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September 13, 2013

Surface on expedition along the Ganges

Quite often this blog features stories about how people are using Surface in their life, busy parents, photographers, skaters and more. Well now we can add another really cool one to the list, international explorer! Jake Norton has traveled the world climbing some of the most storied peaks on the planet from Africa, to Asia and here in the United States. Now he is tracing the path of the Ganges River in India, starting at the Gangotri Glacier and finishing at the Bay of Bengal. Jake and the team will collect water samples along the journey for post expedition study and analysis, in an effort to raise awareness about the threats to this sacred river. Head over to the Mountain World Productions site to learn more about Jake and his Journey.

We asked Jake to send us photos and blog entries along his journey and we are excited to have his first post today. Jake took time to at the start of his journey to talk a bit about how he is using Surface on his expedition. Take a read below and make sure to follow Jake and the team along their journey. You can see Tweets from the team on the expedition using the #GangaS2S hashtag.

Expedition preparation

It looked like Best Buy and a climbing store blew up in my office. The floor was strewn with the chaos of seemingly unrelated items: cameras next to crampons, ropes coiled atop solar panels, oatmeal packets lying beside my Surface Pro. Yup, it’s time for an expedition.

I’m no stranger to this chaos. In the last 20 years, I’ve been on some 50+ expeditions worldwide, including nearly 30 to South Asia, and all have entailed heaps of electronics and equipment. But, this time is different, as I’ve got a new companion in the Surface.


It wasn’t all that long ago that such a device was the stuff of dreams. On my first 8000 meter peak expedition to Cho Oyu in Tibet in 1997, we clunked away on a dinosaur of a laptop, its hard drive wheezing away in the low pressure of 17,000 feet. Pictures were still taken on film in those days; digital wasn’t readily available, wasn’t very good, and computers couldn’t handle it anyway.

Fast-forward to Spring 2012. I’m on Everest for my 7thtime. Many things have changed: digital imagery is affordable (somewhat) and amazing. Computers can handle the terrabytes of data churned out on an expedition, but it’s still far from perfect: a laptop works well, but costs you lots of pounds and space in your pack. Netbooks can handle the basics, but are too limited in their power. Hard drives crash at high altitude, so solid state is necessary. Tablets seem like the right fit, but all the options out there are lacking hugely in key elements (OS and software support; USB capability; processing power; etc.).

Enter the Surface, my dream tool. Size of a tablet, power and functionality of the best laptop. Slips in my pack with less pain than a water bottle, but delivers everything I need to stay productive in the field. Sitting here in my “office” in New Delhi, India, I’m excited to start putting the Surface Pro through its paces. Soon, my teammates– photographer and filmmaker Pete McBride ( and climber/photographer/filmmaker David Morton ( – and I will be fully on the road, heading deep into the Garhwal Himalaya of India to attempt an unclimbed peak, Chaukhamba IV, which sits at the true source of the mighty and scared Ganges River. From there, we’ll follow the River some 1,500 miles to its terminus at the Bay of Bengal. Along the way, we’ll tell the story of the river and the some 400 million people who revere and revile it, and wholly depend on it for their survival.

To do this, the Surface Pro will be our right hand. From downloading and processing images and video in the field to writing posts from our journey, checking email to listening to our favorite music and podcasts, and perhaps even catching a movie or two, the Surface Pro can do it all with our breaking my back. Add a few accessories as I have – a Voltaic Systems solar charging kit , a Juiced Systems USB 3.0 hub, and some DC charging kits from Mike Gyver– and our mobile office is ready for anything.

This is going to be an amazing adventure, from climbing in the high Himalaya to following one of the greatest (and most troubled) rivers and watersheds in the world. It’s just beginning, but wouldn’t be possible without the Surface Pro.

-Jake Norton

To stay up to date on the Ganga Source to Sea Expedition, follow #GangaS2S on your social networks. Updates also available on Beyond the EdgeSurface, & Live Your Adventure blogs.