The feeling that we are climbing in the Sacred Mountains makes us so fresh.
Each and every kick in the snow is holy and precious. (Yet tiring and pumping adrenaline too).
We are humbling to the Mother Nature but at the same time we are proud to be part of the Learning Process on Mountain Leadership. With actual practice out there in Himalaya. The view and nature of Himalayas can totally blow me away, in a way: it keeps me going and expanding my horizon.
Actually we’re in one of the most beautiful places on earth, Nanda Devi National Park, Garhwal Himalaya, which is a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. It is also few of the places where Snow Leopards are habitat.
For us is 15 NOLS-mountaineers, 11 students with 4 instructors from National Outdoor Leadership School, which is one of the best outdoor leadership schools on the planet. We’re Team up for Himalayan Mountaineering Course.
We are a group of 15, 3 of us are female, most are from United States of America, (apart from 2 Indian Instructor and one Indian Student & myself, only one from Myanmar (tho I’m not the first student at NOLS from Myanmar, 4 senior NOLS alumni from TCCM club has been graduated from NOLS, 1 NOLS grad participated in successful first ascent of Unclimbed Gamlang Razi summit with Myanmar American team in 2013 ).
As a Burmese student for me, I am a bit worried beforehand and trying to catch up the course through the language barriers . The benefit that giving me good result from NOLS methodology is an opportunity to learn by leading and working thyself. It makes all of us (even for non-native speakers like me , can understand smoothly and clearly throughout its learning process. Few of the climbing terminology which are new to me has been clearly stated by helpful instructors and friendly “fellow-students” .
All in all, we are one, brothers and sisters, hugging together with the nature.
The stormy and snowy days can’t stop our teamwork.
We shoveling together for our shelter.
Cooking great meal for each others.
Sliding the snow slope together while fetching the water.
And the harder terrain bonds us better.
We hike in the colorful rhododendrons blossoms to reach to the base camp. It is famous as Zero Point on Pindari Glacier. The villages we stop by and crossed by are boast with their ethnic dress and wearing big smiles. Most of the small houses are covered with Slate Rock Roof and walls , but you may noticed some of them have a satellite dish, which means even though they are living in a small remote village of Himalaya in Northern India, they are up to date with the modern world. Youth with Skinny Jeans and Band T shirts are the proof. Resting over a local teashop (aka Chai-Shop) are really interesting break times , to be with shop owners & to meet senior citizens in Chai Shops. I really enjoy having a conversation them too. Most of them are Hindu communities. Several beautiful Temples for Goddess Pravati can be seen on top of the hills. Beautiful conch and Bronze Bells in several shaped and size has been offered there.
You can be amazed about the word “HOTEL” in Himalaya too, while a small bamboo-wooden hut has put a price tag and names as the HOTEL, which is really can flash you a smile. It is a good sign for community based tourism, lodging and food services are offered by local villagers as one of their income.
Before we stepping into the foothill of Pindari Glacier, we have to hike through uneven terrains. They are Sidehilly, wet and slippery, as some of the developed and ancient trails has been washed out by monsoon last rainy season. We kept on entering into the Himalayas. Waterfalls, icy-cold streams, colorful wild flowers and exotic wildlife never disappoints our demanding hike while shouldering HEAVILY LOADED PACKS. While we start to enter the snow line, we are getting amazed by Winged Wonders, the Himalayan Monal ( State Bird of Uttarakhand . also the National Bird of Nepal ). Several pair can be found all the way from Purkiya to Zero Point. Many species are spotted during our trip too .
*****(Approach hike to snowline is pretty much easier in this part of Himalayas than climbing in Myanmar, if you are planning to climb in Northern Myanmar Icy Mountains, you need to expect to cross the very thick jungle full of bugs, and countless rivers and creek to cross, few with the shakily bridges ).
