Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Actual Itinerary - Gokyo Ri Trek

Sorry, after all that bitching earlier it only just dawned on me that y'all don't know the itinerary. 

So, where it says Day 02 on the list below, that will be November 11th to put it into context

Day 01 Arrival at Kathmandu airport and transfer to hotel. Group meeting programme for detailed information about trekking. Overnight at hotel.

Day 02 Fly to Lukla (2804 mt.), trek to Phakding (2610 mt.). Walking 3 hours. Overnight at guest house.

Day 03 Phakding to Namche Bazar (3441 mt.). Walking 6 hours. Overnight at guest house. (honestly I think this day will be a killer. Mongcho to Namche is bad enough)

Day 04 Acclimatization day in Namche Bazar. Overnight at guest house.

Day 05 Namche to Dole (4040 mt.). Walking 4 hours. Overnight at guest house.

Day 06 Dole to Machhermo (4470 mt.). Walking 4 ½ hours. Overnight at guest house.

Day 07 Machhermo to Gokyo (4790 mt.). Walking 5 hours. Overnight at guest house.

Day 08 Gokyo to Gokyo Ri (5483 mt.) and retreat to Dole. Walking 7-8 hours. Overnight at guest house.

Day 09 Dole to Tyangboche (4040 mt.). Walking 5-6 hours. Overnight at guest house.

Day 10 Tyangboche  to  Monjo. Walking 5 hours. Overnight at guest house.

Day 11 Monjo to Lukla. Walking 5 hours. Overnight at guest house.

Day 12 Early morning fly back to Kathmandu. Overnight at hotel.

Day 13 Transfer to airport for departure from Nepal.

Although obviously now the Day 13 is also incorrect as we are all in Kathmandu for several more days. 

I don't mind the change to the return route as it's an interesting pass from Gokyo to Dole and for those who followed my blog last year, you will know that I had to walk past Thyangboche as the monks were meditating. I think the Day 09 walk to Monjo is optimistic and frankly I would prefer to spend another night in Namche (I dig that berg) but Mongcho to Lukla is good because the Namche- Lukla walk is a bit much.

At Lukla I'll probably try to break off to stay at the Sunny Gardens again because they have such nice beds, en suite bathrooms (!!!) and the best veggie burger I've ever had and I ain't a veggie.

Managing from the Mountaintop - Planning Madness

Wow. Ok so I did a little exercise in translating the Gokyo Ri Itinerary to my Outlook calendar including timezone shift so that it would be clear to my team when I would be available to work. In the course of this I checked a few things that were niggling me with the trek leader over in Nepal.

Well. All I can say is that it's a good thing I did. It turns out that the itinerary that I originally had was wrong. In the end, after much to-ing and fro-ing, it transpired that the itinerary I was given was off by 2 days and the return route was wrong. Frankly I had thought it looked  a little odd - there were 2 days of trekking which looked weird because I know the area and they looked like quite a bit of milling about. And indeed, the optional day hike(s) for the rest day at Namche had been pulled out and described as separate days of hiking.

On top of that, the "original" itinerary was a straight shot there and back but it now transpires that it's actually more of an ellipse and the return is via a different route. The nice thing about this is that we will see more BUT it affects my planning because I was going to drop caches of laundry so that I would have clean and fresh clothing. So I'm going to have to rethink how I manage that.

Also this means I need to study the variation to the route. Luckily I know most of the new leg from last year. I'm just worried that everything will be ok for the other trekkers. I mean, we all booked our flights based on the intial understanding of the schedule so now we will have an extra 2 days in Kathmandu. Will they have to pay for 2 days extra accommodation and food? I know some folks are on a tight budget so I hope it doesn't cause too much hardship. 

I'm just glad I discovered this now rather than there! After all, we'll be flying out in one week and that doesn't give folks much time if they need to alter their plans. Personally I don't mind a few extra days to kick around Kathmandu. I may even take a day trip to see another city or something.

Anyway, really glad I embarked on my planning exercise to get everything scheduled with my team. I'll be distributing my Nepalese phone number to them so that they can call me and we will be scheduling our daily stand-ups so that I can skype in (although I hope they can figure out a way to call me and patch me in as that will be both cheaper and use less of my precious batteries). Plus it will be hard to both skype AND run the Jira board simultaneously on my kindle.

