and Aydin Irmak
To offer some contrast to this story, a rescue took place on Everest in the last week by an Israeli climber Nadav Ben-Yehuda. With only 300m to go until the summit, he found a stricken climber (Aydin Irmak) who he had befriended at base camp. Again (as in all cases it seems), a number of climbers had passed Aydin Irmak, and left him to die. Nadav Ben-Yehuda abandoned his climb, hoisted Aydin onto his shoulder and carried him down the 9 hours to Camp 4 where they were both evacuated.

I want to leave on one short phrase which for me summed up the difference between people who walk past dying humans on Everest, and those who stop to help;

Nadav Ben-Yehuda described his decision to stop and help Aydin Irmak as “Automatic”, how many less people would die on Everest if more people described their decisions as such.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Angexis Outdoor - some clarification

Got a quick email and comment that from Jan Vorwerk at Angexis Outdoor which I thought I would share with everyone:

"Hi Chris,

I found your e-mail address on the screenshots of Angexis Outdoor on your blog ;-)

First off, let me tell you that I am very pleased that you like this app and very honored that it appears on day #1 on the 7 days of Android!

This afternoon, I have added a comment, and either I did a mistake (and never posted the comment), or you decided to hide it (which is your right!). I just wanted to double-check that you understood my comment and understand why the the app needs the mobile data network... so that your readers are not mislead.

Also, since you compared it with SPOT: the main difference (beside the price) is that SPOT will likely never send a false alert, since it is manual, but on the down side, it will never send an alert if you are unconscious. Also, SPOT will continue working if you are in mobile-deserts with no coverage at all.
Angexis Outdoor will work in most cases (except in such "deserts" since it needs to "check-in" on a regular basis with the web site)... the downside is that it might send false alerts in some cases (e.g. you lose your phone, it gets broken, you run out of battery, you reboot your phone and forget to stop the app first...).

Hope this clarifies. If you have any additional question, please let me know!

Best regards"

And the comment:

"Hi Chris,

Glad you liked that app... and hope you'll like it even more now that alerts can be sent by SMS.

Just one comment though : even with the SMS feature now, the app still needs (and will need) the mobile network.

The reason is that it is necessary for the app to regularly tell the web site the user's position. If it did not work this way, it would not be very reliable because if an accident occurred out of mobile coverage, it would not be able to send any alert any longer, and the web site would have no clue where the user could well be...

The drawback is the impact on the battery of course...

Hope this clarifies !"

So a nice bit of clarification on why Angexis Outdoor uses the Mobile network, great of Jan to take the time to comment on the software, great App guys, really like it!

Angexis Outdoor is available on the Play Store

Sunday, 20 May 2012

New website on the way

I am currently in the process of creating a new website using HTML5. Having used a few HTML5 websites I really like the way it works, Flash can be a bit fiddly at times and even more so on older computers, so much easier to look to build the site in HTML5.

The new site will be going live in the next few weeks, depends how quickly I can get to grips with HTML5, hoping it won't be too difficult!

In the meantime the old site will be live until the new one is ready, below is a little sneak peak of the initial layout of the new site and how things will look, any feedback welcomed as always!

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Angexis Outdoor - updated version 2.0

Last week I reviewed Angexis Outdoor - a mobile app for Android. I made the point that overall the software was good, but it lacked a function to send SMS alerts to contacts, and instead relied on emails being sent. Having seen an update on the Angexis Facebook that they had made a new version with SMS built it, I had to get it as soon as possible! 30 minutes after the update I had version 2.0 (free download from Google Play), and the SMS system works like a dream. I tested it on my girlfriends mobile, the alert sent from my phone featured a website and a 5 letter code. Going to the website gives you then screen below in the screenshot below. Your contact needs to input the code and the last 4 digits of their phone number to view your location, easy peasy, can be done easily through mobile internet too. The position is shown on Google Maps, but also gives you Lat/Long which can be passed on to Mountain Rescue etc.

The texts are sent in one of 3 ways: Firstly if you stop moving for a period of time (which you can set), secondly if you trigger a manual SOS, or thirdly if you are out of range of the Angexis server. You can set all the timescales involved easily from the simple menu. For more detailed information on how the system works, see my original review below.

Overall: great work guys, you've no doubt had some feedback on the software not having SMS and responded to that creating a version that now features SMS alerts. Excellent!

