Month: April 2012

Camp 2 Rotation – Eric Remza Mt Everest Expedition

Nuptse Massif flanking the right side of the Western Cwm

I am writing this from the warmth of my tent at Everest Base. This morning began with a 3:30am wake-up and a 5 am departure from our camp 2 which is at an elevation of 21,500 feet.  Getting up and having to motivate at such early hours is a key part of our scheduling when climbing Mount Everest.  We travel during the early morning hours when it is the coldest and when the mountain slopes are the most dormant for safe passage.  Our decent this morning had us leaving our camp 2 and arriving back to our base camp at 17,600 ft.  The thicker air and accommodations here are a welcome sight then what our living arrangements are above.

Crossing a ladder of a crevasse

Our first acclimatization rotation was climbing 20,000 foot Lobuche Peak and our second acclimatization rotation would be ascending up and through the Khumbu Ice Fall and then spending two nights at both our camp 1 (19,600 ft) and our camp 2 (21,500ft).  On 4/24 we made our way up and through the Khumbu Ice Fall, probably one of the greatest single challenges that we had yet to face on this expedition.  The Khumbu Ice Fall is a river of ice that cascades over the steep drops in elevation of rock that contours below, it is in constant movement and the route changes daily.  The “ice doctors” are seasoned Sherpas that have made it a career to make the necessary changes to the route as it shifts throughout the season.  They “fix” rope throughout the entire 2,000 ft matrix of ice and snow and adhere ladders across deep crevasses.

Camp 1 on the upper Khumbu glacier

Camp 1 is positioned well above the Ice Fall and is situated in lateral groupings among the many large glacial outcroppings of the upper Khumbu glacier.  This is the entrance to the Western Cwm and is flanked laterally by both Nuptse to the right and Everest to the left.  Our camp 2 is located all the way up the Western Cwm and is positioned on glacial moraine just below the Lhotse face.

Everest on the left, Lhotse on the right

Camp 2

We spent a total of two nights at camp 1 and camp 2.  Adjusting to the thinning air and colder temperatures were the focus and in doing so, we are constantly being subjected to the harsh environment in which we have chosen.

Climbers on the Lhotse face

5Point Film Festival – Inspiring Adventure

The 5Point Film Festival is on a mission to inspire adventure of all kinds and this year’s festival has an impressive collection of films, all of which share a common thread – the thirst for adventure.

From April 26-29 Carbondale, Colorado will be screening films and playing host to some of the most celebrated adventures, including photographers, filmmakers, kayakers, climbers, cyclists and mountaineers.

These films and the stories these adventurers will share are bound to inspire you to plan your next adventure quest.

Tracking Bengal Tigers in India

The tiger. One of the world’s more exotic, elusive and very endangered species.  As their numbers dwindle the chance to observe them in their natural habitat becomes more difficult. Of the original nine species of tigers only six remain.

India is home to one of those species, the Bengal tiger.  With several national parks India is helping to preserve these big cats.   A tiger safari through India’s jungles to track the Bengal would be a rare adventure.  Tracking by jeep would be nice, but a better way to experience them would be by sitting on the back of an elephant.  Being on an elephant in India’s oppressive summer heat does not sound appealing, but the cooler season between October and mid-April is ideal for tiger safaris in the following national parks:

The following India based tour companies offer tiger safaris in these parks:

Tigers are hands down my favorite of the wild animals.  As I’ve watched them at zoos, wild animal parks and inside casinos, I imagine the day, that is hopefully not too far off, where I too am on the back of a massive elephant in the presence of these majestic creatures in the jungles of India.  One day.

At Base Camp Awaiting a Push Through the Icefall – (Eric Remza Mt Everest Update)

I am back at Everest Base Camp and have been spending some time resting here after our ascent of Lobuche Peak. Tomorrow morning we will get up early and venture into the Khumbu Icefall for the first time.  The Icefall is the challenging bit of terrain we need to navigate through to make our way into the Western Cwm.  Our day tomorrow will be just spending a short bit of time in the icefall getting our feet wet and having some practice with the ladders that are used to span some of the sections.

Attached is a picture of the Khumbu icefall. Probably one of the single most challenging and dangerous parts of climbing Mount Everest from the South side.