I also still need to record webex's of how to do some things on Jira and Confluence, train Pam in the admin duties, and hand her admin access.

Oh crap, and I have to redo half of the entries in my calendar to reflect the new understanding of the itinerary and then reflect that in the scheduling of our morning stand-ups.

It'll get there but in the meantime, please don't forget to donate to TNMOC. The button is on the right side of this page, it's really quick and easy and, of course, ALL proceeds go to The National Museum of Computing.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

New funding enables TNMOC to seize the opportunity to support schools in computing learning

New funding enables TNMOC to seize the opportunity to support schools in computing learning

"Any self-respecting science needs to understand its past" 30 October 2012 New pump-prime funding is enabling The National Museum of Computing to develop its unrivalled, hands-on, computer learning programme for schools, colleges and universities. This year, the Museum is already on target to quadruple the number of visiting groups who have an educational and often hands-on experience spanning the 1940s Colossus to the 2011 Touchtable, from valves and tapes to chips and touchscreens. 

 The new funding has come from Google UK and private individuals and is already enabling TNMOC to increase the number of educational group visits, and to enhance those students' experiences with more hands-on activities with TNMOC's unique range of working vintage computers.

 You can read the full release here:

Monday, 29 October 2012

Weather forecast - EBC

The weather forecast for Everest Base Camp. Closest I can get to Gokyo Ri and I figure it's close enough as it's just the next valley over. Guess it's coming from the Pyramid weather station?

Weather by meteoexploration

Meteotest is an excellent resource and this info shoudl help tremendously with my decisions about what to have in my final mix for packing.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

A Wee Snort

I always bring a wee snort of whisky (well, 10oz. if I'm to be honest) and have selected my tipple for the Gokyo Ri trek. And the winner is... Chapter 11 from the English Whisky Company. 

I think that legally it has to be called a single malt rather than a whisky but I don't care, it's gorgeous.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Walking Boots

Your boots will probably be the most important piece of kit that you buy. All it takes is one tiny blister to destroy your hike.

My first suggestion is that if you don't have good walking boots, buy some NOW and start breaking them in.  I wear new boots several days/week for several months before I take them out on the mountain.

Look for good ankle support, something like a vibram sole, waterproof, etc. Personally I wear 2 pairs of socks with my boots (1 thin inner and 1 thick outer which is sometimes referred to as the double-socking method) so if you plan to do that make sure you're wearing them when you try on the boots. And leave enough room in the toes for your foot to travel on descent.

Update: My brother reminds me of a quote from our fave author, Robert Heinlein: "If possible, have your feet clean and dry. Smear your feet all over and especially between your toes with cold cream. Or Vaseline, carbolated is best. Use lots, a thick layer. Then put on socks-clean if possible, dirty if you must, but don't skip them-and put your boots on. When you first stand up, it feels as if you'd stepped into a barrel of soft soap. But your feet Will thank you for it and you won't get jungle rot between your toes. Or not as much. Take care of your feet, Ted, and keep your bowels open." -Time Enough For Love

Hopefully such measures won't be necessary where you are trekking. And I really must read that book again. Maybe I'll download it for Gokyo Ri.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Managing from the Mountaintop - Software Selection and Implementation

Sorry I've been a bit lackadaisical but no worries, everything is copacetic. It's just a bit difficult maintaining this and prepping for a trek and managing my project while occasionally making efforts to maintain my relationship as well.

Anyway, apart from building Shelving and wardrobes and working on the house and all that shit, lets go back 3 weeks to when I returned to work from the team holiday. We had an ongoing problem in that there was a distinct lack of visibility between the folks on the development floor and TPTB. I was doing daily reporting to TPTB but, nonetheless, the inevitable BS that gets in the way of declaring work DONE was not being communicated effectively.

