Thursday, November 23, 2023

Ladakh | Phyang to Hunder Trek across the Lasermo La by Ashesh Ambasta

2 Sept 2023: Atop Lasermo La. Left to right -- Prasad, Ashesh, and Kunsal, and Stanzin (kneeling) posing for the regulation photo, clicked by Glory! 

 Ashesh Ambasta is a experienced trekker who has been with South Col Expeditions on numerous treks including many in Ladakh. In this guest post he recounts his experiences on the recently concluded Phyang to Hunder trek across the 5440 m high Lasermo La - from the Indus to the Nubra valley.

I am sure that trails in Ladakh never fail to amaze and delight trekkers. For starters, it is possible to experience what can truly be called wilderness treks barely a few hours from Leh. How cool is that? Then, there are the breathtaking vistas. Scarps with steep acclivities rise to dizzying heights on either side of the trails, which usually follow water courses resulting in narrow – and the only – bands of vegetation for miles on end, combined with multi-hued slope surfaces, all conspiring to produce enchanted, fairy-tale panoramas.  Not surprisingly, even though the Phyang to Hundar trek was my fifth in Ladakh with South Col  Expeditions, the anticipation gripped me well before I took off from Delhi.

30th August to 1st September, 2023

A fitting start to the trek was a visit to the sixteenth century Phyang monastery. It falls on the way to Murubok, where the road ends and the trail begins. The gompa itself is inspiring and we were fortunate to arrive at a time when the resident monks were in prayer in the main hall.  The sonorous chanting lulled us into a meditative and peaceful repose, an appropriate mood for the trek. 

30 Aug 2023: A propitious start to the Phyang-to-Hunder trek is a visit to the 16th century Phyang monastery.  This gompa is on the way to Murubok, where the road ends and the walking trail begins.

Friday, October 6, 2023

The Best Himalayan Blogs from Feedspot


Feedspot recently published a list of the best Himalayan blogs and the link is available at

The list covers 35 blogs and websites from the thousands of blogs on the web ... many of them also run tours and treks in the Himalaya.

This blog is no 24 on the list. 

For more information on my treks and photo workshops do visit

For photographs on the Himalaya do visit

Best wishes to all for the upcoming festive season and enjoy the holidays!

Sunday, July 2, 2023

Mulde View Point, Dobato and Poon Hill Route and Timings March 2023


Mulde View Point and Poon Hill Trek Route and Timings

With a view to extend the Poon Hill trek by a few days we decided to go a recce of a new route to Dobato and Muldai View Point – the Muldai route can be extended to Khopra Ridge as well.

February 28th 2023 - Flight Kathmandu to Pokhara drive to Ghandrung 

Our Buddha Air flight to Pokhara was at 7.55 am but when we reached the airport we were told that there are not enough passengers for two flights so they sent us on the earlier flight at 7 30 pm. The flight was uneventful with views of Langtang, Ganesh Himal and then Himalchuli and the Manaslu group. Finally just before Pokhara the Annapurnas and Macchapuchare came into view through the early morning fog. We landed at the new Pokhara airport which is big and very swanky with all the modern amenities and facilities. Our jeep ride to Kimche below Ghandrung took around 1 hr 45 min and we then started the walk to Ghandrung. Kimche is around 1700 metres and in an hour we reached Ghandrung which is 1980 metres. I was quite shocked to see the rapid urbanization of this beautiful village. Gone are the slate roofed houses and lodges - ugly new brick and concrete constructions are mushrooming all over the village some three storeys high- there is construction materials piled up everywhere destroying the old charm and beauty of this once upon a time Himalayan village. We walked up past our earlier lodges Milan and Gurung Cottage both which seemed to be quite congested and surrounded by new buildings in a state of semi construction and decided to stay at the Ghandrung Eco Lodge which thankfully had a better view and an open aspect - tomorrow we walk to Tadapani.

