Thursday, January 18, 2018

Himalayan Weather

Annapurna South, Huinchuli and Machhapuchhare from Dhampus
If you read any guide book on the Himalaya or on trekking in the Himalayan region, you will invariably be told that the post-monsoon season is the best time to trek in the mountains. Clear blue skies, superb mountain views, mild sunny days and crisp cold nights are all forecast for the trekker.  You will also be told that the pre monsoon season i.e. March to May is the second best time to be in the mountains with mild showers in the evening but clear morning and the weather getting warmer as you approach the monsoon. Further, according to the guide books, trekking in the monsoon is strictly a “no no” and if the heavy rains and landslides don’t make your trek a nightmare, the leeches will! And of course the winter is so cold that no sane individual would venture into the high altitude at that time!

So what is the real story on Himalayan weather?

The trail between Dingboche and Dugla, Everest region
I have trekked in the Himalayas in all seasons, including the winter (Everest 2003-04), the monsoon (Sikkim 2000) and numerous autumn and spring treks.

One October I remember visiting Kathmandu airport every morning for the flight to Lukla and returning to our hotel at lunchtime. It rained for three days incessantly and the Lukla flight could not take off. Finally on the fourth day it did take off  and made a hair raising landing at Lukla narrowly missing the hill in front of the airstrip. Surprisingly the very next day the weather cleared and we did not get any rain for the next two weeks during our trek.

Again, walking the Annapurna circuit in October I remember repeated day after day of afternoon rain up the Marsyandi valley. One downpour near the village of Chame was so heavy that we sheltered in a bamboo hut and managed to stay dry until the rain stopped.

In December 2009 I trekked with a South Col group to Poon Hill in the Annapurna region and surprisingly other than the morning at Ghorepani, the rest of the days had cold, cloudy weather very unusual for December.

Tso Moriri Ladakh

The rain shadow regions of the Himalaya like Ladakh, Zanskar, Lahoul and Spiti possibly get the best weather in the monsoon season July to September.

So in my opinion, good weather is a gamble. What with global warming, rapid deforestation and urbanization, the weather is no longer predictable. Every season has something special to offer so select your season and hope for some great views and weather!

For more information on our treks and photo workshops do visit www.southcol.com

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Nikon 180-400 Super Zoom with TC 1.4 Teleconverter


Nikon introduces a 180-400 F4 superzoom with 1.4 teleconverter built in at $12,399.95!

The press release from the Nikon USA site says it all:
"Pros who spend time behind a super-telephoto lens know a hard truth: when you need a teleconverter, you often need it in a hurry. For these moments, Nikon proudly introduces the AF-S NIKKOR 180-400mm f/4E TC1.4 FL ED VR, a super-telephoto zoom lens with a built-in 1.4X teleconverter. Capture sports, events and wildlife in lifelike brilliance from 180-400mm, then, without breaking shooting posture, engage the integrated teleconverter and increase your reach to 560mm f/5.6 (840mm equivalent on a DX body). Incorporating remarkable advancements in optical design, autofocus performance, Vibration Reduction and durability, this lens is bound to become the new standard for serious field photographers."

Features

  • Professional super-telephoto zoom with Nikon's first built-in selectable 1.4X teleconverter
  • Advanced optical design with 8 ED glass elements, a Fluorite element and Nano Crystal Coat produces unwavering image quality
  • Blazing fast subject acquisition and locked-on tracking, especially when used with Nikon's 153-point AF system
  • Lightweight, durable construction with advanced weather sealing, internal focus and Nikon's nonstick Fluorine coating
  • Next-generation Vibration Reduction (VR) system that starts immediately and includes three shooting modes
The immediate competition for this lens is the old workhorse 200-400 F4 used extensively by both wildlife and sports photographers and this will be the lens against which the new  180-400 will be compared. As prices go the older lens is around $6,996 street so there is a very significant difference between the two offerings.

We should wait for the test reviews of the new lens and it performance in the field.

In the meanwhile for more information do visit the following links:



Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Annapurna Foothills Trek | The Photographs

Approaching Landrung
South Col Expeditions completed another Annapurna Foothills Trek from December 23-30 2017 amidst speactacular winter weather with clear blue skies and warm sunshine. Some photographs from the trek are below:

Sunrise Ghorepani

The beautiful dining room of Gurung Cottage Ghandrung

Ferns in the forest near Tadapani

On the ridge between Deorali and Ghorepani with Dhaulagiri behind

Tadapani lodges with Annapurna South, Huinchuli and Machhapuchhare behind

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Everest Base Camp Trek | The Best Season ?




