Thursday, September 21, 2017

Puppet Theatre of Indonesia

Wayang (Krama Javanese: Ringgit ꦫꦶꦁꦒꦶꦠ꧀, "Shadow"), also known as Wajang, is a form of puppet theatre art found in Indonesia and other parts of Southeast Asia, wherein a dramatic story is told through shadows thrown by puppets and sometimes combined with human characters. The art form celebrates the Indonesian culture and artistic talent, its origins are traced to medieval era spread of Hinduism and the arrival of leather-based puppet arts called Tholu bommalata from southern India.

Wayang refers to the entire dramatic show. Sometimes the leather puppet itself is referred to as wayang. Performances of shadow puppet theatre are accompanied by a gamelan orchestra in Java, and by gender wayang in Bali. The dramatic stories play out mythologies, such as episodes from the Hindu epics the Ramayana, the Mahabharata as well as local adapations of cultural legends.Traditionally, a wayang is played out in a ritualized midnight to dawn show by a dalang – an artist and spiritual leader, and people watch the show from both sides of the screen.

UNESCO designated wayang kulit, a shadow puppet theatre and the best known of the Indonesian wayang, as a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity on 7 November 2003. In return for the acknowledgment, UNESCO required Indonesians to preserve their heritage. Wayang has also been a significant historical art form in Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos.
 From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Some photographs  of puppets and puppet making are below:

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Orchids | Singapore Changi Airport

The Singapore  Orchid Garden  at Changi Airport Terminal 2 features more than 700 orchids of 30 species grouped by their various colours and shapes, representing the 4 elements of nature – Earth, Water, Fire and Air. White orchids displayed with floating glass bubbles represent 'Air', while rare brown and green orchids displayed with tree root sculptures represent 'Earth'.  Floral columns simulating giant candles represent 'Fire' while clustered blue and violet orchids represent the 'Water' element.

Some photographs of the stunning orchids in bloom:

Monday, September 4, 2017

Manaslu Magic | Black and White

View from Samagaon monastery looking south 
 The circuit of Manaslu the eight highest mountain in the world now qualifies as one of the finest treks in the Nepal Himalaya. A team from South Col Expeditions trekked the Manaslu circuit in April 2017. This is a monochrome look at the circuit.

Manaslu from Samagaon

On the trail to Manaslu Base Camp from Samagaon

The Budhi Gandaki river near Dovan

Campsite at Deng

Birendra Tal lake

Tree near Samagaon

Peak 29 from the village of Sho

For more information on the Manaslu circuit, routes and timings please see the links below.

Useful Links

Monday, August 28, 2017

Vittorio Sella | Mountain Photographer

Jannu from Chunjerma
Today 28th August 2017 is the 158th birth anniversary of the great mountain photographer Vittorio Sella. 

Vittorio Sella  was an Italian photographer and mountaineer, who took photographs of mountains which are regarded as some of the finest ever made. 
Sella was born in Biella in the foothills of the Alps and acquired his interest in Alpinism from his uncle, Quintino Sella. He made a number of significant climbs in the Alps, including the first winter ascents of the Matterhorn and Monte Rosa, and the first winter traverse of Mont Blanc. He took part in several expeditions further afield, including three to the Caucasus (where a peak now bears his name), to Mount Saint Elias in Alaska, to the Rwenzori in Africa, and the 1909 expedition to K2 and the Karakoram. The latter three expeditions were in the company of Luigi Amedeo, Duke of the Abruzzi. Sella continued to climb into his old age, and made his last attempt on the Matterhorn at seventy six. The attempt failed when one of his guides was injured in an accident.
The high quality of Sella's photography was in part due to his use of 30×40 cm photographic plates, in spite of the difficulty of carrying bulky and fragile equipment into remote places. He had to invent equipment, including modified pack saddles and rucksacks, to allow these particularly large glass plates to be transported safely. His photographs were widely published and exhibited, and highly praised; Ansel Adams, who saw thirty-one that Sella had presented to the US Sierra Club, said they inspired "a definitely religious awe". Many of the photographs he took were of mountains which had not been previously recorded and so have historical as well as artistic significance; for example by recording the retreat of glaciers in the Rwenzori mountains in Central Africa.
Sella died in Biella in 1943. His collection of photographs is now managed by the Sella Foundation (Fondazione Sella) in Biella. Some pictures of Sella are exhibited in the Museo Nazionale della Montagna "Duca degli Abruzzi"in Turin. [ From Wikipedia }

Some of Sella's photographs are below: 
Siniolchu and Little Siniolchu from the Zemu Valley 1899

Muztagh Towers Karakoram

Siniolchu Zemu Valley 1899

Camp Zemu Valley 1899

Glacier near Mont Blanc

Chardon Glacier 1888

In the words of Ansel Adams Knowing the physical pressures of time and energy attendant on ambitious mountain expeditions, we are amazed by the mood of calmness and perfection pervading all of Sella’s photographs. In Sella’s photographs there is no faked grandeur; rather there is understatement, caution, and truthful purpose… Sella has brought to us not only the facts and forms of far-off splendours of the world, but the essence of experience which finds a spiritual response in the inner recesses of our mind and heart.”

