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- Travel & expeditions
- Aboard The Bilzzard
- Arunachal Pradesh 2014
- Exploring the Eastern Himalayas
- From Here to Hellville
- Kamchatka 2009
- Kuari Pass
- New Caledonia
- Trans Himalaya Trek
- Urban – Wilderness
- Kamchatka 2013
- Papua New Guinea
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“What a mighty up bearing of mountains! What an endless vista go gigantic ranges and valleys, untold and unknown! Peak rose above peak, summit above summit, range above and beyond range, innumerable and boundless, until the mind refused to follow the eye in its attempt to comprehend the whole in one grand conception.” Samuel Bourne in The British Journal of Photography
While clearing out my parents garage I found an envelope containing my note from my first trek that I organised back in 1990. I had chalked out a challenging route that ran 150km through the Kumaon Himalaya and over two high passes. This trek was rarely undertaken. There were far easier treks I could have chosen but I was determined to go far off the beaten track. As it turned out we couldn’t complete the trek as we didn’t have the required permits from two districts. This trek runs along the Indo-Tibetian border and leads to a number of strategic mountain passes. After a few days on the trail we were stopped at a military checkpost and ordered to turn around. I still managed to have a great time and learned a lot from the experience.
The biggest fish I ever caught, a magnificent Golden Mahseer at the confluence of the Saru and Mahakali rivers in the Kumaon Himalaya of India (1989). I was fishing with a seven foot fiberglass rod, with 12 lbs line, using a silver and brass spoon. On light gear I fought this fish for well over an hour before it tired and came into the shallows. I didn’t have a scale to weigh the fish but estimated the weight to be around 3g lbs, but the weight doesn’t matter. I can still remember every minute of the experience even though it happened over 20 years ago. Jim Corbett summed up this experience beautifully in the chapter The Fish of My Dreams in his book Man-eaters of Kumaon:
I had no means of weighing the fish and at a rough guess both the men and I put it at 50 Ib.
The weight of the fish is immaterial, for weights are soon forgotten. Not so forgotten are the surroundings in which the sport is indulged in. The steel blue of the fern-fringed pool where the water rests a little before cascading over rock and shingle to draw breath again in another pool more beautiful than the one just left, the flash of the gaily-coloured kingfisher as he breaks the surface of the water, shedding a shower of diamonds from his wings as he rises with a chirp of delight, a silver minnow held firmly in his vermilion bill, the belling of the sambur are the clear tuneful call of the chital apprising the jungle folk that the tiger, whose pug marks show wet on the sand where a few minutes before he crossed the river, is out in search of his dinner. These are things that will not be forgotten and will live in my memory, the lodestone to draw me back to that beautiful valley, as yet unspoiled by the hand of man.
The Fish of my Dreams in the book Man-eaters of Kumaon by Jim Corbett
My smile says it all…………
Among the books on my shelf are two first editions of Himalayan classics on Nanda Devi (7816m), a beautiful mountain in the Kumaon Himalaya, India. I grew up in the hill town of Nainital and I could see this peak from the hill tops around town, so this mountain and these books have a special significance to me. The fist is The Ascent of Nanda Devi by H W Tilman (Macmillan, 1937) and the second is Nanda Devi by Eric Shipton (Hodder & Stoughton, 1936).
Bill Tilman’s The Ascent of Nanda Devi, a first edition, is signed by Charles Houston, the expedition leader. At the time Nanda Devi was the highest mountain ever climbed.
This is the view of Nanda Devi (7816m) on the right and Trishul (7120m) on the left from Kasar Devi near the town of Almorah in Kumaon. Trishul was first climbed in 1907 by A L Mumm, T G Longstaff and was the highest peak climbed at the time. The record was broken in 1937 with Tilman’s ascent of Nanda Devi.
I am starting a new series of photos of spectacular campsites that I had the privilege to sleep at during my treks and expeditions. Here is the first: This was a campsite in the upper reaches of the Lasser Yangti valley in Kumaon Himalayas, India.
Map of the location
Another beautiful book on my shelf is Caravans of the Himalayas by Eric Valli and Diane Summers (Thames and Hudson, 1994) an account of their two year stay with the Dolpo-pa nomads who live in the Himalayas and on the Chang Tang plateau in Tibet. Eric Valli is well known for his book on the honey hunters of Nepal. Visit the author’s website for more fantastic photography.
The sky will be my roof; the earth my bed;
The grass, my soft pillow.
Like the clouds and the streams
I will traverse these immense deserts alone.
– Ekai Kawaguchi
I was looking through my beautiful copy of A L Mumm’s book Five Months in the Himalaya: A Record of Mountain Travel in Garhwal and Kashmir on his 1907 expedition to climb Trishul in In the Indian Himalaya. I realised that back in 2007 I had taken a very similar photograph of Nanda Ghunti (6309 m) and Trishul (7120 m). Here they are, the same view 100 years apart.
A L Mumm, T G Longstaff and Charles Bruce supported by three Alpine guides and a number of Gurkhas made the first ascent of Trishul in 1907. They climbed the northeast flank and reached the summit on June 12. The first ascent of Trisul (7,127 m), was the highest summit to have ever been climbed up till that point and the record stood for the next 21 years. This was the first expedition to use supplementary oxygen on a Himalayan expedition.
I took this photograph on my trek to Roop Kund and Kuari Pass during the 1500km trans Himalayan expedition. This camp was somewhere between Bedni Bugyal and the village of Kanol. I cropped my photograph to match the older version.