Technology in the Wild – Rachel Colenso (Part 1)

Female Mountain Guide, Mountain Survivor, and Speaker, Rachel Colenso gives her views on how technology has become vital in aiding success in wilderness environments. Rachel and her climbing partner Jeremy became famous for revolutionising the way text messaging is used – the first text message rescue from a mountain co-ordinated across Europe.

Technological Change in Wild Environments

Climate change and technology are both having a huge impact on the way we as mountain guides conduct our business and lead teams through hostile environments. Both environmental and technological change is occurring at an alarming rate. If we hope to succeed, or at least survive as a team, we have to adapt our behaviour and moderate the way in which we do things.

Today I will be looking at one way in which technology has revolutionised the way in which we think and do business in mountain environments.

Siege style expeditions with porters and heavy equipment are as outdated in climbing as they are in business.

Today’s climbers travel lightweight and fast. Advances in technical clothing and equipment have assisted this approach. The most recent developments include multifunctional smart clothing with inbuilt technology. Standard micro-fibre, breathable garments are being superseded by next generation clothing which also offers lifesaving devices, stitched into sleeves, or pockets. Tiny avalanche transceivers zipped into sleeves of technical mountaineering jackets send detection signals if you are buried in the snow. Some garments even have a built in airbag! In the event of an avalanche burial, the built-in AvaLung increases your chances of survival by pulling fresh air from the surrounding snowpack. Another similar device in your rucksack lining creates an air pocket, providing roughly an hour’s worth of oxygen.

An explosion in the symbiotic relationship between inventors, designers, manufacturers and mountain climbers is occurring, to create a whole new market, and alters the way in which we look at and approach wild environments.

These advancements in clothing and technology have enabled quicker ascents of more challenging climbs. It has raised the bar on a number of levels, including enabling a re-evaluation of risk taking. Boundaries of what is possible are continually being re-written to create a new ‘norm’. This is in turn motivating advancements in technology.

In my next post I will be looking at how social media and Climate Change are drivers of the ‘Swarm Effect’ in wild places. Again, there are parallels to current trends in certain business sectors. I will be looking at how we can capitalise on this, and what to look out for.

Scroll Up