Useful Links:

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Nikon D850 | A Monster of a Camera


Nikon announced the formal launch of it's new full frame SLR - the 45.7 MP D850 which has specs far advanced than the current series of Nikon cameras. The specs of the D850 are given below and they are very impressive.  The options for three sizes of raw files depending on need, ISO going from 64-25,600, full weather sealing, advanced autofocus system, 7 fps which is commendable with a 45.7 mp sensor, 4K video capability.

However on the flip side is the body weight 915 grams and the price a wopping $3300 body only! Professionals would definitely buy this body instead of the D810 or D750 in the full frame space. It remains to be seen how the Nikon flagships like the D5 fare against this new monster of a camera!

Nikon D850 Specifications

  • Sensor: 45.7 MP FX BSI Sensor, 4.35µ pixel size
  • Sensor Size: 35.9 x 23.9mm
  • Resolution: 8256 x 5504
  • Native ISO Sensitivity: 64-25,600
  • Boost Low ISO Sensitivity: 32
  • Boost High ISO Sensitivity: 51,200-102,400
  • RAW Formats: 45.7 MP (Full Size), 25.6 MP (Medium Size / mRAW), 11.4 MP (Small Size / sRAW)
  • mRAW / sRAW File Support: 12-bit lossless compressed
  • Processor: EXPEED 5
  • Metering System: 181,000-pixel RGB Meter
  • Dust Reduction: Yes
  • Weather Sealing/Protection: Yes
  • Body Build: Full Magnesium Alloy
  • Shutter: 1/8000 – 30 seconds
  • Shutter Durability: 200,000 cycles, self-diagnostic shutter
  • Storage: 1x XQD slot and 1x SD slot (UHS-II compatible)
  • Viewfinder Coverage: 100%
  • Viewfinder Magnification: 0.75x
  • Speed: 7 fps, 9 fps with optional MB-D18 battery grip
  • Built-in Flash: No
  • Autofocus System: Multi-CAM 20K AF sensor
  • AF Sensitivity: -4 EV at the center point
  • AF Detection: Up to f/8 with 15 focus points
  • LCD Screen: touch-enabled 3.2 inch diagonal tilting LCD with 2,359K dots
  • Movie Modes: 4K UHS @ 30 fps max
  • Slow Motion HD Video: Yes
  • Movie Exposure Control: Full
  • Movie Output: MOV, MP4
  • Time Lapse: 4K and 8K Timelapse
  • In-Camera HDR Capability: Yes
  • GPS: Not built-in, requires GP-1 GPS unit
  • WiFi: Built-in
  • Illuminated Buttons: Yes
  • Focus Stacking Feature: Yes
  • Focus Peaking for Stills and Video: Yes
  • Wireless Radio Flash Control: Yes
  • Silent Photography Mode in Live View: Yes
  • Bluetooth: Built-in
  • Battery Type: EN-EN15a
  • Battery Life: 1840 shots (CIPA)
  • USB Standard: 3.0
  • Weight: 915g
  • Dimensions: 146 x 124 x 79mm
  • Price: $3,299.95 MSRP

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Himalayan Diaries | Conversation with Sujoy Das & Paula Sengupta

Artist Paula Sengupta and  photographer Sujoy Das have travelled through the Himalayas for many years.

This exhibition brings together some of Sujoy's small frame works and reproductions of Paula's drawings from her Himalayan diaries.

Using monochrome as a preferred medium Sujoy focuses on patterns, textures, detail and light so often missed while focusing on the giant mountains of the Himalaya.

Equally meticulous attention to detail is seen in Paula’s miniature format drawings, that attempt to record life in the high Himalayas, as also it’s evocative atmosphere and fleeting moments of beauty.

On 23rd August 2017 at 7 pm the duo will be in conversation with artist Chhatrapati Dutta to discuss their work.

The exhibition will continue at The Zs' Precinct until September 2nd 2017 ( 11 am to 7 pm ) excepting Sundays and holidays.

The mane wall at Khumjung Nepal 2012

Monastery at Kagbeni Nepal 2015

Friday, August 11, 2017

Galen Rowell | Mountain Photographer

Exactly fifteen years ago on this day celebrated mountain photographer Galen Rowell and his wife Barbara Cushman Rowell died in a tragic plane crash. Rowell was 61 years old at that time.

A multi faceted personality he was a photographer, a mountain climber as well as a writer.

Though Rowell was primarily a landscape photographer, he was not averse to other forms of photography as well. He spent long hours waiting for the right light for his photos. Living in California, the nationals parks like Yosemite, Sequoia, Kings Canyon were his back yard  including Owens Valley in the Sierra Nevada and  it is here that he did some of his most splendid work.