Pokhara to Kimche by jeep 1 hour 45 min to 2 hours; Kimche to Ghandrung trek 1 hour ; Ghandrung 2032m 28 22 34N 83 48 26 E

Ncell and NTC both working at Ghandrung 4G reception; Dal Bhat Rs 500 Black Tea Rs 80

Saturday, June 17, 2023

Kashmir Tarsar Marsar Trek - Route and Timings August 2022


Kashmir Tarsar Marsar Trek August 16 to 20th 2022

A detailed day wise route desctiption and timings of the popular Tarsar Marsar trek by South Col Expeditions in August 2022 - due to bad weather and lack of days we could not cross over the Sonomas pass to Sumbal but returned to Lidderwat/Aru the same way.

August 16th 2022 Pahalgam to Aru to Lidderwat 

We drove from Pahalgam to Aru 2440 metres in about 30 minutes and started out from Aru around 8 am. It had rained for 14 hours nonstop the previous day but the weather had cleared up and the sun was out with blue skies. The first part of the trail from Aru to the Agricultural station was extremely muddy and slippery thanks to all the pony traffic as well as the incessant rains. This portion of the trail took us around one hour which should have normally taken 30 minutes. We reached the first meadow around 9 am and after a short break plunged into the forest - this part was also quite muddy and it was heavy going - finally after around 2 hours from Aru we emerged into the meadows for a brief while and the trail had dried out somewhat due to the morning sun. The river Lidder thundered through the gorge below while thick pine forests surrounded the adjacent hills. We met few tourists and some locals making their way down from Lidderwat to Pahalgam and some shepherds as well. Finally around 11.30 am at around 2670 metres we reached a small tea shop - further up on the ridge was another tea shop serving tea and Maggi noodles. The distance was around 7 km from Aru.  After a quick break we carried on the trails through the meadows soon descended to the Lidder river.  This idyllic section of the walk followed the Lidder river and was incredibly beautiful with the river flowing adjacent to the trail. We soon came to another tea shop - the third one on the trail from here the path climbed up to another small meadow before again plunging down a steep path to the river. You finally cross a bridge across the Lidder and climb up to the meadows of Lidderwat.  As we reached Lidderwat and stopped for lunch the rain came down once again and carried on till around 5 pm in the evening after which the weather did clear up and we saw some blue skies in the clouds - hope for tomorrow. 
Aru to first meadow 1 hr - should be 30 minutes in dry weather; First meadow to first tea shop 2 hrs to 2 hrs 15 min; First tea shop to second tea shop 30 min; Second tea shop to third tea shop 45 min Third tea shop to Lidderwat 45 min to 1 hr 
Aru to Lidderwat 4.5 to 5 hours depending on trail conditions - 10.7 km 18695 steps
Aru 2430 m 34 5 31 N 75 15 57E Lidderwat 2775m 34 9 35 N 75 14 31 E 

Saturday, June 10, 2023

Gokyo Ama Dablam Base Camp Trek via Phortse October 2021 -Route and Timings


Namche to Gokyo to Phortse to Pangboche to Namche October 2021

Route details and timings for this route is below
October 21 Namche to Dole 

We left Namche on a sunny clear morning after the rain with all the peaks  visible - the broad trail mostly level with a few ups and downs was a lovely walk with all the peaks from Taboche to Thamserku visible including Everest, Lhotse and Ama Dablam. We reached the beautiful Ama Dablam Lodge at Kyanjuma in about less than two hours with many photography stops on the way. After a tea break at the lodge we started out for Mong la. Within five minutes there was a sign posted trail junction - the upper trail went to Gokyo and the lower trail to Everest Base Camp. A new trail had been constructed in the initial part of the climb with proper hand railings and steps - this steep climb took about half an hour with mesmerizing mountain views all around. On reaching the top there was a small resting spot from where Mongla could be seen as well as the trail leading upwards. We followed the trail climbing uphill contouring the hillside and had great mountain views all the way. We stopped for lunch at the Hilltop lodge in Mongla. After lunch we started out on the rapid descent to Phortse Tenga. The trail dropped fairly sharply for the first 20 minutes before easing out into a gentler descent - in about an hour from Mongla we came to the two lodges of Phortse Tenga and the trail diversion which was marked - the upper trail led to Dole and the lower trail led to Phortse. The Dole trail initially climbed very gently and in about 20 minutes reached the Dole National Park check post where the permits are checked. Soon after the trail crosses a waterfall and then begins to climb steeply fir about 30 minutes before the trail levels off and reaches a resting spot with a stone bench which provides a welcome break. After this the climb continues through the rhododendron forest. Across the valley the village of Phortse is your constant companion in about an hour another waterfall is reached and ahead you can see the trail contouring up the hillside. Finally the trail skirts the hillside takes a turn and the lodges of Dole come suddenly into view. 
Namche 3450m to Kyanjuma 3615m 27 49 22N 86 43 52E 1 hr 45 min to 2 hrs Kyanjuma to Mongla 3980m 27 50 22N 86 44 12E 2 hrs Mongla to Phortse Tenga 1 hour to 1 hour 15 min Phortse Tenga 3650m to Dole 4110m 27 52 4N 86 43 50 E 
2 hrs to 2 hrs 15 min

