Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Travel and Leisure India | Interview Sujoy Das September 2019 Issue


1. Tell us about your association with Mountain Echoes?

I was invited by Mountain Echoes to speak at the 10th edition of their festival in Bhutan that took place between August 22-25, 2019.  Our new book co-authored with Lisa Choegyal was showcased at the festival.

2. How important do you think platforms like these are for today’s youth?

I think they are very important as they give an opportunity to the youth to interact with different personalities from different professions from all over the world.

3. Photography has taken you around the world. What is your favourite place to shoot?

It would be in the mountains of Nepal, Himalaya. I have spent around two decades shooting in Nepal and the opportunities it has offered me have been incredible. I have done three books on Nepal.

4. Do you remember the first photograph you took? Where was it?

It was on a trek to Sandakphu near Darjeeling, I think in 1976 when I had just finished school from the bungalow of Tonglu looking at the Kanchenjunga range floating above the clouds. This, in fact, fired my interest in photography.

5. Tell us one crazy experience you have had while shooting.

I was trying to reach the Sikkim-Tibet border in North Sikkim at an altitude of 5,000 metres riding a yak; unfortunately, the yak had other ideas and as I was about to shoot some photos it started racing up the valley and threw me off! Luckily, the camera did not suffer any lasting damage!

6. In today’s digital age, everybody owns a high-quality camera. How does one stand out?

You are right. All cameras can take great photos, but it’s the eye behind the lens that’s important; you need to see things in a different way, in a different light, at different times of the day, and to create something different from the run-of-the-mill photo.

7. What kind of traveller are you?

I like to travel light, usually carrying my own backpack.

8. Do you prefer solo or group travel?

I usually travel in small groups, maybe with a few like-minded photographers.

9. What are the three things you must have while travelling?

Well, since most of my work is in the mountains, I would never leave home without a sleeping bag and a warm jacket —  both are essential for survival.

10. What is your most favourite destination in India?

It would be Sikkim, a state where I have spent many months photographing, especially the unspoilt Zemu Valley of North Sikkim in the shadow of Mount Kangchenjunga.

11. What does it take to be a successful travel photographer?

You must be prepared to spend time in the field often in very difficult and arduous conditions. You must also focus on weaving a story around your photos, just isolated images are not good enough and they won’t find a market; most editors will reject them.
During all my time spent in the Himalayas, it’s always been a search for the right light, the right time of the day, the right perspective and the right second, which transforms an ordinary or mundane view. In many of my photographs, there is a story waiting to be told. I hope I have been able to tell it well.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Vittorio Sella Remembered






Today 28th August 2019 is the 160th 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: 






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:

Friday, August 16, 2019

Ladakh | Flowers


Many people imagine Ladakh to be a cold desert - dry, arid, barren, rocky and without any greenery. However, during the summer months amidst this barren and austere landscape flowers bloom often as high as 5000 metres. These are some photographs of the floral wealth of Ladakh during a July trek between Shang Sumdo and Stok crossing two high passes Shang La and Matho La.








For details about our treks in the Himalaya do visit www.southcol.com

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Ladakh | Shang Sumdo to Stok across Shang La & Matho La Trek



Shang Sumdo to Stok Trek 
If you are looking for a short trek in Ladakh and don't want the crowds of Markha then the four day route from Shang Sumdo to  Stok village is extremely attractive. The route walks in the shadow of the Matho Kangri and Stok Kangri peaks with typical rolling grasslands, fast flowing rivers, wildlife and nomadic settlements of sheep and yak. The trek approach is close to Leh making this an ideal  one week vacation.

