Archive for the 'Mountain Climbing' Category
TotalAdventure flew from Colombo,Sri Lanka to Kathmandu, Nepal on March 14th. It was a comfortable 3 hour flight, almost entirely over smoky India – hard to see much from the air.
I was greeted at the airport by my colleague and guide Shahadev Shrestha – CEO of Everest Pioneer Trek Nepal Ltd. We met at the Adventure Travel World Summit In Anchorage, Alaska in 2016. I was planning a trip to Nepal in 2020, but of course worldwide lockdowns and border closings made that impossible. Now ,in 2023,TotalAdventure finally arrived. For the next 9 days I would explore the ancient cities of the Kathmandu Valley and climb thousands of meters on the challenging stair trails in the high hills leading to the Annapurna Range.
The first day was spent in the city. Monkeys are city dwellers also.
Nandi The Bull. Nepal is both Hindu and Buddhist.
Gods Are Omnipresent – Kathmandu is a city of lively prayer. WATCH THE VIDEO .
One of the Nepali national dishes is Momo. This special Momo, a type of dumpling, has chicken and is extra spicy. Nepali food has more meat than Indian, but cow beef is forbidden.
Monkeys Love Ice Cream ! The extreme cold causes them to eat it slowly.
In Old Bhaktapur – What lies behind these mysterious doors ?
Lord Buddha is ever calm and wise.
Ancient palaces have been restored over the past two decades.
A life of prayer and piety lead to desirable conditions for reincarnation.
A visit to the Burning Ghats sees reincarnation in action. When a Hindu departs, they are cremated within the next day, if not sooner. The ashes go into the water ,while the spirit rises into the Heavens, soon to return in a new life.
The oldest son prays before his Father.
A Holy Man reads scripture.
The price list translated from the original Nepali.
In Kathmandu TotalAdventure stayed at Kathmandu’s most iconic hotel – the Yak and Yeti. It was originally a palace.
The pool is spectacular. In addition there are clay tennis courts,a state of the art gym and sauna, as well as world class international restaurants and bars.
Manager Robinson Maharjan with Shahadev Shrestha.
Though quaint, i t’s nice to read an old fashioned local English paper, even though we can get the same news 24/7 on our electronic media.After your passport, your phone is now the most important travel item.
Now, it was time for the adventurous part of the Nepal Adventure. We boarded a 25 minute flight to Pokhara. The drive is 12 to 15 hours due to major road contraction, even though it is only a little over 100 km.
We stayed at the Mount Kailash Resort in Pokhara. One can see this beautiful Himalayan view on clear mornings.There is a great swimming pool and spa to recuperate from a strenuous trek in the nearby Himalayas.
The trails in Ghorepani Poon Hill are nearly vertical – sometimes a 60 degree grade. Instead of rods, because the grade is impossible for cars, there is an extensive network of stairs . All transport is on the backs of humans and sometimes small agile horses. SEE THE VIDEO ! There are many simple guest houses in a network of villages. Your morning eggs and coffee was carried up on someone’s back. As a result prices are higher than the lowlands, but still quite reasonable.
Mt.Fishtail 6,993 Meters 22727 feet – has never been climbed. It is extremely dangerous and the Nepali Government does not grant permits.
TotalAdventure’s Permit, secured by Everest Pioneer Trek.
TotalAdventure details and routes.
Annapurna – 10th highest mountain in the world – 8,091 Meters, 26,545 feet. Nepal has 8 of the 10 highest mountains in the world. Mt.Everest is farther Northeast and takes 2 weeks just to get to base camp – remember – cars are not an option.
The proprietress of our lodge with Shahadev and our porter Raj Kumar.
The snow lasts all year at higher elevations. It actually snows more in the summer, as that is monsoon. At our level around 3000m ,we had some light snow in the early mornings.
Mt.Fishtail In The Clouds.
The videographer at work.
After 3 days of climbing – from 2200 meters to 4000 meters , it was time to return to Pokhara. After a day of relaxation – we returned to Kathmandu – where I flew on to Qatar and the USA
We had a farewell dinner at the Yak and Yeti before I caught my 2 AM flight to Qatar. Pictured are Shahadev’s family, wife and daughter, along with an old college colleague of mine, Beth Brewster. We first met on a school trip in Mexico over 40 years ago. Beth has been in Nepal over 25 years. and is in charge of Giving Asha. The organization provides help to marginalized women and children in Nepal. Nepal has a great tourism industry, but there are still many poor. Please donate on the page.
