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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

How many aitches in Machapuchare?

Many people's first view of Machapuchare is from the town of Pokhara

Machapuchare, the celebrated 6,993m peak in Nepal’s Annapurna range, is often given the ludicrous spelling Machhapuchhare, with two sets of double aitches. This post is all about how to spell the mountain correctly. Continue reading

October 29, 2014 4:01 pm | Comments (1)

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Chillaxing on Cholatse: a return to Nepal

A closer view of Cholatse and the Southwest Ridge (right skyline) from Gokyo Ri

Last year was the first since 2005 I didn’t go to Nepal, so in 2014 I’m making up for it by going twice. By the time you read this I will be heading to the Khumbu region to attempt 6440m Cholatse. It’s likely to be the hardest climb I’ve ever done. Continue reading

October 22, 2014 4:00 pm | Comments (3)

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It’s normal to say you’re going to break someone’s legs, Sherpa admits

The threat of violence that followed the issuing of a list of demands was very real (Photo: Ricardo Peña)

National Geographic has just published a series of articles about this year’s Everest avalanche when 16 Sherpas died. Buried further down the story is one startling statement that leapt out of the page at me. Continue reading

October 17, 2014 12:43 pm | Comments (8)

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Everest’s deadliest day – debating Everest’s future

Panellists Ed Douglas, Simon Lowe, Rebecca Stephens, Dawa Steven Sherpa, Doug Scott, and chair Ben Ayers discuss the future of Everest (Photo: Natalie Armitage)

Everest’s Deadliest Day was the title of a debate at the RGS in London last week, about the April avalanche and what it meant for the future of Himalayan climbing and the economy of Nepal. Here is my account and thoughts about the event. Continue reading

October 15, 2014 4:00 pm | Comments (9)

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Legends of Mulanje, Africa’s misty mountain

Many of Mulanje’s stories are as hazy as the legendary mists that sweep across its upper reaches and hide its peaks for days at a time

Mountains that are rich in history have a special attraction, but finding out about them isn’t always easy. Many of the stories about Mulanje in Malawi are as hazy as the legendary mists that sweep across its upper reaches. Continue reading

October 8, 2014 4:04 pm | Comments (0)

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Climbing Sapitwa Peak, Mulanje, the highest peak in Malawi

Edita scrambles over boulders between Sapitwa Peak and West Peak

Not only does the Mulanje Massif in southern Malawi contain some of the loveliest trekking you will find anywhere, but to climb its highest point, 3002m Sapitwa Peak, involves a very unusual scramble indeed. Here’s my account of our ascent. Continue reading

October 1, 2014 4:03 pm | Comments (5)

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Mafinga South and Mafinga Central: the highest peaks in Zambia

Edita on the early part of the Mafinga Hills' East Ridge

A couple of weeks ago I reported from Africa on my mission to find, measure, ascend and name the highest point in Zambia, and how identifying which peak to climb wasn’t as straightforward as you might think. This is the story of our quest. Continue reading

September 24, 2014 4:03 pm | Comments (7)

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Climbing Kilimanjaro: a taster from my forthcoming book

I made it to the summit of Kilimanjaro, but how difficult was it? You will have to read the book to find out.

I promised to provide an update on where I’m at with the book I’ve been threatening to publish about my journey from lowly hill walker to Everest summiteer. Here it is, along with a short teaser from the book in the hope that you might be tempted to buy it when it comes out. Continue reading

September 17, 2014 4:00 pm | Comments (9)

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Finding the highest points in Zambia and Malawi

Mt Mulanje, one of the highest peaks in southern Africa, rises out of the plains in southern Malawi (Photo: Lix / Wikimedia Commons)

You would think in this age of satellite mapping and websites like Google Earth the highest point in every country has been calculated by a machine, and you can just look it up somewhere. This isn’t the case, as I discovered when I tried to find the highest peak in Zambia. Continue reading

September 10, 2014 4:08 pm | Comments (5)

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5 of the silliest mountain firsts

Highland Games athlete Kenny Campbell carries a church organ up Ben Nevis in 1971 (Photo: Paul Newman)

With the news that a man climbed Snowdon pushing a brussels sprout with his nose, I thought it would be a good time to take a look at what other silly things have been done on mountains. So here are some of the world’s more improbable first ascents. Continue reading

September 3, 2014 4:02 pm | Comments (0)

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How photographs revealed Frederick Cook’s Denali hoax

Frederick Cook, one of the most notorious con men in exploration history

Frederick Cook was one of the most notorious con men in exploration history who tried to fake the first ascent of Denali. What makes his story so engaging is the way photographs have been used to shred his claim so convincingly. Continue reading