7 days of Android - stalled

Some on you may have noticed that I stalled on Day 2 - my Android phone currently won't work long enough to review anything. All started after I installed the latest Android software, currently waiting for a window where I won't need my phone for a week or so to send it off - half term soon. Until then, apologies for the lack of Android related reviews!

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

7 days of Android - Day 2

The second edition of 7 days of Android features GPS Essentials. GPS essentials is an incredible, well designed, free, piece of software designed to offer all the functionality of a GPS handset, on your Android phone.

How Does it work

The main feature of the software is the GPS dashboard. This is basically a blank canvas that can be filled with all the information you want. There are 45 options for this page, simply select the fields you want displayed and they will be placed into your dashboard. The options available include; Lat/Long, grid reference, accuracy, altitude and many more. This means you can build a custom screen that displays only the information you really use.
For me, I chose accuracy, altitude, Number of satellites, location provider, Lat/Long, Speed, and position, however as previously mentioned there are many more available.

GPS essentials also has a number of other features which are useful for any outdoor user. Firstly you can add waypoints either by manually inputting co-ordinates, or by marking your current location. These can then be viewed in the HUD camera mode. The HUD basically shows your waypoints, in real life. What I mean by this is, if you add a waypoint for a hill or peak, then select that waypoint, you can then look through the HUD and, it will display the waypoint on the screen at the location it marks. It does this by equating your current position to that of the waypoint and shows the mark on the screen - very cool.

You can also import files such as GPX to give you a track to follow. There is also a compass and map (Google maps only, no high detail maps).

HUD display with waypoint (green mark)
How to use

Easy, turn it on, add the information you need to your dashboard, and turn the GPS on. Uploading additional files with tracks etc can also be done by adding them onto the SD card of your phone then importing them. It doesn't need mobile internet (unless you want the Google maps element), but obviously needs your GPS on.


The app has no real limits, it does exactly what it says on the tin - and does it very well!


This app is a must-have app for any outdoorsy types who want to use the GPS on their phone in an effective way. It provides all the functions of a handheld GPS, and it's FREE. Great app, 10/10!

Other information

Download here:

Monday, 7 May 2012

7 days of Android - Day 1

The idea of 7 days of Android is to bring you the best outdoors software for your Android smartphone, saving you the hassle of trawling through endless apps on the Play Store.

The first piece of software is Angexis Outdoor - an automated SOS app that alerts base when either; you trigger an SOS alert, or when you have been stationary for too long. Essentially turning your phone into a SPOT GPS messenger.....for free!

Options screen
How does it work: So what actually happens? Well an alert contains my location (using the phone's GPS), and my phone number, as well as a short message saying I may be in trouble. The only drawback of this system is the alert is sent to an email address NOT as an SMS (see later). There are 3 ways alerts are sent;

Manual Alert: I trigger a manual alarm if I am injured and in signal range.

Immobility Alert: I injure myself, am unconscious and not moving. The phone alarms me that an alert is about to be sent, if I don't respond to the alarm the alerts are sent.

Web alert: If I am out of signal range for too long an alert is sent by the Angexis website, saying my last known location and that I haven't checked in.

The timings for each alert can be set by the user (see below), so setting the out of server reach field higher is advised.

Menu screen
How to use: The app is remarkably easy to use. You turn the app on and connect your Google Account. You then allocate contacts from your phone book to be your emergency points of contact (not sure how many you can have but I have 4...).  You then set the timings for your alerts (see screenshot), mine are currently set at 60 minutes, meaning after 60 minutes of no movement or no connection my points of contact will be notified (the server connection one should be higher than it is). Once you are ready to start your trip click "start". There is then a small icon in the task bar indicating that "Angexis is watching over you". And that's it, do you trip, if something bad happens then alerts will be sent. An example of an alert can be seen below. The system uses the phones mobile internet and GPS signals to gain a location and email it through the Google account you set up earlier.

An alert from Angexis
Limitations: Ok so there is a free, effective, SOS tool, that can really add an extra layer of security to any trip...what's the catch. Well unfortunately there are a couple. Firstly the system uses emails as an alert means, I don't know about you guys but my email is not always to hand, and I don't sit in front of it all day. SMS would be a much more effective tool, and would also avoid the phone having to have the Mobile Internet on the whole time. This would also alleviate the drain on battery resulting from the mobile internet being on. Whilst the app seems to manage GPS use intelligently (turning it on and off after each fix), it doesn't seem to do the same with the Mobile Internet. SMS would be a much more effective way of sending the alerts; people always have their phones near them, but rarely on their emails.