Everest Pioneer Trek just launched three new adventures on TotalAdventure.Travel Click in the top left page of TotalAdventure Magazine or directly link to the trips from these links :
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This February 2023 , TotalAdventure was invited by the Adventure Travel Trade Association to join an ATTA market activation program in collaboration with Alliance de l’Industrie Touristique du Québec and Bonjour Québec and their regional partners.
On February 8th, I arrived back in Montréal for the first time in five years. I had a free. day before the delegation arrived , so I set out to explore the snowy city, which I know fairly well. I walked from our excellent Hotel d’Uville to the beautiful Mont Royal Neighborhood.
‘Notre Dame de Montréal.
A Painting Of Early Quebec settler and First Nations life in Eglise Saint-Jean-Baptiste. It is a very politically charged subject for good reason.
Afterwards I enjoyed an excellent Moules Frites in the Vieux Cite. That evening the rest of the delegation arrived.
Early morning Friday, February 10th, our bus departed for the Lanaudière Region for the first of several snowshoe adventures. I had not been on snowshoes in 30 years – on the old ones that looked like giant tennis rackets. The new kind are simple and sporty – allowing for fast tracking over very deep snow – usually two meters or more.
We enjoyed a delicious lunch at Auberge Lac-à-l’Eau-Claire, in Saint-Alexis-des-Mont. Afterwards we went ice-fishing – see in the video above , even getting to eat our catch afterwards , flash cooked on the spot.
At days – end , our crew was welcomed at the Sacacomie Hotel overlooking frozen snowy Lac Sacomie- with. maple whiskey in carved ice shot glasses. After downing the shots ,we threw the shot glasses over the side, towards the lake.
Winter Sunset over the lake.
Early Saturday morning, a bright sunny – 14 C ( about 9 F) we were off and running – with the dogs ! They are pure intelligence, enthusiasm and strength – nothing delights them more than pulling a fully loaded sled through the woods ,across the lakes and over the steep hills. The dogs have small houses – but rarely sleep in them – they prefer the warmth of a burrowed hole in the snow. They eat twice daily – a small breakfast before mushing – then later a large pot of hot meat and water – many calories to sustain their strength.
Eager To Run !
The next morning we were off to Quebec City – truly France in North America.
The Winter Carnaval. Quebecois love the outdoors in winter – they enjoy it as much or more than summer.
Quebec A Nuit.
Here the Fleur de Lis takes precedence over the Maple Leaf.
Above the mighty St.Lawrence – linking the Great Lakes to the Atlantic.
After First Nations storytelling at Ekionkiestha’ longhouse in nearby Wendake, we had incredible First Nations cuisine at their restaurant.
On Monday morning, February 13th, we explored Parc national de la Jacques-Cartier. First we biked , then we hiked, then biked again. Uphil in every direction — or so it seemed. The snowy forest was spectacular and silent. It was TotalAdventure’s first time Fat Tire Biking. I found it much like being on a stationary bike at the highest setting – great workout.
Each guest room has different theme – you can see them all in the video above. One thing in common though – it is cold – the room temperature is about -4 or 25 F. Understandably almost all the clientele are couples.
The season lasts into March . Then a movie shoot will take place before dismantling and forced melting by April. While winter lasts well into April and perhaps May, the warming sun can weaken the structure.
A Cold Way To Fry !
On Valentine’s Day, The Adventurers voyaged to our most remote area of the trip , Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, stretching northward from the St.Lawrence. While some did back country skiing, we did cross country skiing on the Saguenay River.
The water underneath the ice is 100 meters. Fresh water on top and salt down below- allowing a unique opportunity to catch both salt and fresh water fish in the same spot – inside a nice warm hut warmed by a wood stove, where you can cook your catch.
The next two nights were in the igloo village of Imago Village.
Our final day outside was in the Vallée des Fantômes. Named because the forest looks so ghostly in the deep deep snow that covers the five meter trees by more than half.
Cat wheels are the only way mechanized transport can bring people into the park.
