By Graham Zimmerman
As we gazed down valley a landscape of grayscale spread out between striking granite peaks; a rock strewn glacier slowly rolling downhill with a chaotic braid of silt laden streams flowing quickly in and out of the ice. Looking up we could perceive a patch of grass on the right side of the valley standing out bright and alive. Squinting we could see a field of boulders amongst the green, some of which presented as unnatural, colored wild yellows, reds and browns, it was of course the comfort and safety of basecamp.
We were in the Nangmah valley of the Pakistani Karakoram walking down glacier after a trip in the hills to acclimatize our bodies to the high altitudes of the great mountains surrounding us. The process of acclimatization had been taxing, both our bodies and supplies were nearly spent, and so were the batteries in our electronics. Thanks to our cook, warm sleeping bags and solar panels in basecamp none of these were much of a concern since we were only an hour of walking away from our little refuge of green in these wild mountains.
In terms of the depletion of a teams energy reserves of food, fuel and muscular energy little has changed since the early expeditions to the great ranges. Yes, we now have different and far better foods, yes our style is much lighter and cleaner than it once was, but we still consume calories and water and we still burn them in great quantities while climbing to the great heights to which we aspire. Our consumption of electricity though is something newer on the basecamp scene.
When the early trips were headed to the greater ranges they had very few if any pieces of equipment requiring electricity. Today by comparison, we are heavily laden with such equipment, ranging from headlamps and iPods to small computers and camera equipment. It requires a whole new logistical challenge, one which seems to increase every year.
It was for this reason that as we got closer to basecamp we could see the solar panels draped over the top of the tents. These panels were connected to batteries so that while our team rested and ate we would also be able to charge all our electronic equipment and be ready to once again head into the high hills with our batteries charged.
Getting back we smiled while we chatted with our cook Rasool. After we had eaten large amounts of Dhal Baht to refuel our bodies I dove into my tent to plug in my headlamp and camera after unplugging my sat phone to call home and check in. I laid back on my sleeping pad to call my lady Shannon and smiled knowing that in another couple of days my whole scene (body, mind and electronics) would be recharged and ready to head back into the hills.
Graham spent July and August 2015 in the Nangmah valley of the Pakistani Karakoram with Scott Bennett and Steve Swenson. It was a fantastic trip that resulted in the first ascents of Changi Tower (6500m) via it’s North Ridge (M6, 5.10, A2, 600m) and the second ascent of K6 West via its SW Ridge (M6, 90 degrees, 1800m). On the trip the team used 2 Sherpa 100s and 1 Venture 30 batteries alongside 2 Nomad 20 and 1 Nomad 7 panels to keep everything charged and running even when the weather was bad. This setup was perfect for 2 months on the glacier.
Huge thanks to Goal Zero for helping us keep our equipment charged with the best backcountry solar equipment on the market.