I am often asked which is the best time to trek in the Everest region? Is it April and October? Interestingly things have changed a lot including the weather so this post covers the seasons and the pros and cons of trekking in the Everest region.


January 
This is peak winter -  temperatures at Gorak Shep (5150 metres) would be around -20C at night - water would be frozen but in all likelihood the weather would be clear but snow is on the cards. You need good warm down  jackets and a -20C sleeping bag to be comfortable. There will be few trekkers so you would have the lodges to yourself.

February
From mid February the weather would begins to warm up marginally but it can be uncertain - rain and hail lower down and snow above 4000 metres. Some days can also be sunny and exceptionally clear with low humidity. Few trekkers again so the lodges would be free. Not a bad time to go if you want to avoid the crowds and don't mind the occasional snow storm!

March 
The trekking numbers would increase by early March. Warmer weather would see possibility of occasional rain and snow. By end March the trekking season would have picked up and flights would start to become busy. If you want to go in spring then mid to end March is a good start.


April
This is considered to be the second best season after October. It is spring and the rhododendrons and other flowers are in bloom creating a spectacular display of colour. The mornings are generally clear with clouds rushing in by noon and rain and snow possible in the afternoons. The weather is of course much warmer than February- March. This month sees the maximum number of trekkers after October.
May
The numbers of trekkers start going down as the monsoon approaches. There can be regular pre-monsoon showers in May and mountains can be cloudy and foggy especially in late May. Flights to and from Kathmandu to Lukla also can be cancelled due to weather conditions. However, the floral spectacle especially above Namche is spectacular so if you want to see flowers this is the time to go!


June to September
These are the monsoon months. Flights to Lukla will often be delayed or cancelled due to rains and fog. Mountain views are few as the clouds dominate the valleys and peaks. On some days if you are lucky the sun will break through and you can see a peak floating through the clouds. There will be hardly any trekkers so no crowds. It's very green in the Khumbu at this time and flowers in the high meadows.

October
This is the peak season for the Everest trek. Flights are packed and so are the lodges. However for the last few years, it has been raining until mid October due to the delayed monsoon and the first two weeks have seen bad weather and many cancellations of the Lukla flight. I would avoid October if you can both for the weather issues and the crowds. Once the monsoon retreats you can be assured of clear skies and sunny warm days.

November
November in fact is the new October with clear days low humidity few clouds and mountain views every day - this  is the typical post monsoon weather which remains until mid December. It would be the first choice for Everest trekkers - the stability in the weather ensures that the Lukla flight can fly until 11 am on most days. Night temperatures at Gorak Shep would be between -10C and -12C,


December
It would be colder than November but until mid December the clear weather would continue. Crowds would be thinning as most people would be returning - flights would also not be so busy and tickets easy to get. Temperatures in Gorak Shep would be -15C at night. Recommended with a good down jacket and a four season sleeping bag!

For our fixed 2018 departure for the Everest trek in November 2018  do visit http://www.southcol.com/treks-nepal/everest-base-camp-ebc-kala-pattar-october-22nd-november-4th-2017/

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Yeti | The Myth is dismissed

Edmund Hillary, one of the first two people to scale Mount Everest, and Khunjo Chumbi, a Nepali village elder, hold what was then thought to be the scalp of yeti, in Calcutta, India, on December 9, 1960. AP Photo

Study dismisses myth of the yeti with bear facts

Purported samples from wild man of the Himalayas are found to be from local bear population



Nearly every time Sujoy Das leads a trekking group in the Himalayas, he gets the question, asked half in jest, half in hope. Has he ever spotted signs of the yeti?

Mr Das guides treks on some of the mightiest Himalayan peaks — Everest, Annapurna, Gangapurna — and through the Nepali valleys that lie in between. This is the terrain where the myth of the yeti — or the Abominable Snowman — first arose, and where it still persists. A hirsute, apelike creature, taller than most human beings, the yeti and its legend grew out of old local tales about wild men living in the mountains.

European explorers seized upon the mystery and expanded it, reporting glimpses of the creature or finding outsize footprints in the snow. Every Everest expedition seemed to keep half an eye cocked for the yeti or its tracks; one British mountaineer took photos of footprints twice the size of the average adult human's foot.

The fascination has not died down. “In Nepal and in the Everest region, this question always comes up. Has anyone see a yeti?” Mr Das said, who lives in Kolkata and runs South Col Expeditions. "The local people say they have, but we don’t know if it is actually one. I always say: ‘No, I haven't seen one.’”

