Friday, August 28, 2015

The Boardman Tasker Prize Long List for 2015



The Boardman Tasker prize is given every year to one outstanding book on mountain literature. This is one of the most prestigious awards a mountain  book can get and this year the list of books are awesome. It would be a very difficult job for the jury to pick a winner from the list below. In the meantime while the jury deliberates and decides,  try to read as many of these great books as you can.

My personal recommendations are :

Alpine Warriors 
Bernadette McDonald
ISBN 978-1-771601-09-2

The Ghosts of K2: The epic saga of the first ascent
ISBN 978-1-78074-595-4
Mick Conefrey
Becoming a Mountain: Himalayan journeys in search of the sacred and the sublime
ISBN 978-1-62872-510-0
Stephen Alter
Everest Revealed: the Private Diaries and sketches of Edward Norton 1922-24
ISBN 978-0-7509-5585-0
Christopher Norton

The long list for 2015 is below:

Entries

Village of Secrets Defying the Nazis in Vichy France
ISBN 978-0-701-18641-8
Caroline MoorheadChatto & Windus
After the Wind 1996 Everest Tragedy One Survivor's Story
ISBN 978-1-9940877-00-6
Lou KasischkeGood Hart Publishing LC
Denali's Howl
ISBN 978-0-593-07445-9
Andy HallTransworld
The Scent of Juniper:Poems of the Himalayas
ISBN 978-0692328941
Dr Mikel VauseKelsay Books
Make or Break: Don't Let climbing Injuries Dictate Your Success
ISBN 9780956428134
David MacLeodRare Breed Productions
Statement: The Ben Moon Story
ISBN 978-1-906148-98-0
Ed DouglasVertebrate Publishing
The Great mountain Crags of Scotland
ISBN 978-1-906148-89-8
Guy Robertson & Adrian CroftonVertebrate Publishing
One Day as a Tiger
ISBN 978-1-910240-08-3
John PorterVertebrate Publishing
Beyond Limits
ISBN 978-1-910240-19-9
Steve McClureVertebrate Publishing
Mount Hood: Adventures of the Wy'East Climbers, 1930-1942
ISBN 978-0-9887339-2-3
Ric ConradKahuna Books
Wilderness Weekends
ISBN 978-1-84162-9124
Phoebe SmithBradt Travel Guides
Steps
ISBN 978-1-906175-24-5
Mark GoodwinLongbarrow Press
Snowblind: Tales of Alpine Obsession
ISBN 978-1-61902-453-3
Daniel ArnoldCounterpoint
The Blind Man of Hoy
ISBN 978-1-910124-22-2
Red SzellSandstone Press
Becoming a Mountain: Himalayan journeys in search of the sacred and the sublime
ISBN 978-1-62872-510-0
Stephen AlterArcade Publishing, an imprint of Skyhorse Publishing
The Calling: A Life Rocked
ISBN 978-1-938340-31-4
Barry BlanchardPatagonia
The Tower: A Chronicle of Climbing & Controversy on Cerro Torre
ISBN 978-1-938340-33-8
Kelly CordesPatagonia
Everest Revealed: the Private Diaries and sketches of Edward Norton 1922-24
ISBN 978-0-7509-5585-0
Christopher NortonThe History Press
The Adventure Game: A Cameraman's Tales from Films at the Edge
ISBN 978-1-910124-31-4
Keith PartridgeSandstone Press
Wild Nights
ISBN 978-1-84953-699-8
Phoebe SmithSummersdale
The Sunlit Night
ISBN 978-1-4088-6303-9
Rebecca DinersteinBloomsbury Publishing
Rise
ISBN 978-1-4088-5792-2
Karen CampbellBloomsbury Press
In Some Lost Place
ISBN 9781-1910240-37-3
Sandy AllenVertebrate Publishing
Between the Sunset and the Sea
ISBN 978-0-00-754540
Simon IngramWilliam Collins, an imprint of Harper Collins Publishers
Going Up is Easy
ISBN 978-0-14-357323-4
Lydia BradleyPenguin NZ
The Ghosts of K2: The epic saga of the first ascent
ISBN 978-1-78074-595-4
Mick ConefreyOneWorld Publications
Too Close To God
ISBN 978-0-9918076-5-9
Jeff LongImaginary Mountain Surveyors
Abode of the Gods
ISBN 978-1-85284-771-5
Kev ReynoldsCicerone Press Ltd
A Life on the Edge: Eric Jones
ISBN 978-1-84527-549-5
Greg LewisGwasg Carreg Gwalch
Extreme Eiger
ISBN 978-1-47113-460-9
Peter Gillman & Leni GillmanSimon & Schuster UK Ltd
Alpine Warriors
ISBN 978-1-771601-09-2
Bernadette McDonaldRocky Mountain Books
Cold Feet, Stories of a Middling Climber
ISBN 978-0692305560
David PagelSelf published
The Naked Mountaineer, Misadventures of an Alpine Traveler
ISBN 978-0-8032-4879-3
Steve SiebersonUniversity of Nebraska Press
Mountains: Oblique Angles
ISBN 978-0-9933659-0-4
Alison IrelandHour of Writes Ltd
Run or Die
ISBN 978-0-241-00485-2
Kilian JornetViking, Penguin Random House
Apprentice to the Masters of the Golden Age
Pat Amente-book

