I am very excited about my second trip to Nepal. In 2010, I had the opportunity to visit the country for the first time, and I made it up to Kalapattar, just across the valley from Everest. This time, I’ve decided to visit the Annapurna base camp which is the second most popular destination after the Everest base camp. I am doing it off-season in winter, so I am hoping for less tourists and more snow. Let’s see how it comes together.
This circuit is considered one of the best treks in the world though road construction is threatening its reputation and its future as a classic trek. Yet no one disputes that the scenery is outstanding: 17 to 21 days long, this trek takes you through distinct regional scenery of rivers, flora, fauna and above all – mountains. (Source: Wikitravel)
I’ll be on the road for 15 days and mainly following the traditional trek route. I am quite happy that I will be joined by my friend and guide from 2010, Agasta. He is a great guy with extensive trekking experience and knowledge about the mountains and the people. He also speaks many of the dialects used by the people in the mountains. It would be possible to do this all by myself, but I don’t need to be a hero. Besides, altitude sickness can strike anybody, even a seasoned mountaineer, so it is good to have somebody around, especially one who speaks the local language.
As I am an avid photographer, cameras will be an essential part of my outfit. There are a few important things to note. On this trek, we will be going up to altitudes around 4300m above sea level. That is not the highest that regular treks go to, but it is high enough to test the physical fitness, especially of somebody like myself, who was born in low lands and spends all day sitting in the office. When it comes to gear, the most important consideration is weight. Everything you carry feels at least twice as heavy at 4000m as it would at sea level. The less gear you have, the more freedom you have to move around and “work” the scene.
On a trip like this, recharging batteries might be a problem. First, there is either no electricity up in the mountains, or it is provided by generators that are costly to run, thus you will be charged for recharging batteries. Another issue is the cold, which drains batteries much faster. As a solution, it is good to travel with 2-3 spare batteries (depending on how much you shoot). Always keep batteries warm; the best is to place them in pockets close to your body. Putting the batteries into your sleeping bag during the night is a good idea as it usually gets very cold.
Then there is an issue of image backup. Since I am not a professional photographer, the loss of images wouldn’t be so crucial to my business. However, if possible, it is always a good idea to have at least one copy of your images stored somewhere else besides the memory card. I usually take my laptop on every big trip I go on. I had a small netbook the last time I went to Himalayas. This time I am considering leaving it at home and taking only a whole bunch of memory cards with me. This way, I would save 1kg in weight and that can make a lot of difference.
As I do lots of landscape photography, and now that I own a D800, a tripod is essential. My “lightweight” tripod is about 4.5 kg and that is quite heavy to carry around. But that’s the price you pay for steady shots. I am definitely planning to take it with me.
I have to note that I will use a porter for my main bag so I can run around with my cameras. If one wants to make the most of photographic opportunities along the way, this is the best, although not the cheapest, option. Last but not least, I have to mention clothing. If you are wondering how it relates to photography, I say it does in some way. Some of the best pictures are taken in not-so-good weather. If my warm clothing allows me to stay outside longer while I wait for that perfect light, then I would consider it as essential gear to have.
So now, let’s see what I am actually taking with me:
- Nikon D800
- 14-24mm 2.8 wide angle zoom
- 24-70mm 2.8 all purpose zoom
- 2 extra spare batteries
- remote shutter release
- Manfrotto tripod
- Lee filters 0.6 ND Pro glass and 0.3 ND grad
- so far I have 100GB worth of CF cards
- Fuji X-E1 with 35mm Fujinon lens as a backup camera
- small items like lens cleaning kit, torch light etc.
This may seem a lot for some and too little for others. I’ve decided to leave my 80-200mm zoom at home. And I will probably leave my Macbook Air at home too. I am little undecided on that one. Honestly, I would not feel comfortable without having my images backed up.
Well that’s it for now. I will definitely let you know how it goes. I am very excited about this trip and literally counting the days till departure. I’ll talk to you all again after the trip.