I've run into this sort of problem before - how do I bridge the gap between the project plan and people working day-to-day without boggng them down in endless and profitless reporting cycles? I'm not going to get into the nitty-gritty of how and why I selected my solution because, honestly, I've been through this any number of times over the years. Suffice it to say that I have wanted to use Jira by Atlassian for ~3 years but have been thwarted by the sort of projects that I tend to work on (global enterprise). So my options have been to buy software for this purpose that then needs to be approved for installation and management on corporate infrastructure (a project in itself), or use an on-demand service based outside fo the corporate infrastructure (which always gives security the willies).

Fortunately my programme manager at the site had previous experience with Atlassian products from his previous project - managing ~50 people so when I happened to be wearing my Angry Nerds shirt to the office one day, we very naturally got into the conversation about using it on our project.

And that's it - within minutes we were up and running. I signed up for the JIRA OnDemand evaluation for <10 users and had set up our issues board and started populating it. I'd called the entire team in to be onsite for the day and we did a monster all-singing, all-dancing project re-planning session. The post-it notes were flying all over the shop!

Next all I had to do was to translate the post-its to the Jira board, creating issues, assigning them as appropriate, including estimates and breaking them out into the sprints.

As the week progressed we learned to use things like commenting and including things like @joe.bloggs in order to make sure that the right people are aware of problems, how to create subtasks and dependencies, etc. The team responded really positively and then started coming up with ideas and requests of their own and so we then got Confluence OnDemand so that we could set up a Team Calendars and a Project Wiki so that we're now working collaboratively on our documentation. Hallelujah! Goodbye knowledge silos!

It's not perfect. There are definitely improvements that I'd like to see (although to be fair I'm still learnign how to use the toolset and may just not have figured out how to do everything I want yet) but it certainly beats the pants off of working from project plans that are always out of date almost as soon as they're updated.

And then it dawned on me. I now had a web interface to my project. I could use this when I'm working remotely...

Monday, 22 October 2012

Does Scrum really work for remote teams?

Woke up this morning to find an invite to a meetup entitled 

Does Scrum really work for remote teams? Had to RSVP No due to the fact that I will be remotely managing my team from Nepal. Shame really as it's obviously a topic that is currently of interest to me.

Anyway, I've asked the group for advice so hopefully someone with more experience fo doing this will visit and give input. Can't hurt to ask, right?

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Managing from the Mountaintop - Hardware

In my last post I laid out the backstory. To recap briefly, I had agreed to do the Gokyo Ri trip on condition that I continue working while away. As mentioned in a post at the time this is generally logistically possible due to the 4.5 hour time difference so theoretically I should be able to do several hours of trekking then spend the afternoon online.But this assumed that I would lug my big laptop AND that I would be able to get online.

It was about this time that, due to budgetary constraints, my team was asked to take off a few weeks in September. So I grabbed the chance to visit my family in NYC and dutifully packed my heavy company Dell so that I would still be able to check emails and attend a few meetings. What I did NOT remember to pack was my kindle. 

::shock:: ::horror:: ::gasp:: ::swoon::

Although I bought myself a physical book at the airport, I soon realised that it just wasn't the same. Unbelievably I've become so accustomed to using an eReader that that the physical interface was unsatisfying. ::sigh:: Fortunately I was getting to the states just in time to order the brand spanking new kindle fire HD and get it delivered to my brother's house the day it came out AND due to the exchange rates it only cost £129 at which price it almost becomes disposable. I quickly ordered it without really examining the specs beyond battery life and price.

Well, the kindle was delivered on September 15th and WOW, was I surprised? I was used to my old kindle with the doddering web browser and the display that took me back to the days when I used to use pine or elm for my email. Remember those days? The point is, when I'd ordered the fire I hadn't clocked that I was ordering a tablet. I can be pretty dim sometimes.

That was it, I spent the rest of the day playing with my new toy, setting up email, setting up skype, facebook, photos, whatever. Sadly I was (and currently still am) unable to buy any apps like office or webex because I do not have a US credit card associated with my Amazon account. ::grumble::

And then the question dawned on me - what hardware should I bring to Nepal? Company Dell or Macbook Air? Old kindle that is a power miser or new kindle that guzzles juice? Getting past the questionable wifi, will I even be able to charge these things? Should I bring my solar charger? Is the benefit worth the weight impact?

All of these questions were roiling around in my mind when I got back from NYC and got back to managing my team.