For more details on the prize and winning books of earlier years  do visit www.boardmantasker.com

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Galen Rowell


August 23rd 2015

Galen Rowell would have been 75 years old today. A cruel twist of fate took him away on August 11, 2002 in a plane crash. 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 are reproduced below and have been an inspiration to photographers all over the world!














“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 www.mountainlight.com  and for an essay from the Sierra Club archives do visit  http://vault.sierraclub.org/books/photos/rowell/ 

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Markha Valley Trek | Photos

Night skies and stars at the Markha campsite
The summer months are the season for Ladakh and the most popular trek is the Markha Valley. I have watched the Markha trek graduate from a camping only trek to a home stay trek and now there are multiple home stays in each village.  Meals are also available at the homestays so a small group of trekkers could do the  Markha trek  without camping support during season time.

This year  Markha has been in the news - there was a report in the newspapers last week that due to flash floods and rising rivers many foreign trekkers had to be evacuated from the valley by helicopter.

Hopefully the weather has now settled and the rivers will go down gradually allowing trekking to resume.

I last did the Markha in September 2013 and here are some photographs from that trek which should be of interest to all Ladakh visitors.

Crossing the river at Chilling

Tea tent in the season at Skiu

Looking east below the monastery of Markha

Typical Markha valley landscape on the trail to Hankar



Hankar village 

One of our group snoozing with Kang Yatse peak in the back ground


On the trail to Nimaling

The pass of Kongmaru la looking back at Kangyatse peak

Homestay kitchen at Chokdo the last day of our trek

My outfit South Col Expeditions runs trek to Ladakh and different parts of the Himalaya. For more details do visit www.southcol.com.

For more photographs and articles on the Markha Valley please visit the following  links

http://www.sujoyrdas.blogspot.in/2014/02/the-markha-valley-trek-part-i.html

http://sujoyrdas.blogspot.in/2014/03/the-markha-valley-trek-part-ii.html

http://www.sujoydas.com/Ladakh-and-Zanskar/The-Markha-Valley-Trek-Ladakh/

http://www.sujoydas.com/SujoyDas/Outlook-Traveller-The-Markha/i-w9JL6Fs/A





Sunday, August 9, 2015

Nikon | New Lenses for Full Frame D-SLRs




Nikon has introduced another three new lenses for full frame D-SLRs. These lenses can also be used on DX bodies taking into account the 1.5 crop factor. I am particularly excited about the fast prime 24 f1.8 mm and the extremely competitively priced 200-500 tele zoom suitable for wildlife and sports  without breaking the bank!

Nikon 24 F1.8G  Weight 335 gms; List Price $749
The 24 F1/8G lens is a typically fast wide angle prime which is useful in a host of situations. This is the sixth 1.8 prime which Nikon has added  - the others were the 20mm, 28mm, 35mm, 50mm and 85mm. Hence, Nikon shooters now looking for prime lenses to supplement their zooms are spoiled for choice. The  lens is both fast and light weight and competes favourably with the professional 1.4 lens which costs twice as much and is also heavy. Photographers needing a fast wide angle to shoot in low light conditions and in cramped interiors need look no further!

Nikon 200-500 F5.6E VR Weight : 2300 gms List Price $1399
Nikon has a professional model 200-400 F4 lens which sells at around  $7000 so this lens is an attractive proposition for wild life and sports shooters. It gives up one stop as compared to the pro lens but is much lighter and costs a great deal less. The competition in this range comes from Tamron and Sigma both of whom have lenses going upto 600 mm with a 6.3 aperture and are a shade lighter. We need to see the test results from this lens, but I suspect that the image quality will be good at this price point. On a DX body the lens becomes a super tele going upto 750mm without a tele convertor. Photographers considering this lens should also look at the combination of the new 300 F4 E VR with TC 1.4 which would be excellent for mammals but a little short for birds.

