Friday, January 26, 2018

Farewell Elizabeth Hawley

Elizabeth Hawley ,94,  passed away in a Kathmandu hospital early this morning. For those who knew her the loss is irreplaceable. A chronicler of the Himalaya for more than four decades her contribution to Himalayan  mountaineering is immense.

A brief account of her life below from Wikipaedia -

"Elizabeth Hawley (born November 9, 1923, in Chicago, Illinois) is an American former journalist and chronicler of Himalayan expeditions. She travelled to Nepal in September 1960 and never left.

She was educated at the University of Michigan. She moved to Nepal after giving up her job as a researcher for Fortune magazine in New York and visiting Kathmandu on a round-the-world trip. Working briefly as a reporter, Hawley went back to San Francisco, returning to Nepal a few years later as journalist for Time.

She found work with the Reuters news agency covering mountaineering news, including the 1963 American expedition that was the first from the United States to traverse Mount Everest.

While she has never climbed a mountain herself, Hawley has been the best-known chronicler of Himalayan expeditions for over four decades. She is respected by the international mountaineering community because of her complete and accurate records, despite their unofficial status. Her records are summarized in a database  used in several analyses of success and death rates for climbers in the Nepal Himalaya

French ice climber Fran├žois Damilano (fr) named a peak in Nepal after Elizabeth Hawley. Damilano made a solo first ascent of Peak Hawley (6,182 meters) in the Dhaulagiri Group on 9 May 2008, after climbing 7,242-meter Putha Hiunchuli."

Today's obituary from The Himalayan Trust

Some links from interviews and press reports on Miss Hawley:

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

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."


  • 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


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