Taking ARM to new heights (again)

He’s at it again.

After climbing Mt. Everest, K2 and Annapurna, as one of the few humans to summit all three peaks, ARM engineer Matt du Puy (Matthew Du Puy (mattd) is once again unpacking his crampons and ice picks. This time his target is Kanchenjunga, straddling Nepal and India and reaching 8,586 meters (28,169 feet) into the sky as the world’s third-highest peak.

 To enable him to deal with some of the climb’s challenges, Matt will be taking a carefully chosen selection of lightweight super-efficient ARM-based electronics to help him to check elements enroute, including the integrity of ice flows. (The photo nearby shows some Matt's climbing suit and some gear from his 2016 climb). In addition, he also has a surprise for local villagers, but more on that later.

Kanchenjunga presents a real enticement for world-class climbers such as Matt because it’s technically demanding, remote and doesn’t have the fame (or crowds) of Everest or K2. 

“After Annapurna and K2, it is the next most-deadly,” du Puy said just before flying from California to Kathmandu to begin the trip. “It has a much longer history than Everest since it is one of the few 8000m peaks in Nepal visible from some of the flat parts of India. So it piqued explorers’ interests before we even knew Everest existed or was the tallest peak.”

In addition, he’s got some amazing company this year. The team includes three Sherpani attempting to be the first Nepali women to summit the three highest peaks in the world (this will be their final mountain).

“They have been working tirelessly since 2014, training as guides in the states and fundraising, to make this attempt,” he said.

In addition, Lakpa Sherpa, “one of the most skilled rock, ice and alpine climbers I’ve ever met,” will participate (as he did in the 2016 Annapurna expedition). Climbing as well will be Colorado mountaineer and guide Chris Warner , Chris Burke, the Australasian lawyer and frequent climbing partner, and legendary Italian alpinist Simone Moro. (Chris Burke has published a kickoff blog here).

By early April, du Puy and Burke were enroute to Bhadrapur, Nepal, from Kathmandu. From there, they’ll drive to Tharpu, before spending two days trekking to Yamphudin and then trekking to Kanchenjunga Base Camp. By the beginning of their third week, the expedition will be in a position to attempt the mountain, depending on weather.

To the 2016 Annapurna summit kit, du Puy is adding a pocket drone for aerial footage and route mapping and an Outernet system. The latter, built on C.H.I.P.'s ARM platform, is a service that broadcasts globally over L-band satellites for free. The system sends daily news updates, ebooks, weather and community-suggested content to far-flung corners of the world. The receiver contains Wikipedia and some Kahn academy materials offline and shares the info over WiFi to local users (be they schools or research outposts or anyone without an Internet connection).

Du Puy (smiling in photo nearby, during breakfast on the Annapurna climb) will use the system during the expedition and then plans to donate the system to a local school.

“This is an experiment in getting better weather and news in an unconnected world,” du Puy said. “But it is so cheap that it occurred to me many families and villages in Nepal have access to inexpensive smartphones but not reliable power or Internet.”

“There have been some great experiments done giving kids access to information, and this will be super interesting to any budding nerds in less-connected places like the Himalayas,” he added.

In addition, he’s packed a similar kit to his 2016 expedition, which saw an array of ARM-powered devices being used in extreme conditions:

  • Suunto Ambit smart watch used for navigation at night or in bad conditions. Having a screen with nav queues on his wrist mitigates a lot of risks. It was also useful doing training at a sea level leading up to and during our time at base camp for monitoring heart rate while exercising to maintain target heart rates and monitor acclimatization status. (Also, Matt's adding my LG Sport Watch running Android Wear 2.0 to the mix to see how it performs)
  • Satellite beacon for messaging friends and family, coordinating on the mountain and getting weather forecasts while on the mountain.
  • Satellite modem for getting full weather forecasts, email, etc.
  • Samsung Chromebook Plus for email, weather and movies at base camp
  • Google Pixel smartphone, used as camera, Google Earth navigational aid, camera, book, music, flashlight/torch in the tent. Truly the most versatile tool even off network.
  • GoPro for taking video and time lapse photography easily
  • Ricoh Theta S 360° camera.

Du Puy’s achievements in the past decade make him one of the most accomplished mountaineers of our time, and yet he’s a remarkably modest, soft-spoken man. Danger always lurks on the mountain, and his engineering background has helped keep him focused, disciplined and safe during expeditions. But it doesn’t diminish his sense of wonder and joy.

“I’m looking forward to the peace and quiet I feel when I walk to my base camp tent in the dark, quiet, cold of the night and stare out over a star-lit glacier,” he said. “Also, the punishment for losing a game of cards with the Sherpa is having to dance to whatever song Chris plays on her phone. Sherpa dance parties are the best.”

You’ll be able to follow du Puy’s expedition on his Garmin tracking page, and if we’re lucky, he may regale us with tales of his latest dance moves.

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