Monday, May 29, 2023

Everest Seventy Years After the First Ascent May 29th 1953

A condensed version of this article appears in The Hindu May 28th 2023

On 28th May 1953, two men started out from the South Col of Everest at around 26,000 feet to set up Camp Nine at 27,900 feet. Tenzing Norgay, a Sherpa had attempted Everest six times and failed. Edmund Hillary, a bee keeper from New Zealand, was on the mountain for the second time, having accompanied Eric Shipton on the Everest Reconnaissance in 1951. The British had made eight attempts on Everest since 1921 and this could well be their last chance.  In the year of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, it was imperative that they succeed. Camp IX at 27,900 feet would be the highest that men had ever slept.  The next morning dawned clear and still as Tenzing pointed out the tiny dot of Tengboche monastery, 16,000 feet below, where the Rimpoche had prayed for the safe return of the team. “God of my father and mother be good to me today” prayed Tenzing. Hillary’s boots were frozen and he had a tough job trying to unfreeze them for the climb. The duo started out at 6.30 am and at 11.30 am on 29th May 1953 history was made as the two men stood on the summit of Everest.

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

New Roads in the Annapurna Region | Nepal

In the last few years a large number of new roads have come up in the Annapurna region (most of them remain as dirt tracks for four wheel drive jeeps) and these roads can reduce the trekking days for popular treks in the region. I list some of these roads below and give the cost of a reserved jeep in some cases where I have used them.

 Pokhara to Kimche

Kimche is about 1 hours walking below Ghandrung and this road goes upto Nayapul (black top) and then on a dirt track to Kimche – the black top section is quite good now and the whole journey by jeep takes about 2 hours. There are also buses running from the Pokhara bus park.  NPR 9000/-

 Pokhara to Ghandrung

It is possible now to go all the way upto Ghandrung by taking a lower road (not the Kimche one) by jeep and it would take about 2.5 hours to reach Ghandrung. An early departure from Pokhara would make it possible to trek to Tadapani the same day. NPR 10,000/-

 Pokhara to Kimrong Danda

The same road which goes to Ghandrung carries on further to Kimrong Danda possibly a 30 minutes drive from Ghandrung.

 Pokhara to Landrung

The approach to the Annapurna Base Camp trek would be shortened by a day or more by driving to Landrung in about 3 hours and heading up to Jhinu Danda the same day. But there is also now a road which is ending below Jhinu so for ABC trekkers looking to save time this would be the better option (see below). NPR 12,000/-

 Pokhara to below Jhinu Danda

This road goes near Jhinu Danda in about 3-3.5 hours from Pokhara so from here you could walk to Chomrong the same day.  NPR 12,000/-

 Pokhara to Dhampus

This walk from Phedi is now effectively over as the road goes all the way to Dhampus in about 1 hour minutes from Pokhara. You could do a day trek in this region walking from Dhampus to Australian Camp and then down to Kande to meet the road and back to Pokhara.

 Pokhara to Pitam Deorali

Pitam Deorali is the usual first day’s stop for the Mardi Himal trek but now it is possible to drive here in about 2 to 2.5 hours and go to Forest Camp the same day if you can leave Pokhara by 7 am.

