Everest Base Camp Anniversary

It’s a year to the day since a small group of wanderers reached Everest Base Camp in Nepal. I was lucky enough to be among that group.

It simply wouldn’t be right to let the anniversary pass without posting a couple (or more) photos of the trek, so some that didn’t make the initial cut follow. With a fair wind we’ll be back on higher ground soon. In the meantime, in 2018, we hope to organise an exhibition of artwork focused on the mountains of Nepal and Tibet. Watch this space!

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Urban Sprawl, Kathmandu
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From Kathmandu to Lukla
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Day One, Kusum Kanguru towering above
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Hills at Monjo
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Ama Dablam
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Everest Massif
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Ama Dablam
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Heading to the Khumbu Glacier
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On Kala Patthar, 5,643 metres, Everest & Nuptse Behind

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Ama Dablam, Everest & Lhotse, Khumjung Village & Our Lodge at Tashinga
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The plane home, Lukla 
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Faded Elegance, Kathmandu

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Everest Base Camp – From Blog to Book

It’s been nearly two months since I last troubled this blog. Life has been fairly hectic of late (which I’ll save for a future post), but one background project that has now, finally, reached completion has been to turn my EBC blog posts into a book; not a book “available to the public from all good retailers and bookshops” you understand, though that would be nice, but instead a personal, tangible, memento of the trip, that can sit proudly alongside my other books on photography on the shelf in the downstairs loo.

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Given that the base material was already contained in the blog posts, it’s taken an inordinate amount of time and effort – rewriting and expanding the text, designing layouts, spell checking, selecting images, captioning images, lining up, etc. – and the proof reading has sent me goggle-eyed, but now its done, and ordered and being printed somewhere in the world I know not where, I’m quietly satisfied with the final product and, like a kid waiting for Christmas, can’t wait for it to be delivered.

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For those interested I chose the Blurb website which uses the BookWright application to create the book. There are already many, many websites that list the pros and cons of book printing sites (which I used to choose Blurb) so I’m not going to cover that here, but once I got to grips with both the BookWright application and the Blurb website (and it did take a little time) the process became pretty straight forward and flexible. My biggest problem was proof reading (always my Achilles heal) and I’m still sporting errorrs know!

If you’re interested in seeing what the finished book looks like follow the link below and click on Preview. Be careful not to click on Add to Cart or you’ll become noticeably poorer!

http://www.blurb.co.uk/bookstore/invited/6875925/e9a021487fb5d2d7d3cbddc6354c688aadff6d2f

Some additional screen shots follow.

Happy reading  🙂

Richard

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EBC Trek, Nepal, Nov 2016 – Group Shots

For my fellow trekkers rather than the wider world, some shots of our party, John (Yorkshire), Charlie, Rob, Sarah, Cameron, Deborah, John (Aussie) and Reisa, plus our guide Dumbar and his assistant guides. Thanks for making it a fabulous trek!

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Safe Landing, Lukla
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Nepali Flat!
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Dunbar with willing Helpers
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Top of the world, Mende
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Yak Man
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John & Charlie’s old haunting ground
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Shadow People
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Memorials
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Cameron at Basecamp
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Basecamp
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John Ascending
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Three Yorkshiremen
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The group united
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Final Stop

Everest Base Camp Trek, with the Sigma DP3 Merrill

In a post specifically for Sigma enthusiasts I’ve collated the shots of the EBC trek taken with the DP3 into one post, so you don’t need to look at that horrible Sony thing 🙂

With a weight limit of 15kg, and the Sony already in the bag, I had to choose from one of my three Sigmas as the second camera. The Merrill DP3 was the obvious choice given its focal length, but more than that I’ve always been blown away by the DP3’s resolution and sharpness, and of course that Foveon look.

All shots were taken at ISO100 as it the Foveon way, all were handheld.

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Everest Base Camp, A Photo Diary – Descent

The final post of the diary covers our descent from Kalapatthar back down to Lukla, and from there to Kathmandu.

Wednesday 16th November, PM : Kalapatthar (5,545m)  to Perchiche (4,280m)

No photos.

Thursday 17th November,  Perchiche to Tashinga (3,450m)

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Thamserku, Nepal | Sony Rx1rII
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Ama Dablam, Nepal | Sony RX1rII

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Friday 18th November: Tashinga to Monjo (2,850m)

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Mountain Sunrise, Nepal | Sont RX1rII
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Mountain Sunrise, Nepal | Sigma DP3 Merrill
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Looking back to Everest, Lhoste & Ama Dablam, Nepal | Sony RX1rII
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Saturday Market At Namche Bazaar, Nepal | Sony RX1rII
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High & Low Bridges Over Dudh Koshi, Nepal | Sony RX1rII

 

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River Crossing, Nepal | Sony RX1rII

Saturday 19th November:  Monjo to Lukla (2,804m)