A Rowell photo has a distinctive stamp on it and if you are familiar with his work you would probably recognise the photographs.

He pioneered a photo technique using a filter called the split neutral density filter in varying strengths to lift the shadow detail in a high contrast landscape shot. Rowell was so successful at this that the boutique filter company called Singh-Ray developed split  ND filters based on what Rowell had pioneered!

One of his most famous images is the rainbow over the Potala Palace in Tibet. The story goes that when the rainbow appeared in the sky Rowell was no where near the Potala. He ran to the Palace and positioned himself in such a location that the rainbow seemed to emanate from the roof of the Potala an amazing shot which has become a signature Rowell print as well.

Some of his great photographs which has inspired and will continue to inspire generations of photographers all over the world are reproduced below:

Some of Galen's best remembered quotes are below:

You only get one sunrise and one sunset a day, and you only get so many days on the planet. A good photographer does the math and doesn't waste either.

When the magic hour arrives, my thoughts center on light rather than on the landscape. I search for perfect light, then hunt for something earthbound to match with it.

My advice for climbers or photographers is to really tune into your own passions and not just what other people are doing or aren't doing. Figure out what works for you, what turns you on, what gives you the greatest amount of energy and feeling of satisfaction. 

“Galen Rowell was a man who went into the mountains, into the desert, to the edge of the sea, to the last great wild places in the world to be absorbed by their grace and grandeur. That is what he did for himself. For the rest of us, he shared his vision with—click—the release of a shutter, creating photographs as timeless, as stunning, and as powerful as nature itself.”
Tom Brokaw, from the foreword of Galen Rowell: A Retrospective

For details of Galen's work and the gallery he established in Bishop,  do visit  and for an essay from the Sierra Club archives do visit 

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Himalayan Diaries | Exhibition at The Zs' Precinct Kolkata

Image may contain: outdoor

Himalayan Diaries, an exhibition of drawings by Paula Sengupta and my black and white images from Nepal opened on Saturday 29th July 2017 at  The Zs' Precinct, 18/76A Dover Lane, Kolkata - 700029.

The exhibition will run until 2nd September 2017 every day from 11 am to 7 pm other than Sundays.

A brief note on the exhibition is below:

Artist Paula Sengupta and  photographer Sujoy Das have travelled through the Himalayas for many years. 

This exhibition brings together some of Sujoy's small frame works and reproductions of Paula's drawings from her Himalayan diaries. 

Using monochrome as a preferred medium Sujoy focuses on patterns, textures, detail and light so often missed while focusing on the giant mountains of the Himalaya. 

Equally meticulous attention to detail is seen in Paula’s miniature format drawings, that attempt to record life in the high Himalayas, as also it’s evocative atmosphere and fleeting moments of beauty.

Map and directions to the gallery please call:

 For more photographs please do visit


For some information on The Zs' Precinct please visit

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Manaslu Circuit | Part II Route and Timings

For the first part of the trek around Manaslu please do visit

April 22nd Lho to Samagaon 3526m

We got up to a low bank of cloud covering Lho. It had rained in the night and I was apprehensive that we were in for a spell of bad weather. However by around 6.30 am the clouds started to lift and the immense bulk of Manaslu presented itself high over the Ribang Monastery.  Next to it was Manaslu North and the impressive Naike Peak. We left Lho around 8.30 am and the trail initially dropped towards the river. In about 15 minutes we came to a junction - the left was in use as the right trail was damaged by the earthquake. The trail then started climbing and soon came to a solitary lodge under construction in about an hour from Lho. We crossed over a small stream and then followed the stream gently uphill and reached Shyala with a collection of lodges in around another 45 minutes. On the way just before Shyala a trail branches off to the monastery.  As we sat and had tea in the sunshine we had tantalising glimpses of parts of the impressive north wall of Ngadi Chuli (Peak 29) right across from Shyala.  The trail then passed through the village and immediately crossed a bridge over a fairly dry river bed. It then continued to follow the hillside and a little way ahead another long suspension bridge could be seen. We crossed the second bridge and then started to descend to Samagaon which could be seen ahead. We came to a sign which pointed to Pugyen Gompa on the left and Samagaon straight ahead about 40 minutes away. We strolled down across rolling meadows where yaks were grazing and passed a large school building on the right. The trail then entered the old Samagaon village with the houses cheek by jowl to each other. Many of the traditional slate roofs had been destroyed by the 2015 earthquake and had been replaced with new blue GI sheeting. A stream ran through the village and children were playing, old women sitting in the sun and men were busy working on repairing their houses.  A little ahead was the tourist part of Samagaon with a number of lodges and we checked into the Samagaon Guest House.  Above us was Manaslu in the clouds, to the south the peaks of Ganesh Himal. Cost Index Dal Bhat Rs 700 Black Tea Rs 60 Vegetable omelette Rs 350.
Lho to Shyala 2 hrs 15 min Shyala to Samagaon 1 hr 15 min.
Samagaon 3526m 28 35 13N 84 38 29E

