Saturday, March 28, 2020

In the shadow of Shipton and Tilman - Part I

The Nanda Devi Sanctuary
This is the first part of a photo essay I wrote many years ago for a book on the Indian Himalaya. The book was never published and I forgot about this essay. Going through my computer files at home due to the coronavirus lock down I found it along with some other essays as well. So here it is finally published in my blog. I hope you do enjoy it!
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It was an oppressive and muggy pre-monsoon afternoon in early June 2003. I was sitting in Calcutta staring blankly at the computer screen mulling over the arrival or rather the non-arrival of the monsoon. The newspapers had said that it was delayed and as usual the build up of moisture over the Bay of Bengal had lead to an unbearable combination of high humidity and scorching temperatures over the plains of India.

Suddenly a message flashed in my Inbox with the heading “Nanda Devi”. It was from a friend informing me that the Nanda Devi outer sanctuary rim, which had been closed to visitors from 1982, had been formally opened for restricted trekking regulated by permits from the Forest Department.

The e-mail jolted me out of my reverie: Nanda Devi! The very name itself conjured up visions of a mountain goddess who had safeguard her fortress so securely for so many years that it took three generation of climbers and eight attempts to penetrate her sanctuary and that too after one of the most arduous treks in the world.

Noted mountaineer Hugh Ruttledge and former Commissioner of the erstwhile United Provinces described the Nanda Devi massif as “ a seventy mile barrier ring on which stand 12 measured peaks over 21,000 feet high. The Rishi Gorge, rising at the foot of Nanda Devi and draining an area of some 250 miles of snow and ice has carved for itself what must be one of the most terrific gorges in the world. So tremendous is the aspect of the Rishi Gorge that Hindu mythology described it as the last earthly home of the Seven Rishis. Here if anywhere, their meditations might be undisturbed.”


It was finally left to two Everest veterans , Eric Shipton and Bill Tilman, travelling with three Darjeeling sherpas including the indomitable Angtharkay to break into the abode of the goddess by climbing through the Rishi Gorge in what must rank as one of the most remarkable feats of Himalayan exploration in alpine style.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

South Col Expeditions | Treks suspended until 30th April 2020



In view of the Covid-19 crisis and considering the safety and health of our clients, we have decided to postpone all our treks in March and April 2020. Treks scheduled in May 2020 will run as usual unless the situation changes for the worst. We will take a call on this sometime in mid April 2020.

We thank all our clients for their loyalty and support over the years and hope to be back with all of you in the mountains very soon. All deposits and payments made will be rolled over to future treks.

Do stay at home and  be safe in these difficult times.



Om mane peme hung 


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

Sunday, March 8, 2020

South Col | International Womens Day



On International Womens Day, I salute all our trekkers and climbers who have made South Col treks so memorable! May you continue to reach greater heights!



Saturday, February 22, 2020

Kilimanjaro | The Lemosho Route with South Col

Image result for lemosho gate

A South Col team will be attempting to climb Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa and one of the seven summits in the fall of 2021.

There are seven routes to the summit and the climb be done in as little as five days (with major altitude issues) upto 9 days.  We are planning to do a conservative eight day climb, most probably by the Lemosho route.

This is a longer, more remote route on Kilimanjaro and allows  for optimum acclimatisation time for the summit itself.As the highest mountain in Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro makes up one of the Seven Summits (i.e. highest mountains on each of the seven continents). The additional time on the mountain means that success rates for  the Lemosho route trekkers are relatively high.

Approx. 35,000 people attempt to climb Kilimanjaro every year. The chances of reaching the summit of Kilimanjaro is highly dependent on the number of days taken to trek the mountain.The more days, the higher the probability of success as your body has more time to adapt and acclimatize.Here are the success rate figures as published by the Kilimanjaro National Park. These numbers are admittedly quite old and success rates are most likely higher as route configurations have improved and the number of people taking 5 day treks has almost ended.

  • All climbers, all routes 45% (we estimate this figure is closer to 65% today)
  • All climbers, all 5 day routes 27%
  • All climbers, all 6 day routes 44%
  • All climbers, all 7 days routes 64%
  • All climbers, all 8 day routes 85%

The details of the Lemosho Route are given below:

Friday, February 7, 2020

Bhutan to charge Indians Rs 1200 per day Sustainable Fee




Bhutan will now impose a “sustainable development fee” (SDF) on Indian, Bangladeshi and Maldivian tourists, making visits to the Himalayan nation more expensive. The decision has been taken to protect the ecology and environment  of the country, amid a spike in visitors from India.

So far, tourists from the three countries had been exempt from a levy that other foreign  nationals had to pay — $250 per person per day during the peak season, and $200 per person per day during the low season.

The low season is in the winter from December to February, and during the rains from June to August.

The new legislation, titled “The Tourism Levy and Exemption Bill of Bhutan 2020”, passed in Bhutan’s lower house on 4th February 2020, requires visitors from India, Bangladesh and the Maldives to pay a fee of 1,200 ngultrums (Rs 1200.17) per day, probably from July 2020 onwards.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Mardi Himal Trek | Nepal | March 23-30 2020

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HIGHLIGHTS
The Mardi Himal is a relatively new route in the foothills of Annapurna and has developed into a full scale trekking route in the last few years. It now has a series of lodges at different camps and for a short five day trek rivals the traditional Ghandrung-Poon Hill loop. It has great views reaching almost to the bottom of the Fishtail Mountain Macchapucchare along with Annapurna South, Huinchuli and Gangapurna.

Suitability: A good choice for most  walkers, reasonable level of fitness required.

Walking times: average 5 to 7 hours walking per day

Altitude: up to 3550m at High Camp.

Terrain: for most of time following well-travelled trails, there will be daily ascent and descent on steps which are part of any Nepal trek.

 Remoteness: usually not too remote and often there is a reasonable level of infrastructure such as lodge accommodation and cell/ mobile phone reception and wifi reception every day at the lodges.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Kangchenjunga White House | Khambachen Nepal


Nupu Sherpa who runs the lodge
A South Col group trekked the Kangchenjunga North Base Camp in November 2019. One of the nicest lodges we stayed in was the Kangchenjunga White House run by Nupu Sherpa. The lodge has some very nice clean cottage rooms, a sunny and warm dining area and  is a good base to visit Jannu Base Camp and the surrounding valleys. We stayed for two nights which is also useful for acclimatisation but a third night maybe on the way back is also an option if you have days to spare.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Ghandrung - Ghorepani - Poon Hill Trek | Updates December 2019


A South Col team trekked the Annapurna foothills in the last week of December 2019. Our route was Pokhara-Kande- Australian Camp- Pothana- Tolka- Landrung-Ghandrung- Tadapani- Ghorepani- Poon Hill- Banthanti-Ulleri-Hillay-Birethanti-Pokhara.

Some useful updates from the trek.

  • The road from Pokhara to Nayapul and Birethanti has now been pushed up beyond Ulleri to lower Banthanti. Though we did not see any jeeps on the road we were told by the locals that the road is ready and jeeps can be hired from Pokhara to drive up to Banthanti. We fear that the road will reach Ghorepani in the next one/two years thereby ending another beautful trek. Many would not want to continue to climb or descend the 3280 steps. 

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