A new genetic study of nine purported yeti samples, however, may put the legend into deep freeze forever. The results, published last week in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, suggested that eight of the samples were from a different sort of shaggy, wild creature: a bear. (The one remaining sample came from an even less elusive creature: a dog.)

Charlotte Lindqvist, an associate professor in the department of biological sciences at the University of Buffalo, New York, who led the study, called it “the most rigorous analysis to date” of relics of the so-called yeti.

Ms Lindqvist first became involved in the yeti myth in 2014, when other researchers contacted her to compare the genes in two purported yeti hair samples with those in a 120,000-year-old polar bear fossil she was working on.

“But the data was very limited, and it made me suspicious about the speculation that the yeti legend represented some strange, hybrid bear roaming the Himalaya mountains,” Ms Lindqvist said. “So I agreed to follow up on this study with a more rigorous approach based on more genetic data from more purported yeti samples.”

The samples came from everywhere: hair found in Tibet in the 1930s; a fragment of leg bone, coloured a toasted brown, recovered from a mountain cave; a tooth and a lump of petrified faeces, which had been carefully stored in an Italian museum devoted to the alpinist Reinhold Messner.

Mountaineers and explorers have hunted for the definitive yeti sample throughout the 20th century. In 1961, Edmund Hillary, one of the first two men to climb Everest, led an expedition to Nepal purely in quest of the yeti.

“He went to Khumjung, a monastery above Namche Bazaar [in Nepal], where a yeti scalp was preserved by the headman of the village,” Mr Das told The National. “Hillary got the headman’s permission to take the scalp, to get it tested.”

One of the villagers accompanied Hillary on his trip. “They thought: ‘Hillary is a foreigner. He doesn’t know what this is, or what the value of it is to them,’” he said. “So they did this world tour with the scalp, meeting anthropologists and so on. The net result: the experts said it was the scalp of a Tibetan blue bear.”

Others have also advanced the theory that the various bits of the yeti — footprints, hair, bone samples — came from a species of bear. In his new book yeti: The Ecology of a Mystery, the conservationist Daniel C Taylor, who has searched for signs of the yeti ever since he was a child growing up in India, concludes that the footprints most probably belong to an Asiatic black bear.

Ms Lindqvist and her team compared their nine samples with 15 others that were known to be from local bear populations. Previous research had hinted at an unknown type of bear, but eight of the nine yeti samples proved to belong conclusively to well-known types of black and brown bears.

An inkling of this ursine identity has existed all along. In 1921, the British explorer Charles Howard-Bury, having found footprints in the snow, was told by his Sherpa guides that they belonged to the “metoh-kangmi”, a wild creature living in the snows.

Later writers misinterpreted “metoh” as “filthy” and replaced it with the more elegant “Abominable”. But a knowledge of the Tibetan language would have provided the clue, for the words “metoh kangmi” translate to “man-bear of the snows”.

https://www.thenational.ae/world/asia/study-dismisses-myth-of-the-yeti-with-bear-facts-1.682529

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Mustang Nepal | The Trans Himalaya


Cultivated fields of Chuksang

Mustang (from the Tibetan möntang (Wylie: smon-thang), Nepali: मुस्तांग Mustāṃg "fertile plain"), formerly Kingdom of Lo, is a remote and isolated region of the Nepalese Himalayas. The Upper Mustang was a restricted demilitarized area until 1992 which makes it one of the most preserved regions in the world, with a majority of the population still speaking traditional Tibetic languages. Tibetan culture has been preserved by the relative isolation of the region from the outside world.

The Upper Mustang comprise the northern two-thirds of Mustang District of Dhawalagiri Zone, Nepal. The southern third of the district is called Thak and is the homeland of the Thakali, who speak the Thakali language, and whose culture combines Tibetan and Nepalese elements. Life in Mustang revolves around tourism, animal husbandry and trade.

Mustang's status as a kingdom ended in 2008 when its suzerain Kingdom of Nepal became a republic. The influence of the outside world, especially China, is growing and contributing to rapid change in the lives of Mustang's people. from Wikipedia

Some images from Mustang are below:

Monastery Tsarang

Ploughing the fields outside Drakmar village

Entrance of Drakmar

Man made plantations Gheling

Pass of Mui La 4170 m on the road to Ghar Gompa

Village of Geling

North of Lo Manthang

Friday, November 24, 2017

The Himalayan | November 25th 2017 Kolkata





OF HIMALAYAN CLIMBS ,TRAVELS & TECHNOLOGY –
A program hosted by ‘THE HIMALAYAN’ 25th November (Saturday) at the Gorky Sadan, 6pm.