April 23rd Acclimatisation walk to Birendra Tal and part of the way to Manaslu Base Camp
Bibek and I left around 7 am with Shyam for Birendra Tal. Manaslu was visible above the lodge but clouds were coming in fast and by the time we reached the Samagaon monastery the sun was vanishing behind the clouds. We reached Birendra Tal in around 45 minutes and found the lake shrouded in clouds - ice floes were in the waters and the debris of the Manaslu glacier was flowing into the lake. There were no peaks to be seen due to the heavy cloud cover. We retraced our steps back to the monastery grounds and there we met a Khampa on his way to Samdo and he directed us to the trail to the Manaslu Base Camp. The trail is in fact the main trail to Samdo and branches off left around 15 minutes after Samagaon. The trail junction is prominently marked. From here the trail crossed a small meadow and then started to climb - across the valley Simnag Himal East presented a formidable appearance. The trail began to climb through juniper shrubs - purple and yellow primulas were just coming into bloom on the grassy patches while purple irises were opening in the crevices below the rocks. We reached a small meadow with broken yak herders stone shelters in about 45 minutes and then the trail began to climb in earnest. On the right about 20 metres above us on the hillside I spotted a family of bharal - blue sheep they watched us curiously and leapt  away  towards the higher ridge line. We climbed upto to around 3975 metres and found ourselves on the edge of the Manaslu icefall. Below us we could see the green waters of Birendra Tal 3600 metres which we had visited earlier and the lake looked much longer than when seen from the top. We heard the sound of crumbling seracs on Manaslu which sadly remained unseen in the clouds above us. A waterfall ran down from the icefall and drained into the Birendra Tal. Below us down the valley we could clearly see the route which we had followed - the villages of Samagaon and behind that Shyala. We retreated from our 3975 m viewpoint - the Manaslu Base Camp was about 4400 metres and possibly two hours away. We came down to our lodge in Samagaon in 90 minutes - it had taken us 2 hrs 15 min to our high point.

April 24th Samagaon to Samdo 3865m
We left Samagaon around 8.15 am.  It was a clear morning with the peaks visible all around the village. The trail travelled through the village and then crossed a small stream on a log bridge - it then came to the junction with the Manaslu Base Camp and continued up ahead. The views began to improve as we continued to walk with the Manaslu massif right above us, Simnag Himal behind, Himalchuli coming up next to it and Naike Peak in front. In about an hour the trail reached a small meadow which serves as a good rest stop. We passed some long mani walls on the way and then reached the last climb before Samdo which took around 25 minutes. We stayed at the Yak hotel which was a cramped and depressing place - as expected none of the cell connections worked here.  After lunch we took an acclimatisation walk upto around 4050 metres above the valley and had an excellent view of Samdo peak  - we also saw a herd of blue sheep which came loping down the valley and settled to graze on a hillock above us - marmots were also in plenty rushing in and out of their burrows. It was a beautiful sunny afternoon with the huge bulk of Himalchuli visible across the valley. Cost Index Dal Bhat Rs 650 Black Tea Rs 70 Vegetable omelette Rs 325
Samagaon to Samdo 3 hrs 30 min 28 38 59N 84 37 59E

April 25th Samdo to Dharamsala 4467m
It rained at night and must have snowed higher up but the morning was beautifully clear and still. The first rays lit up Himalchuli the highest peak in  view - as the sun touched the village houses, Samdo came to life - the yaks and ponies came out onto the meadows , the villagers went about their daily chores, the children rushed out to play in the morning sun while we trekkers got ready to start our walk. We left Samdo around 8.15 am and in about 20 minutes crossed a bridge and headed up the valley. The bulk of Samdo peak behind us got bigger and bigger as we ascended gradually through the valley. We could now see the Larke glacier below us descending in a broad sweep from the mountains. The Budhi Gandaki was now a narrow stream we were at the source having travelling upstream with this river for the last nine days. In around 30 minutes we passed Larkya Bazar and a sign which said Dharamsala 4 hours - in reality it takes 3 hours. The trail continued to wind its way up valley sometimes flat and sometimes climbing some steep sections. About 45 minutes away the huts of Larke Phedi could be seen. We reached before noon after a number of rest stops and as soon as we reached the camp we found a small herd of bharal grazing nearby.  They seemed to be quite unafraid and I was able to photograph them from very close getting some nice portraits of a male with horns. Within half an hour of reaching Dharamsala the sun vanished behind the clouds and it started snowing. It snowed off and on all through the afternoon and even as I write this around 5 pm it is still snowing. The rooms in Dharamsala are like small coffins somehow constructed out of stone and tin roofs - the floor has the stones of the area and there are no proper windows - other than these there are two man tents and dormitory tents which can be rented from the Larke Hotel the only establishment catering to the trekkers.  The dining room is a long affair with tables attached to each other in another tin shed - all in all a desultory and depressing place - the 4 am starts from here to the pass don't make it any more palatable. As I am watching the snow falling and the white out conditions in the valley I am hoping that somehow it will stop and we have a clear morning tomorrow as otherwise it will be very difficult to cross in the snow.  Om mane padme hum!! As expected there is no mobile connectivity or wifi here. Cost Index - Dal Bhat Rs 800 the highest so far black Tea Rs 120 Vegetable Omelette Rs 425.
Samdo to Dharamsala 4467m 28 39 33N 84 35 2E  3 hrs 30 min to 4 hours