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Himalaya foothills | Sigma DP3 Merrill
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Old Bridge, Nepal | Sony RX1rII
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Starfield, Nepal | Sony RX1rII

Sunday 20th November: Lukla to Kathmandu

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Foothills, Nepal | Sigma DP3 Merrill

Diary Notes

Wednesday 16th November, PM : Kalapatthar (5,545m)  to Perchiche (4,280m)

Day twelve (pm). Descending Kalapatther I start to lag behind, then a sudden energy surge and I descend quickly – almost running – to catch the rear of the group, then I totally blow up! I struggle in last to Gorak Shep for lunch. I feel completely shot with a five hour decent to Perchiche ahead. As we set off Charlie asks if I’m ok and our guide, Dunbar, takes one look and immediately takes my pack.  Despite the help I can’t keep up the pace and drop back with Dunbar as the others go ahead.  At the mid-point rest I, under instruction, continue down, but am soon caught, passed and again drop behind. Dunbar, concerned that I will delay the group reaching Perchiche before dark, finds a porter who agrees to take the group down. I’m relieved that I’ll no longer hold them up. We follow, with Dunbar constantly urging and encouraging me to walk faster. I try but immediately blow up and have to stop; if he’d had a rope he’d have tied it round me and pulled me along. Round a bend and the smoke that marks Perchiche comes into view. My heart sinks, it seems incredibly distant, the sun has long disappeared behind the mountains and its getting cold. We arrive in total darkness and I head straight to the bedroom and sit on the bed. Dunbar brings tea and a hot water bottle to warm me up. I sit there in a trancelike state, in my full outdoor gear, without the will or the energy to drink the tea or to climb into bed. Eventually I force myself. Today is my nadir.

Extract for Sarah’s daily blog.

“The afternoon we knew would be hard as it would involve a further five hours of walking to get down to Pheriche. What made it harder still is that one of the group [me] started suffering from altitude sickness at the top of Kala Patthar and so was walking very slowly and we were worried for him. It was another reminder of how hard life is here. There was no real option but for him to keep walking to get lower. Our guide suggested that the remaining five of us navigated ourselves down to avoid walking in the dark! So we did! The thought of having to come down the steep rocky slopes in the dark made me much braver and I came down them very quickly!”

Thursday 17th November, Perchiche (4,280m) to Tashinga (3,450m)

Day thirteen. In the morning, with the drop in altitude, I feel much better and eat some cornflakes. Though I have to walk like John Wayne due to chapped thighs I have no problem keeping up with the group. At lunch at Thyangboche I eat again. Back below the tree line, and with some food inside, if feels like someone flicked a switch and I’m suddenly myself again, rather than the pathetic sod of the previous few days. I even take some photos!

Extract for Sarah’s daily blog.

“We met up again with our Australian couple, the husband of which had suffered from severe altitude sickness. He looked so much better and it was lovely to see them. He had been seen by a local doctor who had said that he was, at that point, a 10 out of 12 on the severe altitude sickness grading. A ’12’ is an unconscious state and the doctor said that at that stage, some people do not make it. It was such a shock to hear that. We have seen so many people suffering from various illnesses that it brings it home just how hard the environment is here. I am inawe of those that go further up the mountains and what they must go through to achieve their ambitions”

Friday 18th November: Tashinga to Monjo (2,850m)

Day fourteen. Despite my chapped legs and other unmentionables a favourite day of the trip, starting with a wonderful sunrise over the mountains. At Namche, after a superb lunch of spring rolls, (all food now tastes delicious) we’ve an hour to ourselves and I head straight to (what looks like) a chemist to buy medicine and soothing cream; relief at last! We re-cross the suspension bridge over Dudh Koshi and when we rest by the river I balance the camera on my rucksack and take some long exposures shots. 

Saturday 19th November:  Monjo to Lukla (2,804m)

Day fifteen. It’s like the day after a bad hangover. I feel fantastic and full of beans and nothing hurts! I put the walking poles away so I can more easily use the camera and snap away, focusing on the everyday textures and sights of the trail, rather than the mountains, and I’m in my element. Some of us take a side trail instead of the main path. The scenery is magical and for excitement we get to cross a dilapidated bridge one at a time. The full group meets up further down the valley for lunch before the final push to Lukla. In the evening we distribute tips to the guides and Yak man along with giving away surplus equipment. This is the last we see of our two assistant guides who’ve looked after us so well. After dinner I take the camera out for one last chance to photograph the stars in the clear Himalaya air.

Sunday 20th November: Lukla to Kathmandu

Day sixteen. Up early, breakfast, and soon make the 50 yard trek across to Lukla airport. I watch the planes start to come in and fly out, no dramas. After an hour or so we get the call and head for the plane. The pilot guns the engines and we set off down the slope, rising into the air 20 yards before the end of the runway and the vertical drop to the valley floor. Another perfect flying day and I snap the foothills through the airplane window. An hour later and we’re driving through the craziness of Kathmandu to the hotel, a complete contrast to what’s gone before, trek done.