On the final day , in Chicitoumi, at La Pulperie de Chicoutimi , TotalAdventure met with
TotalAdventure spoke on a panel discussing sustainability requirements . TotalAdventure is highly committed to sustainability with minimal development.
And the next day, we flew from Bagotville to Montréal to our respective destination in the USA or Canada. Only US and Canadian companies were invited to participate. Quebec is ideally situated from fly or drive vacations from the Northeastern USA – it’s only 5 hours from New York, and borders Maine !
This article is the first of a two part story – where TotalAdventure explores the southernmost reaches of the inhabited world. TotalAdventure was invited by the Adventure Travel Trade Association and SERNATUR ( Chile Ministry of Tourism) to joining two expeditions – one in Torres del Paine National Park – more detail in the next article and another engaging in other activities on Estancias and in the vast preserves of nature. SERNATUR paid for air travel and other essentials. The trips I joined were run by Chile Nativo. Besides exploring the incredible nature of the region – we met with 25 companies chosen to work with us to sell their packages on TotalAdventure. 32 other buyers , along with press , were invited to promote the pristine unspoiled remote areas of Chilean Patagonia , the Strait of Magellan – the Gateway To The Antarctic.
TotalAdventure has been commuting to the Southern Cone this year. First, 8 hours to Santiago. Then another 4 hours down to Puerto Natales.
To El Fin Del Mundo – The End Of The World.
From Summer To Winter.
Where The Guanacos Roam.
Stripped Clean By Pumas.
Rheas, A Smaller Version Of The South African Ostrich.
Argentina Border. In order to drive to other parts of Chile, one must drive over 1600 km through Argentina. Chile is almost all islands or impassable glaciers and forest from Puerto Natales to Puerto Montt. Relations between the two competing Latin giants are cordial ,but not always friendly.
We spent the day at Estancia Cerro Guido, very near the Argentine border crossing at Río Don Guillermo. The Estancia has huge herds of sheep, and allows visitors to experience daily life on the Patagonian steppes.
The sheep are very wooly by winter’s end.
It’s time for a haircut. While the ewe is mildly annoyed, there is no pain. It can be dangerous for the wool to get too thick and heavy. In freezing rain and heavy snow, the animals can’t move and can die of cold. This past winter ( May to October) was the coldest and snowiest in many years – the Estancia had to rescue some herds .
The wool is shipped all over the world to be made into high quality sweaters, dresses, socks and hats.
Lunch at Estancia Cerro Guido. Parilla del Cordero. ( Lamb ) A guest might enjoy this daily.
View From On High – Towards Torres Del Paine.
The next day, outside of Puerto Natales we rode horses up Cerro Dorotea. The outfit was not totally my choice. The horses were well tempered and responsive to more experienced riders, such as myself.
Led by Guachos – Born In The Saddle !
A warm fire at the mountaintop. It was sleeting at the top.
Patagonia Before The European Settlers.
On the final day, before sales meetings began, we boarded a cruiser for an expedition through Fjord Ultima Esperanza to Glaciar Balmaceda, about 50 km from Puerto Natales.
The saltwater fjord extends a long way from the Pacific.
Seals live in caves along the cliffs.
Mother And Pup.
The days are spent fishing and getting some late winter sunshine.
A low flying bird . The caracara ? Ornithologists please let us know..
I’ll Have A Grant’s . On 3000 Year Old Glacier Rocks Please.
The Explorer At Work.
Glacial Waters spilling into the fjord.
Purest Water Anywhere !
Down From Glaciar Balmaceda.
Bandera de Patagonia.
Magellanic Penguins Live On The Cliffs – Safe From Seals.
Outdoors Adventures Concluded – At the Hotel Rio Serrano we were greeted with an incredible Parillada de Cordero. The next two days were spent meeting with 25 local adventure providers – all of whom we hope sell adventures on TotalAdventure Chile Nativo already is !.
Beautiful warm pool, with nearby saunas, whirlpools and gym to warm up after a day on the glaciers !
All too soon, the adventures came to a close and it was time to head to the airport. Observed outside at a roadside cafe – two sheepdogs entertaining themselves.