THE HIMALAYAN’   was  conceived in 2017,  to attract  like-minded people in the promotion of the Himalaya through  lore and its  preservation, through Travel, Expeditions, Explorations, and Adventure, and support of its Nature, Ecology, Culture, as well as the  well-being of its people.

The primary inspiration has been a vision that encompasses the incorporation of a balanced, incisive as well as interactive dissemination platform for the reporting of Himalayan Activity–Of Climbing, Science, Literature and the yonder, in a manner befit to stimulate the Intellectual yearning of the erudite mountain lover, as well as to kindle the fertile mind of the incorrigibly romantic young mountaineer.

 ‘The Himalayan News’ is the flagship Newsletter that is being globally distributed. We, take great pleasure in providing to you novel features and reports on the latest happenings, viewpoints and insights by our Editorial team as well as renowned contributors, in an unfettered and unbiased metre and form. We further plan to organise regular & novel lectures by experienced speakers, hold seminars and exhibitions on Himalayan and allied matters, arrange expeditions into the high altitudes, and much more.

Mustang, formerly Kingdom of Lo, is a remote and isolated region of the Nepalese Himalaya. The Upper Mustang was a restricted demilitarised area until 1992 which makes it one of the most preserved regions in the world, with a majority of the population still speaking traditional Tibetan languages. Tibetan culture has been preserved by the relative isolation of the region from the outside world. Renowned photographer and veteran Himalayan  traveller Sri Sujoy Das will take  us on a journey through his lens of this rarely travelled area and much less seen by Kolkatans. His talk, ‘Mustang – A lost kingdom  would be followed by a presentation by AVM (Retd) Apurba Bhattacharyya , veteran mountaineer entitled ‘To the Top of Everest ‘ – 1856 to 2017’  - a rare presentation that would reflect how Everest mountaineering has evolved over the years in terms of Technology, Techniques and philosophy, since the beginning.

We solicit your presence to this program

Regards
Priyadarshi Gupta , President , THE HIMALAYAN
9830808958



Thursday, November 16, 2017

Banff Mountain Book Festival Winners 2017


Grand Prize$4000 - Sponsored by Alpine Club of Canada
The ClimbersJim Herrington, Mountaineers Books (USA, 2017)
"Representing the fruits of a twenty-year photographic quest, Jim Herrington's stunning black and white portraits of climbing luminaries of the mid-20th century confer a quiet dignity on their aging subjects.  He has somehow managed to capture in their eyes the visionary zeal of their youthful climbs.  The photographer's tone might be summarized in a single word: respect, and you can't help feel that in the best of these shots something like the climber's soul has been revealed."
David Stevenson, 2017 Book Competition Jury

Adventure Travel$2000 - Sponsored by Fjällräven
The Names of the Stars
Pete Fromm, St. Martin's Press (USA, 2016)

"A deep meditation resulting from a month in the Montana wilderness, The Names of the Stars conveys the calm that solitary time grants us.  Pete Fromm uses his isolation in a Forest Service cabin, with a daily routine of walking a ten mile loop to monitor hatching fish eggs, to share his thoughts.  How does his life as a married father of two compare to his youthful discovery of his love of wild places?  Surrounded by ever-present wildlife, how could he share his passion with his sons?  With delightfully straightforward prose, the author portrays his small corner of the natural world.  Through repetition and carefully observed detail we share in the experience of a life well considered.  Neither of Mr. Fromm's sons were lucky enough to share his cabin, but through this wonderful manuscript both we, and they, go along for the journey."
- Ian Welsted, 2017 Book Competition Jury
Mountain Fiction & Poetry$2000 - Sponsored by Deuter
Rising Abruptly: Stories
Gisèle Villeneuve, University of Alberta Press (CAN, 2016)

"The narrator of 'Assiniboine Crossing', one of the seven stories collected here, observes: "Even the unassuming day trips deliver their moments."  The stories, too are unassuming, quiet even.  The worlds they portray are at once familiar and fresh: we know them but have never quite viewed them through Villeneuve's lens.  And, "the moments"?  The author delivers them: glinting shards of glass scattered throughout her fields."
David Stevenson, 2017 Book Competition Jury
Mountain Literature (Non Fiction) The Jon Whyte Award$2000 - Sponsored by The Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies
Art of Freedom: The Life and Climbs of Voytek Kurtyka
Bernadette McDonald, Rocky Mountain Books (CAN, 2017)