Everest Base Camp, A Photo Diary – Everest

Part 4 of the diary focusses on the final upward trek to Base Camp and to our ultimate high point of Kalapatther, at 5,545m.

Tuesday 15th November: Lobouche to Everest Base Camp (5,300m) then Gorak Shep (5,165m)

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Nuptse, Nepal | Sony RX1rII
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The Way to Base Camp, Nepal | Sony RXrII
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Nuptse, Nepal | Sony RX1rII
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Avalanche, Nuptse | Sony RX1rII
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Glimpse of Everest, Nepal | Sony RX1rII
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Khumbu Glacier, Nepal  | Sony RX1rII
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Nuptse, Nepal | Sony Rx1rII

Wednesday 16th November: Kalapatthar (5,545m) then down to Perchiche (4,280m)

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Everest & Nuptse, Nepal | Sony RX1rII
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Everest, Nepal | Sigma DP3 Merrill
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Everest & Nuptse | Sony RX1rII
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Everest, Nuptse pano with Ana Damblam (right) from Kalapatthar, Nepal | Sony RX1rII Stitched

Diary Notes – Days 12 & 13

Tuesday 15th November: Lobouche to Everest Base Camp (5,300m) then Gorak Shep (5,165m)

Day eleven. I’ve no enthusiasm to take notes and have little recollection of the walk to Base Camp. I’d thoughts of wondering around the camp and down to the Khumbu Ice Fall, taking creative, cool photos, but physically and mentally I’m gone, and in this truly incredible place I can only take a few shots of the incredible scenery. Though I look surprisingly ok on the photos I can’t honestly recall the walk back to Gorak Shep, other than being last back, or anything about the evening. Everyone is feeling the altitude, but most are faring better!

Extract for Sarah’s daily blog.

“We tried to eat something but no-one felt like much so we set off for the next three hours which would take us to Base Camp. Our group had reduced to six. The Australian couple [John and Debora] had decided not to come at all today due to severe altitude sickness and so were heading down to a lower altitude today. One of the Yorkshire men [John] was so exhausted having got to Gorak Shep that he stayed there. It was a reminder of just how hard this is and sad that we all couldn’t achieve what we had set out to do”.

Wednesday 16th November: Kalapatthar (5,545m) then down to Perchiche (4,280m)

Day twelve (am). It’s -15c as we leave the teahouse at Gorak Shep. We cross the flat ground to the base of Kalapatthar and I strain my eyes to look for the summit. For the first time I seriously worry that I won’t have either the will or the energy to make it to the top. Each step of the climb is effort, every false peak a personal crisis, I can’t keep up with the (slow) pace and fall off the back of the group. An hour in and I decide it’s enough. Up ahead the group pause for breath. I reach them and ask Dunbar if we return down the same path (my plan is to stop and wait for the group to return). He answers yes but before I decide what to do the group press on. I have no choice but to follow. I reach the summit, the last of our group. I’m exhausted and find a place to sit. What a view! The magnificent vista of the Everest Massif, down the Khumbu Glacier, to Ama Dablam and beyond. I manage to take a series of shots to create a panoramic image and eventually summon the energy to clamber around. The word awesome is so often misused. This place truly is awesome. We take photos (I try to smile but it looks like a grimace) to prove our accomplishment then it’s time to head back down. Am I glad I didn’t stop, give up, turn back, absolutely, I may be spent but I made it to this unique and incredible place!

Shooting Notes

No insights or interesting takes, It’s just compose and shoot, trying to avoid people spoiling the view. 

Everest Base Camp, A Photo Diary – Higher Ground

Part 3 of the Photo Diary covers days 9-11 as we leave the trees behind and climb above 4,000m, visit Ama Dablam Base Camp, reach the Khumbu Glacier, and trek to Lobouche, at 4,931m our jumping off for Everest Base Camp.

Saturday 12th November: Ama Dablam Base Camp (4,576m)

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Kwangde Re, Nepal | Sony RX1rII
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Everest (just) & Lhotse, Nepal | Sony RX1rII
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Ama Dablam, Nepal | Sony RX1rII
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Ama Dablam Base Camp | Sony RX1rII
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Ama Dablam Base Camp, Nepal | Sony RX1rII
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Ama Dablam Base Camp, Nepal | Sony RX1rII
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Ama Dablam Base Camp, Nepal | Sony RX1rII
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Ama Dablam, Nepal | Sigma DP3 Merrill

Sunday 13th November: Pangbouche to Dingboche (4,360m)