April 26th  Dharamsala to Larke La 5160m to Bimthang 3700m
It continued to snow through the evening. At night when I returned to my tent I found that the snow was coming through the tent door as the zipper was not working properly.  Diner was at 6 pm in the frigid dining hall packed with about twenty five trekkers all heading to the pass in the morning. Some groups had set a 4 am departure and were having breakfast at 3.30 am. The idea was to cross the pass within 8 am to 9 am before the icy winds picked up and made walking very difficult. We decided on a 4.30 am start as it would be extremely cold before this and it would also  be light by 5 am. We had started in Arughat around 500 metres and we were now headed to cross 5000 metres!  I had set an alarm at 3 am. When I looked out of the tent all the stars were out including the Milky Way - the circle of peaks surrounding Dharamsala looked ghostly in the star light as if belonging to another planet. We set off around 4.40 am. It was cold though the climb was very gradual. The sun hit us around 6.15 am and we had already gained 200 metres by then. The massive bulk of Samdo peak appeared to get bigger and bigger behind us while in front the graceful contours of Himlung appeared. The path to the pass was well defined with iron poles about 8 feet high at regular intervals. During heavy snowfall these poles would be very useful in navigating the route to the pass.  We reached an abandoned tea shop in around 2.5 hours and from there the path continued to climb through the moraine - we crossed small sections of snow but it was not very deep - finally the trail crossed another small snow field and we could see the prayer flags of the pass ahead - it took around 30 minutes from here to reach the top and the Larke Pass sign greeted us.  The descent to Bimthang was a long one as we needed to lose around 1400 metres. Initially it was through boulders on a gentle incline but after around 30 minutes it started a steep downhill descent through rubble and stone on a fairly slippery path - after around 30 minutes it reached a level spot overlooking the Ponkar lake below. It then started to descend again through some snow patches and finally dropped to a level trail parallel to the  glacier. We could see a small tea shop below which we reached in about 2.5 hours from the pass. After stopping there for a cup of tea we carried on down the valley but it soon started to snow - it was around 2 hours from the tea shop to Bimthang and by the time we reached Bimthang the  snow had intensified and had cloaked the village in a white mantle. We stayed at the New Tibet Hotel - an excellent lodge with good food and warm dining room.  No wifi or cell phones were working in Bimthang and the land phone was also out of order so we could not communicate the pass crossing. Cost Index Dal Bhat 650 Black Tea 70 Vegetable Omelette 350
Dharamsala to Larke la 4.5 to 6 hours Larke La to Bimtang 4 to 4.5 hours 28 38 1N 84 28 15E

April 27th Bimthang to Gowa 2500m
It snowed for most of the earlier evening and stopped sometime in the night. The morning was frosty and clear and the snow lay on the ground. It was a very impressive view - we could see the trail heading back to Larke pass covered in snow which would make the descent quite treacherous. Himlung and Cheo Himal were behind us while in front was Manaslu north a completely different view and Phungen. We started out late almost around 9 am and soon entered a magical rhododendron forest. The sun was melting the snow off the trees while a golden light filtered through the branches. Rhododendron buds were about to bloom through the fresh snow.  It about 90 minutes of slow walking we reached a clearing with a sign Habu 3400 metres. From here the trail continued to drop through the forest with the peaks getting larger and larger and reached Chauli Kharka in another 75 minutes or so. The river was near us now and running parallel to the trail. We then reached the single Purti Himalayan hotel in a clearing where we had lunch - it was a very pleasant location with a nice clean lodge. From here it was around an hour to Surki after lunch where again a landslide had taken down part of the trail and there was a diversion once again. Surki and Karcha marked  on the map are the same place. The 7 Sisters Hotel at Surkhi had beautiful cottage rooms but unfortunately we could only make a tea stop there. The trail then climbed a small pass and descended into the village of Gowa about 80 minutes walk from Surki. Namaste cell connections started to work from an hour before Surki and in Gowa there was a good signal and good wifi as well. Cost Index Dal Bhat  Rs 550 Vegetable Omelette  Rs 300 Black Tea  Rs 80
Gowa 2500m 28 34 16N 84 24 24E

