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Friday, November 4, 2016

Ian Taylor Trekking

As with everything in life I spend a lot of time researching on the web when I need or want something, when you put in Mount Everest Base Camp trekking pages of different companies come up, I reached out to 4 or 5 different companies to see what everybody offered and many sounded the same, so why did I decide on Ian Taylor trekking? Well firstly his website is the very best offering everything you could possibly need to know on what you need in gear, what the best way is to train and get fit for the trek. Ian is also available on Skype which is unheard of, I only skyped Ian once but he answered all my questions and put my mind at rest and I know others that skyped Ian multiple times and nothing seemed a problem to him.

Ian also met up with us in Namche Bazaar and spoke to everybody both as a group and individually to make sure we were both happy with the guides and accommodation but also answer any last minute questions.You get met at the airport and taken to your hotel and the next morning you will be met by Kaye ,Kaye will not only answer all your questions about what to do and where to go in Kathmandu but will will actually take you there, I was lucky enough that she spent the whole day with me taking me to the temples and main places to visit, This helped make the first leg of the trip very relaxing and a big shout out must go to Kaye and her husband Dowa for making the start and end of the trip an unforgettable experience, You wont get this anywhere else, I spent time looking and talking to other groups as we trekked and Ian’s guides shone when compared to others, they were all very knowledgeable in the region. I asked what the name of the mountains were and they answered every time, I am very interested in the flora and fauna and they again answered my questions. We quickly got to know the guides and they soon became friends.
Every night the guides would clip a small device to your finger that would check your vitals and this would be written down so they could keep an eye on your health
Along the way we met with a few people that were suffering from signs of Altitude sickness, one woman I talked was being sick and looked really ill said that she had shared 1.5 litres of water that day with her boyfriend, when we told her we were drinking 5 litres each and at that she was dehydrated she drank 5 litres of water and the next day we was a lot better, her guide had not explained the importance of being hydrated and how dehydration is one of the main reasons of getting Altitude sickness. My Father passed just before my trip and was cremated when I was in Kathmandu, the guides found out and arranged for me to get my prayer flags blessed be a Buddhist Lama which was out of the way. They also arranged with the Buddhist monks to light the candles during the ceremony and helped with the hanging of the prayer flag at base camp (this was done without asking).

You could not have asked for any more, Ian Taylor Trekking may not seem the cheapest when you first look, but when you see what you get for your money, he is very competitive and I would give his company 5 Stars-Highly Recommended

Ian (At the back) at Namche Bazaar
Pasang was our main guide, A top guide and all round nice guy, He answered all the questions, Made sure you were very well fed and watered as well as dressing blisters if you had any, He checked peoples knees if they they were getting sore and went out of his way to make sure you had a great experience
Everybody in our group made it to Everest base camp and everybody who wanted to get to the top of Kala Pattar made it all because of the guides

Ian Taylor Trekking doesnt just cover Asia and the Everest region but also Europe, The America's and Africa, Trekking or Mountaineering
If you are looking for a once in a lifetime trek and have one of the best experiences in your life then give Ian Taylor Trekking a call,


Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Mountain Everest Base Camp Trekking Gear

I have been asked what gear i took and if i would have changed it if i did the Trek or similar again, Firstly its well worth checking out Ian Taylor Trekking website which is full of great advise and has lots of videos for anybody looking to climb or do a high altitude Trek
Here is a list of what i took and what i would change

I took a XL Northface Duffel which was great, It spent most of its time strapped to a yak, I could have gone smaller, around the 90-100LTR but i already had it so no need for more expense (that was the wife talking)
On my back i had my trusty Osprey 50 LTR Atmos backpack, I walked 600 miles on the Camino De Santiago and its so comfortable you hardly know its on, I love it, If you are in the market for a new backpack then for this trek a bag around 35-45ltrs is plenty, As i mentioned above most of your gear is carried by yak or porter, I also had a waterproof cover for the backpack just in case
I also had my wheelie case and Think tank urban disguise 60 which i carried my camera gear in, I left these in Kathmandu

