into the Khumbu region


Chronicles of the trip in motion picture.

I have to say I’m more than pleased with this video. Though there are definitely other areas which I could improve on.

One thing which stood out as I lug my GF1, lenses and gorillapod across the Khumbu region was this: the demands of videography and photography are very different and distinct. It was next to impossible for me to focus both on shots I needed for my photos and video. Both equally challenging. Ultimately, I gave photography more attention most of the time.

This also marked my first effort in making time-lapses (though only one clip of that went into the final video). The technical aspect of time-lapses apart, I realised that you needed at least 2 days at a single location for a successful capture of the scenery, more so when you are capturing sunsets or sunrises.

Though the peaks lay out in full view, you needed knowledge which peaks will be illuminated first. Without which, you’re essentially taking a gamble. Not to mention that clouds are perhaps the biggest threat to a cleanly shot series of photos.

Had great fun making this.




A Preview.

The trek and climb is all but done and safely crafted into memories. What’s left are the final efforts in documenting this journey. More to come.

Beginning Now.

Island Peak at 6189m. Hoping to summit this around May 22nd. (Photo by Alexandre Buisse)

I’m now all set and ready for the journey to really begin. The 2 days spent in Kathmandu has been been nothing short of fantastic to witness Nepal firsthand. Weaving traffic, blaring horns, misplaced cows are just some of the things integrated into the daily nepalese life. Much like India I suppose but still nonetheless very captivating.

Thamel, which I’m currently staying at, is like the Orchard Road of Singapore. Packed stores line both sides of the road with all items imaginable on display. Not to mention rampant piracy. Every jacket is detailed with The North Face, Mountain Hardwear, Columbia at just a fraction of the authentic price. The walking poles I bought comes at just 8 USD! And fingers crossed that it doesn’t give way else it would be embarrassing. And as I typed furiously at a dark corner of the lobby (blackouts in Kathmandu is common), I’m feeling satisfied having finished the ardous task of checking my equipment  and allocating them accordingly. Day pack or duffel? The latter will be borne by the porters that will be following us all the way. We call them monster struck!

I’ll sign off now and head to bed. The domestic flight to Lukla (2850m) is at 630am and the airport has the honour of holding the title Most Dangerous Airport In The World.  And if you could believe it, the landing strip isn’t horizontal and flat. And it lies in the valley of the mountains. Well, it has been mentioned before that if the pilot misses the landing spot, it can only head straight on with the mountain face. Great start, haha. Anyway,  I don’t expect myself to have access to internet for the next 3 weeks so wish me luck and till then (:

Weather outlook & others.

The Khumbu region’s still pretty cold and snowy at the moment. I’m crossing all fingers and toes that by the time we hit the mountains and do some serious climbing in mid-May, the weather’s doing all right and not hamper the final push for the Island Peak summit!

So exams are done and I’m just tying up some loose ends. I’ve already got my passport renewed and bought my insurance so all that’s left are logistical tasks and a last ditch effort to brush up my fitness. As per my habit for the last few weeks, I’ve been following teams on their ascent progress up Everest and reading the dispatches certainly brings about anticipation and admiration. Yes, I certainly wish I was in their shoes pushing the boundaries of physical limits (not to mention entering a privileged society where you can say you’re at the top of the world) but certain parts of the expedition shudders me. Just take a look at the following picture. All teams wishing to scale Everest on the south side needs to go through the Khumbu icefall. Just imagine blocks of ice in the size of buildings and houses! To get past this very treacherous route, they will walk across crevasses by ladders. This very picture shows one of such hurdles this year that is made up of 6 ladders!

Photo from Nat Geog Adventure Blog.

Quick Getaway.

Swiss Quality.

Cycling has Fabian Cancellara. Tennis has Roger Federer. And Mountaineering has Ueli Steck.

Famed for his climbing speed, he makes scaling an almost vertical mountain/rock wall seem a stroll in the park literally. Effortless and inspiring.

And now, the Swiss Machine has embarked on Project Himalaya for the 2011 climbing season (April-May). He’ll be attempting to scale 3 8000m peaks in one season – Shisapagma, Cho Oyu and Everest.

More on this out of the world expedition at himalaya speed web.

How It All Began.

Less than 3 weeks to go now. One month later on this day I should already be in Gokyo Valley, right in the heart of the Khumbu region and in the shadows of 8000m peaks.

This Khumbu trek doubles up as my graduation trip, a treat for accomplishing my formal education. And frankly, if you were to ask me in back in February what I was doing post graduation, I wouldn’t have an answer. True fact. But I knew that the plan was to take the road less travelled. I had a couple of ideas in fact. One of which was to be hired as a boat crew and embark on a voyage. It was actually inspired by an article in the Travel section of The New York Times. The standard practice was to have a license or sort in order to gain employment but there are a couple of boats in the world who actually hire amateurs. The catch though is that you have to pay the boat owner/skipper. Not unreasonable since you’re helping to cover the costs of fuel and nutrition on board. In fact there was just one such boat leaving Singapore in April. My only reservation is a “phobia” of being at sea for an extended period of time. Tidal waves and storms at sea just don’t sit well with my stomach.