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Everest Massif & Lhotse, Nepal | Sony RX1rII
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Tawoche & Arakamtse Peaks (left), Awi Peak (Right), Nepal | Sony RX1rII Stitched
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Dingboche, Nepal | Sony RX1rII
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Prayer Flags, Nepal | Sony RX1rII
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Making Tea overlooked by Ama Dablam, Dingboche, Nepal | Sony RXrII

Monday 14th November: Dingboche to Lobouche (4,931m)

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Tawoche & Arakamtse Peaks, Nepal | Sony RX1rII Panoramic Mode
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Frozen Yak Pasture below Arakamtse Peak, Nepal | Sony RX1rII
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Arakamtse Peak with just a glimpse of Cholaste Tso, Nepal | Sony RX1rII
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Looking back, Ama Dablam (left) & Thamserku (right) Nepal | Sony RX1rII
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Khumbu Glacier Terminal Moraine, Everest Climber Memorials, Nepal | Sony RX1rII
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Khumbu Glacier overlooked by Nuptse, Nepal | Sony RX1rII

Diary Notes – Days 9 to 11

Saturday 12th November: Ama Dablam Base Camp (4,576m)

Day eight. A 6am start after no sleep, steep climb up to Ama Dablam Base Camp to push way past 4000m and for the first time leave the trees behind! Superb views of Lhotse and Everest though Everest is partially hidden. Arriving at Base Camp Dunbar spots climbers high up near the summit of Ama Dablam through binoculars. We all take turns but I can’t make them out. It’s my first day without a headache after Deborah, one of our party and a physiotherapist by training, prods at the back of my neck for literally 2 minutes. Unbelievable and I’m forever thankful. Return to Pangbouche at 3:30pm but again can’t get warm. Sit by the fire for 30 minutes, then shower, before back to the Observation Room (and warmth) before tea. Can’t eat.

Sunday 13th November: Pangbouche to Dingboche (4,360m)

Day nine. Made no diary notes, and very little recollection of the day, which indicates my state of mind. What I do recall is barren, but spectacular landscape, immense high mountains over the valley on our left, walking through boulder fields and yak grazing pastures, and it’s stunning. Unfortunately the camera is used less and less because the lack of sleep, food and cold, are having an impact. When we get to Dingboche I must feel ok as I take the camera out for a wander to see if there are any interesting shots to take. Evenings, nights and mornings, are now fading into one, as typically all I do is head for my bed and a hot water bottle. Ask me anything about the teahouse in Dingboche and I’d struggle to answer.

Monday 14th November: Dingboche to Lobouche (4,931m)

Day ten. An early and at this height very cold start. I walk in a daze. Thirty minutes in I see Rob sink to the ground; the cold has got to him! Dunbar feeds him hot water (we all carry hot water in our bottles now, cold water would freeze). Fifteen minutes later Rob is well enough to continue, though to his disgruntlement Dumbar (rightly) takes his rucksack. Yorkshire pride maybe bruised but in this place pride really does come before a fall In the early afternoon we reach the moraine of the Khumbu Glacier. It’s hard going and each step takes real effort, but I feel like we’ve reached a milestone; the glacier means that Everest, though still hidden, is close! At the top of the moraine we pass the memorials of mountaineers who have lost their lives on Everest; a place of real contemplation. After lunch we have the choice of staying at the teahouse or walking to a viewpoint overlooking the Khumbu Glacier. Four of the party opt to remain. I, despite being spent, out of sheer stubbornness* choose to go; a mistake. On returning I’m asked if it was worth it. My immediate and unequivocal answer is NO (though I’m in a minority of one), not because the view wasn’t stunning but because my batteries are totally depleted and I missed the opportunity to rest and recuperate. I’m not alone, John, the doctor in our party, is suffering from a chest infection and from the altitude, is in a bad way, and can go no further. Tomorrow he and Debora will head for lower ground after making it all this way.

* During the many miles of training for the trip, it was the thought of being fit enough to do the optional excursions that drove me on!

Shooting Notes

It was all point and click with the Sony, with the Sigma making a solitary appearance for a close up of Ama Dablam. I didn’t have the energy or enthusiasm for anything else!

Everest Base Camp, A Photo Diary – The Journey Continues

Part 2 of the photo diary of the Everest Base Camp, covering days 4-8 of the trek as we spend our time acclimatising below 4,000m.