Our group met an amazing person, Babaji at Zero Point/ Base Camp. (Babaji is A Hindu Holy Man who dedicated his life on Meditation in the valley of 12,000 feet on Sub Zero Pindari Glacier and actively fund raising for (HIMVED- Himalayan Villages Education And Development Program ) for the basic education support for local schools of Khati, Vacham, Jatoli and Jhuni in the Pindari region in Uttarakhand. For more information & donations, please visit his websitehttp://www.himved.org/ )
During the trip, One simple mistake can change the game. Only one careless step is needed to twist your ankle. Or one small room of error can drag you down from the cliffs. Mindfulness and team spirit keep us healthy and alive. We are even extremely energetic and ready to do the high altitude traverse over 5650 meters towering Dana Dura pass and blade like Kafni Col which is also 5600 meters snowy thin ridge. They are calling us to BOOST our leadership skill and high altitude mountaineering experience.
We get up sometimes at 11pm to pack the tents and our climbing gears, stoves and rations within our tent group. Most challenging part is to collapse the freezing tent, to crush & to break the freezing icy ground to dig the tent guy lines out, to undo the deadman knot which has been buired inside. Hands are numb at the end of the process. Hot Drinks in a Nelgene bottle can be freeze within a minute before you can heat up your fingers again.
But, we set our fourth in the middle of the night under moonshine and blink of stars, travelling under shadows of the mountains. But those darkness can never scared us.
Milky ways and countless stars guide to achieve our dreams.
We hike up very close to the base of Mt. Changuch ( 6,322 m) , from our camp 2 we can see Nanda Devi 7861m , which is the 23rd highest mountain in the world & also the second highest mountain in India and the highest entirely within the country (as Kangchenjunga is on the border of India/Nepal).A Sacred Mountain Nanda Devi, which know as abode of the Goddess of Bliss where Mt. Nandakhat is the (Bed of Nandadevi) ,Nanda Kot & Changuch as a guard of Nandadevi & local Hindus believe Mt.Panwali Dwar as a gateway to Heaven, performing the Mountain Theology part of Hinduism.
We, group of students and instructors are traveling in rope team, carrying not less than 70 to 80 pound of packs which all are loaded with food, climbing gears , shelter , fuel and personal clothing etc.Hiking and Climbing, in the deep snow on steep slopes , sometimes over crispy freezing slippery ice with crampons, sketchy steps over the crevasses. Our team spirit is even better than our Ice Axe, an essential tool for Mountaineering.
Without our strong instructor’s guidelines and hard work, it won’t be happen to make this hard traverse.NOLS Himalaya Mountaineering course is more than just a course, it is the whole learning process by involving ourselves in awe-inspiring adventure, all of the students are showing the best spirits too.
After traversing, hiding in the tent for days to wait the weather windows, we are out of ration and eager to march the nearest civilization.The hike down from the Shalang Glacier to the GoriGanga River is also challenging. Snow and Mud mixed side- hill terrain makes a bit hard while travelling, but lighter packs help to stabilize our steps.
( As we’re doing high altitude traverse, we enter from Pindari Glacier, along Pindar River, corrsing over high cols and passed and exit from other side of the valley thought Shalang Glacier and then along the wild Goriganga river. )
On the way back to the first village of the descent, we are thinking about our menu for the dinner, even arguing to kill or not if we can buy a sheep or a chicken there. By the time we reach to the Martoli village, all problems were solved, there’s nothing at all. The empty lodges and abandoned houses are welcoming us in undescribed language, weirdly. No people, no animals apart from a flock of Raven and a Himalayan Griffon gliding around the peak at the opposite side of the river. That was a very very windy evening. We hardly pitch our tents in a small field with a small beautiful lake nearby. We can see the Martoli peak 4738m nearby.
