Today we take a different view on the acceptance and use of modern technology in our climbing efforts than the early big mountain climbers.

A well known event in mountain climbing history is George Mallory’s ill fated 1924 attempt to climb Everest where the use of oxygen caused much debate about the use of an artificial aid to climbing being unfair in the sense of competition and not very sportsman like even though the weight of the crude apparatus must have been a huge burden on the already loaded down climber. Its was never clear if Mallory made it to the top and the discovery of his body 2000ft below the summit after apparently falling has done nothing to clarify the success or failure of the expedition.

ice climbing

A Man Ahead of the Times

Kitted out in old tweed, greatcoats, woolly scarfs and cardigans they must have looked a stark contrast to the modern day climber wearing lightweight multi layered and flexible gear.

One interesting fact to come out following a study of Mallory’s clothing after his remains were found by a BBC funded Everest expedition in 1999 was that the weight was lighter than an outfit worn by Alan Hinkes climbing on Everest in 2005 and would be considered cutting edge for the time period giving Mallory a huge advantage over other mountain climbing equipment in general use at that time.


Metals and Plastics

Some of the everyday aids to climbing have only been made possible by the advancements in metallurgy. When the great pioneers were starting out on their during the 1920,s titanium was still 20 years away. The excellent refining processes used in producing today’s super light alloys and the high tech manufacture of plastics and polymers which are incorporated into the kit that gets us up a mountain and keeps us warm, dry and fed once we get there.

Communications

mobile phones

Mobile phone evolution

The ability for instant communications in almost any environment has vastly improved the organization of group climbs along with survival rates. A good example of this is the avalanche emergency beacons worn by skiers that give rescuers a pin point location under the fallen snow thus saving crucial time in digging them out.

The mobile phone has become the number one tool which hikers and walkers use to alert mountain rescue and other emergency services should an accident happen. It is unbelievable how many lives this invention has saved since its widespread use around the world.

So next time your tethered to a rock ledge a few thousand feet up a mountain safe and warm in your Gore-Tex Bivy give a kind thought to all the hard working people who think up and produce our technology.

Further Reading

emergency communications handbook


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Climber photo courtesy Wikipedia Mobile phone photo courtesy Wikipedia