~ Eric

Doug add: as Eric mentioned, negotiating the Khumba Icefall is an extremely dangerous part of the climb on the South route.  For a deeper look into what it is like going through the Icefall from someone who has been there before, check out this post by Alan Arnette: Everest 2012: Into the Icefall.

Days at Base Camp & Successful Summit of Lobuche – (Eric Remza Mt Everest Update)

First of all our data coverage at Everest Base has been less then adequate, the NCELL air cards we all purchased for our computers has not been making the cut due to the high volume of users!  Therefore, we need to take advantage of giving you updates when we can get it.

In regards to our scheduling, we ended up spending two extra days at Everest Base.  During this time we were able to partake in our Puja (a Buddhist ceremony to grant safe passage on the mountain) and some training in the ice fall for our upcoming acclimatization climb of Lobuche Peak.  Our training consisted of fix line practice, rappelling, and descending the fixed lines with hand wraps.  We use fixed lines on the glacier and steep snow slopes.  The lines (or ropes) are adhered to the mountain with various forms of ice or snow protection and we ascend these with ascenders (one way traction devices) that dig into the sheath of the rope to keep us safe.


After our stay at Everest Base we descended to the lower elevations of Lobuche Base Camp.  The thicker air, vegetation, and chirping birds is a homecoming to the stark landscape of rock and ice that  encompasses the highest city on the planet, Everest Base.  Our passage then led us again to the higher elevations of Lobuche high camp which stands at 17,000 ft, here we prepared for our summit bid of 20,000 foot Lobuche Peak.  Our summit day was spectacular.  With zero wind and clear skies, the climb went very smooth.  The 360 degree views from the summit were outstanding and our next objective, Mount Everest, could be seen in all of its glory.  It is a humbling experience to be standing at 6000 meters and then be staring up at 8000 meters, I have a long way to go in the coming month!

Now we are resting back at Lobuche Base Camp.  With good food and water and a sunny warm day to recuperate, I am able to send this dispatch from a good friend on the team who has a surplus of data via his Thuraya satellite arrangement.  The Lenovo X220 computer has been handling the extremes of this landscape with reliability and grace.  The solid state hard drive, light weight and solidly built construction, along with its long battery life is testament to its innovation.  For me, staying connected in the mountains via the right computer is as important as having the right Sherpa staff and technical equipment.  My profession as a mountain guide and co-founder of a newly launched adventure travel website www.pathwrangler.com, being connected in the most remote regions of the Himalayas is essential.

All the best,

Eric

Traveling to Politically Unstable Areas

You are on your dream trip visiting the pyramids of Giza in Egypt.  After spending the day gazing upon these ancient wonders, you rest your head on your pillow in your hotel in Cairo, tired, but excited from being able to experience something you had only read about in your textbooks in school.  A few hours later, you wake up to a startling rumble outside of your hotel: you peak out the window and you are witnessing a full riot.  What do you do?

Traveling to politically unstable places is par for the course for those who prefer adventure travel.  We’ve seen uprisings over the last few years in many classic adventure travel destinations – Lebanon/Israel 2006, Tibet 2008,  Thailand 2010 and Egypt 2011 just to name a few – and many people who have set aside a big chunk of their time and money were caught in the middle.  We actively encourage people not to avoid traveling to these places.  The experiences these destinations offer can be extremely rewarding with some proper preparation.  So, here are some things you can do prior to your trip that can ensure your safety in case things go down.

Pre-Trip Planning

Locate your Embassies and Consulates – prior to your trip you should print out maps of locations and contact information of your home country’s embassy and consulates. Technology is great, but if you are relying on internet access, the government often hits the kill switch (Egypt and Tibet). Carrying around a couple of slices of dead trees is certainly worth the price of your safety.  Your smart phone, iPad and Laptop become a brick if you are without power.  Bring the paper.

Also, spend some time on Google Earth getting look of what the buildings and the surrounding area look like. While a piece of paper and a map are helpful, getting a full visual can go a long way in helping you to get to safety faster.

You may be traveling to places far away from your home country’s embassy, so you should have a plan of what to do in case you need to get there.

Plan Alternative Exits - Many uprisings happen in capital cities or centers of political power.  Before you leave, explore if their are alternative cities or borders that you could leave by plane, car, bus or train in case of emergency.  Figure out what you geographical or political challenges would be and give yourself options.  Many people who were in Lhasa in 2008 were able to drive and cross the Nepalese border in Nylam.

