Climber calls out from top of world

A digital echo. That’s what Canadian climber, Byron Smith created on his recent trek to the summit of the legendary Mount Everest, the highest point on earth at 29,035 feet – more than five miles high.

Though we’re sure the 39-year-old Calgarian couldn’t resist occasionally yelling out to the world beneath him in hopes of hearing his own voice call back, he also had the bearings in 100mph winds and extremely oxygen-deficient altitude to seek out the return of voices different from his own. Thanks to a major sponsorship from the CBC Newsworld Web site, Smith’s 62-day journey to the top of the world from its starting point in Lukla, Tibet was catalogued daily via e-mail, audio and video dispatches from Smith and his crew. And on May 21, Smith’s radio address from his perch on the peaks brushing the sky was televised across Canada.

“I thought it was great to be able to allow millions of Canadian schoolchildren as well as Canadians to follow along in this virtual field trip daily and see what was going on, what the mountain was like, to get the video of (us) actually climbing and get it in real time,” Smith said.

Smith’s commitment to communicating with the outside world is all the more amazing because of the extra efforts needed to transport the electronic gear.

“Logistically, you’ve got to be able to think about (the equipment) all the time because you need more Sherpa (native guides from the surrounding countryside of Tibet) support to carry it,” Smith said. And “you have to power it. Power is very difficult above base camp(located on a glacial moraine at 17,500 ft.). You know, at base camp we can have a generator and we can have lead gel and solar panels for reserve power.”

Above base camp, however, Smith was limited to powering his electronic equipment using lead gel batteries, which while working quite well in colder weather are also very heavy. His transmissions were sent out to the world via the communications tent set-up at base camp.

“It was state of the art equipment,” Smith described. “Two satellite phones which combined gave 128Kbps, which is low broadcast quality. And then we had a TokoVast VTC (a videoteleconferencing field unit) laptop. What that did is it compressed the video and the audio and it was able to link it to a satellite through the satellite phone antennae, and then (the transmission came) back down into France and by cable into Canada.”

Smith purchased Sony cameras for the expedition, while his four Toshiba laptops, Motorola radio gear and other communications equipment was supplied by the CBC.

To view details and photos of Smith’s expedition, visit