Tuesday, 29 March 2016

60th Anniversary of first ascent of Mt Kangchenjunga

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Geoff Harrow, Norman Hardie and Bill Beaven: (Image by Bob McKerrow)

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Ed Cotter with Norman Hardie (Image Sam Newton)
On Wednesday 6 May 2015 at the Cashmere Club, Christchurch, Norman Hardie spoke on the first ascent of the world’s 3rd highest peak, Mt Kangchenjunga.
The first ascent of Mt Kangchenjunga was made by two parties of two. The first pair were, George Band and Joe Brown (25 May) and the second pair Norman Hardie and Tony Streather (26 May 1955).
The full team also included John Clegg (team doctor), Charles Evans (team leader), John Angelo Jackson, Neil Mather, and Tom Mackinnon.
Norman also presented a colour slideshow, which was professionally filmed and will be provided online once available.
Many of New Zealand’s well know mountaineering personalities attended, with about 110 people in all.

A collection for the Himalayan Trust was also taken for the people of Nepal whose lives have been so badly affected during the recent major earthquake. A total of $1745 was raised for this worthy cause.
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Geoff Spearpoint, Limbo Thompson and David Ellis (Image by Bob McKerrow)
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Robin Judkins and Dave Bamford (Image by Bob McKerrow)
From NZAC website.

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Who is planning to climb Everest in 2016?

Nearly one year after the devastating earthquake and avalanche, the country is all set to host the world climbers in the spring season while the authorities and stakeholders have struggled hard to revive the country’s tourism sector which was worst hit by the multiple disasters.
Mount Everest. The high peak is in the top right-hand corner. Photo: Bob McKerrow
“Till date, 10 expeditions comprising 71 mountaineers have applied to the Department of Tourism seeking permits to attempt to climb Mt Everest as diversified mountaineers are expected to arrive in the country in the next couple of weeks,” DoT’s official Gyanendra Kumar Shrestha told THT.
As the government decided to extend the climbing permits of all 2015 spring expeditions by two years, 33 of them are reusing their old permits on Mt Everest. “The decision will certainly attract more climbers in the next couple of weeks,” Shrestha said.
Except Mt Everest, 31 climbers from seven teams have applied for permits as they plan to climb a few other peaks, including Mt Lhotse, Mt Nuptse and Mt Dhaulagiri. DoT has already issued two permits for Mt Annapurna and Mt Saribung.
The Lho La pass and the west ridge of Everest: Photo: Bob McKerrow
A five-member team of French climbers led by Girard Bertrand Arnaud will also be filming on Mt Nuptse in Khumbu region to produce a movie called ‘L’ Acsension’, according to Icefall Adventure.
“I’ll return in March-end to once again attempt Mt Lhotse, the world’s 4th highest in support of Nepal, Alzheimer’s Advocacy and Project 8,000,” Alan Arnette, climber cum adventure blogger informed.
According to Maj Ritesh Goel, a team of Indian Army will also be in Kathmandu by the end of this month to use the renewed climbing permits on Mt Everest and Mt Lhotse.
American climber Robert Kay wrote that he would be leaving again for Kathmandu next week for his third attempt on Everest. “All the training at the gym is finished, the gear is sorted out and now I am just trying to find a little time to pack my duffel bags.”
DoT’s record shows that International Mountain Guides through Beyul Adventure will be running three Everest expeditions with 36 climbers this season.
“DoT also expects that more expeditions will seek climbing permits in the coming days,” a high-level official said, hinting that individual climbers who abandoned their attempts in 2015 following the devastating earthquake would be given a chance to use their individual permit by even changing the expedition operating agency this season.
At least 44 local trekking companies ran 103 expeditions with 801 climbers on different mountains in the last spring but April earthquake forced all to abandon climbing activities.
Meanwhile, icefall doctors who have already begun work to repair the climbing route on Mount Everest, however, feared that the route would be more dangerous than in the last two seasons, according to Ang Dorjee Sherpa, chairperson of Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee.
“Icefall doctors have evaluated the increasing level of danger across the treacherous section of the icefall,” chair of the SPCC quoted the trained ice doctors as saying.
As in the past seasons, Global Rescue will have its operations personnel in place ready to support the climbing community, Ann Shannon, GR’s Public Relations Manager, said.

