Latest news from the Himalaya and Karakoram

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

A few days in Kolkata

I arrived to Kolkata a few days ago in advance of my Lunana Snowman (Bhutan) group coming in on September 25th. This is my first visit to the city that I have heard so much about, since my first trip to India in 1992 I have got to know theother “Metro” cities of Delhi and Mumbai quite well but never made it to Kolkata.

I have had an enjoyable stay so far here, the people are very friendly and there seems to be less hassle from street hawkers than some of the ther large cities in India. From the airport my taxi driver delivered me directly to my hotel without trying to persuade to stay somewhere else, this must be a first during my time in India!

On my first day I went to the Victoria Memorial, this impressive building was built to commemorate Queen Victoria’s 1901 Diamond Jubilee although was finally completed 20 years after she died. Next to the memorial is a beautiful park called the Maidan over 5km long right and right in the centre of busy Kolkata.

Photo: Victoria Memorial, Kolkata

On the way to the memorial I saw a large street procession with horse drawn carriages decorated with flowers and brass bands. This might have been something to do with the Durga Puja starting in a weeks time. This annual festival celebrates worship of Hindu goddess Durga throughout West Bengal where it is a five day annual holiday and the biggest event of the year.

Photo: street procession

Walking around the city is interesting seeing the old Colonial buildings mixed with new shopping malls and offices. There is certainly no problem getting transport with many yellow Ambassador taxis around (constantly honking their horns!) and also the infamous human powered rickshaws. I have not used taxis or rickshaws to get around yet as I prefer to walk with most places pretty close to my hotel on Sudder Street.

Photo: human powered rickshaw

Photo: ubiquitous yellow Ambassador taxi

I will be offline while in Bhutan, I fly to Kathmandu on October 29th and will then write a post to the blog letting you know how we got along on the Snowman trek!

Roland Hunter

Friday, 5 September 2008

Best dressed porters on the Baltoro!

Photo: our well equipped porters at Concordia

At The Mountain Company we believe in providing the right equipment to our porters especially when climbing a high pass such as the Gondogoro La at 5,600m. In line with our ethical approach to porter protection we invested over USD$5,000 purchasing porter equipment in Pakistan this summer.

All of our porters crossing the Gondogoro La were lent the following items: wind jackets and trousers, good quality walking boots, sunglasses, socks and gloves. We also paid the porters their equipment money as per government regulations.

The handout of gear was captured on video by Alistair who has posted it onto YouTube, the link is at

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Trip report for K2 & Gondogoro La led by Roland in August '08

Photo: K2 as seen from Concordia

The August '08 K2 & Gondogoro La group have just returned from Pakistan. This year we certainly had our share of good luck with no landslides blocking the Karakoram Highway (KKH) or Skardu to Askole road as well as having great weather for most of the trek.

To top it off we flew back to Islamabad from Skardu at the end of the trek. This flight is notoriously unreliable and is often cancelled due to poor weather or lack of available planes. Flying back at the end of the trip saves a two day bus ride on the KKH and means having two nights at our hotel in Islamabad and a chance to do some sightseeing and shopping.

Photo: Climbing up Gondogoro La

This year the Gondogoro La was in a good condition and all of the group successfully crossed the pass. This was especially good news after last summer when a large crevasse blocked the route up the Gondogoro La. Having spoken to the Hushe Rescue Team, who are responsible for maintaining the fixed rope on the pass, there was a large serac fall during the winter that luckily plugged this crevasse.

Roland did a recce of the Gondogoro La the day before the group arrived to Ali Camp (on their rest day after the long day to K2 BC and Gilkey memorial) in order to check the quality of the ropes and anchors. Generally the ropes were in a reasonable condition, however we put in 200m of extra rope secured by icescrews and snowstakes to protect our passage. The Mountain Company donated this equipment to the Hushe Rescue Team (as well as paying the toll to cross the pass) so hopefully will be used in the future to increase the security of other groups going over the pass.

Photo: Gilkey memorial near K2 BC
Roland is planning to return to Pakistan next summer to lead the Snow Lake Biafo and Hispar trek in July and K2 & Gondogoro La trek in August. Please get in touch if you are interested in joining him, his email address is

The Mountain Company