April 28th Gowa to Dharapani 1931m  and jeep to Besisahar 788m
We set out a little after seven and within 30 minutes were on a big road to Tilje. This was obviously a new road built to get a jeep upto Gowa and it had made considerable progress. The old trail next to the river was in disuse and lay below us. We entered Tilje village in about 75 minutes. Tilje had a number of lodges, a school and village houses. We crossed the bridge over the Dudh Khola which we had been following from Bimthang. The large road still continued down and work was in progress to complete it. In another couple of years it would be possible to drive up to Tilje and Gowa from Dharapani on the Annapurna circuit. We reached Dharapani in an hour and crossed two bridges - one over the Dudh Khola and finally the last bridge over the Marsyandi and climbed up to the ACAP checkpoint in Dharapani. From here we took a  jeep over an apology of a road more suitable for ponies than jeeps to Besisahar 6 hours away.
Gowa to Tilje 1 hour 15 min Tilje to Dharapani 1 hour 28 31 27N Besisahar 785m 28 13 34N 84 22 42E

For a photo essay on our trek around Manaslu do visit
For photographs from the Manaslu circuit please do visit

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Manaslu Circuit | Part I Route and Timings

Manaslu and the monastery of Lho
A team from South Col Expeditions trekked the circuit of Manaslu in April 2017. The trek route, notes and timings are given below which will be useful for trekkers planning for this route.

April 16th 2017 Kathmandu to Arughat 495m to Soti Khola 606m
We left Kathmandu around 7. 15 am and cleared the valley within one hour. The road then follows the Prithvi Highway which goes to Pokhara for around 60 km and then crosses the river and climbs to Dhading. Dhading Besi was reached by around 11 am and then the road started to climb steeply on a dirt track with the bus careering over the mud drenched potholes which made it very difficult. There were many sections of this road where two buses could not pass each other together and hence a lot of backing and manoeuvring was required. The dirt track climbed a ridge from where Ganesh Himal could be seen through the April haze and then skirted the whole ridge before descending into the Arughat valley. Arughat was reached around 1.30 pm and we had lunch at the View Manaslu lodge at the entrance of the village. Our bus then went back to Kathmandu as the motor syndicate allows only a local vehicle to ply between Arughat and Soti Khola. We left Arughat around 2.45 pm and reached the ABC lodge at Soti Khola around 3.40 pm. There are three lodges strung along the road - the ABC, the New Chum Valley and in between them the Green valley all offering similar accommodation in concrete and cement buildings. Both Ncell and Namaste mobile connections were working at Soti Khola. The evening was also warm with the temperatures hovering between 30 and 32 Celsius maximum. Cost Index Dal Bhat 370 black Tea 50.
Arughat 28 2 18 N 84 48 40 E Sotikhola 28 8 2 N 84 51 16E

April 17th 2017 Soti Khola to Lapubesi 823m to Macha Khola 849m to Khorlabasi 879m 
We left Soti Khola around 7 45 am and within a few minutes came to a diversion in the valley as the existing road had been damaged by landslides soon after Soti Khola and we would have to make a long detour to reach Lapubesi. The trail crossed the Budhi Gandaki on a long suspension bridge and then started to climb steeply out of the valley. The trail climbed to around 900 metres in 75 minutes and reached a tea shop on the hill. The trail then continued to climb gently uphill until it reached the top of a ridge and started to skirt the ridge. It then started to leave the ridge and head downhill through the forest on a steep and narrow short cut. It dropped towards the river and then crossed two suspension bridges before making a 40 minute hot and rubbly climb in the mid day sun to Lapubesi. Lapubesi was reached around 11 30 am around 90 minutes behind our scheduled time had we been able to follow the regular route.  Lunch was a delayed affair as there were three other groups at the same lodge. We left Lapubesi after lunch at 1.30 pm along the old road. However due to frequent landslides some of which may still be the remnants of the earthquake, we often had to descend to the river and then climb back again onto the trail which was tiring.  Kharabesi was reached in an hour and 15 minutes and we entered Machha Khola around 3 45 pm where the permits were checked by the Police.  Bibek had to buy a pair of sneakers as the soles of his boots had come apart - he found a pair of red sneakers in Macchakhola. We stopped to regroup in Machakhola and had some tea - we left Machakhola around 5 pm and got into Khorlabasi around 6.20 pm - around three hours behind our scheduled time. The lodges in Khorlabasi are primitive - no lights in the rooms, few outside toilets and presents a dirty bustee aspect a far cry from the beautiful stone patios and blue roofed cottages of Ghandrung and Chomrong on the Annapurna trail. There is no Ncell or Namaste coverage at Khorlabasi and no wifi either. We stayed at Shangri la home one of the two lodges at Khorlabasi. Cost Index Dal Bhat Rs 500 Black Tea Rs 60.
The route which we followed in not the normal route and once the landslide near Soti Khola is repaired the old trail will be in use again.
Soti Khola to top of first ridge 1 hr 15 min Ridge down to river 1 hr 30 min River upto Lapubesi 45 min Lapubesi to Kharabesi 1 hr 15 min Kharabesi to Machakhola 1 hr 30 min Machakhola to Khorlabesi 1 hr 10 min. 
Lapubesi 28 10 40N 84 52 46E Machakhola 28 13 52 N 84 52 26E Khorlabesi 28 15 14N 84 52 59E

