Footsteps on the Mountain blog

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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

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 (0)

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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 (10)

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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 (2)

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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 (6)

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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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Creative peak bagging is the way forward

I wouldn't have swapped our very entertaining expedition to the Mafinga Hills for anything else (Photo: Edita Nichols)

Last year was an unusual one for me. There were few real plans, and my travels ended up evolving out of necessity and opportunity, but I kind of liked it that way and I believe a combination of loose planning and going with the flow is the way forward in travel. Continue reading

January 21, 2015 4:05 pm | Comments (5)

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Toubkal and Ouanoukrim: a High Atlas winter wonderland

Descending from Ras n'Ouanoukrim with Toubkal up ahead

I thought I was done with the Atlas Mountains when I climbed Jebel Toubkal in Morocco 11 years ago. But the High Atlas in winter is very different from the sweltering dusty desert I experienced in the summer months, and I’m glad I returned. Continue reading

January 14, 2015 4:05 pm | Comments (1)

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Bill Tilman: Nepal’s very first trekking tourist

Bill Tilman with Sherpas Kusang and Angtharkay during their expedition to Nanda Devi in 1934 (Photo: Bill Tilman)

A few weeks ago I wrote about the history of Nepal and how it came to open its doors to tourism. In the second post in this series I introduce you to Nepal’s very first trekking tourist, who was already a Himalayan veteran and an interesting character. Continue reading

January 7, 2015 5:32 pm | Comments (13)

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Merry Christmas from Morocco

I first climbed Jebel Toubkal in July 2003. This time of year the summit will be snow-capped.

The title is not a line you expect to hear in a Muslim country, but I’ve made an exception. If all goes to plan by the time you read this I’ll be resting at Toubkal Refuge ready to make a Christmas Day ascent of the highest peak in North Africa. Continue reading

December 24, 2014 4:07 pm | Comments (1)

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The Denali concession: is it good for customer choice?

Denali's West Buttress route seen from Camp 1 on the Kahiltna Glacier. 92% of people climb Denali by this route. Does the concession system encourage this?

The Denali guiding concession is up for grabs. According to the National Park Service it’s intended to provide a variety of mountaineering services of different prices and style. But is this true? I had a look at what the existing operators are offering. Continue reading

December 17, 2014 4:09 pm | Comments (0)

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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. “I love taking pictures. Thanks for sharing these tips! ”

  2. “[…] the snow appeared much firmer than the hazardous powder we had encountered on Corno Grande the previous month. It …”

  3. “Haha, thanks Matt. No offence taken. And I'm sure many people would say shit sandwich describes my blog quite nicely! ”


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