July 29th 2019 Leh to Shang Sumdo by vehicle
We left Leh at around 9 am in a Tempo Traveller and headed to Hemis monastery . The weather had cleared up and it was bright summers day with temperatures around 27 Celsius. After seeing the monastery including the impressive Hemis museum we headed out to our camp site at Shang Sumdo around 15 km away. We reached Shang Sumdo at lunchtime and found our camp was ready for the night - tents neatly pitched in a clearing next to the road with the river running below. Our ponies were already at camp grazing contentedly on the lush grass.  We had decided to take the first nights stop at Shang Sumdo to further aid acclimatisation and it was a good decision being another 250 metres above Leh. The group spent the day in the mellow afternoon sunshine reading, lazing around and sleeping. The trek would start tomorrow. Shang Sumdo used to be the pick up point for the end of the Markha Valley trek but with now the road being extended to Chogdo, Shang Sumdo has lost its importance and the Markha trek has been scaled down to five days only.
Leh 3450 metres Shang Sumdo 3700 metres 33 51 18 N 77 42 23 E

July 30th 2019 Shang Sumdo to Shang Phu 
It was a brilliant clear summer morning when we left Shang Sumdo around 8-30am. The intitial two hours were on the motor able road - in an hour and about 3.5 km we reached a village with a fortress like monastery on top. The road then continued to climb steadily and in another hour crossed a stream and reached another small village with prayer wheels and chortens and fields full of green barley and yellow mustard seeds. It was a very pretty location. The road one ended and the trail crossed through some scrub and rubble before crossing the river on a wooden bridge. In about three hours there were two river crossings back to back in knee deep water with a dry swift current flowing downstream.  These two crossings took us about an hour and we decided to have lunch around 12 30 pm  - the altitude at the second river crossing at lunch was about 4100 metres 33 52 14 N and 77 38 12E.  After this the trail follows a rocky bed of the river continuing to climb gently until it reached a small pass with prayer flags and a small temple on the right of the trail.  From here it continued to meander following the river on the left and reached a clearing with a few houses and a tea tent which is Shang Phu.
Shang Sumdo 3700 metres Shang Phu 4350 metres 33 52 51 N 77 36 38E
6 hours 13 km 3 river crossings - river crossing change depending on the season and the volume of water time of day etc.

July 31 Shang Phu to Shang La 4940m and down to Gangpoche 
We left Shang Phu around 8 30 am and followed the trail gently up the valley. We spotted a large herd of yaks and dzopkios grazing on the luxuriant vegetation . Due to the heavy snowfall and rain Ladakh was looking much greener than usual. We crested the top of the pass in around 3.5 hours - there was an impressive spectacle of peaks on all sides. We dropped down from the pass in around 20 minutes and stopped for lunch in a grassy meadow. After lunch we continued down the valley - there were some river crossings which we did not have to take off our shoes and wade through the water. In about two hours from lunch we reached a grazing station which had many hundred sheep and goats. From here the trail started combing again and reached another small pass - from here there were three more river crossings until we came to a ridge from where our camp could be seen far below - it is another one hour to the camp from here. This is a long day so to complete it by say 5 pm an early start is advisable by 7.30 am if possible.
Shang Phu 4350 metres Shang La pass 4940 metres Gangpoche 4434 m 33 57 6 N  77 32 50 E
 19 km Shang Phu to Shang La 3 to 3.5 hours Shang La to sheep grazing station 3 hours sheep grazing station to final ridge where Gangpoche is visible 2.5 hours final ridge to Gangpoche camp site 1 hour - five river crossings which also cause delays.



August 1 Gangpoche to Matho La to Mankarmo 
We left Gangpoche at 8 10 am and within 10 minutes came to a river crossing where we had to wade through the water - we walked gently up the valley for another 45 minutes and then came to another river crossing. From here the path started climbing  steadily across a wide valley towards the pass. In about an hour we reached around 4730 metres at the foot of a short climb which then joined a trail which skirted the hillside and finally reached the pass in around two hours or so from the last river crossing.  The views from Matho La were excellent with Matho Golep and StokmKangri visible .  The walk down from the Matho La was a steep descend of an out 150 metres before the path levelled out and followed the river down the valley - the trail kept losing altitude for about 90 minutes when we saw the camp site below us at Mankarmo - it was still another 30 minutes away crossing another stream - Stok Kangri was visible at the Mankarmo camp.
Gangpoche to Matho La  4957 metres  33 59 0 N  77 31 40 E 3 hrs to 3.5 hours  Matho La to Mankarmo  4336 metres  34 0 8 N 77 29 59 E - 2.5 to 3 hours 
Three river crossings  13.1 km distance. 


