Andy Elson - adventure engineering

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Bear Grylls -GKN Mission Everest Success

Congratulations are due to Bear and especially to Gilo for his incredible achievement in building the high-altitude parajet unit that carried  Bear higher than the summit of Everest.

Both support treks managed to see the epic flight, with the GKN staff trek at the team's base camp for the flight. The GKN staff were not merely observers of the event, full use was made of their  engineering experience in the final hectic hours before take-off!

Read Bear's account of their flight on the GKN Mission Everest site.

Take a look at Gilo's company - Parajet Ltd - manufacturer of the Mission Everest machines.



Xtreme Everest - The finest Base Camp power system in the Khumbu

While leading Bear's support treks Andy and Dave dropped in on the Caudwell Xtreme-Everest labs in Namche Bazzar and Pheriche.  The  heater boxes we built for the team have been in constant use since they arrived in April, and the electrical power systems have made the team the envy of all the other expeditions at base camp.  The Xtreme-everest power system  is reliable, able to handle high peak loads and avoids the voltage fluctuations and spikes common on generator systems that damage so much sensitive electronic equipment.



Come ďon mission?with Dave and Andy

Looking across the Nuptse Ridge

Dave and Andy are leading support treks for Bear Grylls's GKN Mission Everest project. Bear Grylls and Giles Cardozo plan to fly over Everest in motorised paragliders . Andyís trek is exclusively for GKN staff, but anyone interested can come on Daveís trek, provided that they are in good health and of average fitness.

Daveís group will be trekking to the teamís base camp and spending some time with Bear and Gilo as they prepare for their flight. The trek will continue to Everest base camp and will act as independent observers for the flight as it passes over the group on its way to Everest.

Daveís trek leaves on the 1st of May, and returns on the 18th. Full details are available from the High and Wild website.

As Andy pointed out ?ďthereís never been a safer time to visit the Khumbu ?the place will be absolutely crawling with doctors?


More testing for GKN mission Everest

Gilo pre-breathing 100% OxygenGilo has returned to the chamber to compare various oxygen systems that he and Bear hope to use on their GKN Mission Everest attempt. Testing the system took two days in the altitude chamber. On the first session Andy Elson (responsible for the safe running of the test) wore one of his ďDiluter Demand?oxygen systems, the ďgold standard?for high altitude flight, while Gilo wore the simpler and lighter ďTop Out?system. We raised the altitude in the chamber in steps where both Gilo and Andy did some mild exercise to simulate the kind of workload the pilots will see on their Everest flight and the Oxygen saturation of their blood was measured. Unfortunately Gilo developed the early signs of decompression sickness (the bends) at 23 000 ft and the test had to be stopped before data at higher altitudes could be gathered.

On the second test, four days later, Andy and Gilo breathed 100% oxygen for two hours before depressurising the chamber. This period on 100% oxygen washes all of the dissolved nitrogen out of the body and reduces the risk of getting decompression sickness. The duo remained on 100% oxygen until the chamber reached 26 000 ft when Gilo started using the Top Out oxygen system allowing us to gather data about the systemís performance at rest and during mild exercise at 26 000 and 30 000 ft.



DC Power Distribution boxes for the Caudwell Xtreme Everest team

Ridgeback testing - for when a Lab test isn't good enough...

With time running short before their departure the Caudwell Xtreme Everest team needed some equipment made in a hurry! They needed some electrical distribution boxes to connect their supplementary generators, battery racks and solar cells to the Victron inverter/charger units that supply the 240-Volt AC power to their labs. The boxes also include a Victron battery monitor so that the lab team can tell how much charge is stored in their batteries and adjust their use of the supplementary generators accordingly.

During the course of their expedition Xtreme-Everest anticipate using 8000 litres of fuel to power their fixed labs, all of it carried up through the Khumbu by porters and yaks.


Keeping the Xtreme-Teamís equipment toasty warm

Dave with the heater boxes - The camera loves him!

During the 2006 rehearsal trip to Cho Oyu the team had problems getting computers and other equipment to work in the early mornings after a night with temperatures as low as ?0C. The idea of spending the night with a computer or a gas analyser in their sleeping bag didnít find favour with the lab staff.

We had a lightweight box custom made by Trifibre for each lab. We kitted out the boxes with insulation and a temperature controlled heater mat.  The boxes will allow the sensitive equipment to spend the night warm and snug - but without getting too cosy with the team.




Optimising the Generators for the Caudwell Xtreme Everest expedition

Andy and Mac in the large chamber

The Xtreme Everest team will be setting up fixed science labs to support their expedition at Namche Bazaar (3440 m). Dingboche (4410 m), Everest base camp (4410 m) and at the Western Cwm on Mount Everest (6200m). The electrical power for the labs is provided by a combination of solar cells and Honda portable generators. The team predicted that the power output of the generators would fall at increased altitude. By test running the generators in the Hypobaric chamber, the team were able to optimise the fuel to air mixture for high altitude running and to find out exactly how much power the generators would produce at each location.

Although the team do not plan to use the generators above the Western Cwm, everyone was curious to know just how high the generators would operate. We found out that it is possible to operate a Honda portable generator on Everestís summit - just donít expect it to boil your kettle!




First Somerset then the Summit

Testing the GKN Mission Everest Expedition parajet in the large altitude chamber

Andyís chamber seems to have become the popular destination for Everest teams before they set off for base camp! When Giles Cardozo, the designer of the GKN Mission Everest parajet, needed to test his engine, Andy was able to provide the ideal facility and as a bonus ďGilo?gets the benefit of Andyís Everest flying experience.

The parajet is mounted in the chamber on a custom made frame that allows the chamberís data logging equipment to record the motorís thrust. Other sensors record the chamberís temperature and pressure as well as critical temperatures on the engine. Additional mechanical and electrical connections are fed through ports into the chamberís control room to allow the engine to be started and controlled remotely. They also allow data from the engine management system to be displayed on and updated from the control room computers.

Testing the parajet in the chamber allows progress to be made much faster than a test-flying programme would allow. The use of the chamber allows multiple tests to be made per day, a lot more objective data can be gathered and thereís no need to wait for flight permissions or the right weather!

Gilo and his parajet are expected to be regular visitors over the next couple of months as we help him optimise his motor for high altitude flight.

See more pictures and video on the GKN Mission Everest Website (look in the Photo Galleries and Video Blog).



Xtreme Team member Helen Leury hard at work.

Simulating Everest in Somerset

Equipment testing and calibration for the Caudwell Xtreme Everest expedition

Members of the Caudwell Xtreme Everest expedition have been using Andyís altitude chamber to calibrate their equipment in preparation for their expedition in the spring of 2007. As the equipment cannot be operated remotely, Andy Elson and Dave Boxall kitted out the team with oxygen masks and provided safety cover. The team used their metabolic calibrator to test and calibrate the Cortex gas analysers and the blood gas machines that underpin a large portion of the expeditionís scientific work.

The team were in the chamber for four days simulating altitudes as high as Everest base camp (18 000 ft). They plan to return in February once equipment modifications are complete in order to to finish their test programme.