Conclusion: I like it, it's free, it works, it's not buggy and unreliable, it IS good. It could be better if it utilised SMS meaning the phone didn't need mobile internet, by all means use mobile internet to connect to the server every so often (for the web alert), but not the primary means of alerting contacts. Well worth noting this is only the BETA version at the moment and has only around 500 downloads, so it is still improving. I will be offering my feedback to the app developers, who have done a great job building a free safety tool that will help turn a smartphone into a SPOT unit. Great job guys!

Other information:

Angexis Outdoor is available for free in the Play Store:

Website is here with a bit of information:

Trekmates Flameless Cook System

Hi all,

Long time no speak, been a busy few months for me; applying for teacher training, interviews etc, a period during which I haven’t been out much at all.

On the plus side; here’s a review of the Trekmates Flameless Cook System (FCS).

RRP £20/£30

Begrudingly I conceded it’s time to replace my helmet having had it for 5 years now, it’s certainly served me well. I headed over to Go Outdoors to buy a Petzl Meteor 3+ (fancied one for a while, and combination of deals in GoOutdoors meant that they were available for £51 – jackpot). While browsing round the store I came across the Trekmates Flameless Cook System section. When I first saw the FCS it peaked my interest, a means of heating food and drink that doesn’t need gas....sounds good. I was faced with 2 options; £18 bought me the Flameless Cook Flask (360ml), which came with 3 heat packs, alternatively £27 bought the Flameless Cook Box, which came with 4 heat packs (2 of each size). I opted for the flask, reasoning with myself that if the FCS proved to be a good addition I would return for the box.
Stove in packaging

The system works by using water activated heat packs, which are available in 2 sizes (high power and super power), these are available for £10 (pack of 7 high power packs) or £10 (pack of 5 super power packs). The super power packs are only useable in the Flameless box and not in the flask. Each stove comes with a measuring bottle to ensure you add the right amount of water to activate the heat pack (depending on the size). Each stove or heat pack comes with “loyalty points” you can use on to buy more heat packs, and other goodies. This is great because it reduces the overall cost of the fuel for the stove as you get freebies every so often.

Good so far…..

So time to test one; the concept is fairly simple:

Stage 1: Separate the plastic outer stove from the metal inner container. Put food/water into the inner metal section

Stage 2: Fill the plastic measuring bottle to the indicated level for high or super (depending on the size of pack you are using.

Stage 3: Add the heat pack into the bottom of the plastic outer stove, add the water from the measuring bottle, and then put the metal inner and plastic outer back together, secure the lid with the clips and wait.

Measure bottle, plastic outer, metal inner, and lid.

I followed the instructions and after a bit of a funny smell initially, coupled with a bit of audible fizzing, and 7 minutes of time, I had 1 piping hot brew. The water was very hot indeed. I immediately emptied the water out into a mug and refilled the stove. Worth noting at this point that I displaced the metal inner section when pouring the water out, took a bit of fiddling to get it back in given how hot it was, but I did it no problem and resealed the stove. After 7 minutes the water was still cold….not good in my opinion, would hope that given the cost of the packs that there should be more than 1 brew per pack. I resealed the container for an additional 5 minutes (13 minutes in total) but still cold….maybe I did something wrong.

Well all in all, the stove is good, it can make a brew, or cook a meal without the need for flames or leaving your tent. Great. Also great idea for group leaders who want have concerns over their groups behaviour around stoves (special needs groups perhaps?). It’s small, light, and does make a good brew with minimal fuss, and whilst it doesn’t seem to be able to make 2 brews, it can keep 1 brew warm for longer. Which brings me on to the negative aspect of the stove, 5 heat packs for £10 = £2 per brew, not ideal. But look at it this way, as an item you don’t use every single trip, or as a convenience item it’s a great piece of kit to have, and there’s not much that can go wrong with it.

I am looking forward to my first morning brew in the tent with the rain tipping down outside, something tells me that when I’m sitting in my sleeping bag, warm and dry, that I will appreciate this item much more.