August 2 Mankarmo to Stok village 
It had drizzled during the night and the morning was cloudy with the Stok range also partially in clouds. We left around 8 15 am and within 20 minutes crossed a stream near the camp site of Chorten Chen. The trail then entered a beautiful rock canyon reminiscent of the film Mackennas Gold with stunning jagged rock spires and the river running through the canyon. The path carried on for an hour and finally left the canyon and climbed gently to a small pass in about two hours. The trail then went down for a while before entering an area of scrub jungle with bushes and the river running through - two stream crossings later we entered the final descent to Stok. It took around 45 minutes to walk on the rocky river bed and two crossings before we left the river and joined the upper trail. From this point it is around 45 minutes to the tea tents of Stok village. From Stok a 45 minute drive returned us to Leh
Mankarmo to Stok 4 hours to 4.5 hours 13.5 km Stok 39 59 59 N 77 30 00 E 3650 metres




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

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Sir Edmund Hillary Centenary Celebrations 20th July 2019



On 20th July 2019, the Calcutta based NGO The Himalayan celebrated the birth centenary of Sir Edmund Hillary with a series of illustrated talks. The speakers for the centenary celebrations were Sujoy Das  and  Bhanu Banerjee.

The event was well covered in the local press and the reviews are given below.

Times of India Kolkata July 20th 2019

The Telegraph Kolkata July 21st 2019

For further information on the Hillary centenary celebrations please do visit

https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12243619

http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/CU1907/S00093/hillary-centenary-celebrations-pay-tribute-to-his-legacy.htm

https://www.nzedge.com/uncategorised/calcutta-celebrates-hillary100-tales-man-mission/

https://www.nepalitimes.com/banner/hillary-centenary/

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Stok Kangri Climb Ladakh - closed from 2020


In the past few years the overcrowding on Stok  Kangri peak along with problems of garbage, waste disposal, water supply etc has been mounting every year. Amongst all the so called trekking peaks in Ladakh, Stok Kangri has always been the most popular and has suffered due to too many tourists.

ALTOA (All Ladakh Tour Operator's Association)  has taken a decision with the villagers of Stok  to close the climb from 2020 and give the area time to recover. This is a decision which I endorse fully and hope it will be implemented without any further bottlenecks.

The details of the press release is below:
Dear Members,
Jullay
STOK KANGRI 2019

Stok Nambardar village committee comprising of Stok villagers had been raising concerns over the pollution of their drinking water source and also shortages of irrigation water owing to over tourism and global warming. Stok Kangri is a very popular trekking peak and over the last few years we have observed it falling prey to over tourism.

The committee has decided to close the Stok Kangri peak for trekking for 5 years starting 2020 onwards. However, we have called for an emergency meeting with the committee to resolve this and we will propose them to follow a calendar like it is practiced in some European peaks where the peak is open for 2 year and then it is closed for 1 year to recuperate.

However, for sure it is going to be closed for next year 2020.

An executive team headed by the President – ALTOA met with Stok members to discuss their issues and their plans for the STOK KANGRI. The village community has planned to close STOK Kangri for trekking in 2020. We have proposed them to close it for a year and then operate for 2 years. They will update us on this later.