August 27, 2014 4:06 pm | Comments (3)

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Why a highway to Everest is long overdue

Flights to Lukla Airport in Nepal's Khumbu region have become extremely unreliable in recent years

If you’re planning on visiting Everest’s Khumbu region on a prearranged itinerary these days then there’s a high probability of your plans going tits up. But things look about to change with plans to build a road all the way to Lukla, the Khumbu’s gateway village. Continue reading

August 20, 2014 4:01 pm | Comments (7)

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My new e-book Denali Nights out now

My latest e-book Denali Nights is available now on Amazon and Smashwords

I don’t often plug my own stuff here on the blog, but I thought I would let you know that my latest travel diary Denali Nights was published as an e-book on Amazon and Smashwords last week, and will be available on other online retailers over the coming weeks. Continue reading

August 17, 2014 1:46 pm | Comments (8)

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Looking back on Everest as the dust settles

Chinese mountaineer Wang Jing with two of her Sherpa team on the summit of Everest after their helicopter assisted ascent this year (Photo: Wang Jing)

Now that we’re beginning to understand what happened on Everest this year a little better, more recent articles on the subject seem to be more moderate in their approach. I thought it would be a good time to examine some of the things I’ve read more recently. Continue reading

August 13, 2014 4:10 pm | Comments (23)

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Exploring the Cordillera Blanca’s high altitude playground

Me on the summit of Ishinca, with Ranrapalca behind

Peru’s Cordillera Blanca mountain range offers a veritable playground for the mountain lover, be they a trekker, alpinist or high altitude snow plodder, with glorious scenery and a range of different climbing. Here’s what happened when I went there last month. Continue reading

August 6, 2014 4:08 pm | Comments (5)

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Is K2 the new Everest?

Major clmbing routes on the south side of K2. A: West Ridge; B: West Face; C: Southwest Pillar; D: South Face; E: South-southeast Spur; F: Abruzzi Spur (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

There were remarkable events on K2 this week, with record numbers of climbers reaching the summit. K2 is regarded as one of the hardest mountains in the world, but has it now become within the range of less experienced commercial climbers? Continue reading

July 30, 2014 4:06 pm | Comments (7)

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Peruvian icefall doctors: a case study

Crossing a makeshift ladder over a crevasse on Tocllaraju, Peru

The photograph below shows Pasang Ongchu Sherpa crossing a ladder over a crevasse on Tocllaraju in Peru. A Himalayan veteran with multiple ascents of Everest and Manaslu to his name Pasang is no stranger to using ladders to get across crevasses, but even he looked a little nervous crossing this one. Continue reading

July 24, 2014 4:08 pm | Comments (0)

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A return to the Peruvian Andes, in very different circumstances

Located in the heart of the Cordillera Blanca a few hours’ drive from the tourist town of Huaraz, Huascaran is actually two mountains, Huascaran Sur and Huascaran Norte (Photo: Buz Groshong / SummitPost)

By the time you read this I will be in Peru, setting out in the hope of climbing its highest mountain, 6768m Huascaran. It’s been a long time coming. My one and only visit to Peru was when I walked the Huayhuash Circuit as a novice trekker in 2002. Continue reading

July 9, 2014 4:02 pm | Comments (2)

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4 ways to improve the south side of Everest

Lots of things have been written about how to fix Everest. Overwhelmingly these articles seem to be written by people who are not climbers and/or have never been there, or are alpinists.

I’m going to finish my series of posts on this year’s Everest season on a positive note by looking at some possible ways forward for commercial mountaineering on Everest. The aim is not just to make the mountain safer but to improve the overall experience for all who climb it. Continue reading

July 2, 2014 4:08 pm | Comments (5)

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The cod science of Everest hate

Deaths among Sherpas on Everest looks like Jupiter in this diagram, but how reliable is the data? (Source: Outside magazine)

One thing every Everest climber has to get used to is hate written about them in the media. Sometimes the hate becomes so pervasive that it starts to resemble propaganda, and one particularly corrosive piece of propaganda concerning Everest has been cited frequently recently and needs to be challenged. Continue reading

June 25, 2014 4:00 pm | Comments (7)

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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.

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Latest comments

  1. “You say that Machhapuchhare is still virgin. I DO HOPE so, and I'd like to think it will remain virgin. …”

  2. “[…] Is it OK for mountaineers to miss a puja? […] ”

  3. “Have a great climb Mark! We are just across the valley, having just made a "near" alpine style ascent of …”

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Denali Nights by Mark Horrell, available as an ebook here