Next Post I start finding solutions and my plan for connectivity in Nepal begins to clarify.

In the meantime, please don't forget to donate to TNMOC and that ALL proceeds will go to the museum.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Managing from the Mountaintop - Background

When I decided to go to Gokyo Ri, it was with the understanding between my client and myself that I would continue to work while on the trail. The next logical question would be, "How?".

Before I get into that I suppose that it's time to tell y'all a little bit more about who I am and what I do. Basically I'm a freelance project manager who, for my sins, tends to work on software projects often focused on delivering EMC Documentum. And because I'm freelance, if I'm not working then I'm not getting paid.

Therefore I'm no stranger to remote working and most of my clients issue me with a corporate laptop and secure access to their systems so that I can work from home 1 or 2 days/week. And I've even been known to work that way when doing things like going fishing in Portugal or visiting my family in NYC. Indeed my current team is distributed so we are lucky to see one another in the flesh 1/week and during the recent London Olympics I didn't go into the office for 3 weeks at a time!

But my glib proposal to work from the Himalaya was a horse of a different feather. While this trip and the next will be during the high season and I'm more likely to find wifi, what do I do when there isn't any connectivity? And do I really want a big heavy laptop in my daysack taking up valuable shopping space? And if I wasn't going to lug around the corporate laptop, how was I going to work?

So with those questions in mind, I'm now beginning a series of posts with the prefix "Managing from the Mountaintop" that will endeavour to answer those questions from a hardware, software, and process perspective. Keep tuned.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Everest Prep - Isle of Skye

I've just booked a long weekend fell walking on the Isle of Skye. It's 3 weeks before we leave for Nepal for the TNMOC Trek to Everest Base Camp and I'm praying that this will help to whip me into shape as I'm sure most of the goodness gleaned from the Gokyo Ri trek will have worn off by then. :-(

Anyway I sorta lucked out because I still had my easyjet flights for the EMC Momentum conference in Vienna that I'm now not going to as it clashed with Nepal so I was able to change the flights for a small charge (at least a smaller charge than buying new tickets. easyjet doesn't do favours, even for charity). 

And I have 1 bag booked for the hold so I'll be able to buy a few good bottles of whiskey while I'm up there which ought to mollify my poor, long-suffering boyfriend. Sorry honey-bunny, that's yet another weekend I shan't be home. 

But enough about me - please justify my pain, donate to TNMOC. It's very easy, there's a button just on the right of this post and ALL proceeds go to TNMOC!!!

Berkhamsted - Hemel Hempsted

Did an enjoyable little hike yesterday comprised of a circular hike around Berkhamsted in the morning then lunch and a walk along the canal to Hemel Hempsted in the afternoon.

We met at Euston @8:30am yesterday for the trip to Berkhamsted. I'm really enjoying London-Hikers for the variety of walks, the frequency of the walks and the dedication of the membership. Also the membership are fairly dedicated and so at this point there are always people on the walks that I have met on previous walks as well as nice new people to meet. Perfect, right?

Anyway, I was surprised at how good the circualr walk in Berkhamsted was. I'm not entirely  unfamiliar with the area becuse my ex-in-laws live ther and in fact we walked right past their home but I'd had no idea that there are good rambles just behind their house. There were cute little donkeys, spotted pigs, horsies, and interesting flora.

We finished uo walking along Berkhamsted Common

to Berkhamsted Castle

Which is rather near and dear to my heart due to its association with Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. A nice addition to the walk was a historic presentation by one of the hikers at the castle. I bit my tongue because I was anxious to contribute my bit but perhaos next time I'll work with the other hikers to assemble a more complete story.

Lunch was at The Boat on the canal in Berkhamsted. Not a bad pub and they get extra points for having a very friendly Maine Coon.

We then had a good long stroll along the Grand Junction Canal to Hemel Hempsted.

Next lot of pics from Tunde @ London-Hikers

So, a very enjoyable though sedate hike. Nonetheless I managed to do something to my left knee and am having trouble bending it. I'm tempted to hobble my way down to the pharmacist today for a consultation as I've never had it feel this way before.