This year they had proposed the following points that ALTOA believes in and we are always committed to the cause of protecting our environment. We urge members to cooperate with our decision and to inform their partners across the globe of the decision:

1) Security deposit Rs 5000 each Group (Refundable)
2) Environmental Fees Rs 800/ Per Pax (Domestic/ Foreigner)
3) No Fixed Camp will be allowed at the Stok Kangri trail
4) Three person will be appointed at each check points at Stok, Mankarmo and Base Camp
5) Rubbish sacks will be provided by Stok Tsogspa officials at Trek Points at market rate (However every agent must carry sacks for their garbage)
6) All Trash/ garbage must be brought back to Leh
7) Food lists must be carried by each guide
😎 ID will be mandatory for each staff. (Guide/ Helper/ Cook) from ALTOA office (2PP size & Aadhar card required)
9) Non Local Helper and Guides will have to pay Rs 500 Per Pax for the trek
10) ALTOA Authority Letter to be sent with the guide for the check points
11) Only Registered ALTOA members will be able to operate groups as we will send our updated member list to the persons at the check post.

As IMF office is not open this year, we are in talks with the IMF officials on this and we will update you on any future developments.

Regards,
Deleks Namgyal
Gen Sec - ALTOA

Friday, July 12, 2019

Sir Edmund Hillary | Centenary Celebrations



2019 is the year of the birth centenary of Sir Edmund Hillary the first man to climb Mount Everest along with Tenzing Norgay Sherpa.

To celebrate the centenary a number of events have been planned throughout the world. In Kolkata on July 20th 2019, The Himalayan will present a series of illustrated talks on Sir Ed.

 Bhanu Banerjee will present an illustrated talk on his years with Sir Edmund from 1960 to 1963 in the Solukhumbu district of Nepal. This will be preceded by a presentation of historical photographs on the life and times of Sir Edmund by Sujoy Das. Piyali Basak will share her unique experiences on Manaslu (2018) and Everest (2019). All are welcome  and to attend this talk do send an email to thehimalayan2017@gmail.com

In Kathmandu at the historic office of the Himalayan Trust Nepal there will be a programme on July 20th 2019 from 10 am to 12 noon followed by lunch.



And a number of events have been planned in New Zealand around the same time.

The activity led by the Hillary Centenary Steering Committee begins with an event at Parliament on 23 July, hosted by the Prime Minister, Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern, for Hillary family members and a range of other distinguished guests including politicians, ambassadors, business leaders and members of the creative and academic communities.

At the event, New Zealand Poet Laureate Selina Tusitala Marsh will perform her new poem about Sir Ed called Hillary’s Step that is featured on an installation of the same name that was unveiled at Christchurch Airport last week.

NZ Post is also issuing commemorative stamps for the centenary, available from 23 July, which feature images of Sir Ed on his various expeditions and endeavours. Sir Ed was last featured on a stamp just over a decade ago, shortly after he passed away.

This is followed on 27 July by the world premiere of a full-length symphony composed by Gareth Farr in honour of Sir Ed, titled Roar of a Thousand Tigers, performed by the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra conducted by Benjamin Northey at the Christchurch Town Hall’s Lilburn Auditorium. Commissioned by the Hillary Centenary Steering Committee with the support of Creative New Zealand, the title of Farr’s symphony comes from Tenzing Norgay’s evocative description of the violent winds on Mt Everest.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Ladakh | Shang to Rumbak Trek Aug 31 - Sept 7 2019


South Col Expeditions will be running a confirmed departure trek from Shang Sumdo to Rumbak in the shadow of Matho and Stok Kangri peaks. The details of the trek including the route and costs are given below. Do email sujoyrdas@gmail.com for further enquiries.

If you are looking for a short trek in Ladakh and don't want the crowds of Markha then the five day route from Shang Sumdo to Rumbak  is extremely attractive. The route walks in the shadow of the Matho Kangri and Stok Kangri peaks with typical rolling grasslands, fast flowing rivers, wildlife and nomadic settlements of sheep and yak. The trek approach is close to Leh making this an ideal  one week vacation.