                       The summit of Mount DEverest: Photo: Bob McKerrow

Slovaks choose difficult route
KATHMANDU: Two climbers from Slovakia have decided to attempt to climb Mt Everest from the south-west face, which was used by South Korean climber Young Seok Park seven years ago.
“After 2009, Vladimír Štrba and Zoltán Pál from Slovakia are going to make the summit attempt using the dangerous south-west route this spring,” Ganesh Thakuri of Utmost Adventure Trekking said.
Most of the climbers often use south east face, the normal route, starting from Camp 2.
“South west face is not a normal route and the risky path has also been rarely used by Everest climbers,” DoT’s official Gyanendra Kumar Shrestha said.

Thanks to The Himalayan Times for permission to run excerpts of their article.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

If there’s a heaven, it’s just opened its first independent bookshop

I couldn't resist in posting this brilliantly written article by  aanchal malhotra

If you believe in an afterlife, you have to believe that these three pioneering booksellers have set up shop together.

Are you under the impression that families in the book trade talk mostly about books at the dinner table?
Let me tell you, as someone born into a bookseller’s family, that you’re right. We almost always end up talking shop.
Two years ago, Delhi’s beloved KD Singh of The Book Shop passed away. Last week, my own grandfather, Balraj Bahri, founder of Bahrisons Booksellers, also in Delhi, left us suddenly. And a few days ago, we learnt of the sad demise of Lucknow’s iconic bookseller, Ram Advani.
So, one night at dinner, as we discussed these three great men and the legacies they have left behind,my father jokingly said heaven must now be looking forward to opening its first independent bookshop under the tutelage of the pioneers of Indian bookselling.
Later, in a serendipitous search, I came across what author William Dalrymple wrote, in an articlein Mint, of KD Singh: “Such a good, kind, generous and gentle man and such an excellent shop – up there with Ram Advani (in Lucknow) and Bahris, as the best three in South Asia.”
This could be no coincidence; there was something intangible and indescribable that bound these three men together. It was not just the fact that they each owned an iconic bookshop, but that, for them, bookselling was no mere vocation; it was a kind of devotion. In each of these shops, the relationship between the bookseller and the reader was considered unequivocally sacred.
The bookish trio…
Kanwarjit Singh Dhingra, aka KD Singh, was born in 1941 in Amritsar and graduated from Hindu College in Delhi University. He married Nini in 1967 and together they opened The Bookshop in 1970. In a blog post about the couple and their beloved shop, Mayank Austen Soofi writes that when it first opened, Nini remembers her husband single-handedly arranging all the books. When he was done, the two of them waltzed between shelves that smelled of wood polish.
Balraj Bahri Malhotra was born in Malakwal (now in Pakistan) in 1928. He was a 19-year-old college student when the family was displaced due to the Partition and relocated to Delhi. It took him five years, a humble residence in Kingsway Camp, multiple odd jobs and the sale of his mother’s gold bangle to find his bearings and open Bahrisons Booksellers in Khan Market in 1953. He met his wife,Bhag, [also a refugee from the NWFP] at the Camp and they were married in 1955. Together, they ran the shop as partners. His wife, whom he lovingly called Madame-ji, fondly remembers him sitting with a notepad and a pen, noting down the reading tastes of his customers, when the shop first opened.
Ram Advani was born in Hyderabad, Sindh in 1920, arriving with his family in India right after Independence. He set up shop in 1948 at Gandhi Ashram, Lucknow, but in 1951, moved it to Mayfair. His inspiration to join the book trade can be attributed to his maternal grandfather and uncle, who owned bookshops in Lahore, Peshawar, Rawalpindi and Shimla. When Advani joined the family business before Partition, he was given control of the shop in Lahore called Rays Bookshop, which was later occupied, coincidentally, by another renowned bookseller, Ferozsons. In a documentaryfrom 2014, his late wife, Darshi, warmly remembers how the couple met for the first time in the bookshop and bonded over their mutual love for the written word.
… their new shop…
The next day, as I sat on the steps of Bahrisons, looking at the wooden shelves being lined with new arrivals, my mind flirted with the idea of the bookshop in heaven. As far as I knew, the three men had never been together in the same place, but if I were to dream up an impossibly lovely dream, then such a partnership could be made possible. So, in my version of paradise, there was talk of a new bookshop in town, run by three dashing gentlemen from another era altogether…
I imagine KD Singh, impeccably dressed, eyes shining with delight as he opens up boxes of new books. Gently and lovingly, he lines them on the shelves. He pauses time and again at an interesting title, an odd classic, a rare literary gem and smiles knowingly, making mental notes. His favourite shelf is a tasteful mélange of literary fiction, popular and obscure, and as customers walk by him, he charms them with his wit and gentle humour.
At the cash counter, I see my mathematically gifted grandfather with his majestic white moustache, newspaper in hand, notepad and pen faithfully by his side, one eye surveying the store. A customer lingers nearby and, finally, builds up the courage to ask the stern-looking bookseller about an obscure political title. As my grandfather looks up, his face breaks into a smile and he invites the customer to have a seat while he searches for the book. Not finding it, he promptly notes down the title and the name of the customer, promising to have it tomorrow.