From Punta Arenas it’s a 4 1/2 hour flight to Santiago, where I had a 7 hour layover, so went into the city to have dinner with a friend. After a connecting flight through Bogotá on Avianca, I was back in Miami the next afternoon. Punta Arenas is the second most southerly commercial airport in the world – with actual flights to Antarctica – about 800 mies south.
I first came to the Far South of Patagonia in February, 1991. I drove to Puerto Natales from Rio Gallegos, Argentina. I was one of 5 cars to cross the border that day. This photo is on Glaciar Moreno in El Calfate, Argentina. 31 years later, I am happy to report that the nature has not been changed much – due to strict and well planned conservation and sustainable tourism. Of course there are many more hotels, restaurants and tour companies catering to adventurous travelers from all over the world. Also technology is far more advanced. That’s a Sony Hi-8 video camera – considered quite advanced for the time with 480 lines . I had a custom made battery belt that powered it all day. To edit, I had to rent a $ 200 per hour studio in New York. Now I shoot on a GoPro 10 with up to 5300 lines and edit on my MacBook Pro. It was great to be back – stay tuned for TotalAdventure’s return to Tierra del Fuego and onwards to Antarctica next month – December 2022 !
On the morning of Friday,July 24th I left Deadwood South Dakota and within an hour had entered Wyoming on SD 34/ WY 24 . The first stop was Devil’s Tower.
Rising straight out of flat farmland,Devil’s Tower is 867 feet and formed in a short time due to volcanic upthrust. It is very geologically different than the Black Hills over 100 miles away, or the Rockies , more than 200. You can experience it in the video above.
By mid afternoon I settled into Sheridan, at the foot of the Big Horn National Forest. As usual I dined alone on the hotel porch rather than in a lively restaurant .COVID life on the road. Everything closed by 8 anyway.
Big Horn National Park offers hundreds of square miles of hiking, climbing, glacier trekking and ATV trailing. Since it’s not a National Park, it’s not well known except locally. I was the only Florida plate, most were from Wyoming and Montana.
Dropping down a few thousand feet from the Big Horn Range, TotalAdventure explored the Snake River Canyon , traversing the Wyoming Montana border. The canyon had been dry with a seasonal stream until a dam was built in the 1930s.
I then entered my 49th state, Montana ! Just one more to go – Oklahoma, but won’t be there until the return trip East in September.
Before Yellowstone, I overnighted in Billings and Red Lodge Montana. In Billings I enjoyed a big Montana steak, but when I arrived at my hotel in Red Lodge after a day in Snake River, about 7:30 to discover that due to COVID my hotel restaurant was closed and the few restaurants still open in town would be closing at 8. This New York/Miami traveler is not used to small town hours but had to adjust on this trip or face night time starvation. I was the last one served from the line at a Mexican cantina and scored a PBR from the bar/casino across the street. The bars closed at 9 !
From Red Lodge to Yellowstone the winding ,high altitude Beartooth Highway crisscrossed several times between Wyoming and Montana.
The Summer of 2020 was probably one of the best to explore Yellowstone. Though crowds were sizable , they were all American crowds, as most foreigners, not even Canadians, could visit in the COVID summer. The notorious traffic jams did not appear.
Yellowstone sits atop a super volcano. When it does finally blow – anytime between the next 10 minutes to 10,000 years – the park will become a 50 mile wide lake of boiling red lava and will cause global cooling for years to come.
The falls look even more incredible in the video above. Be sure to watch it all.
After a day and a half in Yellowstone ( many people stay a week or more) it was time to head north into Montana. Passing Big Sky on a beautiful highway with a legal speed limit of 80 mph I arrived in Butte around sunset. I would stay there 2 nights, to explore the old mining city , to catch up on work ,do laundry and get the extremely dusty X2 washed.
Gold Copper and silver were mined here. Butte was known as the “Richest Hill On Earth.” Miners came from all over the world. Copper is still mined, but there’s not much left. The old city is quiet but not quite abandoned.
From Butte , a few more hours to the Northwest and I arrived in Whitefish ,gateway to Glacier National Park. Whitefish was full of California ‘refugees”,many who had arrived in private jets ,escaping mask and lockdown restrictions in their home state.
In Glacier , on the first day of August, I swam over a mile in 2 lakes and walked in the snow.