Who should join this trek?
A good choice for regular hill walkers, moderate level of fitness required. Prior trekking experience is advisable as it is a camping trek.
1) Walking times: average 5 to 6  hours walking per day.
2) Altitude: up to 4,940 metres at the passes and around 4200-4400 metres at the campsites.
3) Terrain: for some of the time following well-travelled trails although also likely to encounter rough and rocky conditions near the passes.
4) Remoteness: the trek is in a remote mountain area but not far from the roadheads at Shang Sumdo, Matho, Stok. There is no mobile phones and wifi connectivity on the trek.

 Day 1 Fly in from Delhi to Leh and rest for the day.

Day 2 Acclimatisation rest day - visit monasteries in and around Leh.

Day 3  Leh 3450m  to Shang Sumdo 3650m 
We drive from Leh to Shang Sumdo and reach in about 90 minutes.  We camp near the river and spend the day acclimatising in and around Shang Sumdo. This second acclimatisation day will help us in our future days.


Day 4 Shang Sumdo 3650m to Shang Phu 3950m 5  hours
We start our trek today - our ponies are waiting for us here and after breakfast  we start our first days walk. Today the trail ascend gradually through green fields of wheat and barley following the Shang river, flowing from south of Matho Kangri.The valley heads up a shepherds hut the grasslands around serve as grazing grounds fro yak, sheep and goats. We camp overnight at Shang Phu. There is no pass to cross.

Day 5 Shang Phu 4250m to  Gangpoche 4150m across Shang la 4940m 5 to 6 hours
The day begins with a long three to four hour climb to the Shang la through a zg zag trail. This area is home to snow leopards, bharal, marmots, golden eagle and a lot of other bird life and wildlife. The view from the top is impressive with the mountain wall of Matho Kangri 5900m just behind and above the pass. The path then descends gradually to the campsite  of Gangpoche.

Day 6  Gangpoche to Mancarmo via Matho La 4930 5 to 6 hours
This trail travels across the Gangpoche meadows until it reaches the base of Matho la 4350 metres. It then climbs the gentle slopes to the top of Matho La our second pass. The trail steadily ascends to a series of grassy slopes, Yak herders from the nearby villages live in stone settlement at the foot of the pass and the view from the pass is absolute amazing , the popular Stok kangri peak right behind.  From the top of Matho La is descends gradually for around 3 km to the campsite of Mankarmo 4480m.

Day 7 Mankarmo 4480m  to Rumbak 3900m  across Stok La 4900m  6 to 7 hours.
Today we  have a hard climb to the top of Stok La which has a spectacular view - this is our final pass and then we descend gradually to the the village of Rumbak.  We stop for a snack at a tea tent in Rumbak and then walk one hour down to the road head where our transport is wating  drive us back to Leh 2 hour drive.

Day 8 Fly back from Leh to your home city

COSTS
The cost of the trek is Rs  55,000 /- for Indians (US $ 1100 for foreign passports ) Leh to Leh  -  some exclusions apply. 

The cost  per person for Leh to Leh (8 days ) as per the itinerary given earlier
Costs given above are at current rates of 2019 and may change without notice. Changes if any will be notified 2 months before the trek.
Costs include:
Transfer by vehicle from Leh to  Shang Sumdo  (day 3)  and pickup from below Rumbak  village (day 7)  at the end of the trek.
One day monastery visits around Leh – Shey, Thikse, Hemis etc. on day 2 in a private vehicle
Three nights  accommodation in Leh on twin sharing basis in a good standard hotel.
All accommodation in tents and meals on trek for five days  (day 3 to day 7) as per itinerary; breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Cost of guides/cook/helper/ponyman and ponies as needed for the trek.

Costs not included
Flight Costs from home country to Leh and back.
All meals in Leh not covered.
Airport taxes if any.
Client travel and medical insurance of any kind. Emergency evacuation costs if needed.
Bottled drinks; boiled, filtered or bottled water; alcohol; snacks etc
Personal clothing and equipment; sleeping bag; duvet /down/ goretek jacket, medicines for personal use etc.
Tips to guides/cook/helper/ponyman at the end of trek.

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