And finally, in a well-lit corner of the shop, dressed in a crisp white kurta pajama, sits a classically bespectacled Ram Advani, the first to arrive each morning at 9 am. Around him is a gold mine – volumes on history, politics, current affairs and his specialty of Awadhi culture. Flipping through a hardback, he sips his tea from a pristine white cup. One can often see world scholars, making a day trip up to this literary paradise, flocking to Advani’s perch, wondering about what books they should read for their research.
… with its personal touch…
It is important to mention here that this is no mere bookstore, but, rather, a hub of literary cultivation. It is an idyllic personification of a reading culture where the role of the bookseller extends far beyond ordering titles; it is to know every single title in the selection, every like and dislike of customers. And it is this very quality of the proprietors that draws regulars to the premises daily.
Inevitably, other traditions have established themselves. Every afternoon, the shop shuts for an hour and the three men open their modest lunchboxes to share their meals. After lunch, they huddle together at a table by the back and look through their hisaab. They tally numbers, orders, stock and inventory, and look over the new releases and returns.
The one thing the bookshop in heaven does not have is a computer; everything is done the old fashioned way – pen on paper. At night, after the shop shuts, the partners convene for dinner, indulging in music and small pegs of whiskey and water. Sometimes, they talk of times gone by, of favourite books, sharing poems, ghazals and anecdotes about their children and grandchildren. But the one subject that brings a childlike delight to each of their faces is when they talk about their wives. After all, the backbone of the independent bookshop is a strong familial structure.
… that only a bookseller can provide…
In an interview with The Indian Express, Rachna Singh-Davidar says of her father KD Singh, “He knew the reading habits of his loyal customers and he believed that independent bookstores could thrive if they were focused, had knowledgeable booksellers, and an atmosphere that was conducive to browsing. In other words, a good bookstore needed to be a haven for those who loved good books.”
Advani had once said in an article in the Times of India that he could tell whether a person would be buying a book or not just by the way they read or smelt it. He further went on to say how money could not be equated with the happiness he derived from finding a specific book for a specific reader.
In the 2006 biography, Bahrisons: Chronicle of a Bookshop, Bahri is quoted as saying, “Books are like food. They satisfy your hunger for knowledge and the bookshop is like a good restaurant. The décor, the seating, the ambiance and the service are all important when we go out to dine but most important of all is the chef’s ability to maintain the quality of the food that you are served. This is what brings you back again and again. And so it is with books – display, presentation and service are essential but most important is a personal knowledge of each customer and the ability to provide the books that meet his needs.”
But opening a bookshop does not guarantee business. Arranging titles on a shelf does not guarantee sales; it does not even guarantee a browser. What guarantees the running of a successful bookshop is the bookseller himself. And that is the essence of the institutions set up by each of these three men. Despite the differences in their choices and interests, they embodied the belief that an independent bookseller is practically synonymous with his shop.
And though we live in a digital age, it is my firm belief that an algorithm-controlled online shop will never truly be a bookseller. It will never truly be able to infuse in the reader the love for a book they never knew existed. It will never be able to share a cup of tea or retrieve, from the farthest shelf, a dusty, underrated classic that its swears by. It will not look the other way if a child slips a comic book under his shirt and walks out the door because he can’t afford to buy it.
It will never engage in conversations with customers new and old, it will never share a laugh or an anecdote, or explain the reason a certain book changed its life. It will never exude the comforting smell of wood, or the warmth of printed paper, or the sound of pages rustling. It will never amount to the likes of a Singh, a Bahri or an Advani.
As I was sat with Nini Singh on a park bench across from The Bookshop one evening, we spoke of the void left behind after the death of a loved one. She said that after the demise of her husband, she was reluctant to come back to work, but it was the customers who kept asking for her each day that she was away.
Over the past few days, I have read innumerable notes, eulogies and articles from all over the world about Advani, each one offering the most moving of memories. After a week and a half of my grandfather’s death, my grandmother said – with such conviction that I thought she was the very incarnation of her late husband – that she would, at the age of 84, go back to work at the bookstore to do exactly what he used to do.
The only thing we can do now is to be grateful for the incredible institutions these three men left behind. I am proud to be the part of a legacy that includes not just my family, but also a countless number of readers, writers, publishers, distributors, salesmen, and staff who together make up the life of a bookshop.
Aanchal Malhotra belongs to the third generation of the Bahrisons Booksellers family. She has grown up surrounded by books and the written word.
We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in