Now, I can’t exactly remember the details but I was chatting with my friend Liyana who casually mentioned about the Annapurna Trek. And as I read further into it, I got hooked on to the idea. The Annapurna Trek or Annapurna Circuit (also in the Khumbu region) passes through 4 regions and goes past several mountains including the Annapurna peaks, hence the name. NY Times also covered on this trek, but from the angle that Men are ruining the beauty by laying a road that disrupt a part of the trek.

The wealth of information online highlighted more about trekking in Nepal and the different routes on offer. I was almost sold on doing the Annapurna circuit until I chanced upon a forum where there was a thread on “Annapurna Circuit vs Everest Base Camp (EBC)”

Since a kid, I’ve always been fascinated by nature and none as much as Mount Everest. To me, it is the epitome of human willpower and spirit. So having the word Everest in the trek itinerary definitely kept me glued to my computer screen. But on a more serious note, trekkers are usually divided between the two popular treks. I’ll just summarise the main difference in a two lines.

Annapurna Circuit is more of a cultural walk where you will be able to witness different scenery and livelihood. Everest Base Camp trek is more of mountains and snow.

And with that, EBC was my choice. However, the final itinerary I settled upon listed EBC as only one of the highlights. In actual fact, the EBC is nothing but a campsite that sits beside the khumbu glacier, where most deaths occured for Everest submitters. You will see tons of tents as team prepares for their ascent. Worst still, you don’t get a good view of the world’s tallest peak even at its base camp.

The trek I have chosen has also been called the Everest Circuit. As seen from the map I posted a couple of posts earlier, it basically circles the region. A guide I befriended on facebook mentioned that this route is quieter and offer more sights that just the standard EBC trek. In fact, NY Times again recently published an article on this very topic.

For most part of the trek, I would be staying in teahouses except for the 3-4 days in tents, when I’ll be trying to summit Island Peak/Imja Tse. Although not a technical climb, you’ll still need crampons, ice axes and ropes from a certain point. I will be receiving training on climbing ice walls the day we check into base camp of Island Peak. My fingers are crossed that weather will permit the ascent. Reports are coming in now that Khumbu is colder and snowier this year. April-May is the standard climbing season in the Everest region. Climbers can only reach the top of Everest during this period because for the whole year running, only these two months offer days where wind speed at 8000m + drop enough for people to survive the climb and return safely.

And that’s that. Why I’ve chosen the Gokyo Cho-La Pass EBC & Island Peak Trek.

View of the day – Imja Tse

Glacier icefall below the peak.

A team enjoying the view on the summit.

– Photos from mckaysavage.

Food for the soul.

Reading’s a big part of my travelling habits, more so when I’m often on the road alone. I tend to pick up books that will keep me entertained but also those that share similar themes to the area which I’m exploring.

When I was in Italy for approximately 20-odd days, I bought The Dark Heart of Italy, a historical narrative book that touched on major events in the country. It highlighted a slew of scandals and killings which fostered deep displeasure between the left and right wing. It also touched on the uniqueness of the Italian political landscape, where flaunt of wealth by politicians are often not frowned upon. A great example would be how Berlusconi, the media mogul, travelled around Italy in his private yacht to campaign for an election.

A pre-read for my cycling trip in Europe was Long Way Round. The content? Ewan Mcgregor and his best friend Charlie Boorman riding their BMW bikes from UK all the way to New York, burning their tires on the tarmac in the soviet states and overcoming unpaved roads. Not to mention incredible amount of bureaucracy and encountering friendly mafias with their AK-47s hung over their shoulders.

So far, I’ve shortlisted 2 books to bring. I think 3 would be an appropriate amount given that there will be a couple of non-trek days (acclimatization purposes) and alot of time off the roads (6-7 hours of trek on average a day).

Put off reading this book for a long enough time. Was tempted once to get it when I bought The Kite Runner. The man behind the vision of promoting peace through building of schools is actually a mountaineer.

This is a personal account of Jon Krakauer who was at Everest the time the 1996 disaster struck.  A rogue storm killed 8 climbers attempting to scale the 8848m peak.

Project Namaste.

One reason why I’m so looking forward to this trek (perhaps more so than to Madrid which began my exchange) is to do a video of the entire experience, on top of the standard shots. I’ve always been wanting to do a short film sort of, but never found the chance nor made time for it here in Singapore. Some things are just better described, translated through the motion medium.

Would also love to throw in some time lapse videos and so I’m looking to purchase an intervalometer these days.

A couple of inspiration below! Top notch stuff.

2 guys, out figuring out a new climbing route, filming and sending dispatches out there in the Everest Region As It Happens.

Video by Alexandre Buisse, whose crazy shots of the mountains I have previously introduced.