Our gear strapped to Yak's

These are sooo important but what suits my feet may not suit yours, Go to your local outdoor specialists and try them on and make sure that if they do not suit your feet that you can return them,
I purchased Zamberlan Vioz GT boots and they were comfortable straight out of the box, I have custom inserts in them and have never even had a hot spot, I broke mine in well before hand putting over 70 miles on them so they were good to go, They are only really good for cool/cold weather trekking but great at what they do, Not cheap but boots can make or break a trek, My boots took a hammering on the trek, You walk on a lot of rocks and some parts of the trail are just rocks, My boots now look very second hand with the toes completely scuffed up, I am sure after a coat or 5 of polish they will look a little better, I looked at a lot of people and what they were wearing, You can do with lesser boots but make sure that they are either Goretex or leather, I would recommend a very stiff sole for the rocky parts of which there are a lot
I also took a pair of Northface hedgehog shoes for the evening although much of the time the hiking boots stayed on as they were soo comfortable

Go into any outfitters and the choice in clothing is huge with names like Northface, Eddie Buer, Rab, Marmot etc etc, Its a personal thing but the better brands are well tested and you do not want to be standing in a -25 wind without the proper gear, Here i would not scrimp on costs,

 2 pairs Northface Straight Paramount 3.0 convertible pants, These are the new one which are more fitted than the old style, I loved them from the first time i wore them, The waist area is super comfortable which is important when you also have a backpack strap there
I did take 1 pair of Eddie Bauer shorts but these were not needed as i could unzip the legs on the trousers, If you are taking normal hiking trousers then yes a pair of shorts for the warmer days is a good idea, I took a pair of fleece pants for the evening but only wore them a couple of times

Here i did spend as i purchased Icebreaker merino wool long sleeved tops in both 200 and 250 weight, The thicker for higher/colder parts, they are very comfortable and dont smell even after a few days without a proper wash/shower, I also took 2 synthetic tops (both long sleeved) and these were also fine but once you use Merino wool its hard to go back, I took 3 T shirts but these remained unused
I took a Northface Fleece and only used it a couple of times but worth taking, The tea houses get hot in the evening but the bedrooms will not have heat of any kind

I have tried many and keep coming back to either Wrightsocks or Smartwool, On this trip i took 5 pairs of Wrightsocks in both thin and thick weights, Great socks with a built in liner and no blisters for me

Exofficio everytime, I now use nothing else even for everyday use, Again not cheap but fantastic to wear-5 pairs
I took 2 base layers both tops and bottoms but apart from Base camp never needed them

I took and recommend 1 wide brimmed, Mine was Outdoor Research and 1 beanie which was Northface

Extras for warmth
I took a thin pair of Black Diamond with grippy palms, These are great to use with Trekking poles and 1 pair of proper Mountaineering gloves by Outdoor research, I could have only taken the Outdoor research gloves as they have a removable liner but i love my BD gloves

I took and one and never used it

I took a think Under Armour balaclava and used it once, Very small and light and if you are thinking of doing night time photography worth taking

Super cool items, I took a thin one and a polar fleece one, I used them daily as did most others

Compression leggings
I took a pair i bought on Amazon, Used them on the plane to stop DVT and used them everyday

Still unused, You could take a lightweight pair to stop dirt. dust and stones not really needed

I have a bit of a jacket fetish so have quite a few at home, I used and loved my Northface soft shell, Great at keeping you dry and used as a wind breaker, I also took 3 puffer type jackets, Overkill yes, They were all different weights and fold small and are very light in weight, I took a Thermoball Northface, An Eddie Bauer mid weight and a Mountain Hardwear thick insulated jacket that i have had for years and its super super warm, I could have just done with 1 light insulated and i heavy insulated jacket as part of my layers along with a softshell, Additionally i took an Eddie Bauer light insulated vest, This was worn daily as it keeps your core warm and allows your arm to cool, A must have in my book

Over trousers
Berghaus Goretex, I only used them twice but fitted nice and kept me dry

All of my gear was kept in Sea to Summit Compression bags to keep them organized and dry

I paid $100 for a pair of Julbos and used then for 2 hours before i lost them over a swing bridge, Luckily for me i was offered a spare pair that fit over your glasses by a buddy and they worked great, if you are going high then class 4 is better for your eyes although class 3 will also be fine and will be easier to use in an everyday situation, Class 4 are very dark

Sleeping bag
My wife got me a Northface Inferno -20 sleeping bag for my birthday, WOW what a great bag, I even used it when it wasn't that cold and never sweated once in it, The night we camped at Everest Base camp the temperature dropped to -10 and with the wind chill around -20/-25, Everybody slept in clothing and had a hot water bottle, I slept in my underpants only and did not want or need a hot water bottle, If you can afford this bag its awesome and money well spent, I intend using it in the cold weather in the Smoky mountains