Tuesday 8th November: Namche Bazaar to Mende (3,700m)

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Namche Bazaar, Nepal | Sony RX1rII
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Kwangde Ri, Nepal | Sony RX1rII
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Mani Wall, Nepal | Sony RX1rII

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Thamu, Nepal | Sony RX1rII
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Mende, Nepal | Sony RX1RII
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Mende, Nepal | Sigma DP3 Merrill
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Mende after Dark, Nepal | Sony RX1rII

Wednesday 9th November:  Mende to Thame (3,801m) and back

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Mountain River, Nepal | Sony RX1rII Stitched
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Trail to Thame, Nepal | Sony RX1rII
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Thame, Nepal | Sony RX1rII
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Thame, Nepal | Sony RX1rII

Thursday 10th November: Mende to Tashinga (3,450m)

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Lhotse (centre) and Ama Dablam (right), Nepal | Sony RX1rII
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Lhotse & Ama Dablam, Nepal | Sony RX1rII
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Ama Dablam, Nepal | Sony RX1rII
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Last Rays, Tashinga, Nepal | Sony RX1rII
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Mountain Sunset, Tashinga, Nepal | Sigma DP3 Merrill

Friday 11th November: Tashinga to Pangbouche (3,863m), via Thyangboche

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Kwangde Ri, Nepal | Sony RX1rII

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Thyangboche Monastery, Nepal | Sony RX1rII
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Thjangboche Monastery, Nepal | Sony RX1rII
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Khumbila, Thyangboche, Nepal | Sony RX1rII
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Mani Stone with Kumbila as the backdrop | Sony RX1rII
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Ama Dablam, Nepal | Sony RX1rII
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Ama Dablam, Nepal | Sony RX1rII

Diary Notes – Days 4 to 8

Tuesday 8th November: Namche Bazaar to Mende (3,700m)

Day four. A favourite day as we walk through forest. I hang back from the group and despite being shadowed by the two assistant guides feel like I have the trail to myself. As we arrive in Mende the mountains are beautifully framed and lit. After dark I take the tripod out to shoot the stars. The moon is too bright to see the Milky Way, but there are thousands of stars peppering the sky. It’s cold, but what the heck. Physically I feel fine accept for that nagging headache. Dunbar doesn’t think the headache is altitude related, which is a relief, but the height is getting to me in other ways as I start to lose my appetite.

Wednesday 9th November: Mende to Thame (3,801m) and back

Day five. An acclimatisation day and a chance to become accustomed to the altitude before pushing past 4000m. The landscape becomes more barren as we climb to Thame, nearing the tree line, but the scenery remains stunning with Lhoste and Ama Dablam as the backdrop. We return to Mende as the sun is casting its last rays and I stay outside to capture the sunset. In retrospect staying out in the cold too long.

Thursday 10th November: Mende to Tashinga (3,450m)

Day six. No diary notes but from recollection and the photos. The scenery is wonderful and I capture a couple of my favourite images from the trip, but the six days of constant headache is gnawing away at my enjoyment and preventing me sleep at nights, I’ve developed a chest infection and altitude cough, and I can no longer eat*. Those things aside I’m physically fine with neither aching limbs nor sore feet! I decline the chance to pay 250 rupees (£2.50) to see the skull of a Yeti though I refuse to accept that they don’t exist!

* It’s difficult to describe the loss of appetite. It’s not just a lack of hunger, it’s that I can’t physically face the food, let lone eat it. I cut small slices in toast in two, then four, before I can stomach a small bite, and even that is tough to chew and impossible to swallow.

Friday 11th November: Tashinga to Pangbouche (3,863m), via Thyangboche

Day seven. Headache and chest infection makes this a fairly miserable day and I’m running low on painkillers. The camera stays largely unused. On arrival I can’t get warm so go straight to bed. It doesn’t help. Eventually I get up, find the gas stove in the Observation Room, watch the staff struggle to light it, and then try and warm up. Other members of the group arrive. They express worry, say I need to eat more and talk about the number of calories needed. If only it were that simple! It’s halfway through dinner before I feel something like. My appetite is totally gone now, it’s a push to eat a bean. No food, no fuel, it doesn’t bode well, and the cough and chest infection make it difficult to talk. I wake at 12 midnight and count the hours. No more sleep. Tomorrow will be fun!

Shooting Notes

Shooting stars in the cold, dark, Nepalese, night took preparation. The camera was set up – ISO, manual focus, shooting mode, live view, etc. – and attached to the tripod inside before heading out in down jacket, gloves and hat. It was difficult to focus on the stars, so the trick was to find another subject to focus on at “infinity” and lock this in. To change camera settings in the dark a torch with red beam proved invaluable. As for exposure it was just guess work. Unfortunately the moon was bright and robbed us of the chance to see and photograph the Milky Way, so the main tip I can give is to go to Nepal and the right time of the month!

Everest Base Camp, A Photo Diary – First Days

It’s a nearly two weeks since I landed in a cold, rainy Manchester, after three weeks trekking in Nepal, and it’s taken that time to get some photos and notes of the trip in order. The original intention was to set a limit of one photo per day and one post, but it proved too difficult and too limiting and so I threw that idea under a passing oliphant and instead decided to do the complete opposite and provide a comprehensive photo diary, complete with brief diary and shooting notes at the end. I’m sure there are many, many, EBC trekking posts that are more informative and better written, but hopefully the pictures go someway to redress the balance.  More posts to follow over the coming days.

