I have a new gadget!

I have been known to buy the odd gizmo and gadget in my time. From Swiss Army knives with more blades than the entire Swiss Army could use, to kitchen gadgets which do everything but turn the cooker on for you, I have had plenty. They never really get used of course, but maybe that’s part of the appeal!

Take the journey to Kilimanjaro for example. I use an iPhone in ‘normal’ life, but of course the battery life is next to useless even when you have daily access to electricity. I knew that there was no way it would last me a week or more on a mountain, even if it was to be turned off for 99% of the time. So when I went there I took with me my old Blackberry, and before I went I bought me a nice gadget called a Powermonkey, which is a solar charger for your phone. Looked great, £60, sold! I took it with me and it basically never got used, but it was nice to have as insurance, and didn’t weigh me down too much.

I also seem to have started a new trend of collecting watches. I bought me a cheapie Timex one for Kili, as I had heard that it is not advisable to walk around in Tanzania sporting a fancy watch (I wear an Omega Seamaster normally) for fear of getting it ripped off your arm by a mugger (they were probably right – Arusha was a pretty intimidating place at times I found). I then ‘retired’ my Kili watch as I wanted to keep it for posterity after I nearly lost it in a bike crash that I had (see my ‘Alain Jourdain’ post for that little story). I then bought another Timex with stopwatch stuff and the like on it for my bike ride. That one is still going strong :).

So this week I combined my trend for gizmos and watches and got me an altimeter! Yes well I needed one badly, obviously:) I did a bit of research, and looked at various options. Lots of them are ugly, all of them are pretty big, and they vary as what you get with them (e.g you can combine heart rate monitor functionality etc).

I plumped in the end for a Suunto. Suunto are a Finnish company who make compass products, diving watches, heart rate monitors etc., and seem to have a pretty good name. They are also known for their ‘Vector’ altimeter watch, which has been around for years apparently. What tipped it in the end was when I looked at Alan Arnette’s Everest blog ( http://www.alanarnette.com/blog/category/7-summit/everest-2011/ ) and saw in his kit list that he wore one too. That was good enough for me!

I looked at a multitude of different Suunto products and in the end plumped for the ‘Core All Black’, just because to me it looked the best and seemed to have the best balance of functionality (i.e. I hope to use the altimeter function in the Himalayas and take a photograph of it showing +6,000m when at Island Peak etc:)) and style. Well you don’t want something too silly on your wrist do you? 🙂 Here is a link to the watch (oh yes it even tells the time too):


I bought it from an internet retailer I hadn’t come across before, called Facewest. They do all sorts of outdoorsy stuff, including climbing and hiking gear, so I will use them again, as their customer service (having spoken to them on the phone too for a couple of things) was exemplary. I also was a bit worried that it would look a bit big, and quite frankly silly, on my wrist.

So having had a bit of a play with it, I think I have sort of figured out how to use it. It has all sorts of logs and the like for the altimeter, meaning that you can record journies and it will tell you what your descent and ascent was for the last ten trips, assuming you remember to set it etc., which it seems you have to remember to do manually.

So here is a picture of it on my wrist:

Stylin'' huh?

Is it massive? Yep. Does it look a bit silly? Probably. Will I use it? Who knows! I do like it though, so it is coming with me next week to Switzerland for starters, and we will see what it tells me in the Alps. I wonder if it has a button to show you how scared you are? Now there’s a great gizmo to have……

Packing and a Powermonkey!

So how soon should you start packing? Being as handy as the next bloke at packing, but being definitely better than the average guy at procrastination, I figured that I could do it next weekend, which is when I go after all. Sounded like a plan to me. Seems I was wrong. Seems I was being told to pack a week ahead of time! This seems overkill for me, but as the prospect of not unpacking and packing all over again all seems fairly remote regardless, as I will no doubt have several panic attacks whereupon I decide that I haven’t packed enough, or can’t find something, and it will all end up all over the floor again!

Anyway, armed with a list, and another list, and some help (much needed:)), I went at it. After some time, my bag was packed to heaving with the things that I need, or want. Only problem is, that not all of them will go in! I am going to need a rethink I believe. I also have managed to include just three T shirts, one jumper and two pairs of walking trousers, and that is the total sum of my clothes for eleven days away! Hmmmmm, not going to happen.

Then I realised that there were certain things that I didn’t have yet. These include a memory card for my camera (I have ordered three so far for my new camera, and none have arrived. Long story there , don’t get me started on it), a charger of any description for my phone and a few other bits and pieces. I had heard via travbuddy of the Powermonkey, a portable solar charger for mobile phones, so I thought I might just have to have one. I use an iPhone normally, and the battery on that won’t last me a day without being charged, so it would be useless on the mountain.  In fact I had already decided to take my Blackberry instead in the hope that the battery would last. I would love to be able to text Dan and Becca when I get to the the top, and to at least tell them that their old Dad made it to the roof of Africa, although just saying that is no doubt tempting fate.

So anyway to cut a long story short, I managed to get said Powermonkey courtesy of Cotswold in Bicester. It’s quite nifty, and fairly rugged, and works:). It costs £65 normally, but they knocked me 20% off by virtue of the fact that I am doing a trek, so good for them.

The Powermonkey revealed!

So with a few more of these types of things stuffed into various pockets of my rucksack and my large duffle bag, everything seems to be coming together. Still way off deciding on what clothes to take though. I read someone’s blog today which said that on summit night they had 7 layers on the top half of their body and 4 on the bottom. I am not even taking that amount of clothing altogether!

So meantime back to work today, boo, and now only four more working days to go until it all happens. I feel like I am in a dream at the moment – it is all too surreal. I am sure I must be really distant, because I feel like I cannot see anything in front of me at any time of the day other than the mountain. It honestly pervades my every waking thought. It has become the monster, the elephant, but never in a bad way. It reminds me now of my all time favourite poem, Rudyard Kipling’s “If”, which just because I can and I want to, I will copy here:

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
‘Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!

That poem has so much passion and meaning for me. I will be reciting it up a certain mountain for sure.

So on to tonight. Back to the gym, it is a Monday after all:)

I had a re-assessment of my levels with Tombo, a great young ex-Zambian personal trainer guy who has given me all sorts of new exercises to work on. He has shown me a great rowing machine exercise, and then strange things like Spiderman push-ups and stuff. I felt the benefits like straight away (or maybe it is just the pain in my badly out of condition belly that can feel the pain).

So tomorrow night I will practice them more. I know it is too late now to affect how I am fitness-wise for the mountain, but it is not too late to at least stay in shape, maintain what I have. I actually feel pretty good about it all right now, as far as fitness is concerned. There are many unknown things to cope with, but if I don’t know about them then I can’t deal with them can I!