Nikon 24-70 ED VR AF-S f2.8 Weight: 1070 gms; List Price: $2399
The 24-70 is a professional grade zoom lens from Nikon which gets the added advantage of VR which was missing in the earlier model. The lens also gains in weight as well as in cost. The old lens without VR was excellent optically and those of you who have the earlier lens may not be inclined to upgrade to this new model. First time buyers looking for a professional grade normal zoom should consider this newer model along with the 24-120 F4 VR which is also an excellent lens but gives up one stop!

For more information on these new offerings from Nikon do visit:

http://www.popphoto.com/three-new-nikon-lenses-24-70mm-f-28-vr-200-500mm-f-56-fx-and-24mm-f-18

http://www.kenrockwell.com/nikon/24mm-f18.htm#rex

http://www.digitaltrends.com/photography/nikon-new-pro-lenses/

Sunday, August 2, 2015

South Col Expeditions | New Updated Web Site



We have just uploaded the new and updated web site for South Col Expeditions www.southcol.com.

The site is better structured and has a lot of information on our treks and information on acclimatisation, altitude sickness, routes and a lot more.

Some of the  screen shots of the updated web site is given below:













Do visit the new site. We welcome your feedback and suggestions!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Green Lakes Trek: Panorama from Rest Camp

South Col Expeditions trekked the route to the north-east base camp of Kangchenjunga in the Zemu Valley, North Sikkim. Here is a video from  our Green Lakes trek which gives a good idea of the terrain and the vews




Green Lakes is controlled by a strict permit system which some times takes months to get. However, those who are tenacious enough to follow this up usually get the permit and will be rewarded with a superb trek through pristine country.

The forests of the Zemu valley are quite amazing as are the mountains.

This was my second visit to Green Lakes after 1987 and I was saddened to see that the fair size pool of water had now dried up and become a small muddy pond.

For more information on the Green Lakes trek please visit the following links

http://www.southcol.com/treks-nepal/green-lakes-trek-in-north-sikkim/

http://www.sujoydas.com/SujoyDas/The-Green-Lakes-Trek-in-the-Ze/

http://www.sujoydas.com/Sikkim-Himalaya/The-Forests-of-the-Zemu-Valley/




Saturday, July 18, 2015

A Mountain Range on Pluto named after Tenzing Norgay

  NASA today named a mountain range on the planet Pluto as Norgay Montes after  Tenzing Norgay, who was the first person to  reached the summit of Everest with Edmund Hillary on May 29th 1953 after seven expeditions spanning eighteen years! 

Despite repeated requests to the Indian Government to honour Tenzing with the Bharat Ratna, this has not yet happened. 

The honour bestowed on him by NASA, coming out of the blue, is more than welcome. The video below (courtesy NASA) gives a flyover of the mountains of Pluto





For more information on NASA's mapping of the planet Pluto please visit http://www.nytimes.com/video/science/100000003807183/nasa-debuts-pluto-flyover.html

Friday, July 17, 2015

Kangchenjunga and Makalu | Sixty Years since the First Ascent

Kangchenjunga as seen from above Green Lakes in the Zemu Valley, North Sikkim

It is sixty years since the first ascent of Kangchenjunga in 1955. Kangchenjunga was first climbed on 25 May 1955 by Joe Brown and George Band, who were part of a British expedition followed by Norman Hardie and Tony Streather the next day. They stopped short of the summit as per the promise given to the Chogyal that the top of the mountain would remain inviolate. But the route from the Zemu valley shown in this photograph remained unclimbed until an Indain expedition led by Col "Bull' Kumar summitted the peak from the north east spur in 1977. This was only the second ascent of the mountain. This was the same difficult route that had beaten the Germans under Paul Bauer in 1929 and 1931. But, as far as I know, the east face direct route on Kangchenjunga is still waiting  for world class alpinists. This may remain one of the last great unclimbed faces in the Himalaya!


Makalu as seen from the Rhenjo La pass above the lakes of Gokyo
It is sixty years since the first ascent of Makalu in May 1955.A spectacular mountain it is not seen very often from the Everest region. Makalu was first climbed by Lionel Terray and Jean Couzy on May 15th 1955. They were part of a  French expedition led by Jean Franco. Franco, G. Magnone and Sardar Gyaltsen Norbu summitted  on May 16th 1955  followed by Bouvier, S. Coupe, Leroux and A. Vialatte on the 17th May. This was an amazing achievement at the time to have the majority of expedition members summit, especially on such a difficult peak. Prior to this time, summits were reached by 1-2 people at most with the rest of teams providing logistical support before turning around and heading home. The French team climbed Makalu by the north face and northeast ridge, via the saddle between Makalu and Kangchungtse (the Makalu-La), establishing the standard route. The trek to Makalu base camp from Tumlingtar is a route which is also not very popular in the Nepal Himalayas mainly due to the long approach to the mountain. 

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