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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

Colonel Jimmy Roberts and the first ascent of Mera Peak

Mera Peak was first climbed 62 years ago to the day

Sixty-two years ago to the day Colonel Jimmy Roberts made the first ascent of Mera Peak with the Sherpa Sen Tenzing. This little postscript to the first ascent of Everest in 1953 may have been the birth of commercial trekking. Continue reading

May 20, 2015 4:07 pm | Comments (1)

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Aconcagua and a first taste of expedition life: an extract from my book

Aconcagua isn't the most impressive-looking mountain from base camp at Plaza de Mulas

It’s time to update you once more on current progress with the book I’m threatening to publish about my journey from simple hill walker to Everest summiteer. Here’s the latest, along with a teaser from the book to try and convince you to buy it. Continue reading

May 13, 2015 4:03 pm | Comments (4)

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As climbers wring their hands about Everest, Nepal quietly rebuilds

A queue of climbers in the Khumbu Icefall two days before an earthquake rocked Nepal

While the climbing community were busy bickering about Everest, the Nepalese were quietly rebuilding their lives after the devastating earthquake. As trustee of a development charity I was given a privileged insight into what they’ve been up to. Continue reading

May 6, 2015 5:03 pm | Comments (3)

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Nepal earthquake: who should I donate to?

At least 37 international search and rescue teams are on the ground – more than 545 people

People have been asking me to recommend a charity to help victims of the Nepal earthquake. It’s a difficult question, because it depends on personal preferences and priorities, but I know a little about Nepal, and though I’m no expert on disaster response, I’ll do my best to answer. Continue reading

April 29, 2015 4:09 pm | Comments (5)

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Remembering the avalanche: a tribute to all Sherpas

Dorje Khatri, sirdar with the expedition operator Madison Mountaineering, who died in the avalanche on Everest last year (Photo: Edita Nichols)

There’s no better way to mark the anniversary of the avalanche on Everest last year than by remembering one of the Sherpas who died. Here’s a post that is a tribute not just to him, but to all Sherpas who work the high mountains. Continue reading

April 22, 2015 4:09 pm | Comments (2)

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Trailblazing up Monte Sirente

Selfie of me and Edita high up on Monte Sirente. As you can see, she looks absolutely fine while I look exhausted (Photo: Edita Nichols).

Our third trip to the Apennine Mountains took us to an area we hadn’t visited before. Our ascent of Monte Sirente was a good day out in the mountains, with some tough trail breaking through deep snow and an exhilarating climb. Continue reading

April 15, 2015 4:01 pm | Comments (1)

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5 steps to taking better mountain photographs

Taking good maintain photographs takes patience, perseverance and creativity. I probably would have deleted this one before I even took it.

I sometimes get asked for photography advice, including detailed questions about what equipment to use, tips on exposure, focal length and aperture size. I’ve answered the question a few times now, and in doing so have managed to distil my advice into just 5 easy steps. Continue reading

April 11, 2015 5:06 pm | Comments (11)

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Tilman’s Everest south side reconnaissance

The approach to Everest Base Camp (bottom left), with the West Shoulder in the centre of the photo and the black summit of Everest peeping up behind it. Changtse is the mountain in the background on the left, and the Lho La is below it. Tilman and Houston didn't spot the gap in front of the West Shoulder where the Khumbu Icefall spills down, forming a route into the Western Cwm.

This is part 5 of a series of posts about early tourism in Nepal. For the previous posts see part 1: How Nepal first came to open its doors to tourism, part 2: Bill Tilman: Nepal’s very first trekking tourist, … Continue reading

April 8, 2015 4:07 pm | Comments (4)

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Farewell Samuli Mansikka, the fearless Finn

Samuli Mansikka (1978 - 2015) on Cholatse with three of his 8000m peaks - Everest, Lhotse and Makalu - behind him

It’s time once again to pay tribute to a friend who has sadly lost his life in the mountains. Last week Samuli Mansikka stood on the summit of Annapurna, his tenth 8000m peak, but he did not return. Continue reading

April 2, 2015 8:00 am | Comments (3)

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A fascinating journey across Tibet

Tibet has changed much, but the prayer flags, azure skies, wide open spaces and snow-capped mountains will always remain

The more I learn about Tibet, the less I understand. I’ve travelled there three times on expeditions and found it a weird and fascinating place. I was keen to read Race to Tibet, a new historical novel by indie author Sophie Schiller. Continue reading

March 25, 2015 5:29 pm | Comments (2)

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Poo in the Everest region: is it such a big problem?

