As part of their almostEverest trek challenge, Mike and Dave are introducing school children to high-tech and high-altitude technology (see Back to school: Dave and Mike's day off ). The students from Ms. Oyler's sixth- and seventh-grade class at Most Blessed Sacrament Elementary School have sent Mike and Dave several challenging (and sometimes entertaining) questions. In this dispatch, Mike and Dave take a stab at answering the first batch of questions from the kids.
Q: What does yak meat taste like?
A: Well, it's sort of gamey. Kind of tough, like a really bad piece of steak—except with less flavor :-)
Q: What is the population like in the villages?
A: The people of Nepal are always so friendly. Namaste, which is the universal greeting that means well wishes, is given freely to all. Most villages high up in the mountains aren't very densely populated. Some, like Loboche, may only have 50 to 75 full-time residents. Other villages, like Namache, that are closer to the base of the mountains may have 1,500 residents. But Namche is a trading village, and people from all over the mountains—including from as far away as Tibet—bring their goods to trade.
Q: What are the temperatures like?
A: Cold. Cold. Cold. The higher we go, the colder it gets. The weather hasn't been our friend this past week and a half. We've had snow and sleet every day beginning about 2:00 P.M. local time. This morning we awoke in Loboche to the sounds of avalanches pouring off of Nuptse. Normally, the wet weather doesn't move into the Himalayas until mid-May. This year is a very strange year. In fact, out of 22 international teams ready to summit Mt. Everest, none has made it past camp 3, and it doesn't look like anyone will make the summit this year. But once we go down lower, it will begin to warm up a lot. Now, at 16,000 feet (4,877 meters), the temperature is around 35 degrees F during the day. When we get to Kathmandu, which is at 4,000 feet (1,219 meters), the temperature may be in the 70s.
Q: How are the yaks holding up?
A: Very well. We didn't know it, but there are two types of yaks: local Nepalese yaks and Tibetan yaks. The local yaks are about the size of a small cow. The Tibetan yaks are about the size of a very large bull. And they are REALLY hairy. In fact, the wool from the yak is an important resource for the local people. It is harvested and made into many necessities—just like sheep wool is back home.
Q: Does it get harder the further up you go?
A: Yes, definitely. The higher we go, the harder it is to breathe because there's less oxygen in the air. As we all know, oxygen is necessary for everything our bodies do. So, let's say at sea level, right there in Louisville, when you breathe, the O2 rate is 100 percent. Here where we are, at 16,000 feet (4,877 meters), the O2 level is only 53 percent. That's why it's so important to "acclimate" slowly when going up. Acclimate means we go up just a little at a time—no more than 2,000 feet (610 meters) per day—which gives our bodies time to adjust to the low levels of O2 at these high altitudes.
Q: How are you staying clean with all of the dust?
A: We're not! Seriously, clean takes on an entirely different meaning. Taking a shower means throwing warm water that's been boiled over head and face—always making sure your mouth and eyes are closed. The water here is taken directly from rivers and streams, so it's really important to be careful how you handle it. Each morning we brush our teeth with water that's been boiled. We may or may not—depending on time—wash our bodies. Remember, this is adventure! There are no hot showers or baths! We try to shave and wash the rest of our bodies (using Baby Wipes that we've packed) at least once a week. Even then, the dust is quickly back on us!
Q: Have you learned any new words?
A: We've tried to learn some of the most important ones. When we get back, we'll teach them to you.
Q: Is all of the food fresh?
A: Believe it or not, our porters and cooks have done a tremendous job of managing and preparing our food. We've always had fresh food—vegetables, rice, some meat, and always tea.
We'll answer more questions later. Thanks for the great questions, and keep them coming. We really appreciate all of your support and look forward to seeing you again when we return!Until then, Namaste!
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Mike Jackman is an editor in chief of TechProGuild, an editor of PC Troubleshooter and Windows Support Professional, and also works as a freelance Web designer and consultant. Together with his co-editor in chief David Bard, he is traveling to Nepal to report on high-altitude technology and to climb 20,285-foot Imja Tse. In his spare time (when he can find some), Mike’s an avid devourer and writer of science fiction, parent to two perpetually adolescent cats, and a hiking enthusiast.
David Bard has been a fixture at TechRepublic for some time now. At one time he was editor in chief of LinuxRepublic and then AdminRepublic. Currently, he occupies space as an editor in chief with TechProGuild. In addition, he’s a freelance writer who has covered extreme sports for years. He also is a writer of horror and—contrary to what his climbing partner may think—is hoping the expedition to Nepal doesn’t provide fodder for his next story. When he’s not at home teaching his year-and-a-half-old daughter why it’s not a good idea to eat rocks, or trying to convince his wife why yet another expedition really is necessary, he’s usually off in some remote section of woods trying to discover himself. He’s still looking.