Hilaree O’Neill, Climbing Mount Everest with an iPhone and iPad

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This spring, 39-year-old ski-mountaineer from Colorado Hilaree O’Neill will join The North Face and National Geographic’s 2012 Everest Expedition team. They will trek the same valleys that Sir Edmund Hillary and Nepalese Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, the first people to reach the summit, took in 1953.

Conquering Everest with Apple’s iPhone and iPad

What will make this expedition different are the gears that O’Neill will use while climbing the highest summit in the world. She will climb Mt. Everest without the bulky and antiquated gears that Hillary and Norgay carried during their ascent. What she’ll have are ultralight high-tech gears that cut significant weight from a climber’s load.

During Hillary and Norgay’s expedition, radio communication technology was already available, although it was heavy and difficult to use in high-altitude areas. Nowadays, climbers carry tiny handheld radios and cell phones to make phone calls and send text messages from the summit.

In 1953, Hillary only used lined paper notebooks and a pencil or pen to record his entire expedition. Two-way communication was conducted using a five-pound wireless walkie-talkie back then to keep in touch with the people on the camp.

On the other hand, O’Neill will use Apple’s iPad as a journaling device. Covered in a protective case, the tablet’s solid-slate data storage drive is usable even at high-altitude location –– a component where spinning hard disk drives common in laptops usually fails. The ski-mountaineer will also use Apple’s iPhone 4S to stay in touch, now that cell service is available across Khumbu region and on Everest’s summit.

Two Routes to the Summit

National Geographic will seek to repeat the historic climb in 1963, a National Geographic-sponsored American Mount Everest Expedition. This year, they will take two routes to the summit.

Mountaineer Conrad Anker and photographer Cory Richards will attempt to take the West Ridge in alpine style, carrying all their food, shelter and equipment. Meanwhile, scientists and researchers from Montana State University with NatGeo writer Mark Jenkins will climb Everest’s Southeastern Ridge in expedition style. They’ll carry fixed ropes, stocked camps, supplemental oxygen, and they will have help from porters.


The 2012 Everest Expedition is sponsored by The North Face and National Geographic, with support from Montana State University. The climbing team will be joined by The Mayo Clinic at the Base Camp to conduct researches. The whole 2012 expedition will be covered live in the National Geographic iPad app starting April 16.

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