Still, one of the Anias was on the walk and while we were discussing Nepal and our fitness, or lack thereof, for the upcoming trek she came up with such a blindingly brilliant idea for prep. And here it is: Greenwich Hill. The hill up to the Greenwich Observatory is really fucking steep - we need to use that for training. Genius! It's only a few blocks from my house and she only lives the next stop away from me so we can do this in company. Ania, just let me know when is convenient! Let me tell you, even 1 ascent of this fucker will hurt your average punter. One hour of this would be far beyond that. So, that's the plan children. Anyone want to join?

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Gokyo Ri - Kit List

OK, I'm just about completely packed. As per my packing philosophy described earlier, I have 3 trail outifts, 1 night outfit, and 1 outfit for Kathmandu (I think I'll wear this on my flight over then check it while trekking) plus assorted equipment. It breaks down as follows:

3 trekking trousers (1 with zip off legs)
1 snow pants with inner leg vents
4 merino wool base layer shirts
2 silk base layer tops (to wear under the merino)
2 silk long johns
2 merino long johns
3 pair long and heavy/thick hiking socks
3 pair thin inner hiking socks
5 pair panties
4 sports bras
1 pair tent mules
1 silk liner gloves
1 fleece gloves
1 waterproof outer gloves
1 snood with face mask
1 fluffy fleece for night-time
1 heavy fleece for daytime
1 microlight down jacket with hood
1 waterproof outer layer jacket
1 multipack tissues
1 multipack antibacterial wet wipes
blister plasters
1 hygiene/skincare bag
e-cigratte with refills and usb charger
camera with 16GB card and battery charger
universal charger with usb slots
spare dry sacks
dynamo torch
insurance card
hydration tablets
chlorine tablets
water pouches
sleeping bag
bag liner
OTG ski goggles
walking sticks
Swiss Miss instant hot chocolate
instant oatmeal sachets
Daysack - I have a Deuter Act Lit 35+10 SL

All of which fits into my 65l rucksack with room to spare. I haven't been able to weight it as I can't find my luggage scale but the ease with with I can pick up the pack leads me to suspect that I'm under 20 kilos.

Packing for Gokyo Ri

When planning what to pack for Gokyo Ri I have been determined to go very light and minimalist. Which is probably wise as I have now been informed that we are restricted to 20 kilos, 10 for the daypack and 10 to be carried by the porter (although some of us gals have been kicking around the idea of chipping in together to hire an extra porter).

Generally I plan to bring 1 outfit for Kathmandu to stay checked at the hotel. For the trail I will have 3 outfits so that at each place where I shower on the way up I can leave my dirty clothes to be laundered. That way as I come back down I can shower and change into clean clothes. And although I will generally be sleeping in my smelly sweaty clothes from the day I will bring pyjamas to wear on the nights when I've been lucky enough to get a shower.

Other than clothing I'll bring a light sleeping bag, toiletries (decanted into small travel containers), microfibre towel, wind-up flashlight, water pouches with chlorine tablets and citrus tablets, 1 set of layers, ski goggles, flipflops,

So I've gathered up my mountain stuff and I'm going to go through it thoroughly and organise it so that I have a view of exactly what I've got. Only then can I go through it again and assemble my kit for Gokyo Ri and establish whether there are any gaps in the list so that when I go to Decathlon on Wednesday with The Anias I will know what, if anything, I need.

 But right now it's all a jumble and I find myself buying things that I already have simply because that's easier than actually finding anything. Anyway, once I've organised all my stuff I will pick and pack my bags for Nepal. Then I will weigh the bag(s) and determine whether I need an extra porter but I suspect I'll be able to stick to within the 20 kilo restriction. It's actually good to do that and then have room left in the bags for the inevitable shopping. :-D

I promise that when I've finalised my kit list I will post it here.

On the fund-raising front we are up to £857 which, if you include Gift Aid, means that we have cracked the first £1,000! Now I'm really concentrating my efforts on getting some corporate sponsorship.If you are interested in corporate sponsorship opportunities or have a lead/contact that I could use then please do not hesitate to get in touch with me via Stephen Fleming at The National Museum of Computing.

And don't forget, ALL proceeds go to The National Museum of Computing.