Without checking in at the reception, sitting beside the stone fence of a HOTEL MARTOLI compound . All of us are hiding from the chill wind, Making our own raw Chai tea, without sugar, without milk, just raw ( as nothing left ). Then we share some of the last ration items while waiting two of our team who went out for shopping in the jungle.( we still have no plan to hunt ).Finally, we made a soup with few spaghetti bits mixed with Beans and remaining mashed potato powder . That’s dinner is YUM. At that night two of our team came back shopping, they been to some other villages (are empty too), then they continue their hike to ITBP ( Indian-Tibet Border Police ) check point .Helpful ITBP officers share some biscuits and Mung Beans to us. It was 8pm and most of us are curl into a ball in the sleeping bag already. Tomorrow morning we grab some biscuits for breakfast and hike up to the Hill of Martoli village Hindu Temple, before we start another food hunt. (ITBP officers last night offer to prepare the breakfast for us, our team reach there at around 10am, some random team mates has been asked to show the passport, sitting at their military shelter with a chai until 1pm, but finally they managed to finish their Chapati, Mung Beans and Rice meal around 2pm, that night we camp at Railkotia near ITBP ( as they advise us not to hike down along the Goriganga, as some of the trail has been washed out and it’s dangerous.
We continue our descend from the Railkot to Naher camp, though ITBP check point and compounds ( getting some more wheat flour. Neither Chai Shop nor Village to stop and shopping by. We cook unforgettable Mung beans dinner there. It is a Mung Bean soup (with Coffee color muddy-water from Goriganges River). It is the only water source we can find on that day. Some of the flours were shaped into Dough, and are heated into Chapatti with last drop of our oil.
( Mung beans are supposed to prepare with pressure cooker to be well-cooked, even though we boil it with MSR stoves for hours, it is still like a stone, but we all managed finish it at our best.)
Those days along Goraganga are beautiful ( obviously lighter backpacks as we’re running out of food and few fule left). I volunteered to carry the Gamow bag on the way down (more appreciation goes to my team mates who carry it during the snow terrain). While we are in the valley, we camp mostly on top of the river cliff, sometimes in a boulder filed right on top of the river. We really enjoyed glancing a group of Himalayan Goral at close as 20meters at the opposite cliff of river bank. These creatures are actually really good climbers. It’s like we’re are watching real life-NatGeo wild in live mode (while chewing hard Mung beans tho 😀 ). Sometimes a group of “Gray Langur” is watching our hike, while they’re hiding in the leaves or even from open space out there.
After few days, in the absolute wilderness, we are glad to see some villages and sheet huts, where we can stop for a Chai (cup of tea). The biscuits packed in Shiny Bright color pack becoming the best match with Chai, which I’ve never think to have before. Then back to civilization, we’ve been on the mountains for a month, no other group are there, only us and the sacred mountains of Garhwal Himalayas. It is interesting to be back to the villages seeing local comunnities daily life, which is part of cultural session of the NOLS course too. We show our best courtesy during our trip, gained some useful Hindi words too.
There are a lot of parts to be miss forever about the trip, altogether Easter Dinner with a Snow Table at Pindari Glacier, while watching the last rays of sun hitting the Sumimt of Mt.Changuch. Babaji house, Snow School, Playing Chess in the tent while waiting weather window , NOLS reading, etc. Cooking with Snow Kitchen is fun too, when the weather is not allow to cook outside, we’re can train our culinary skill to improve by cooking in the tent vestibule. All are becoming Mountain Chefs, mixing this and that, but delicious. Cheesy Mashed Potato Pasta with salami is the awesome dinner, even tho it is cook by putting all the last bits of the ration , without any spices ( nothing left ). And if luck brings, there will be last remaining of few salt and Chili sauce at the bottom of the bottle, which u need to rinse with water or soup to spice up a bit on the meal. ( Oh-I’m have to mention here NOLS ration is perfectly arranged, and NOLS Ranikhet based kitchen cooks most delicious Veggie meals too ).