This campsite at Advanced Base Camp on Everest's north side has a toilet tent where waste is packed out, but at higher camps it's a case of burying it under a rock

Recently I wrote a satirical piece about a fictional washroom at Everest Base Camp as a reaction to more sensationalised media reporting about Everest. But the reports contained a grain of truth that I intend to fertilise in this post. Continue reading

March 18, 2015 4:03 pm | Comments (0)

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Battle of the blockbusters: Herzog’s Annapurna vs. Tichy’s Cho Oyu

Ice axes at the ready. Which is greater: Cho Oyu by Herbert Tichy, or Annapurna by Maurice Herzog?

I’ve recently finished reading Cho Oyu by Herbert Tichy, an account of the first ascent of Cho Oyu in 1954. The book is hard to get hold of, but it’s as good as Maurice Herzog’s Annapurna, regarded by many as one the best mountaineering books ever written. Continue reading

March 11, 2015 4:06 pm | Comments (7)

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Tilman’s expedition to the Annapurnas

Annapurna II (left) and Annapurna IV (right): Tilman's team had a go at the latter, but one by one they gave up

The great mountain explorer Bill Tilman made three treks in Nepal in 1949 and 1950. His second to the Annapurna region made him one of the first to explore an area which now sees thousands of tourists completing one of the world’s best known treks. Continue reading

March 4, 2015 4:02 pm | Comments (3)

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BREAKING NEWS: Flushing Toilet To Be Built At Everest Base Camp

This toilet is actually on Mount Kenya, but who cares (Picture Credit: Wankentoss New Agency)

There is now so much human excrement on Mount Everest experts predict that by 2015 it will reach the Moon. Luckily Nepal’s government has announced it will be building a new state-of-the-art toilet at Everest Base Camp. Continue reading

March 3, 2015 8:22 pm | Comments (15)

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When expedition operators should be taken with a pinch of salt

The Khumbu Icefall, scene of many tragedies

It was silly season in the media again last week, when the BBC latched onto another Everest story. But while the media were busy having their usual feeding frenzy, expedition operators didn’t help by squabbling among themselves. Continue reading

February 25, 2015 4:00 pm | Comments (6)

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The Corno Grande Saga, Part 2

Traversing the ridge above Campo Imperatore with Corno Grande up ahead

This is a short sequel to a post I wrote last month about a reconnaissance trip to the Gran Sasso massif in Central Italy, when we made an abortive attempt on 2912m Corno Grande from the north. Last weekend we had another go from the south. Continue reading

February 21, 2015 4:21 pm | Comments (3)

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Learning the alpine skills: another update about my book

Learning ice climbing skills on the Mer de Glace

It’s been a while since I updated you on where I am with the book I’ve been promising to write about my journey from simple hill walker to Everest summiteer, so here’s some more news along with a teaser from the book. Continue reading

February 18, 2015 4:08 pm | Comments (6)

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Is mountaineering in Nepal becoming too expensive?

Smaller expeditions like this one I did to Mera and Island Peaks with Mark Dickson are likely to be hit the hardest by the new rules

Budget climbing on its way out, cried a headline in the Himalayan Times. Nepal has often been seen as a cheap destination for mountaineering, but this perception is changing. I look at the reasons, examine whether it’s true and make some predictions. Continue reading

February 11, 2015 5:23 pm | Comments (6)

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Tilman’s expedition to Langtang

Tilman tried to get up Langtang Lirung, the highest mountain in the Langtang Valley, but failed to even find a way to its foot (Photo: Siling Ghale / The Responsible Travellers)

The great mountain explorer Bill Tilman made three treks in Nepal in 1949 and 1950. His first to Langtang was not successful in mountaineering terms, but as an exploratory journey it must have been as enjoyable as any he undertook. Continue reading

February 4, 2015 4:03 pm | Comments (8)

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A Gran Sasso reconnaissance

Snow conditions were excellent to begin with, but as we climbed higher into the couloir they became more powdery

I was dimly aware of the Apennine mountains running down the spine of peninsula Italy, but I’d never given them much thought. I discovered the Gran Sasso massif is a hill walkers’ paradise, with attainable mountains even in the depths of winter. Continue reading

January 28, 2015 5:12 pm | Comments (3)

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Please help me raise money for education in Nepal ...

sponsor me for CHANCEIn my spare time I am 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 by making a donation. You can also help by getting sponsored for an event or travelling to Nepal with their partner trekking agency. Here are the other ways you can help.

If you prefer not to then that's OK too. I enjoy going on expeditions and writing the blog, and will continue to do both of them anyway.

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Latest comments

  1. “Another interesting history lesson! Keep 'em coming. ”

  2. “More amazing for new zealanders is that indirectly Ed Hillary owed his place on Everest to pasang dawa lama. How? …”

  3. “Thanks, I'm glad you're looking forward to it. I won't be rushing it, though. My aim is to write something …”

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In the Footsteps of Mallory by Mark Horrell, available as an ebook here