Trekking Poles
I have had Black Diamond Carbon trekking poles for a few year and swear by them, Incredibly light in weight but strong, I have put 1000's of miles on mine and have changed the tips a few times, One of the group tried mine and purchased a pair in Namche Bazaar


Water Bottles
I took 2 Camel Back Chutes as i like the mouth piece and a 3 ltr Osprey hydration bladder for my backpack, I would drink 1 ltr of water with electrodes before breakfast and 1 ltr before setting off then 2 ltrs on the trail and 1 ltr after, this amount of water along with the Diamox means you will pee and will pee many times, I found the Diamox gave little warning of when you needed to go and sometimes you just had to do it where you were, You will see a lot of people peeing along the EBC trail, One word of caution, We spoke to a few people who were not in the best shape and found them to be badly dehydrated, Their guides had not talked to them about Altitude sickness and how to stop it, Dehydration is one of the main causes of Altitude sickness, Drink lots, Take vitamin C and/or electrodes, Do not drink Alcohol and keep out of the sun
I took a neoprene cover for 1 water bottle as you can get them filled with hot water and use them as a sleeping bag but as my sleeping bag was so good i ended up using it to carry and protect my spare camera lens
Whilst on the subject of water you will need with a steri pen or water purification tablets. I took a steripen but never used it as i was 1 too lazy and 1 purchased all my water in bottles, Water in Kathmandu is 25c a litre bottle, In Gorek Shep its over $3 and you will need 5 a day minimum

Head Torch
Yes needed as the electricity if off and on higher up and if you want to trek to Kala Pattar early or late you will need one, Mine is a black diamond

Once you get past Namche Bazaar the showers will disappear so you can either pay for a bucket of hot water in some places , Use wet wipes which i did and take a medium trekking towel or go without, The wet wipe system does work well so take a couple of large packs each, Take any meds you need as well as Diamox, I would also ask your doctor for a supply of Antibiotics and take a small medical kit, In Kathmandu i bought 2 small rip off Northface bags as these were perfect for toiletries, I do not condone rip offs but at $3 these fitted the bill, Sun cream is a must have, Factor 50 or there abouts, The higher you go the stronger the UV, dont forget the lip balm as well

Camera Gear
This is something i fretted about for months, In the end i could not afford to buy a mirrorless system, Image quality was up most in my mind so i took my Nikon D800E with a Nikon 24-70 and 18-35 lenses, I was surprised by the amount of Dslr cameras being used, Even the big pro models, What i will say is that the lighter your bag the easier the trek will be so its up to you, You can get great IQ from smaller cameras these days like the Sony a6000/6300/6500 type of camera, Cameras on your phones are improving but for me its a non no unless its just for facebook, I want to be able to print big and sell through agencies so for me its still going to be a biggish camera, I carried my camera on my backpack using a Peak Design Camera clip which is a great and well made piece of kit, Check out Peak design website and put 'courtenay' in the promo code to get 10% discount, I would not put my name to any company but these guys make great kit, I also used there neoprene camera cover which worked well and protected the camera and lens
I did take a small carbon tripod (Sirui T-025X) that most people would laugh at but it worked fine a Sirui K-30x tripod head
I also had 64gb,32gb amd 16gb cards along with a circular polorizer (B+W) and Lee Filters ND Grads

Learn to use layers and do not be afraid to stop and change your layers, Morning i would start out using a lightweight jacket or soft shell knowing that in 15-20 minutes my core temperature would be up and i could remove a layer, When you stop add a layer etc, Stay warm but stay dry, Try not to sweat as that will make you cold, Buy a shell where the arm pits unzip, If you start getting warm unzip the arm pit area as well as lower the main zip

Climbing up Kala Pattar you can see as i get higher and the weather gets colder i redress to match the conditions

250 weight Merino wool top, Eddie Bauer thermo vest, Northface trousers, Fleece Buff and Outdoor research Wide Brimmed hat, Lightweight gloves

As i get higher the wind starts to pick up so i changed the hat to a Northface beanie and the buff gets pulled up

At the summit the wind is very powerful and cold so the Mountain Hardwear jacket comes on, I did have sunglasses all the way but they wear around my neck for the first 2 pics

Arriving at base camp, The wind is cold but as i had just finished the trek i had on my Northface softshell jacket, get settled in and then change to the Mountain hardwear jacket as i will taking pictures until dark, the big gloves came out that night as i started shooting starts at 4am, I was covered in frost and because i pulled my balaclava and buff down i managed to get frost bite on my cheeks and nose, I also got some on my hands as i removed my gloves to adjust the camera, Be very careful as frost bite is not very pleasant and feels similar to bad sunburn