Make Sure Your Red-Tape is in Order – This one is uber-important anyway, but you should be very diligent to make sure that all your visas, passports and permits are in proper order.  Sometimes authority figures will look for even the smallest reason to keep you from leaving as everyone is viewed with suspicion in these circumstances.

Buy Good Travel Insurance – Research the best options prior to leaving as travel insurance is often times a scam.  You don’t want to find that out after everything is getting out of control.  Travel Insurance Review is a great independent site to do your research.  This can help you cover the costs of having to get out of Dodge quickly.

Familiarize Yourself with Local History and Current Events – Each situation is going to take a life of it’s own.  The riots in Bangkok were much different than the ones in Egypt in their purpose and how the local government handled the violence.  Knowing ahead of time what the climate is like will give you a better path to navigate if things go badly.

Knowing the local customs is always important, but even more so in a pinch.  Being able to know how to conduct yourself around them will keep you from doing anything stupid unintentionally.

Stash Some Cash – Cash is always king and keep it socked away so it isn’t easy for anyone to get at it.  Make sure you know the local customs if you intend to bribe a local official as some places it works and others it will land you in hot water.  However, in the event that things get hairy, cash might be the only option for getting a car, train, bus or plane ticket.

Now that you’ve prepped yourself, what do you do when the @#$% hits the fan and you have to leave?

Contact the Airline That You Flew in on First – Airlines are notoriously bad at helping with changes to itineraries, but in an emergency, they can still be the easiest and most cost effective way getting home.  In Egypt, the US Embassy is chartering flights for 1,200 people a day, but they prioritize for those that have medical conditions first.  If you do get on a charter, you’ll have to reimburse the government the cost of the flight and the government isn’t exactly chartering Southwest at $99 one-way.  However, if your only choice is a charter, TAKE IT.

Stay Away from the Windows - If you are in a hotel or residence and you have to hunker down for a bit, it might be tempting to take a peek outside to get a live view of what you’d be watching on CNN.  Don’t.  Stray bullets, molotov cocktails, rocks, tear gas, etc are not things that discriminate in the middle of fracas.  If you can move to a room that faces an inner part of the hotel, that would be ideal.

Don’t Film or Take Pictures – I know it is tempting to film something to put on YouTube that might make it on every news network, but when people are doing bad things to each other, they don’t shrug off someone they see trying to document what they are doing.  Leave the filming for the journalists and the locals.

Move in Groups of 3 – 5 - If you are traveling alone, find some people to stick with.  You don’t want to organize a 100-man group, but being alone can make you a target.  If you are in a large group, break into “platoons” of 3 – 5 that can all get in one cab or car together.  Communicate rendezvous or rally points.

Wear Earth Tone Clothes – If you find yourself wearing that neon-green I *Heart Florida t-shirt, switch it off for something that would blend in a little better.  You don’t want to draw unintended attention to yourself and wearing clothing that blends in can help you keep a low profile.

Watch Your Mouth – Once you get home, you can wax political all you want about the injustices and horrors you witnessed, but while you are there, keep it to yourself.  In fact, meddlesome foreigners are particularly held in contempt whether it is right or not.  This isn’t the time to argue, it is the time to get away.

Traveling to Politically unstable areas can be incredibly rewarding to adventurous types–most of the time you won’t have any incidents and you will be able to experience the great parts of these cultures beyond the nastiness you see on the news.  However, in case something does happen, with just a little effort, preparation and some common-sense, you’ll greatly reduce your chances of something going wrong if you get caught in the middle.

Tour Operator’s Guide to Operational Excellence

The success of your business or organization completely relies on delivering exceptional experiences for your clients.  Happy clients turn into repeat customers.  Repeat customers produce powerful testimonials to market to new clients, provide strong word of mouth recommendations and create lots of photos of people having the time of their lives.  This isn’t just about making sure that you run a great trip when your clients arrive at their destination, it is about giving them the best experience from the moment they first inquire about your offerings.  If you are currently managing your trips primarily through email, spreadsheets, PDF files, word documents, static websites or even non-industry specific project management applications you are missing critical opportunities to provide clients with a fantastic experience from the beginning.

