Twering Gyalzen (whose grandfather was one of the native Nepalese who carried equipment and supplies for Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay when they conquered Mount Everest in 1953) is determined to set up an Internet café at the base camp of the world’s highest mountain. Among the problems he faces: freezing temperatures and storms, no electricity or plumbing, and the fact that the camp sits on a glacier that moves a few inches a day.
The café will be open only during the spring and fall when hundreds of mountaineers come to climb Everest and surrounding mountains. “There are 19,000 to 50,000 trekkers that come to the Everest region every year,” says Gyalzen. “They would want to send a line of e-mail to their friends and family back home.” He also points out that if Internet access is available, it would be easy to call for helicopters to airlift injured or sick mountaineers — and also check on weather forecasts.
To relay the Internet data, Gyalzen is building a hut that’s about a two-hour trek below the base camp to hold satellite equipment. He expects to install eight laptop computers. Generators and solar-charged batteries will provide the power. “It is a very challenging project,” he says, “both technically and when it is operational.” Quite the understatement!