On the morning of August 2nd, I left Whitefish for a day of mostly dirt roads from Montana into Idaho. I missed my westward turn and would up at the Canadian border. When I originally thought of this cross country trip,years ago, I had always meant for it to include Canada. Winnipeg, Saskatoon, and Banff would have been on the itinerary. But in March 2020, the Canadian government had shut the borders to all but commercial traffic, due ,of course to disease spread.
All I could do was look into this closed off , beautiful land – in this case the easternmost corner of British Columbia ,near Alberta. The next several hours was on windy isolated dirt roads – into the town of Yaak .
I walked inside the bar, which of course was all bikers . Had a friendly beer and they were amazed I was all the way from Miami. No photos were permitted, probably for very good reasons.
I spent the night in touristy Couer d’Alene, Idaho, another town where restaurants closed at 8 and I had to order pizza by 9 before that closed too. Changed clocks back for the last time. The next day – through Washington State, past Spokane – to Portland ,Oregon – almost completely cross country !
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On Thursday August 20th, after lunch with my son and future daughter in law, I left Portland Oregon and headed south on the the I-5 ,then US 101 before arriving in California’s northernmost town, Crescent City for the evening.
Crescent City is a big fishing port . The water is slightly warmer than nearby Oregon, in the high 50s, so I was able to swim. I had had a delicious seafood soup breakfast before heading to Humboldt County.
Eureka, the county seat, is a funky old town reminiscent of 1960s San Francisco. Most Californians have never visited Humboldt , one of the most remote end unspoiled coastlines in the Lower 48.
I was privileged to spend a night in Shelter Cove, an isolated community at the end of a long and windy road that raises and lowers up to 3000 feet before arriving at sea level.It’s very hard to find a room there.
Incredible black sand beaches with very dangerous surf. The Cove of Shelter Cove is where all water activity takes place. Please see the video at the top of the page. The summer weather is pleasant, about 70 and sunny in the afternoons, but the winter can bring up to 100 inches of rain from December to March.
Northern Humboldt is home to huge legal marijuana farms supplying the California marketplace. One can smell it while driving by the tents used for growing and drying.
After Humboldt it was off to volcanic Lassen National Park. See the video. Night was spent in Reno Nevada – not in the COVID restricted casino but in a huge luxurious suite at $ 90 a night.
2 nights in Tahoe, 2 nights in cold smoky San Francisco and a night in Carmel are all highlighted in the video. The plan was to drive down Big Sur, but again ,closed because of massive fires. I wound up at the farm home of a friend in Ojai. Finally was getting towards Southern California.
TotalAdventure has always been interested in living part time in Los Angeles. A week in an AirBnb as I did in Santa Monica this time, and last year, a week in Beverly Hills.
Although Santa Monica stayed cool, never going over 90, Las Angeles County experienced its’ hottest day in history on September 6th. We drove to Van Nuys to experience it – 121 degrees ! Also the hottest temperature ever recorded west of any mountain range in California.
On September 10th – it was time to head back to the East.
The Simian Mountains In Northern Amhara State Were Formed By Extreme Volcanoes About 40 Million Years Ago. They Tower West Of The Rift Valley, Which Runs Almost The Whole Length Of Africa.
The Highest Mountain Is 15000 Feet ( 4550 m) . Snow is known to fall in the wet season. TotalAdventure experienced below freezing temperatures in the early mornings.
A Gelada Monkey Family Forages For Dinner. Snacks from tourists are strictly forbidden.
A Guard With An AK-47 Is Mandatory , To Guard Against Hyenas In Simian Mountains National Park. Hyena jaws are so strong they can snap a femur like a small chicken bone.
GeladaMonkeys sleep on the cliffs at night, in order to be inaccessible to hyenas.
A Father is unfazed by his human cousins. They are 5 times as strong !
Sunset From 11,000 Feet ( 3384 m) at the Simian Mountain Lodge.
A Fireplace Keeps The Dining Room Warm. Outside it was 26 F ( -4 C)
Our drive out of the mountain range. Drivers must be careful, with 3000 ft. cliffs on every curve.
TotalAdventure travels mainly to exotic adventuresome locales overseas – but there’s plenty to experience right here in the USA . A few weeks ago we were attending a wedding in trendy Asheville NC. But just 30 miles up the road was the Heart of Appalachia – Erwin, Tennessee.