Thursday, 10 March 2016

30 years ago, Steger and Schurke led historic dogsled trip to North Pole

It is so easy to recall the start of our expedition to the North Pole on March 8, 1986. Eight team members, one woman,  seven men, and 49 huskies.   Sam Cook published an article two days ago on 8 March, 30 years to the day after we left for the North Pole. Thank you Sam for such a good article, published below:

Ely polar explorer Will Steger says he has trouble reading “North to the Pole” these days. The book, co-authored by Steger and expedition co-leader Paul Schurke of Ely, was written after their team’s successful 55-day dogsled expedition to the top of the world in 1986.
Monday marks the 30th anniversary of the eight-member Steger International Polar Expedition team’s departure for the pole from northern Canada.
Reading the account of the trip is almost too painful for Steger, now 71.
“It was so difficult,” Steger said in a recent interview in Duluth. “It was moment-to-moment all the time. There was a specific time, about 30 days in, that I thought we weren’t going to make it. I actually thought I had made a mistake on the logistics.”
But after negotiating 40-foot-high pressure ridges of ice, leads of open water and temperatures that plunged as low as 70 below zero, six members of the original team reached the pole on May 1, 1986. Navigating entirely by sextant, the team became the first dogsled expedition confirmed to have reached the North Pole without outside support or resupply. National Geographic magazine chronicled the trip in a cover story later that year.

The expedition, conceived in a tent on one of Steger’s previous Arctic trips with team member Bob Mantell and based out of Schurke’s garage in Ely, captivated Minnesotans. The team built its sleds in the Ely Memorial High School shop. At fundraisers, Minnesotans bought “Zap to the Pole” buttons, named for one of Steger’s polar huskies. In those pre-Internet days, Minnesotans waited with anticipation for periodic media updates based on radio transmissions from the team.
When the team returned to St. Paul by charter aircraft after the expedition, four Twin Cities television stations ran half-hour special programs on its historic accomplishment.
Minnesotan Ralph Plaisted’s team had reached the pole by snowmobile in 1968. But no other expedition has captivated Minnesotans as Steger’s did, said team member Ann Bancroft of Scandia, Minn., the first woman to reach the North Pole.

“Timing is everything,” Steger said. “The pole was still new to exploration, and we took on this challenge that everyone said was impossible. It was real homespun, is what it was.”
The dogs were a big part of the appeal, Bancroft said. So, too, was the epic struggle of the team in the early days of the trip, with brutally cold weather and nearly insurmountable pressure ridges.

“We had all these turning points that could have turned the other way, and the thing would never have happened,” Steger said. “But we had this great magic that was with us. Minnesota caught the fire of that magic.”
Springboard to success
The expedition’s success launched the careers of several team members, including Steger, Schurke and Bancroft. Steger and an international team went on to complete a dogsled crossing of Antarctica in 1990. He traveled by dogsled across Greenland and made several other successful Arctic expeditions. In 2006, he founded Climate Generation: A Will Steger Legacy (formerly the Will Steger Foundation) to educate the public about climate change that he had witnessed in the Arctic and elsewhere. All of that was made possible by credibility he had established on the North Pole trek.
“It basically made my career,” Steger said.

Schurke, 60, and his wife, Sue, used the polar trip as inspiration to start their Wintergreen Dogsled Lodge and Wintergreen Northern Wear businesses in Ely in 1989, both of which are still operating. Schurke subsequently made five more trips to the North Pole with clients on shorter expeditions and has traveled widely in the Arctic.
“The North Pole trip defined my life and my livelihood,” Schurke said. “Tackling a monumental challenge was daunting and fearsome for us. But our success is now the quiet voice I hear, every time I face new challenges, that says, ‘Yeah, you can pull this off, too.’ ”
After becoming the first woman to reach the North Pole, Bancroft used her experience to complete several other major expeditions and to devote her life to empowering women. In 1993, she skied to the South Pole, and later skied across Antarctica, gaining her induction into the National Women’s Hall of Fame. She had been an elementary schoolteacher before the trip.
“That trip gave me the platform from which to speak about things that are important to me,” said Bancroft, 60. “It took me a while to figure that out when I got back — the whole ‘first-woman’ thing. Then I thought, ‘I can’t squander this opportunity.’ I didn’t go back to the classroom. I made my classroom the outdoors.”
We had a reunion in 2011 to celebrate 25 years since the team reached the North Pole: Left to right: Will Steger,  Brent Boddy, Richard Weber, Bob McKerrow,  Paul Schurke, Bob 'Iron Man' Mantell, Geoff Caroll and Ann Bancroft
Steger expedition team members plan no gathering to mark the 30th anniversary of their North Pole trip departure. Steger will depart Monday on a 50-day, 350-mile solo trek by ski and canoe-sled from Ontario’s wilderness to his homestead near Ely.