April 18th 2017 Khorlabesi to Jagat 1350m
We left Khorlabesi around 7 35 am and walked up the valley with the Budhi Gandaki on our right roaring through the gorge. Tatopani was reached in an hour and we had a 15 minute tea break there. We left Tatopani around 9 am and immediately crossed a new suspension bridge across the river. The trail now entered a landslide zone with rocks and boulders strewn over the hillside. After some ups and downs it began a last short 15 minute climb to Dovan. Dovan was reached in around 80 minutes and we stopped at the Royal Mountain Lodge for a short break. This was the first lodge that reminded me of the some of the lodges of the Annapurna region neatly laid out rooms around a grassy patch. We left Dovan around 11 am and then followed a group of ponies making their way up valley.  The sun was now beating down on us as it neared midday and the trail immediately entered another landslide zone which took around 40 minutes to cross in the burning sun. Around noon we reached Shyauli Bhatti where Hotel Mountain was a suitable stop for lunch. We left Shyauli at around 1.30 pm after a prolonged lunch and the trail then went down for around 40 metres and then started a relentless climb for an hour which reached the Yaru Guest House on a ridge. We went down to the river from here and around 3 pm reached Yaru Bagar with a series of bhattis strung along the main trail. The river was in a broad flat plain here and we could see the new walkway bridge which had been recently constructed after the earthquake. We left the river around 3 30 pm after a cup of tea and then climbed gently for about 30 minutes until we came to another bridge across the Budhi Gandaki  - we crossed back to the left bank and started a 45 minute climb to Jagat which we finally entered around 5 pm. The lodge of choice in Jagat was the Jagat Guest House which was full and we were somehow able to manage five rooms in the Rubinala Guest House which also had a group of Germans staying and occupying most of the rooms.  Neither Namaste nor Ncell mobiles worked here but the lodge had a phone which could be used for a charge to make calls. Cost Index Dal Bhat 500 Black Tea 60.
Khorlabesi to Tatopani 1 hr 10 min Tatopani to Dovan 1 hr 20 min Dovan to Shyauli Bhatti 55 min Shyauli Bhatti to Yaru Bagar 1 hr 20 min Yaru Bagar to Jagat 1 hr 30 min
Dovan 1016m 28 17 43N 84 54 14 E Jagat 1350m 28 21 6 N 84 53 45E

April 19th 2017 Jagat to Deng 1800m
We left Jagat around 7.15 am and crossed another long suspension bridge across the Budhi Gandaki. The trail then climbed up to a flat piece of land marked as a helipad. From here the trail was cut narrowly into the side of a cliff. In around 40 minutes Salleri was reached which boasted of a lodge and some village houses. From here the trail started to climb out of the valley often on narrow stone steps. Frequent up and down traffic of ponies made the going slow. The trail then climbed upto a ridge top and then descended to Sidebars in about 1 hr 40 min from Jagat. Sirdibas is a good first stop for tea. From Sirdibas the trail passes through some of the village houses before descending to the river. Straight ahead is another long suspension bridge which crosses the Budhi Gandaki to its right bank. After the bridge there is a steep 30 minute climb to the village of Philim. There is a police checkpoint at Philim where the restricted are permit and the MCAP permit is checked once again. Around 50 minutes walk skirting the hill and remaining high above the Budhi Gandaki is the village of Chisopani / Ekle Bhatti which makes a good lunch stop.  There are a number of lodges here. From Ekle Bhatti the trail hugs the side of the gorge with the river thundering through the valley.  In about an hour we reached the junction of the Manaslu and Tsum Valley trail which is signposted. The trail on the left going down to the river leads to Deng. In about 10 minutes from the junction the river is crossed by another small bridge. The trail then begins to climb from the river to Pewa. Two smaller suspension bridges over the river are crossed in 30 minute intervals and the trail then comes to Pewa with two lodges on the banks of the river. Pewa would take around 2 hours from the Manaslu / Tsum valley trail junction.  From Pewa the trail follows the river and makes a number of ups and downs before climbing again to a high point and then descending to Deng. Namaste cell network has a one bar coverage in a fixed place of the Hotel Windy Valley dining room - other than this no networks were working. Deng is surrounded by high hills and I noticed some fresh snow on the hill tops. Cost Index Dal Bhat 635 and Black Tea Rs 60.
Jagat to Siridibas 1 hr 45 min; Siridibas to Philim 1 hour; Philim to Ekle Bhatti/ Chisopani 50 minutes; Elke Bhatti to Manaslu/ Tsum valley trail confluence 1 hr; Trail Confluence to Pewa 2 hrs ; Pewa to Deng 1 hour.
Philim 1570m 28 23 38N 84 53 46E Deng 1800m 28 28 36N 84 52 9E

