Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Delhi and home

We spent our final few days wandering around Delhi and shopping for presents, and so my year away drew to a close.

It was a good year!

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Taj Mahal

Touristy, aye. Impressive, aye.

Mainly Indian tourists however and as a westerner (paying vastly greater Western rates) you do atleast get to bypass most of the queues. The Indian queue gave an interesting extra dimension to the Taj as they formed neat lines around it.

Friday, 18 December 2015


Ranikhet is a a hilltop army base, hidden away in the depths of the forest, with a cracking view out to the Himalayas where you can see through the trees.

We enjoyed a bit of luxury there, spending a couple of nights in a big country mansion, trying to plot our next move. With time running out, we opted for a sightseeing tour of the Taj Mahal and a few days in Delhi to wrap up.

Only problem, the distance... (and my annoyingly hard to shake off ailment of the digestive tract). 

Luckily taxis are cheap. We thought we could get a train most of the way but that proved unfounded so rather than waiting another day for a bus we just negotiated another long taxi ride all the way to Agra. 

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Pindari Glacier

It was pretty late in the season to be doing any trekking and with concerns over snow and temperature we choose the Pindari trek for its relative low altitude and easiness.

A couple of bus rides got us to the start of the trek and we were luckier enough to then share a 4x4 up the mountain to save a bit of a hike. I'd just watched our fellow passengers demolish a bottle of the local rum (for the warmth solely) and they proved to be chatty and entertaining company for the short journey up.

Off we go 
A couple of hours climbing up though the forest got us to our first camp. A lovely spot, looking back out over the valley, but a bit exposed. We managed to spark a fire into life to give us some warmth but it proved to be a cold night. Not the sort of temperature we were really geared up for.

Contemplating 6 more days of this
We continued our climb in the morning, up and over the snowy pass - with beautiful views from the top - and into the main valley of the hike. We were aiming for the only town in the valley and the prospect of some lodgings, and it turned into a long day with the village obstinately remaining out of site somewhere up the valley.

Over the top of the pass and into the main valley
We were delighted to be enticed into Hotel Anpona before we got there. With a friendly owner and stunning views over the junction of two valleys, it was lovely spot to spend the night.

Wrapped up in Hotel Anpona
We continued up the valley, stopping for the obligatory chai in Khati, and a long walk along the river floor as the original path up the side of the valley had been destroyed by a landslide a few years prior. 


Our next camp was just below below the snowline so we took alot of care finding the warmest spot we could, eventually settling down on a thick bed of dry leaves tucked up beneath a bushy tree. With the snow above we decided to attempt the glacier with a long day from where we were so were up early in the morning.

We made good progress to start. Meurig feeling a bit peaky however but battling on through the periodic urges to hurl his guts. It didn't take us long to hit the snow and we found alot of it. And that slowed us down. There was a lonely set of tracks leading us down the track to keep us in check. Fortuitous, but only going one way?! The pindari baba perhaps?

The final push
It has hard going and with the glacier hidden round the corner at the end of the valley difficult to judge our progress. It took some insistent cajoling to keep Meurig going just to the next corner, the next brow, just over there and then... Yasss!  There it was, finally the glacier revealed itself ahead.
Still quite far ahead mind and with only 4 hours of daylight left we called time on it there. A short scramble above our lunch spot got me a view down into the bowl ahead and I spotted the famous baba pacing between his snowy shrines, presumably deep in meditation. We made it up to 3715m. 

Was a bit of a shame not to make it down for a chat and a chai but it took us more than the remaining daylight hours to traipse back into camp. Time enough to get a roaring fire going though and dry out our sodden boots.

As far as we got

We had out last night back in the luxury of Hotel Anpona and I made a fatal error of judgement. Despite the traceable route of mild sickness to the Anpona water supply on the way in, I drank it again. And although I never got really ill I wasn't to shake it off for the rest of the trip (and beyond).

A long, slightly perilous 4x4 journey took us up and down and out the valley and with a selection of jeeps, buses and taxis we eventually made it all the way to Ranikhet where we thought we'd recuperate for a few days.

Baboons basking in the morning sun

Friday, 11 December 2015

A friend!

I finally left Bir on the 5 Dec and headed back to Delhi to meet my pal Meurig at the airport - a welcome friend with which to wrap up my year! 

We only had two and half weeks (which isn't a lot of time to explore even a fraction of this vast country), so we didn't spend long in Delhi (and didn't want to spend long in Delhi!) - just enough time to find some camping supplies and organise a taxi to take us back into the Himalayas; this time to Uttarakhand and our first stop in Nainital - a popular lakeside hill station in the Himalayan foothills. 

Its a pretty town with a very touristy main drag, but a lot more interesting in the old bits of town with the locals. We ended up spending much longer than we'd planned there however: India struck and we were both laid low with a case of Delhi belly. We were a bit bored after a few bed ridden days in Nainital and having worked out a plan for a trek, we summoned the strength to move on to Bageshwar.

Got to know this view too well...
Bageshwar is a small town at the confluence of 2 rivers, with a lovely market and no tourists. India can be a challenging place when your ill (not much to eat when you don't fancy a curry!) and the choices in Bageshwar were even more limited. We had a good movie channel in our guesthouse at least. 

Another few rest days were required there before we felt strong enough to undertake a 6 day trek to Pindari Glacier. 


Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Unplanned adventures

The next day wasnt quite as good, with lower base and rougher air. Still good enough to get over the back however and I thought I'd try a triangle, down the ridge and crossing back at 360. I embarked on a far too optimistic glide however to cross the valley and ended up bombing out in one of the side valleys. 


A few hours walking through the beautiful valley and small villages (tempered slightly by my sore back) got me to Barot and I had a fun night there keeping warm around a small fire with the owner of my guesthouse. A nice impromptu adventure!

Getting to know the locals
Hiking up to 360 to fly back to Bir 

Flying back

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Late season delights

By the end of Nov there were just a few pilots still kicking about and Bir was slowly winding down for the winter. There was a nice, relaxed vibe to the place and the few folk left (myself included) were in no rush to leave. After a good few days of no flying at all and the season seemingly over, we were rewarded with a couple of stunning days and some spectacular flying. On the 1st of Dec I braved a solo crossing over the back and joined by Swiss pilot Jean-luc we climbed up, up and up, to over 5000m. Up that high, the incredible depth of the Himalayas is revealed and the messy unbroken tumble of mountains stretches endlessly to the horizon and beyond.



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