Day 1: Katmandu to Lukla, then onto Monjo (2,850m)

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Another Safe Landing, Lukla Airport | Sony RX1rII
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Kusum Kanguru SW Face | Sony RX1rII
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Kusum Kanguru | Sont RX1rII
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Mani Stones overlooked by Nupla | Sony RX1rII
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Nupla | Sigma DP3 Merrill

Day 2: Monjo Acclimatisation Day

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Looking Up Monjo High Street, Nepal | Sony RX1rII
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Looking down Monjo High Street, Nepal | Sony RX1rII
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Tomorrow’s Journey Toward Namche Bazaar & Beyond | Sigma DP3 Merrill Stitched
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Monjo des. res. Overlooked by Sacred Khumbila | Sony RX1rII
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Khumbila & the Road Ahead | Sony RX1rII
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Khumbila | Sigma DP3 Merrill
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Mountain Stream Study 1, Monjo, Nepal | Sony RX1rII
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Mountain Stream Study 2, Monjo, Nepal | Sony RX1rII
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Prayer Flags, Mountain Stream Study 3, Monjo, Nepal | Sony RX1rII

Day 3: Monjo to Namche Bazaar (3,445m)

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High & Low Bridges crossing Dudh Koshi | Sony RX1rII
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High & Low Bridges Crossing Dudh Koshi | Sony RX1rII
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Everest First Sight | Sigma DP3 Merrill
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Namche Bazaar | Sony RX1rII
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Thamserku | Sony RX1rII
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Namche Bazaar | Sony RX1rII
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Namche Bazaar | Sony RX1rII
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Namche Bazaar | Sony RX1rII
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Namche Bazaar | Sont RX1rII
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Namche Bazaar overlooked by Thamserku | Sony RX1rII

Diary Notes – Days 1 to 3

Saturday 5th November: Katmandu to Lukla, then onto Monjo (2,850m)

Day one. The alarm goes off early! There’s no lie in, and after the long flight from Manchester via Abu Dhabi I could really use one. Overdressed and overheated (an attempt to make the luggage weight of 15kg) we’re expertly guided through the chaos of Kathmandu airport check-in by our guide, Dumbar, and now sit in a mini-bus on the tarmac watching, our Twin Otter plane being checked, fuelled and loaded, with bright, red, Mountain Kingdom kit bags. The Twin Otter will take us to Lukla, 2,800m up into the Himalaya, and the start of our trek. The sky is blue, the weather calm, a perfect flying day. If you want a tip sit on the left to see the spectacular white wall of mountain peaks. We fly into Lukla without a hint of danger. And what a flight! What an incredible introduction to Nepal’s high country! The World’s high country. After a relaxing cuppa, a sorting of kit bags and lengthening of walking poles, we plunge into the sights, sounds and smells of the Himalaya. I’m lost in a state of awe.

Sunday 6th November: Monjo – Acclimatisation Day

Day two. Acclimatisation does not mean rest! It means an early start and a slow but strenuous hike straight up, then down, a near vertical Yak trail to gain, then lose, 600m of altitude. After lunch the afternoon is more relaxed as we take in Monjo, get our first view of the sacred, unclimbed, mountain of Khumbila, and, from the National Park checkpoint, the trail ahead. In the late afternoon I take a camera and tripod down to the stream we crossed at the foot of the village and lose myself in the moment. It takes five minutes to walk down the trail to find the stream and twenty minutes to walk back up! Even at 2,800m the effect of the thinner air is very real.

Monday 7th November: Monjo to Namche Bazaar (3,445m)

Day three. More incredible scenery as we first follow the river, then climb up and over suspension bridges, heading toward the market town of Namche Bazaar. On the way we catch our first glimpse of our ultimate destination, Everest. In the afternoon, to gain more metres, we climb to the Sagarmatha National Park Visitor Centre. From there we have distant views of Everest and Lhotse but I find myself more enthralled by the mass of rock close by, Thamserku. In the evening I head out with the tripod to take street shots of Namche at night, and as I wander I stumble on a view of the town dominated by Thamserku behind. At 3,445m I’m starting to feel the altitude. I’ve yet to shake off the nagging headache I’ve had since I arrived in Nepal, and combined with my first bout of the craps I’m not feeling my best.

Shooting Notes

With a weight limit of 15kg I limited myself to two cameras, the Sony RX1rII and, for those shots that needed some extra reach, the Sigma DP3 Merrill, the latter of which I hope will also provide some unique Foveon images. Incredible really that with the former currently costing ten times more than the latter I’ve absolute faith in the Merrill. The Sony’s 35mm lens means it’s out most of the time, but in the bright conditions the Sigma is in its element. When walking there was no real chance to use the tripod, we didn’t stop in a place long enough, so the majority of shots are handheld unless stated. All Merrill shots are at ISO100.

