Christmas and New Year was certainly a different one for 2013! My cousin was working for VSO in a remote part of Nepal and was coming to the end of his time there. This prompted the decision to make the most of his local knowledge and set out on an adventure into the Himalayas.
I have been very lucky with my work, which has taken me to many places around the world, but I had not really been into altitude before. We landed into the chaotic Kathmandu before taking on the fantastically dangerous roads towards Pokhara and onto where the tarmac roads ran out, and Jim’s base of Beni.
It takes a long time to get anywhere here, so the first trek beckoned and we took a jeep on the unbelievably, fantastically dangerous roads up to Jomsom in the Annapurna Conservation Area. This is where our first trek began, 5 days around to Kagbeni, up to Muktinath, and back to Jomsom.
The scenery is just mind blowing, where every direction you turn is photogenic. Above 2500 to 3000 meters, the altitude is not too bad; carrying all your stuff plus camera kit is ok, the only trouble is that we needed to get to the next place in good time, so stopping every 5 minuets to capture the next image slows it down somewhat.
Surrounded by the highest mountains in the world, its difficult to get the idea in an image just how big the Himalayas are! The views are massive, with dramatic snow capped peaks all around!!
From Kagbeni up to Muktinath is where it started getting tougher, as we were approaching the 4000m mark. You notice the altitude so much more, and taking the tripod out, putting the camera on, setting up the composition and settings got harder and harder, but the scenery got more and more breathtaking (literally).
We were staying at Muktinath for two nights, which gave us a chance to leave our packs for a full day, just see how high we could get, with no pressure of making the next place. We took the Path up the Thorung La Pass past beautiful temples, over crazy wire bridges; mountainsides decorated with colorful prayer flags and vultures circling above. Dhaulagiri the 7th highest mountain in the world at 8,176m in clear view was just spectacular!!!
The walking and especially photography got tough, we would take ten steps, have a little breath and ten more steps. We got to about 4,300 meters and decided this was a good place to make our way back down. (Since it was the highest point of our trek, it was a good time to propose to my partner, which thankfully she said yes, as it would have been a long way down, had she said no!!)
The next two days took us back down to Jomsom and eventually back to Beni for Christmas Day. My cousin Jim was working with some of the rural schools, so over Christmas we went visiting the kids, which was amazing. Very basic schools, and ever smiling kids, who go crazy for their picture to be taken and then to see themselves on the back of the screen!!!
After Christmas, trek number two took us up to Poon Hill, which is famous for its Sunrise view of several of the highest peaks, including Dhaulagiri plus the Annapurna’s 1 and 2. The only tricky thing is the 5am wake up and hike up to the 3210m high viewpoint in the dark, at rather chilly temperatures!! But my goodness is it worth it. Photography, again is very difficult, getting set up, your fingers freeze changing the settings, a few test shots and very long exposures before the sun slowly pops up over the horizon. The sky over the peaks pinks up nicely and contrasts fantastically well with the snowy peaks. Trying to move around to keep your toes and fingers from freezing off, whist not moving the camera, and the effects of altitude, all before breakfast, is a sensation I will never forget.
This was our last trek before heading back to Pokhara for New Years party and finally Kathmandu.
What a place for photography, what an amazing country to travel through. We saw some utterly amazing sites, met some fantastic people, survived treacherous roads, the list goes on, but I would love to go back and continue the adventure!
If you would like to see more of my images, take a look here https://www.flickr.com/photos/samoakes/sets/72157641162176415/