Category Archives: Maps

Notes from my first expedition

Trekking the Milam Malari route in the Indian Himalaya back in 1990

The author trekking the Milam Malari route in the Indian Himalaya back in 1990

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.

IMG_3439 web

No contours, no scale, no detail. This was the best map that we had to take on the greatest mountain range on Earth.



Our inner line permit made out by the Special Police Force to provide us with assistance



“Any worthwhile expedition can be planned on the back of an envelope.” Bill Tilman


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Garmin 60CSX GPS Review

Garmin CSX60

Nine-year-old GPS still going strong and continuing to take the punishment I dish out

I bought my Garmin 60CSX GPS back in 2006 and just wanted to re-review my nine year old GPS as it has been such a reliable and effective tool. I haven’t kept up with new developments but I am sure that are many newer and fancier versions out on the market today but I haven’t needed to keep up or up grade as the one I have has been so good.

This is an old review I used back in 2008 but I thought I’d add it to my new site and update it as my Garmin 60CSX GPS is still going strong nine years after I bought it. It is an amazingly rugged and reliable tool and if you treat it right it will last for a long time. And by treat it right I don’t mean baby it. My GPS goes with me everywhere and has been high in the Himalayas, to the volcanos of Kamchatka, through the untracked jungles of Madagascar, The Alps, the Australian Outback. It has been exposed to sand, rain, humidity, extreme cold, bashed around with the rest of my gear. I have protected it in a zip up hardcase. I look after my gear but I don’t baby it. It is a tool to be used and it goes everywhere I go.

I originally owned a Garmin Etrex Vista GPS but found that it had some severe limitations: weak signal in clouded conditions, under trees or in valleys, limited memory and it soon got shaken to death while using it on my mountain bike.

While researching the market I came across a couple of contenders which looked up to the job of helping us accurately and reliably pin point our location in the Himalaya. The one I came closest to getting was the Magellan Explorist series I think it was either the 500, 600 or 700.

The two biggest features that worked against the Magellan Explorist series GPS for me was the lack of an external antenna and their use of a proprietary battery design.

When you are travelling in remote locations the last thing you want it to be limited by batteries. On the other hand AA batteries, of dubious quality, can be obtained in some fairly out of the way village shops. Also, we were using solar panels to charge our batteries for various electronic devices – torches, cameras, gps – and we had to make sure every device ran on standard batteries.

I then came across the Garmin 60CSX GPS and it seemed to fit the bill perfectly: extendable memory, standard AA batteries, good battery life, external antenna and waterproof.

During the Trans Himalaya 2007 expedition we went through some very rugged country and had very bad maps so we had to make sure we had the best back up systems that we could. The Garmin 60CSX GPS stood up very well to the test.

Once the system was set to Battery Saver Mode, a new set of regular Duracell AA batteries would last for two days of constant use. If you use Lithium batteries, which I highly recommend, 60CSX will give you five days of continuous use, for about eight to ten hours a day. Lithium batteries might cost more but they are lighter and last a lot longer than regular batteries so on a trek this is a no brainer. All our equipment, and our bodies, got bashed around a lot. The GPS unit survived the mud, rain, scrapes and punishment and still works today.

I carried my unit in a crush proof hard case which was suspended on one of my rucksack straps. The case wasn’t waterproof and I did have to use the GPS in the pouring rain. I stuck a protective layer over the screen to prevent scratches.

The external antenna worked very well in all conditions and I never had a problem getting a signal in heavy cloud or jungle. There were times when the sat phone we used couldn’t get reception due to obstructions or cloud but the gps would get reception. In fact the 60CSX even gets reception indoors so there you have it – great reception. There was only a couple of sections where were in deep gorges where the signal got very confused but then again in a deep gorge you generally only have two ways to go.

Overall the unit proved to be very useful, versatile, accurate and rugged. I would definitely use it again on my next adventure, and have been ever since I bought it back in 2006. In the age of planned obsolescence and constant upgrades its a testament to  Garmin that a nine year old electronic product such as the Garmin 60CSX can continue to perform reliably under harsh conditions in the world’s most remote and rugged conditions such as the Himalayas, Madagascar, Kamchatka and the Australian Outback.




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Map of Kumaon and British Gurhwal 1850

Map of Kumaon and British Gurhwal 1850

Map of Kumaon and British Gurhwal 1850

Here is one of my most prized pieces in my collection. A map I bought off Ebay for 10 British Pounds a few years ago. I have finally managed to scan this map and piece it together in Photoshop. It was in bits when I bought it. It’s a large field map of Kumaon and British Gurhwal from 1850. I will upload a larger version of the map when I get a chance.

Map of Kumaon and British Gurhwal 1850

Compiled in the office of the Surveyor General of India with latest additions from the researches from Capt H Strachey 1846 and Lt Richard Strachey 1849. Calcutta April 1850.

This has got to be one of the first Survey of India maps of the region. Closer inspection of the map shows some very interesting of evidence of an attempt by the British cartographers to rename peaks. Notice the names of the peaks in the Gangotri region such as the Bhagirathi Group and Shivling bear the names such as St George, St Patrick, St Andrew and St David.

Map of Kumaon and British Gurhwal 1850

Notice the names of the peaks in the Gangotri region such as the Bhagitiri Group and Shivling bear the names such as St George, St Patrick, St Andrew and St David.

Judging by the level of detail on the rest of the map there is now way the cartographers were ignorant of either the established names of these mountains or the religious significance of the region.

In fact that they have named them after Christian saints and this right in the middle of the one of the holiest of Hindu pilgrimage sites. It is an obvious attempt to ‘Christianise’ the names of these peaks. Luckily they didn’t go the way of Everest which was called Sagarmatha in Nepal and Chomolungma in Tibet.

Charles Allen notes in his book A Mountain in Tibet that the early British explorers tried to name Shivling after a Governor-General: “The British called it Mt Moria, in honour if the new Governor-General, Lord Moira. But to the Indians it was Mahadeo ka Ling, now known more simply as the Shivling mountain.”

I glad that the traditional names were the ones which endured and the peaks are still called names like Bhagirathi, Shivling, Meru, Kedar Dome, Satopant, Thale Sagar, Sudarshan Parbat, Srikanth, Thale Sagar, Thelu, Sato Panth, Chandera, Vasuri Parvat – instead of St Andrew, St David etc.



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