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Footsteps on the Mountain

A client's-eye view of the world of mountaineering and adventure travel

"There was no question about it, mountains offered all that the heart could desire."
Eric Shipton

Namche Bazaar and the start of the Everest trail

Margaret arrives in Namche Bazaar

We have had a lazy rest day today in the Sherpa capital of Namche Bazaar. On a good day this is one of the most spectacularly situated villages anywhere in the world. It lies in a natural bowl on the … Continue reading

April 5, 2014 1:21 pm | Comments (8)

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A briefing at the Ministry

Attending a briefing at Nepal's Ministry of Tourism

A new joke is doing the rounds in Kathmandu: How many Nepalese Ministry of Tourism officials does it take to change a light bulb? Two: one to change the bulb and the other to issue a press release to the … Continue reading

April 2, 2014 1:15 pm | Comments (2)

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South Peak: my attempt on Lhotse

Here I am on the summit of Island Peak with climbing guide Dawa Bhote. As you can see, 8516m Lhotse towering behind us makes 6189m Island Peak seem a bit piddling.

Good times are approaching again. On Sunday I leave for Nepal for my fifth 8000m peak expedition, and it’s fair to say I’m just a teeny bit excited. My objective this time is 8516m Lhotse, the fourth highest mountain in the world and the one next to Everest, as I’ve been telling everyone who has asked. Continue reading

March 26, 2014 4:07 pm | Comments (7)

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10 great Sherpa mountaineers

Angtharkay in Darjeeling in 1935 (Photo: Dan Bryant / Royal Geographical Society)

As the Everest season approaches we will be hearing a lot about the successes of western climbers in the Himalayas over the next few months, but very little about the superstars of high altitude mountaineering. It’s time this was rectified, so here are ten of the greatest tigers of the snow. Continue reading

March 19, 2014 4:09 pm | Comments (9)

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A media guide to Mount Everest

Sunlight across the North Face of Everest

With the Everest climbing season nearly upon us there will soon be a flurry of articles in the mainstream media. With journalists under pressure to knock together something emotive at short notice by pasting from websites or phoning up random mountaineers for soundbites, I thought I would put together a media guide to help save time. Continue reading

March 12, 2014 4:07 pm | Comments (10)

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Don’t be fooled by disaster porn

A selection of mountaineering disaster books

Since Jon Krakauer’s seminal disaster porn classic Into Thin Air came out in 1997 publishers have flocked to release books about mountaineering disasters, but every time I see a new book like this I can’t help wishing they had never been published. Why? For me there are two reasons. Continue reading

March 5, 2014 4:07 pm | Comments (6)

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What do Prince Philip, an Everest summiteer and a Nepali rock star have in common?

A typical DofE expedition (without the damp mist). This may bring back memories for some of you (Photo: Leedsdoggod / Wikimedia Commons)

A year ago I explained how I have taken up a voluntary position as trustee of a charity providing educational support in Nepal. I thought it was time I provided an update, as there is an interesting Everest connection to report as well as an amazing story of stoic determination that would impress even the hardiest Sherpa. Continue reading

February 26, 2014 4:08 pm | Comments (2)

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Everest: The Return of the Mavericks

I think we can all agree we don't want this sort of climber turning up on Everest (Photo: Bunter Anson)

The government of Nepal has slashed permit fees for individuals climbing Everest from $25,000 to $10,000. But the group permit system that provided discounts for larger teams has been abolished, and the fee for a team member has increased to $11,000. What does this mean for the spring climbing season on the south side of Everest? Continue reading

February 19, 2014 4:01 pm | Comments (7)

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Nepal’s top 5 most valuable mountains

Ama Dablam in the Khumbu region of Nepal is popular among climbers who fancy a steeper mountain than your average Himalayan snow plod

The government of Nepal recently published figures about the revenue it earned from climbing permits in 2013, including a list of the five most valuable peaks for tourist income. There are few surprises, but the extent to which four mountains dominate is a bit of an eye opener. Continue reading

February 12, 2014 4:08 pm | Comments (23)

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Climbing big mountains isn’t everyone’s cup of tea

Arriving on the summit of Aconcagua is like reaching a modest viewpoint in a municipal park, but only if you're not really appreciating your surroundings (Photo: Augusto Ortega)

We’re all different; some of us enjoy walking all day up a steep hill and going to sleep in a tent, while others prefer lying on a beach or partying all night. Luckily the world is big enough to accommodate all of us, but there seems to be a surprisingly large number of people who climb big mountains when they’re really not enjoying themselves. Continue reading

February 5, 2014 4:10 pm | Comments (6)

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Ueli Steck’s guide to the 8000m peaks

Ueli Steck tells a packed Royal Geographical Society about Annapurna

A short while ago I attended a lecture by the Swiss climber Ueli Steck, known affectionately as the Swiss Machine, and later wrote about how ridiculous his mountaineering career has been. Last week I went to see him again after he had done something even more ridiculous. Continue reading

January 29, 2014 4:01 pm | Comments (8)

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When the mountain gods are angry