Houses are simple but have withstood the test of time. Much of Erwin is in a “Holler” – local dialect for Hollow – which is a very steep narrow valley in relatively high mountains.
Deadly fires are quite common – due to use of volatile propane for heating, or illegal meth labs.
In Erwin, in the easternmost part of Tennessee, which is one of the widest states. Memphis is 600 miles West, on the Mississippi River.
The Stars and Bars – Flag of the Southland !
This was early spring ,so the trout should be running soon. The highland area normally sees a lot of snow in winter, but it melts quickly in the Southern sunshine.
Down the Holler.
The small town of under 2000 people has over 30 Churches, almost all Baptist. The Bible is taken seriously and literally.
After TotalAdventure left La Paz , driven by our driver/guide Juan , we drove past mountains towering up to 21000 feet, perpetually covered in snow. This area of Bolivia lies at 17 South Latitude – equal to Trancoso Brazil, with beautiful tropical beaches , or the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Elevation makes the transition from Tropic to Arctic.
After about two hours we arrived at Lake Titicaca. At 12,500 feet ( 3800 m) it is the world’s highest navigable lake.
Only six hours from Miami, TotalAdventure is in a very different world.
Fishermen can live on giant reed rafts for weeks – living on fish and fresh lake water.
The water never goes above 52 degrees. Only one kind of fish, a trout , lives there. On every restaurant menu.
Modern Day Incas.
Sunset Over Peru.
Monday, October 9th, began with a visit to the Cathedral in Copacabana, the main town on Lake Titicaca.
We drove to the north of La Paz and El Alto towards the extremely high Andes.
Past a Shaman Burial Ground.
TotalAdventure spent the night at 4800 meters , 15,600 feet.
The accommodations were Spartan. There was no heat or fire as no trees grow in such high altitudes. The temperature dropped to 15 F , -10 C outside, not much warmer inside.
Coca Leaf Tea keeps us warm and healthy.
In the morning we drove up to Chacaltaya – until recently the world’s highest ski resort at 17,200 feet. Also at 17 degrees south, the closest ski resort to the Equator. However, the glacier disappeared by 2005, so the resort had to rely completely on snow and is more or less closed.
TotalAdventure was at the highest altitude we have ever been outside an airplane.
Skiers can climb up to about 18,000 feet to ski down.
In the afternoon we descended below La Paz ,driving six hours south into the desert.
In the distance is Salar de Uyuni.
Arriving in Uyuni Town. Here TotalAdventure switched guides and vehicles in preparation for Lipiz Sur !
October 11th , we left at 6 AM from Uyunyi Town to drive about 3 hours to the Lipiz Sur region, in the extreme Southwest of Bolivia, in the 15,000 foot range along the Chilean border. We left the paved road, which we would not see again for 2 days. Above is Laguna Verde, a beautiful lake at 15,000 feet. Laguna Verde is actually arsenic, and is deadly to all life forms.
Though it is early spring , the temperature does not go above freezing ,even in the day and at night falls to about 10 degrees F or about -14 C. Snow that fell in July and August is sculpted by the high dry winds. However ,TotalAdventure did swim in a 40 C hot spring. That is all on video. Unfortunately due to very slow hotel internet speeds, video will be added later. Even to upload still photos can take several minutes.
Thousands of years of freezing dry winds created this natural sculpture.
Before heading into the mountains , TotalAdventure took video of llamas.They are not wild, but do graze independently. THeir owners use them for wool and meat. Llama meat is tasty but tough – lean and high protein. Goes well with quinoa.
As evening approaches, the temperature drops rapidly. For astronauts heading to Mars, Lipiz Sur would be a perfect training venue. The night was spent at a comfortable lodge at 15,500 feet with hot water, hot meals and even a bar. Video to follow.
Tonight At 10:30 PM ,TotalAdventure departs Miami for La Paz Bolivia. After a relatively short short flight from MIA , which sits at just above Sea Level, our plane will land at the world’s highest commercial airport – El Alto at 13,323 Feet , 4100 Meters – descending only about 60% from cruising altitude. For the next week TotalAdventure will explore the highest peaks of the Andes, Lake Titicaca and Salar de Uyuni before moving south into Argentina for the Adventure Travel World Summit in Salta.