Tiny SanDisk Digital Audio Player Helped Mountaineers Cope With Boredom And Emotional Lows During Ascent of North America’s Highest Peak.
Good thing he had MP3's to keep them going!
SUNNYVALE, CA, JULY 19, 2005 – Huddled in a tent on the flanks of Mt. McKinley in Alaska, with the wind howling and the temperatures dipping to -40 degrees Fahrenheit (-40 Celsius), a climber has few options to relax and stay motivated during long waiting periods and brutally cold nights.
But Canadian mountaineer Gilles Mousseau found a way to beat the alpine blues. Every evening, as he and his seven companions scaled the peak that is also known as “Denali,” he would switch on his SanDisk® Digital Audio Player, plug in the ear buds and drift off to a different place and time. Keeping the tiny player inside his down-filled parka or sleeping bag, the 52-year-old software executive from Gatineau, Quebec, could play his favorite songs and even receive distant FM radio stations.
Considered one of the world’s supreme challenges, Mt. McKinley is known for its unpredictable weather and numerous deadly crevasses. Among the highest peaks of the seven continents, the mountain is surpassed in difficulty only by Mt. Everest, said Mousseau. In fact, statistics from the National Park Service indicate that only half of all attempts to climb the mountain each year are successful, he added.
At night, when it was hard for Mousseau to sleep during the freezing cold and gusting winds, he would click on classical guitarists Leona Boyd and Julian Bream, the soundtrack from “Notre Dame de Paris” or the lounge ballads of Rod Stewart. And when he needed an emotional jumpstart for the day’s climb, he’d play tunes from country diva Shania Twain or veteran rockers Paul McCartney and Eric Clapton.
In a sport that requires 60-pound backpacks, climbers need to be highly selective in the gear they take. For Mousseau’s 14-day odyssey last month to the 20,320-foot summit of the mountain, he brought the SanDisk 512-megabyte (MB)* player, which weighs just over 1 ounce, and three AAA batteries. Now, based on reactions from his teammates, the solid-state, flash-based player is likely to become standard equipment for their future climbs.
"We're pleased that our Digital Audio Player helped this expedition achieve its goal," said Eric Bone, SanDisk’s director of retail product marketing. "Never in our wildest dreams could we have envisioned such a use for our technology. We congratulate these climbers for their courage and determination."
Roughly the shape and size of a pack of chewing gum, the player features an FM radio, a voice recorder and enough capacity to store up to 32 hours of WMA-compressed music, depending on the particular model and capacity. As a solid-state device, it has no moving parts and runs for up to 15 hours continuously on a single AAA battery. Also, the joystick and buttons can be manipulated with one hand to find tracks and control volume – features that prompted Mousseau to select it from his local Future Shop electronics outlet.
Introduced last October, the player, which has capacities of 256MB, 512MB and 1 gigabyte (GB), has become a bestseller. It has established SanDisk (NASDAQ: SNDK) as a major supplier of flash-based MP3 players in North America.
Mousseau used his player at various altitudes, ranging from base camp at 4,000 feet to the high-altitude camp at 17,200 feet. Each stop was colder than the previous one, he said, and as his comrades inched their way up the icy slopes it became more important to relax during high winds, snow flurries and increasingly thinner air. The Digital Audio Player, he said, performed flawlessly throughout the expedition.
From a level of 14,200 feet, Mousseau said he could receive at least five FM stations from Anchorage, some 100 miles away as the crow flies. “It was great to get low-altitude weather reports and different music – mostly country – and it was interesting to hear of rainy conditions below while we were above the clouds,” he said.
One night, while they shared a tent, a companion told Mousseau that the main reason for his climb was to be closer to his daughter, who had died two years earlier in a tragic car accident. “I let him listen to Eric Clapton’s ‘Tears in Heaven’ many times,” said Mousseau.
During a rest day, another member of the team was feeling somewhat depressed and was talking about his late mother’s favorite song. “I had it on my player,” said Mousseau. “I offered it to him, and he went away to listen to it many times in solitude. Then he came back with renewed energy.”
At night, with strong winds buffeting the tents and with three climbers in each shelter, the need was great for privacy, he said. During 13 days of close quarters, Mousseau said the player was “better than earplugs and it provided the much-needed virtual privacy.”
Seven of the eight Canadian climbers, who ranged in age from late 20s to mid-50s, were successful in reaching the summit on June 5 after an arduous, eight-hour climb. The other members of the team were Réjean Audet and Jean Ricard, also from Gatineau; Jean-Pierre Danvoye, Yannick Audet, Nicholas Balan and Mario Cantin from Montréal; and Marie-Claude Reid from Calgary. (An extensive account of the climb can be found at http://www.denali2005.org.)
SanDisk is the original inventor of flash storage cards and is the world’s largest supplier of flash data storage card products, using its patented, high-density flash memory and controller technology. SanDisk is headquartered in Sunnyvale, CA and has operations worldwide, with more than half its sales outside the U.S.