PathWrangler was designed to empower the tour operator to operate their business optimally.  Operational excellence is made up of the following:

  1. Creating, Managing and Presenting Exceptional Information
  2. Outstanding Communication
  3. Utilizing Trip Reports
  4. Maximize Capacity

When done correctly, you can pull off even the most complicated of trips with ease.  Ideally, your clients won’t even realize the efforts you put into making the trip a success.  Current tool sets are insufficient to deal with the complexities and demands of managing trips for a customer base that is not only increasing in technological sophistication, but who also demand that they receive unique and personal experiences.

CREATE, MANAGE AND PRESENT EXCEPTIONAL INFORMATION

Think Big…Then Herd the Cats: as you’re creating unique programs for your clients, the first challenge is to think big.  The big picture is the goal or objective of a trip for a client.  Depending on the nature of your goals, constant customization of trips could be required, while for others, the trips are rather static once created.  Once you create your programs, it is important to have a tool that presents all this information in a way that is not only professional, but engaging.

  • A+ Quality Itineraries
  • Detailed Packing List

A+ Quality Itineraries: a great itinerary is detailed, yet digestible.  A mediocre itinerary communicates times and locations, but a great itinerary provides not just the chronological details, but contextual information (historical, cultural or geographical).  However, the key to make the information digestible:

  • Be direct: use short direct sentences.  Remove overly descriptive adjectives and flowery language.  Although it is tempting to pull out your Thesaurus and paint an elaborate word picture for your clients, it takes up valuable space and clients will skip over language that lacks meaningful substance.
  • Visuals: instead of flowery language, use pictures to show the beauty and majesty of locations, landmarks or routes.  Pictures are worth a 1,000 words.
  • Maps: they empower the client to understand their surroundings.  On a basic level, it helps when they understand where they are in case they are separated or off on their own.  On an interactive level, maps are visually engaging ways for people to go deeper into the trip information you provided in your text-based itinerary.  With our integration with Google Maps, your clients can start exploring from the day they are invited into your trip.

Detailed Packing Lists are critical.  A poorly written packing list will not only leave your clients unprepared, but it could at worst be a risk to their safety, or at the very least, make them very uncomfortable.  Here is a great article that International Mountain Guide, Eric Remza wrote about creating the perfect packing list, which like an A+ Quality Itinerary, is detailed, but digestible.  Without a proper packing list, clients will lack the ability to get it just right: either they bring too much or too little.

After creating and then managing your trip information, it is important to present your exceptional content in a clean and visual way.  That can be very expensive with tradition methods and home built web design.  PathWrangler wasn’t designed just to manage your information, it was also designed to wow your clients with beautiful and dynamic presentation.

Ad Hoc Management: PathWrangler provides easy, object oriented, editing capability.  That means clicking and dragging.  You don’t have to be a spreadsheet expert or web designer to manage trips.  You have the power and capability to make changes with an ease that people with decades of web development couldn’t do.

OUTSTANDING COMMUNICATION

Now that you have built your trips, you have to manage your clients and the logistics of the trip: otherwise know as herding the cats.  The way to do this is to communicate clearly and efficiently.  Excellent communication builds trust and a bond with your clients and suppliers.  Smoothly managing any surprises that inevitably happen along the way is critical in building and maintaining your client and supplier’s confidence.  If you follow these best practices, it won’t matter if your clients don’t speak the same native language as you, as the structure for outstanding communication transcends language.  PathWrangler is built upon three concepts that allow you do this:

  • One version of the truth
  • Socially based conversations
  • Easy sharing and people management

One version of the truth: current procedures of having to edit documents such as word docs and PDFs create version control issues.  As you edit and send out over email your trip documents, you run the risk of clients, guides or other suppliers operating from a document that isn’t current.  Plus, each iteration requires a new email–your inbox becomes extremely difficult to stay on top of.  Google docs and project management software (such as Basecamp) allow people to collaborate in one place, but they are not designed to serve the needs of the travel and outdoor community and they require a supplemental combination of additional solutions to solve all the tour operators needs.

Socially Based Conversations: currently, the discussion around trip planning happens primarily over email and phone.  Here customers make inquiries, make requests and engage with you.  Email is pretty inefficient, as one-to-one communication becomes a way to wrestle with your inbox.  PathWrangler allows for easy engagement with users within the trip to interact with you and each other.  Not only is it something that relieves your inbox, it gives you and your team a fun way to interact with each other prior to the trip.  Bonds don’t have to wait to be formed at the destination, they can start from the moment you invite them into the trip.