Mojtaba Jarahi helps in the rescue of Brian Moran on Broad Peak (Photo: John Quillen)

I’ve been pretty lucky with my adventures so far. Although they don’t always go according to plan I’ve never experienced a major disaster. I had a chance to reflect on this while I was sheltering in a mountain hut in Patagonia reading John Quillen’s account of his attempt on Broad Peak last year. Continue reading

January 22, 2014 4:05 pm | Comments (0)

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Cerro San Lorenzo and the Patagonian summer

Trekking in the San Lorenzo Valley with Cerro San Lorenzo up ahead

Sometimes it’s useful to have low expectations so that when the impossible doesn’t happen, you’re not disappointed. This is especially true in Patagonia, where the weather is temperamental. I didn’t have high hopes of reaching the summit of 3706m Cerro San Lorenzo, but I was determined to give it a go. Continue reading

January 15, 2014 4:05 pm | Comments (0)

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Everest’s magic miracle highway

Yaks on the Magic Highway with Everest up ahead

When the 1922 expedition team set out, they already knew their approach to Everest lay up a side valley known as the East Rongbuk, but they knew little of the terrain they would find there. When they arrived they discovered a tumbling mass of jagged ice towers the size of buildings, but there was also a miraculous way through. Continue reading

January 8, 2014 4:01 pm | Comments (6)

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The first man ever to have got on top

Finbarr Saunders and his Double Entendres: Finbarr goes mountaineering

Here’s some Christmas cheer for those of you who have been enjoying a plump turkey and a really good stuffing today. I tore the following page from the comic Viz when I was much younger than I am now, and it has been sitting quietly in a picture frame on my hallway wall for many years. I feel it’s time it received wider audience. Continue reading

December 25, 2013 4:05 pm | Comments (2)

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Why would anyone spend Christmas in Patagonia?

The Northwest Face of Cerro San Lorenzo (Photo: Nikman / Summitpost)

There’s not really a good time of year to visit Chilean Patagonia. Quite a lot of wind circulates the globe at that latitude and slams into its mountains with full force, producing severe and prolonged storms and freezing temperatures. So why will I be returning there this Christmas for the first time in ten years? Continue reading

December 18, 2013 4:01 pm | Comments (1)

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The Eighth Summit: the highest mountain in Central America

Volcan Tajumulco (4220m), the highest mountain in Central America, seen from near the trailhead

I thought my ascent of the highest mountain in Central America, an extinct 4220m volcano in Guatemala called Volcán Tajumulco, was going to be little more than a tick in the box, but that was far from being the case. Its summit was a real surprise, with a view as fine as any mountain I’ve climbed. Continue reading

December 11, 2013 4:05 pm | Comments (0)

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Frank Smythe is more interesting than George Mallory

Frank Smythe reveals his penchant for wild flowers

The headline ‘Mallory’s body discovered on Everest in 1936′ appeared widely on social media sites last week. Had new revelations emerged about whether Mallory reached the summit of Everest? No, the real subject of the story wasn’t George Mallory at all, but arguably a much more interesting character. Continue reading

December 4, 2013 4:05 pm | Comments (4)

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How not to do a mountaineering presentation

Sandy Allan talks about the first ascent of Nanga Parbat by the Mazeno Ridge

Climbing has as much in common with public speaking as it does with hosting a dinner party. I’ve seen some great lectures by mountaineering legends over the years, but last week I attended a lecture that was about as slick as a mountaineer’s chin after two weeks in an ice cave. Continue reading

November 27, 2013 4:04 pm | Comments (0)

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Everest’s most extraordinary false summit claim

Rupee the stray pooch rescue from a garbage dump in India (Photo: Caters News Agency)

Last week the world’s mainstream media were awash with stories about the world’s first dog to climb Mount Everest. It was a heart-warming tale about a cute little doggie who had been rescued from a garbage dump in India and went on to become a pioneering canine mountaineer. But how on earth could it be true? Continue reading

November 20, 2013 4:08 pm | Comments (6)

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If you enjoy reading this blog, I'm kind of sponsored ...

sponsor me for CHANCE... not in the sense that anyone but me pays for my expeditions, but because it would be a wasted opportunity if I didn't raise money for a worthwhile cause close to my heart.

I'm a trustee of CHANCE, a UK charity who strive to give young people in Nepal better opportunities in life by providing teacher training, and inspiring them to take part in the Duke of Edinburgh's International Award.

If you enjoy this blog it would be fantastic if you can give me a big thumbs up for my Lhotse climb by making a donation, but if you prefer not to then that's OK. I enjoy going on expeditions and writing the blog, and will continue to do both of them anyway.

Latest comments

  1. “Thanks for the tips mark, I have not been in nepal for over 10 years can you recommend any trekking …”

  2. “Mark, reading shocked about the Everest tragedy. As I'm an enthusiatic reader of your diaries and blog I guess you …”

  3. “Just out of interest I have a "Menu" from the Hotel where, Aschenbrenner, Betchtold, Hieronimus, Muellritter, Schneider, Raech, Misch and …”

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