April 20th  2017 Deng to Namrung 2640m
We left Deng around 7.15 am and travelled northwest - the trail soon dropped to the river and after crossing the river climbed steeply to the village of Ranga in about an hour. From here onwards to Ghap reached in the afternoon the Nepal Telecom (Namaste) cell connectivity works very well but ends soon after Ghap. In around 45 minutes from Ranga, Bihi Phedi is reached with a couple of lodges. The trail then skirts the hillside climbing and descending until it reaches a junction with the left trail leading to Prok and the trail ahead going to Ghap. The trail begins to climb once more and in about half hour reached the solitary Bur Guest House. From here within 15 minutes you come to a landslide area and there is a steep diversion for about an hour through a narrow and rubble trail hair raising at times. The trail then comes down and meets the main trail about 20 minutes before Ghap. Ghap is a broad picturesque village with four tea houses nicely located amongst cultivated fields. From Ghap the trail begins to climb gently and in an hour or so reached the KLSP lodge which is situated in a clearing in the forest. This will make a good stop for those who are late and cannot reach Namrung the same evening. The trail then crosses two bridges about thirty minutes apart and from the second bridge begins the steep climb to Namrung in about 1 hr 40 minutes. Namrung has a number of good lodges with wifi facilities. Neither Ncell nor Namaste cell connectivity works here. Cost Index Dal Bhat 600 Black Tea Rs 60.
Deng to Ranga 1 hour; Ranga to Bihi Phedi 45 Minutes Bihi Phedi to Ghap 2.5 hours Ghap to Namrung 3 hours 15 min
Ghap 2136m 28 31 53N 84 49 16E Namrung 2640m 28 32 34N 84 46 16E

April 21st 2017 Namrung 2640m to Lho 3135m  
 One of our clients was troubled by a bad ankle and her knee was also getting affected. She decided to use her emergency evacuation policy and called a helicopter to get her to Kathmandu.  Shyam our sirdar and I decided to wait with her while the rest of the group left at around 9 am for Lho. However due to bad weather in Kathmandu and Dhading the helicopter did not arrive and we decided to leave at 1130 am leaving her in the care of the Namrung lodge owner. The trail started a gentle downhill and in around 20 minutes reached the pretty village of Bhanjan with green fields of barley and potatoes. From Bhanjan the trail started to climb for Lihi. We were now entering Buddhist country. Mani walls and chortens dotted the roadside and the entrances of the villages were marked by kanis. Prayer flags were strung together across the trail and monasteries were being repaired after the earthquake. At Lihi we entered the damaged monastery but found the idols had been saved after the earthquake. The monastery was being rebuilt in earnest. The trail then remained on the level and crossed a bridge and contoured the hillside before again climbing gently through a Kani and entered the village of Sho. Sho was in a picturesque location with green barley and potato fields. We stopped at a tea shop for a short break and then carried on to Lho. In about 30 minutes Lho could be seen on a hill at the end of the valley but it took another 30 minutes to get there! By around 3 15 pm we were in the Majestic Manaslu Guest House which had some clean rooms with an excellent gas hot shower which I used for the first time on the trek. There was no cell phones working at Lho but the lodge had a satellite phone which could be used for India calls at Rs 60 per minute and Kathmandu calls at Rs 10 per minute. Cost Index Dal Bhat 650 Black Tea Rs 60 Vegetable Omelette 320
Namrung to Bhanjan 25 minutes; Bhanjan to Lihi 50 minutes; Lihi to Sho 1 hour; Sho to Lho 1 hour 15 min.
Namrung 2640m 28 32 34N 84 46 16E to Lho 3135m 28 34 28N 84 42 4E

Note: Lho Ribang Monastery
This monastery has a spectacular location about 30 minutes above the village of Lho. I asked at the lodge and was told that today April 21st was an auspicious day and a whole day Puja was in progress. I walked up around 4. 30 pm and found that all the lamas were in prayers. It was an impressive setting with the village far below and on a good day Manaslu looming behind the ornate roofs of the monastery. The sounds of the long horn Bardo Lhamsol along with the drums reverberating through the monastery took me back many years ago to the Rumtek monastery in Sikkim where I had witnessed and photographed a similar service. Outside the monastery in the courtyard two young lamas were dutifully watching over a tray of butter lamps - I lit one for our trek and safe crossing of the Larke La. By the time I descended it was getting dark and the village was covered in a light mist floating across the valley.

... to be continued next week in Part II

For a photo essay on our trek around Manaslu do visit
For photographs from the Manaslu circuit please do visit


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