Textures & Colours of Nepal

From the serenity of high mountain trails, to the shock and vibrancy of Katmandu, an assortment of textures and colours that instantly send me back to Nepal.

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Texture & Colours – Nepal

Shooting Notes

A complication of Sony RX1rII and Sigma DP3 Merrill shots, post processed in Lightroom.

A prize for whoever can guess which shots come from which camera 🙂

Himalayan Sunrise – Sigma DP3 Merrill

Trekking in the cold first light of day, deep in the valley’s shadow before the sun has chance to rise above the ring of mountain peaks. Thirty minutes later it makes its entrance!

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Himalayan Sunrise | Sigma DP3 Merrill

Shooting & Processing Notes

Shot using a Sigma DP3 Merrill, handheld @ ISO100,  f13, 1/320 second. Post processing Lightroom and Analog Efex Pro.

Everest Base Camp – Take Off

7:25pm GMT, Thursday 3rd November, 2016

old-manchester-airportThe time is 7:25 pm GMT. This blog has been published to just as the wheels of an Airbus 330-200 leave the tarmac at Manchester Airport, England. Onboard the aircraft are 262 passengers everyone of whom has survived the airport’s human processing machine and, apart from the odd pair of Tommy Hilfiger trousers, resisted the temptations of the brightly coloured, scandalously priced, duty free shops.

7:20pm GMT, Thursday 3rd November, 2016 + 15 hours
If you stumble on this blog in the 15 hours after its publication, the time it will take the Airbus to reach its destination, it’s highly likely that our 262 are sealed in an airtight, lightweight, aluminium tube, traveling at a speed of 630 mph, 41,100 ft above the Earth’s surface, separated from the stratosphere by the thickness of a rubber seal. flightsSuspended in mid-air by a perfect differential in air pressure between the shorter lower surface and longer upper surface of those sticky out things we call wings, and largely oblivious to the truly remarkable and unnatural situation they find themselves in, our 262 are likely to be feeling bored, restless, dehydrated and slightly grumpy; eating, sleeping, monitoring the engaged sign on the toilet, toying with their smart phones, and wondering when the stewardess will finally notice them. They will have already ignored the safety briefing and quickly exhausted the entertainment offered by the in-flight magazine. Though cacooned in their metal bubble, isolated from the rest of humanity, they’re not alone. Buzzing around the globe at this moment are perhaps 10,000 similarly shaped, sealed, metal tubes; perhaps 2 million fellow human beings in transit, waiting to set foot back on terra ferma.

But there’s one of our 2 million that’s not sleeping, or bored, or grumpy, but instead feeling exhilarated and slightly apprehensive. This is because the plane he’s on, that Airbus 330-200 from Manchester, is filled with enough fuel to reach Abu Dhabi and from there onto Katmandu, a distance of 4,603 miles. That person is about to realise the dream of a lifetime. That person is me. Travelling with me, tucked up somewhere safe in the darkness of the aircraft’s hold is my bright red Mountain Kingdom kitbag, filled with 15kg of everything I need for a 15 day trek to Everest Base Camp (and back) except for all the things I’ve forgotten or never thought to take. But 1kg per day feels like plenty, especially as most of it is flapjack and chocolate. Though looking calm and composed on the outside, inwardly I’ll be: (a) wincing at the money I’ve spent on kit – single handedly staving off the UK’s post Brexit recession: a new rucksack, trekking trousers, wiking base layers, socks, a head torch, running tights, trekking poles – the list goes ever on, (b) fretting over my levels of fitness (low) and levels of fatness (high) compared to my fellow trekkers, (c) checking and re-checking the symptoms of altitude sickness, or worrying about my propensity to suffer from the craps in foreign climes and the lack of toilet facilities on the trail, or (d) practicing the Nepalese for “thank you” knowing that with a brain the size of a goldfish I’ll have forgotten the words ten seconds after I mutter them. I will already be (e) missing Polly, and Sam and Harry, back home in good old Blighty, but above all I’ll be (f) highly excited for what me is the adventure ahead, to visit the people of Nepal, and to see the World’s highest mountain.

7:20pm GMT, Thursday 3rd November, 2016 + 30 hours

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If you’re reading this blogpost 30 hours after publication, if the weather is kind in the Kingdom of Nepal there’s a good chance that at at this very second 15 human beings, and their 275kg of kit, are squashed into a Twin Otter aircraft as it makes its one and only attempt to land on an airstrip perched on the ridge of a mountain 9,383 ft tall. Ahead a plane has only just touched down and behind there’s another on our tail; given its remote location this is a busy place! In good weather, at the height of the season, 60 flights per day touch down each one packed with trekkers and climbers decked out in the latest in outdoor active ware by fashion labels such as: North Face, Berghaus, Montane, Mountain Equipment and Mammut. It my not be London, Paris, New York or Munich, but we’re all looking pretty good in our cool gear and wrap around sunglasses.