I witnessed a lot of wildlife species there, as many as hundred during our hike and layover days, non-rest acclimatizing days there. If you are lucky like us, you may spot the footprints of Snow Leopards on a fresh soft snow. We woke up in the midnights, against the zub zero temperature. Rushing for breakfast, try to cram & pour into us as much as we can. Pooping adventure under Milky Ways and Twinkling stars is also unforgettable 😀
During the trip, we pitch our tents one top of the green hill, sometimes sleeping with the music from the stream just right beside the icy cold river, and some hard work too, shoveling, and stomping in knee deep snow to make a flat surface on side-hill of the snow slope for our shelter. But every single time, we make sure we are meeting the LNT standards, LEAVE NO TRACE principles. We played well in harmony with the biospheres by learning, sharing and applying LNT principles along our trip. These are the habits I am going to practice my lifelong whenever I’m in backcountry.
In fact, I think this trip is just the beginning of my Mountaineering, the true meaning of being a Mountaineer.
I realize there’s long way to go, to help and to develop the climbing community in my home county Myanmar.
To empower the Myanmar Friends , what actual Mountain Leadership is.
NOLS Himalaya Mountaineering GAR course : is the one of the biggest learning opportunity of my life, based on the 8 year hiking and mountaineering in Myanmar as a member of MUHM (Universities Hiking Clubs) & MHMF (Hiking Federation), I am not new to this sport and challenges, but the dynamic of the course, the curriculum and the classes, practical training and the skill of the instructors made NOLS as the world class outdoor school on the planet.
During the trip, we learned a lot of basic hiking and camping skill such as Packing, Map reading, tent pitching, cooking and I was really excited to learn the skills like Crevasse Rescue, Rope Handling & Glacier Travel and to meet new people and climbing together in Himalayas, And also the Terrain of High Altitude Mountaineering of Northern India is a bit more challenging than I have ever done in Northern Myanmar as so I was really excited about it.
The Leadership Skills from NOLS is the most important thing that I learn and to take it back to Myanmar, NOLS leadership modal is also useful practice in my daily work life as well. Being an active follower along my early hiking days with Myanmar University Teams and sometimes with Myanmar Hiking Federation, we don’t have clear tool for being a leader (sub group leader) during teams trip. The Expedition Behavior and Tolerance of Adversity are my favorite pick for me that I learn from NOLS.
Himalaya Mountaineering Course 40 days, in brief, the approach days in total 4 days, Trip Gear and Ration Preparation & DE issuing at NOLS base Ranikhet is 2 days ( total 6 days in the front-country ). 34 days in backcountry wilderness. Hiking / Bushwhacking & Mountaineering moving days are in total of 18, 16 days are layover days at camps for acclimatizing and NOLS classses, active acclimatization training such as wilderness kitchen, bakery, snow school, cravesse rescue ,fixed line ascension etc
Total of 15 in the group, 4 male instructors, 11 students ( 8 boys and 3 girls )
NOLS instructors : Baba DILLIP, Baba EVAN MILLER, Baba WILLY, Baba BHARAT,
students : CELESTE, GRACE, KRISTEN, TOM, BAXTER, JOEL, ERIK, EVAN-LIU, VIVEK, JASON & myself)
- Loharkhet Hut ( 5741 ft )
- Dhakhuri Hut ( 8802 ft )
- Khati village ( 7831 ft )
- Joarpani- ( Pindar Riverside Camp) ( 7481 ft )
- Dwali Hut ( 8969 ft )
- Phurkiya Hut ( 10527 ft )
- Zero Point – ( Base Camp ) ( 12660 ft )
- Camp 1 ( 15215 ft )
- Camp 2 ( 16149 ft )
- Camp 4 ( 17860 ft )
- Camp 6 ( 15877 ft )
- Karbecya ( 14299 ft )
- Martoli ( 13579 ft )
- Railkotia ( 10306 ft ) (ITBP-India Tibet Border Police )
- Nahar ( 9067 ft ) (Himalayan Goral Camp)
- Raragari ( 7647 ft )
- Gimighat village (4972 ft )
- Maunsiari town ( 7220 ft ) Himalayas High Altitude Traverse Expedition
Total 85miles trekking the whole traverse.Elevation Gain (18550 feet ) .
High Altitude Traversing from Pindar Valley to Milam valley travelling upon ( Pindari Glacier , Changuch Glacier , Shalang Glacier ), Climbing through Kafni Col (17800 feet ) & demanding Dana-Dura Pass (18550 feet ).