The same day, Schurke and a team from Wintergreen will start a dogsled and ski trip across the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

Traveling over the pack ice on the Arctic Ocean has become more and more difficult for recent expeditions. Although several more teams have reached the North Pole — including the Northland’s Lonnie Dupre, Eric Larsen, Tyler Fish and John Huston — a warming climate has melted much of the polar pack ice floating atop the ocean.
“Actually, almost all the expeditions I did in the polar regions, you can’t do anymore,” Steger said. “Now you can’t reach the pole by dog team ever again because of the water on the Arctic Ocean.”
Physical toll
Challenges the Steger team encountered on its 1,000-mile zig-zag route to the pole were monumental. Team members Mantell, then from Ely, and Bob McKerrow of New Zealand both were airlifted out — Mantell with frostbitten feet and McKerrow with broken ribs suffered when a sled careened into him. They flew out on chartered planes that came in to take out sled dogs that no longer were needed as loads diminished.

The team started the expedition with 49 dogs, and 20 reached the pole. No supplies — or even notes from loved ones — were brought in by those chartered planes.
On day 38, Bancroft fell into the ocean as she approached a lead.
“I shivered for three days,” she said. “We didn’t have a lot of dry clothes. I was really vulnerable. The team kept me safe and warm and moving.”
Do or die
At one point more than a month into the trek, the entire team could see that it would have to make faster progress or risk running out of food.
“We made a plan that we had to get to a certain point,” Steger said. “We had 17 days of food, and if we didn’t make it to that point, the others agreed they’d be flown out, and Paul and I would go forward.”
That prospect caused predictable dissension among team members. In one team meeting, characterized in “North to the Pole,” Canadian team member Richard Weber is quoted as saying, “The plan stinks. No way will I get on that plane.”
“Three or four days later,” Steger said in his recent interview, “we hit good ice, and all of a sudden we were in the game again.”
Each team member has images that remain from the arduous trek.
“I never remember being cold,” Schurke said. “We were working so hard that we were often too warm and worried about sweating out our clothing systems, even at minus 70. Mostly I remember the beauty of the frozen sea and the poetry that our New Zealand team member Bob McKerrow often shared during tent time. An experience that was probably pretty brutal now just seems ethereal and sublime.”
Bancroft, too, recalled a sublime moment.
She was riding a sled with Steger near the end of the trip after shuttling part of their load ahead.

“The sled no longer has handlebars,” Bancroft said, “It’s evening. We’re not with the rest of the group. The dogs know where to go. We just hopped on this sled, which is really rare. We’re leaning on each other, back to back, bumping along in our sealskin pants. I just felt like a little Inuit woman, this bony back next to mine, this canopy above us. In all of that work, you have these little moments, a little bubble of loveliness. I’ve got a treasure trove of those.”

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Another stint in Nepal - The Himalaya

I first visited Nepal in 1975 when I worked for the International Red Cross, supporting the Nepal Red Cross conducting a national disaster preparedness programme.

Some months after the massive earthquake struck Nepal on April 25 2015, I returned to Nepal to work again. Here are some of the photos I have taken.

                                                     Mt. Everest taken from Kala Pattar

                                                                          Ama Dablam
                                            Another view of Mt. Everest and the west ridge.
                                                     On the Lumding La with Sherpa Neema.

                                            From Pokhara looking up to the Himalaya
                                         With two Sherpas from Kumjung, Domalay and Neema
                                             A young Tibetan girl in  Namche Bazaar

                                                     Ama Dablam on the walk in from Lukla
                                                                    Langtang peak
                                      Houses hign in the Himalaya damaged by earthquake

                                    Carrying earthquake supplies to the higher Langtang region

                                                                              Ama Dablam


                                                                Carpet making
                                                               A Sherpa village