I understand layering pretty well and people would ask what i thought they should wear first thing in the morning, Mostly i would advise a softshell as you will warm quickly but have the chance to open vents to cool if needed rather than a big insulated jacket that will need to be removed quickly

The list above is what i took in Oct 2016, I was very lucky with the weather, I only needed my rain gear for the first hour of the first day and the last hour of the last day, The tour before mine had rain for days which turned into snow, Go prepared for the worst, Mountain weather is extremely changable


Thursday, October 20, 2016

Its not over until the Fat lady sings or could that be Irishmen

Well we successfully made it to both the high point of the trip-Kala Pattar and also the end at Everest Base Camp, Its been a pretty tough trek but i loved every minute of the challenge, Difficult to say what were the toughest days, The hike up to Namche Bazaar, Tengbouche and Kala Pattar were all lung stretchers but then getting to Gorek Shep and Base camp where you literally climb over boulders were a test, It took around 9 days including some acclimatization to get to EBC and now we had to get back to Lukla in 3, This indeed would be testing, The 3 Americans in the group decided not to try and paid for a helicopter from Gorek Shep, This left the fab 5, Problem was with the Americans out of the picture i all of a sudden became the oldest one of the group, We had to cover good distances everyday and the terrain was never just down, Positives were that the further you went the more oxygen could be felt, Time was of the essence and we trekked 8-9 hrs a day, The weather was good thank good and we all made it with probably the last day being the longest and hardest, Weather wise we were extremely fortunate, Only having to put on our waterproofs for the 1st hour of the 1st day and the last hr of the last day, It was good to be back in Lukla but as we entered our accommodation it was clear that all was not well as there were a lot of people who had been stuck or up to 3 days as the weather had closed in and lots of talk of paying around $500 each for helicopter flights, One of the problems of being in the mountains is the changeable weather, So long days with little time for photography but i did manage a few so here are some of the images from the last 3 days on the trail

Click on the images to make bigger

Ama Dablam from Dingbouche
 How to boil a kettle with power
 The view from my bedroom window in Dingbouche
 Sun rising over the mountains at Dingbouche
 Yaks and Mountains
 Heading down, Enjoying the view and the extra oxygen

 Panorama of Tingbouche monastery
 Swing bridge and prayer flags
 At first we though we had found the illusive Yeti, Then realized it was Ciaran
 Lukla at first light, Would the fog lift and would the planes be able to land
 The spoils of war, A lovely blueberry smoothy with ice cream in Kathmandu

My flights with stop overs were around 41hrs from Raleigh NC, But was worth every minute, Qatar airlines and Qatar airport are superb, The best airline bar none in my opinion, There would be too many highlights to name one, A personal challenge and bucket list ticked off, I will defiantly visit Nepal again, The people are great, Thamel area of Kathmandu is awesome, safe, relaxing and with lots of great coffee shops and bakery's as well as trekking and hiking shops, I could have spent a fortune there,
One thing i will say is that i chose the right tour company Ian Taylor trekking had truly wonderful guides that were very knowledgeable, Would go out of their way to make sure you were well fed and comfortable, All accommodation were clean and comfortable (more of in a later blog), We met with other groups in various places we stayed and after watching other guides etc i knew we had the very best, I met with groups that constantly argued amongst themselves, I met people who were dehydrated because of bad or lack of advise from their guides, Ian Taylor has all the advise that you need on his website and the guides back it up on a day to day basis making sure that you are hydrated, well fed and if you need assistance medically they know what to do even if its just dressing blisters or checking for sprained knees-Highly recommended in my book and good value for money

I will do future blogs on what i took and would take again and 'what it doesn't mention in the brochure"