Easy Sharing and People Management: managing clients, suppliers and all other people responsible for collaborating with a trip require more email threads.  People are added and subtracted to existing email chains, sometimes leaving others out as people respond to older emails.  Instead of wrestling with your inbox, PathWrangler makes it easy.  You just need a person’s email, enter it and with one click, you invite them to collaborate with the trip.  The invitation is delivered to their email inbox and that’s the last email they get.  Everything else can be handled within PathWrangler.  If people drop or cancel, you can remove them just as easily.  You can also invite new people late in the planning process.

TRIP REPORTS

One of the most overlooked aspects of Operational Excellence is documenting information that occurs during trips that can be useful in operating better trips in the future.  Creating a Trip Report essential to this process.  Trip Reports created from PathWrangler, give the Tour Operator the following benefits:

  • Client Testimonials
  • Operational Detail from Guides & Suppliers

This is another major area where PathWrangler differentiates itself from alternative solutions.  After a trip has concluded, trips are memorialized.   That means, each person that collaborated on a particular trip then gets their very own version to add their own notes and share them with others.

Client Testimonials: All the wonderful content you created for your clients are used as an easy framework for clients to journal their personal experiences.  They can add notes, stories and their pictures to their map-based itinerary and simply share them with their friends and family.

Operational Detail from Guides & Suppliers: This is a way for you provide a team review of your trip.  It is an examination that allows those who ran the trip to log pertinent details of things that happened along way.  Often times, some people who collaborate on these trips don’t physically go on the trips, but are responsible for running new ones.  PathWrangler provides and easy way to utilize the existing trip you’ve created, to add specific operational information that can be shared with other team members or to others who will be running the trip in the future.  The new information within the Trip Reports can become the basis for future trips with the click of a button.  Even if you are a single operator, having the ability to log and analyze your trip along the way is a powerful way of running better trips the next time.

MAXIMIZE CAPACITY

Now that you have the ability to optimally run individual trips, to achieve operation excellence, you need a way to manage multiple trips better.  PathWrangler is unique versus other solutions in this area, as none of them have the ability to easily manage multiple trips, which save you time and helps increase your operational capability.  There are two main features that help you with this:

  • Trip Templates
  • Dashboard
  • Notifications

Trip Template: a powerful tool that allow you to create new trips with an ease no other solutions can offer.  Creating a template allows you to create single trips, or “instances”, with a click of a button.  When trip templates are edited, future trips created from them will reflect your edits.  This is key.  As you are improving your trips through new information created in your trip reports, you need to have an easy way to update your future trips easily.

Dashboard: PathWrangler is set up to manage trips easily through a single dashboard.  From the My Templates area, you can manage all the trips that have been created from various trips under each template.  This makes it easier to categorize and manage individual trips.

Notifications: As you are collaborating and interacting with people on trips, PathWrangler has a notification feature that lets you know all the new conversations that are happening around your trips.  These notifications not only alert you to new activity, but they easily allow you to join the conversation from one place.

CONCLUSION

Relative to PathWrangler, alternative solutions for running your business are inefficient, costly, and unreliable. You are in the business of creating memorable experiences for your customers and consistently exceeding their expectations. Selecting a comprehensive solution—one equipped with an ever expanding suite of easy and powerful tools—will enable you to manage more travelers more often and provide travelers with a positive, personalized experience they won’t forget.

 

 

 

Sign up for an account now.  For more information or a personal consultation, contact us at info@pathwrangler.com.

New Feature: Notifications on Conversations

We rolled out a new feature last night: notifications for comments.  Here you can see all the new conversations that you haven’t read since your last activity.  Now you don’t have to go all the way into the trip and see if there have been any additional comments since your last interactions.  This is very helpful for those that are managing multiple trips and templates as you are notified of new activity within your conversations on particular trips.  You can see the number of new comments, which aggregate the activity for your account.

See the number by your account. Those are the new comments you haven't read yet.

Clicking on the number, you’ll get a scrolling list of new comment by person and in what trip they’ve commented on.  You can click any of the alerts and it will take you right to the conversation where the new activity occurred.

Why no email notification?  PathWrangler is designed to give relief to your email inbox.  We don’t want to flood your inbox with unnecessary clutter each time a comment has been made.  In trip planning, some threads can be very long as people get excited about their trips and are bonding with their fellow travelers.