Lukla, reputedly the most dangerous airport in the world, the aircraft, operated by reputedly the most dangerous air operators in the world, but flying in removes five days of trekking; five days those fifteen people can’t spare from their busy (mostly) western lives so they take the risk. There are no hire cars at Lukla, no taxis or curtesy buses, no first class lounge to sip cheap wine and scoff peanuts. There’s one way out and one way in and that’s on two feet, and so, having squeezed ourselves out of the Twin Otter and collected our kitbags, that’s what we do.

7:20pm GMT, Thursday 3rd November, 2016 + 13 days 

everest_base_campWind on to 13 days after publication, a small party of trekkers, tired, aching, and headachy, after 10 days of walking, reach a height of 5300 metres and make their way into Everest Base Camp. Barring avalanche, earthquake, injury and sickness, I hope and aim to be among them. Having reached our goal, the group won’t stay long. We’ll take a look around, take some photos, and head back down the hill. As I look around my thoughts will be of those for whom the trek is just the starting point, those folks for whom the real business begins here. Over 11 days we’ve climbed 2500 metres; to summit Everest there’s another 3,500 metres of serious climbing to go. Whatever your thoughts about organised climbing parties, and tourist climbers, you need to have balls to take on the pointy end of journey. My thoughts will also be of those for who the real business ended here, on this mountain. It’s a dangerous place!

6:40 am + 30 minutes GMT, Wednesday 23rd November

terminal-one-passenger-arrivals-gate-at-manchester-airport-uk-e7c9kdA slightly dishevelled person heads out of customs and into the arrival hall at Manchester Airport, a stone lighter, more tanned and slightly fitter than when he last was here, adventure completed. Around him the good folk of Manchester will be absolutely indifferent to this one arrivee  (they have their hopes, dreams, worries and stories to tell) accept perhaps one. That one will be be Polly, my fiancé and partner for the last 5 and bit years. I’ll have missed her massively in the days I’ve been away, and when I’m back it will be time to begin another adventure together; to find our perfect home somewhere in a village (with pub) in the Yorkshire countryside, where we can chill and walk, find true contentment, and plan our next trek together.

Richard

Mount Everest Base Camp Trek – Prologue

In just over a week, I board a plane from Manchester to Nepal to realise the dream of seeing Everest.mount-everest-1

I can’t recall when it started, this fascination with Everest. Perhaps it’s memories of Chris Bonnington led expeditions in the 70’s, when news reports on Everest were characterised by adventure, courage and national pride, rather than commercialisation and death statistics. Perhaps it’s childhood conversations with my two uncles, both climbers, both of whom must have been inspired by that golden age of climbing. Whatever the reason it was buried deep in my psyche, a constant background presence, a subconscious interest occasionally brought to the surface by a news report, or a television documentary, or a browse in the travel section of a book shop.

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Around ten summers ago it once again surfaced, but this time it didn’t want to go away; a real desire to walk in the Himalaya and see Everest with my own eyes, rather than through a documentary film makers camera, the urge to go while I still had the legs.

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Every year since I promised myself I’d make the journey,  every year there was a compelling reason that blocked my way, until this year, my 50th year, when I finally ran out of excuses and literally shaking with excitement phoned to book the trip.

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So tonight I find myself packing flat pack toilet paper and a small trowel in case I get caught short on the trail, a few days away from setting foot on a place higher than I’ve ever been before, and then slowly by surely as my body acclimatises, heading in the direction of up, to finally discover this epic mass of rock, the highest point on Earth, this place of legends, for myself. All the time remembering that what’s a real adventure for me has been trodden by many thousands of feet before, and is simply the starting point for those who actually go on to attempt the mountain itself.

Of course I’ll be taking a couple of cameras with me to record the trip. The Sony RX1rII, so light and small, you hardly know you’re carrying it, and yet produces images of amazing resolution and quality, and the Sigma DP3 Merrill, which I fully expect to reproduce in epic detail the majesty of the mountains in a way that only a Foveon camera can. I’ve wrestled with buying some sort of travel zoom, but in the end decided to stick with what I have, and what I trust to do the job.

So that’s in for now. With the toilet paper and trowel packed I need to check over the camera gear, order a few last items for the trip, and then head to bed, perchance to dream of the Mountain.

Footnote

When proof reading this blog post I found the section below, written by Polly while I slept. She’s a real talent for words and tbh it’s the best bit of the blog!

The sheer magnitude of my achievement will make my bowels turn to liquid and spew and spray from my tight black boxers, but i won’t care because i know Polly is proud of me, and I will be careful and come home safely. I will leave my crusty underwear on the wind swept slopes as a gift to the gods, should I ever wander this way again I may see wisps of cotton  ( black with brown splatters ) caught in the thorny bushes of Nepal.