Gorek Shep to Everest base camp

Getting to Everest base camp seems the finally but we will have 3 long days trekking to get back to Lukla, It has taken 9 days to get to base so the 3 days back seems daunting, The trek to Base camp from Gorek Shep is not the nicest trek i have done, Firstly there is the area with a real risk of avalanche then the steep drop down towards the ice flow that our tents will be set on, The trail then comes and goes as you have to climb over big rocks and boulders, As we got to base camp and i saw the rock stating we were actually there i felt tears fill my eyes, Its been a long journey for me, One that started as a dream 16 years before and with my fathers passing even more emotional,Once there we settled in, It was pretty cold and with a strong breeze, We took some photos of the scenery and some individual shots then i hung the prayer flags for my father at base camp, After a quick diner i hit the sack and was glad that my wife had bought me the North Face -20 sleeping bag, I wore long Johns and a top but was soon too warm and they come off, At 4am Ciaran called my name to go out and see the stars, Wow what a sight, I quickly set the camera on the tripod and started to shoot away, The problem was the wind had picked up and the temperature had plummeted, Around -10 but way colder with the wind chill, The camera and lens was soon covered in frost as was i, We stayed up the rest of the night talking and being amazed at the scenery in front of us, We had seen a fox skulking around the camp earlier and i hoped it would come back but it didn't, As the sun started to rise there was an avalanche right in front of us which was to be the first of 3 that morning, We went back to Gorek Shep jubilant and quickly warmed up, Tomorrow we start the long journey back to Lukla although some have opted to hire a helicopter, For me the physical challenge continues, I feel ready for it as i am in the best shape i have been in since school

Click on the images for a larger view

If ever in doubt
 On the trek you dont get much time to smell the roses so Ciaran smelt the poppies
 First sight of base camp, You can see a tent near the middle of the image
 When is a trail not a trail?, When its just rocks and boulders, the last part was pretty difficult

 An emotional time for me, 16 years in the planning and saying goodbye to my father
 The other reason was to raise funds for the CRI or Cancer Research Institute
 My fathers name with prayer written by the Geshe Lama, Tied and left hanging with the prayer flags he blessed,
 Hanging the prayer flags before the light dropped with Pasang

 Time for a quick group photo
 Diarmuid and Ciaran also hung prayer flags
 Finishing touches and we are done
 Base camp, prayer flags and Pumori
 Yaks are essential to get all your gear there
 Mist forming over the ice flow as the sun sets
 Nuptse through the mist with the moon above , When the stars align magic happens
 My tent with Pumori behind
 As the sun set the temperatures dropped and the wind increase
 The magic
 First light and frost on the tents
 Pumori drops an avalanche at first light, You can the explosion of snow and ice as it hit the bank and shot across the valley, The first of 3 separate avalanches that morning
 The sun is rising and soon there will be warmth

A night to remember for ever, The guides made sure everybody was warm and handed out hot water bottles to those who wanted them, Soup and noodles also helped with lots of Mango and Apple tea,


Monday, October 17, 2016

Day 9- Lobuche to Gorek Shep and Kala Pattar

A very cold night left a heavy frost and a low snowline, The walk was mainly easyish and the mountains came out to play, The end of the walk was quite challenging but more difficult because of walking across rocks, Gorek shep was bigger than i expected but its extremely busy meaning the service for food etc is slow but there is no rush, No heat in any room except the dining hall means you have to get everything ready and dive into your sleeping bag which i have to say i am extremely pleased with, We walked up to the summit of Kala Pattar which was the most challenging trek so far and took us up to 5545m, Kala Pattar for me is the reason for going on the trek, If the weather cooperates the views are absolutley incredible and you get the best views of Everest from there, Its not for everybody as its a very strenuous trek but boy the results are amazing and well worth the effort,At the top it can be incredibly windy as it was when i climbed there and what starts out as i steep trail disappears at the top as you have to make your way over rocks and boulders,We all congratulated each other and had tea and biscuits, The views and panorama was truly breathtaking and well worth the effort, Tomorrow we head for Everest base camp and spend a cold night there in a tent, Every day has got better and better and the end is now near

Click on images for a bigger better view

The mountains are getting nearer and bigger

 I dont normally shoot into the sun but the new Nikon lens handled the flare reasonably for a wide lens
 Next to the ice flow with Nuptse in the background
 Nuptse with prayer flags
 Gorek Shep, The original base camp
 On my way up Kala Pattar, You will notice how my clothing changes as i get higher
 Half way up and Everest (back left) is now clear behind Nuptse (Big Mountain foreground)
 Great success, At the top of Kala Pattar, My own personal goal
 Ciaran up at Kala Pattars summit, Not for the faint of heart, Huge drop off to both sides and back
 Diarmuid and Ciaran checking out the view for a new Irish bar
 5 of the 8 in our group made it to the summit of Kala Pattar along with our guides and the Ian Taylor Trekking banner
Multiple images stitched together to give the totalview-spectacular and worth all the effort
Helicopters at Gorek Shep are either delivering goods, Picking people up or doing rescues, either way they are extremely busy
 The crazy Irish Boys who made my trek something special

Onwards to Base Camp the final destination