"Art of Freedom beautifully portrays the life, values, and ascents of one of the most incredible mountaineers in history.  McDonald seamlessly interweaves gripping accounts of Voytek's minimalistic climbing expeditions, with his thoughtful approach and almost poetic philosophies on life, in a way which gives the reader deep insights into who this man is."
Mayan Smith-Gobat, 2017 Book Competition Jury
Mountain Environment and Natural History$2000 - Sponsored by Backroad Mapbooks
Tracking Gobi Grizzlies
Douglas Chadwick, Patagonia Books (USA, 2016)

"Over five years Douglas Chadwick and a dedicated crew tracked these rarest of bears, the Gobi grizzlies, through the harshest Mongolian landscapes.  He returned with this hard-earned testament, evidence that he has remained faithful to his self-imposed directive: 'Keep working to fix what's broken'.  Both survival story and cautionary tale, Chadwick provides a sliver of hope, not only for the bears but for all of us."
David Stevenson, 2017 Book Competition Jury
Mountain Image$2000 - Sponsored by Lake O'Hara Lodge
Racconto D'Inverno - Eine Wintererzählung
Albert Ceolan (ITA, 2016)

"Stunning and beautifully laid out images which flow seamlessly into each other, taking the reader on a journey through the different aspects of winter...from quite untouched beauty, to quirky, humorous ice formations.  A work of art which has already found a permanent place on my coffee table!"
Mayan Smith-Gobat, 2017 Book Competition Jury
Guidebook$2000 - Sponsored by the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides
Chasing the Ephemeral: 50 Routes for a Successful Scottish Winter
Simon Richardson, Mica Publishing (UK, 2016)

"Heard that Scotland is the birthplace of mixed climbing, the last bastion of naturally protected dry-tooling, a challenge to even the best world-travelling masters?  Considered a visit but scared off by the notoriously fickle routes and the abysmal weather?  Quintessential local (though, truth be told, an Englishman), Simon Richardson has the solution.  Organized into conditions-dependent groupings, Chasing the Ephemeral will get you to 50 classic routes when they are 'in nick'.  Full of colour action photos, local lore, and essential beta, there is no excuse for missing out on one of the best winter climbing venues on the planet.  Just remember, the locals won't consider it a valid ascent if your photos aren't white, so shoot from the top down.  Here's to a Successful Scottish Winter."
Ian Welsted, 2017 Book Competition Jury
Mountaineering Article$2000 - Sponsored by the University of Alberta and the Alpine Club of Canada
Threshold Shift
Nick Bullock, Alpinist Magazine (USA, February 2017)
"A threshold shift is the ear's defense against loud noise; Nick Bullock's years of experience defend his mind from registering the mortal hazard he and his compatriots face, and all too commonly perish from, in the mountains.  Equally, a life climbing and writing has insulated Nick from the 'rush and push and strain...(and) disappointment' of a more traditional lifestyle.  Elevating moments from a first ascent in Nepal contrast with the difficult final journey Nick makes with his aging widower father.  In spite of a life spent in search of 'something better' through climbing he realizes he shares traits with the old men he swore he would never become.  Not a lighthearted tale, it addresses mortality with on honesty which must be admired.  Breathtakingly written, Threshold Shift is on a different frequency from what passes as climbing writing in today's social media feed."
Ian Welsted, 2017 Book Competition Jury
Mountaineering History$2000 - Sponsored by Sherpa Adventure Gear
The Climbers
Jim Herrington, Mountaineers Books (USA, 2017)

"Representing the fruits of a twenty-year photographic quest, Jim Herrington's stunning black and white portraits of climbing luminaries of the mid-20th century confer a quiet dignity on their aging subjects.  He has somehow managed to capture in their eyes the visionary zeal of their youthful climbs.  The photographer's tone might be summarized in a single word: respect, and you can't help feel that in the best of these shots something like the climber's soul has been revealed."
David Stevenson, 2017 Book Competition Jury
Special MentionThe Push: A Climber's Journey of Endurance, Risk, and Going Beyond Limits
Tommy Caldwell, Viking Books (USA, 2017)

"In The Push, Tommy Caldwell gives the reader an honest and heartfelf view into his life and what shaped him to become of the world's best climbers.  A riveting book, which I found hard to put down, will appeal to climbers and non-climbers alike."
Mayan Gobat-Smith, 2017 Book Competition Jury
For more information on the Banff Festival 2017 please do visit https://www.banffcentre.ca/2017-banff-mountain-book-competition-awards   

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