NOLS student expedition team use the potter to Zero Point for cashing the Climbing Gears and High Altitude rations , from Zero Point to other side of the valley for 25 days is without potter, average pack weight 70 lbs ( someday up to 80lbs)
31.03.2014 (MON): to New Delhi
01.04.2014 ((TUE): Touring in Delhi
02.04.2014(WED): NOLS GAR 04/01/2014 Himalaya Mountaineering Course officially starts at 6PM with Vegetarian Dinner. At 9:30, the road trip started, very loud car honk everywhere in City Traffic and also on the Highways.
03.04 2014 (THU): Delhi to Ranikhet (BUS)
Ranikhet (6656 ft) NOLS compound, Gear Check and Boot Fitting with NOLS 3C standard for happy pee (3C : Clear, Consistence & Copious ) for acclimatizing
04.04 2014 (FRI): NOLS India base Ranikhet ( Gear & Trip Ration Preparation )
05.04 2014 (SAT): Ranikhet (6656 ft) to Loharkhet Hut ( 5741 ft. ) Ranikhet to Song by Jeeps ( Starts Hiking )
06.04 2014 (SUN): Loharkhet Hut to Dhakuri Hut (8802 ft.) ၊ Hiking 5.6 miles, 3000 feet elevation gain in one day
07.04 2014 (MON): Dhakuri (Layover day) Thunderstorm, Rain, Hay (AMS/HAPE/HACE class )
08.04 2014 (TUE): Dhakuri (Layover day & Non Rest Acclimatizing Day) Sunny, Hay (Leadership class ) on the Hill with Lord Nandadevi Temple.
09.04.2014(WED): Dhakuri to Khati village ( 7831 ft ) 5 mile hike. Met Babaji, dinner at Babaji house. Visiting in the village, temple ( Hiking Group Leader ) Day Hike Recap after trip.
10.04 2014 (THU): Khati to Joarpani- (Pindar Riverside Camp) ( 7481 ft ) ၊ Off Trail Hike
11.04 2014 (FRI): Joarpani to Dwali Hut ( 8969 ft ) off trail, demanding hike, Judgment & Decision Making class
12.04 2014 (SAT): Dwali to Phurkiya Hut ( 10527 ft ) Snow Hike ( starting to put on the Plastic Boots )
13.04 2014 (SUN): Phurkiya Layover Day
14.04 2014 (MON): Phurkiya to Zero Point – ( Base Camp ) ( 12660 ft ) ၊
15.04 2014 (TUE): Zero Point – Layover Day ( Re- ration ) Snow Kitchen visiting to Babaji Stone Cave at 7pm
16.04.2014(WED): Zero Point – Layover Day (Snow School by Willy & Bharat )Cooking in the tent vestibule
17.04 2014 (THU): Zero Point – Layover Day weather check at 3am but snow condition is wet looseAvalanche Class , Heavy Snow ( Willy, Bharat & Dilip went up to camp route for fixing the Fixed lines )
18.04 2014 (FRI): Zero Point ( Cashing the High Altitude ration on the col between Camp 1 & Zero Point )Weather check at 12 midnight, 2 am start hiking
19.04 2014 (SAT): Zero Point – Layover Day ( Tent Group Leader ) Meeting with Instructors for High pass traverse trip
20.04 2014 (SUN): Zero Point – Layover Day ( Leadership modal ) Trip evaluation with Evan ( 1 by one interview with each mentee students and each Mentor Instructors ) EPIC Ester dinner .
