In 2006, Hewlett-Packard sponsored Tom and Ben Clowes' bid for the summit of the world's highest mountain, Sagarmatha, as it is called in Nepal. The brothers were accompanied on their expedition by a pair of HP Storageworks Ultrium 448 and DAT 160 tape drives and HP data cartridges.
During the long journey from Kathmandu to the top of Everest, Tom protected his precious digital photographs by backing up on the HP drives and media. For Tom, who makes his living on the speaking circuit, these pictures are his stock-in-trade and losing them would have been a disaster.
At the lower elevations, the expedition's gear was carried by porters, but as they gained altitude the yaks took over. Travelling on yakback was one challenge for the HP tape drives that was definitely not in their specs. Apart from the jarring ride, the equipment had to contend with dust and extremely low humidity.
The kit rose to the challenge, and Tom was able to download his photographs to his HP notebook PC and back them up to both the HP tape drives. The drives worked flawlessly even though conditions at base camp, which was at an altitude of 5,340m, were way outside the drives' operating specifications.
Both brothers suffered from frostbite Tom with some minor damage to his fingers, and Ben with a more serious case on his toes. In fact, Ben was in bad enough shape to claim a seat on the helicopter back to Kathmandu. Tom walked back under his own steam, arriving safely in Kathmandu a few days later.
The tape drives, too, made it back safely. Not only did the tapes written at base camp and taken to the summit of Everest restore the data, the drives were in perfect condition as well.
HP engineers in Bristol have now analysed both the hardware and the media, and they survived the hostile conditions with margin to spare.