 Mardi Himal Roads

There are the following options for the Mardi trek depending on where you enter or exit the trek:

Pokhara to Siding 2 hours NPR 8000/-

Pokhara to Kalimati  1 hour 30 min

Pokhara to Lawang 1 hour 30 min

 Ghorepani Trek

The road now goes upto Banthanti and it is being steadily pushed towards Ghorepani. From Banthanti to Nayapul would be about 50 min and 1 hour 15 min to Pokhara from there. NPR 10,000/-

 Khopra Trek

There are different approaches and exits for this trek but if you walk from Khopra to Swanta you can get a jeep from here to Pokhara via Beni which takes 4-5 hours. NPR 18,000/-

 Annapurna Circuit Roads

The Annapurna Circuit trek has been impacted by roads on both sides – along the Marsyandi from Besisahar to Manang and along the Kali Gandaki from Pokhara-Beni-Jomsom-Muktinath. The dirt track from Jomsom goes past Kagbeni all the way to Lo Manthang in Upper Mustang possibly changing the standard Mustang trek to a jeep safari. Regarding the circuit the upper route from Pisang to Manang is still spectacular and after two day acclimatisation in Manang you could attempt Tilicho/ Thorung La.  However some alternative walking trails have been built on the other side of the river (referred to as the NAAT trails) and these do by pass the roads to a great extent. The only thing is that th trekking experience in not so enjoyable as you can hear the cars and motorbikes on the other side.

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Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Mallory and Irvine | 8th June 1924 | 98 Years After


On 8th June 1924, two men left  Camp VI (26,700 feet)  to make an attempt for the summit of Everest. 

Camp VI  was the highest camp of the British 1924 Everest expedition.

On the same morning, another British climber, Noel Odell, was making his way up from Camp IV to Camp VI. Odell was a geologist and he was collecting fossils from the slopes of Mount Everest. Odell recalls that it was not the perfect morning to climb Everest. " Rolling banks of mist" were sweeping  across the mountain and covering the north face. Neither the face nor the summit ridge could be seen by Odell. There was also a sharp wind which was making climbing very difficult.

Suddenly at 12.50 pm the mist cleared and Odell spotted high above on the ridge, a black dot climbing a rock step, which Odell at that point identified as the Second Step. Soon after Odell saw another black dot following the first black dot. But before Odell could be sure that the second black dot had joined the first,  the mist rolled in and blanketed the mountain and this fantastic vision was lost forever.

The two dots that Odell saw were George Mallory and Andrew Irvine "going strongly for the summit of Everest". 

Mallory and Irvine were never seen again.

Mallory body was found by Conrad Anker in 1999. Irvine has not been found. A few weeks ago some startling news emerged from Mark Synott who was part of a Nat Geo expedition to find Andrew Irvine in 2019. Synott mentioned that he had evidence to prove that Irvine had been found by the Chinese and also his camera. The camera film could not be processed by the Chinese and with it died the secret of the last climb of Mallory and Irvine.  See the link below for the article.

But the legend of George Mallory and his last climb lives on.

In this post we take a look at some photographs and other memorabilia from the Everest expeditions of 1921, 1922 and 1924.

The 1921 expedition team - Mallory sitting first left

Mallory and Irvine boarding S. S. California on their way to India in 1924 

Irvine working on oxygen cylinders  on the1924 expedition

Members of the 1924 expedition - Standing from left Irvine, Mallory, Norton, Odell, Macdonald. In front: Shebbeare, Bruce, Somervell, Beetham. Members not in the photo : Noel, Hingston, Hazard.
Norton and Somervell with their sherpas before the summit attempt

Route map of Norton and Somervell's attempt
Norton set an altitude record  in 1924 without oxygen reaching 8570 metres which remained unchallenged until Messner and Habeler climbed Everest in 1978 without oxygen

Last photo of Mallory and Irvine leaving for Camp VI 1924

The list of provisions for the summit climb found on Mallory's body  - he planned to be on 2 cylinders of oxygen. Please note the rations on the left!

The 8 pm in the note to Noel should be 8 am

Mallory had no compass on his last climb

Map showing position of Odell and the last sighting of Mallory and Irvine

                                  "..... some day you will hear a different story..." George Mallory

All photographs reproduced above are copyright of Royal Geographical Society, John Noel Photographic Collection and their respective owners. 


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