21.04 2014 (MON): Zero Point – Layover Day .. Rope Team , Rope Handling and Coiling class by Dilip
22.04 2014 (TUE): Zero Point – Camp 1 ( 15215 ft )1am weather check, 3 :30 start hike. Reaching to cashing point at 9am and 11:45 reach to camp 1
23.04.2014(WED): Camp 1 (Acclimatizing & Layover Day ) Self Care, Hydration , Crampon class by Evan, Rope Team travel training by Dilip
24.04 2014 (THU): Camp 1 ( Acclimatizing & Layover Day ) Hike around camp in crampon, Group meeting Rope Team Hike around camp
25.04 2014 (FRI): Camp 1 to Camp 2 ( 16149 ft )
2:30am weather check , start hike at 4am, Traveling in a rope team, putting Crampons on and climbing up ( from camp 2, we can see Kafni Col (17800 feet ), a bit headache at Camp 2.
26.04 2014 (SAT): Camp 2 ( Acclimatizing & Layover Day )
Acro Yoga in the morning. (Horizontal Crevasses – Vertical Crevasses class by Evan ) .
27.04 2014 (SUN): Camp 2 ( Acclimatizing & Layover Day )
28.04 2014 (MON): Camp 2 to Camp 4 ( 17860 ft )3am weather check, Rope team 1 start at 5am, rope team 2 start climbing at 6am.
29.04 2014 (TUE): Camp 4 to Camp 6 ( 15877 ft )1:52pm at Dana Dura Pass ( 18531ft ). Fixed Line ascention
30.04.2014(WED): Camp 6 Layover Day Team Meeting , Hiding From Sun , rest , sharing ration withing tent groups 3pm (Snow Anchor class by Dilip ) Deadman, T Slot
01.05 2014 (THU): Camp 6 Layover Day Snow Anchor by students check by Evan & another tips for GREAT Ancohrs, ( GREAT Good Gear, Redundant , Equalize, Angle , Timely ) Cravesse Rescue training by Dilip & Evan,
02.05 2014 (FRI): Camp 6 to Karbecya ( 14299 ft )
5pm reaching to camp, whole day travelling in snow , descending through snow fields in a rope team in some crevasses area, as a rope team leader. After the lunch snack break, no more rope attached.
03.05 2014 (SAT): Karbecya to Martoli ( 13579 ft )Only 8 mile but Most physically challenging day, coz of wearing snow boot in side-hill and Snow mixed terrain.No People at , no food shop to buy , drinking tea without sugar and eating mixed of last rations
04.05 2014 (SUN): Martoli to Railkotia ( 10306 ft ) Having lunch + Bf at ITBP ( India-Tibet Border Police )
05.05 2014 (MON): Railkot to Nahar ( 9067 ft ) (Himalayan Goral Camp)Camp with Mung beans and muddy waters from GoriGanges.
06.05 2014 (TUE): Nahar to Raragari ( 7647 ft ) ၊
07.05.2014(WED): Raragari to Gimighat village (4972 ft )
08.05 2014 (THU): Gimighat to Maunsiari town ( 7220 ft )
09.05 2014 (FRI): Maunsiari to Ranikhet ( NOLS base ) graduation dinner
10.05 2014 (SAT): Ranikhet to Hotel Maan K ( via Kathgodam to Old Delhi by Train ) END OF THE COURSE.
11.05 2014 (SUN): Fly out from New Delhi ( 11:35 am flight ).
Please check trailer on youtube: http://youtu.be/aoPtNE91RRo
GOAL after GRADUATING FROM NOLS
>>>>> I am keen to implement on outdoor education for local climbing community in the future , I would like to build a Database about the most of the Frequently Climbed and Hikes Hills and Peaks , to give information to public on GPS coordinates, camping locations , tips for planning etc in Myanmar along my climbing likely to include the remote mountains in the Northern Myanmar as well. Also, I am dreaming to do the Mountain Clean Up campaign especially there are some plastic garbage impact on some of the beautiful wilderness spots in Myanmar , so I would like to promote the” Leave No Trace “ principles in Myanmar. The Hardest part of my dream is to introduce the cooking system with Camping Stoves to Hiking Associations and clubs in Myanmar, as most of the outdoor clubs and individuals are burning wood for fire to cook and keep themselves warm in the wilderness, the goal is to reduce the Environmental Impact and to raise the awareness of conservation of Nature.