One lesson involves learning to contain his excitement. Says Gau, "As I came up to the mountains, I used to see something I liked and think, 'If I don't take this picture now, I'll never have another chance.' But I would wind up coming home with an entire roll of the same shot. Now, I just focus on taking the most natural angles for humans and environments."
Another lesson involves his attempts to keep himself hydrated during a climb. While he used to stop and drink mountain water, he discovered that past 4,000 meters, the water is polluted. So he started melting snow and drinking that water instead.
Because the accident on Everest had robbed him of his ability to use a manual camera, he had to shoot with automatic cameras. But at--10 degrees, automatic cameras slow down to the point where they almost stop.
Says Gau, "I started to carry the batteries in the inside pocket of my jacket to keep them warm against my chest. Then the camera worked perfectly."
When he was satisfied the shots were safely stashed on one of his 1GB SanDisk Extremes--one card was generally large enough to store a day’s work--he would head back to camp to back them up on his Fujitsu Notebook (below).
It might be five to 15 days before he reached a village with an Internet Café, where he could transmit his images. Often the connection speed would be so slow he only bothered with his favorites. So if he found a hotel, he would use his PC to access the Fujitsu Network directly.
Infrequent trips out of the tent put him at high risk for image loss. He had one close call while wading across a river on a donkey, which he had already fallen off three or four times during the trip. His camera equipment fell right into the river.
When everything dried, he assessed the damage. He had to retire his camera, but his SanDisk media cards survived and all the images from his trip were salvaged.
With Xinjiang under his belt, Gau is planning his next climb, confident he'll complete the "100 Peaks of China" project by 2008. Which goes to show you, sometimes you just have to get back on the donkey.
You'll soon be able to track his 100 Peaks progress on www.chinapeaks.com. The site is currently all in Chinese.