Off to Kathmandu – Mt. Lhotse here I come

The time has come. The last good byes to friends (cheeky pint with Sean and Hubert) and Alexander have been said and now I am now on board the air india plane for Delhi (8hours & 3,200km) and then on to Kathmandu. The plane looks pretty empty … so might have a row to myself. Great. To check in 45kg when 30kg is the allowance was a bit tricky, but I managed. A smile goes far in this world. A bit of cheating too and often further.

Now training is over. No more hypoxic chamber, but real altitude. No more Santander bike cycling, but hiking into base camp. In short … it’s time to get going. 9 weeks of pure adventure lie ahead. Never done that before! New places. New friends. New emotions. I cant wait! Lets make this one a trip of a lifetime! And please do join me!


As always, please do support my campaign to raise funds for disabled Nepali children and diabetes one research. Many thanks!

https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/rocketontour-lhotse


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Photography basics in Dalston ft. Quintina Valero

“Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving. What you have caught on film is captured forever… It remembers little things, long after you have forgotten everything.” (A. Siskind)

My history with Tina stretches back a decade when we were neighbors and part of the houseboat community in Butlers Wharf (not far from Tower Bridge) in 2005/06. I lived on the Dutch barge ‘Ijsbrandt’ and she lived next door in a flat-bottomed steel beast called ‘de lachende moor’. The later is still owned by the dad of my now godson, Paul, but his stories are for another day. I do remember helping to put up the basic structure of what would become Tina’s bedroom in the boat (Paul suffered from chronical lack of urgency when it came to these things). I also remember a god night out in Shoreditch afterwards to honour this achievement.

Tina made her move out of finance in Spain and into photojournalism already back then, studied photojournalism in London and is now one of the top newcomers in the photography world. Most of all she is one of the nicest people you can imagine. Do have a look at her amazing work (link). She has documented migration issues in Europe and Africa, life after Chernobyl (its been 30 years jn 2016!) and other important issues such as prostitution and human trafficking as featured in the Guardian here and the Sunday times (picture below).

Recent Sunday Times article ft. Tina

So when I needed some help to get started in photography … Tina was my first port of call and she didn’t let me down. We arranged to meet on a Monday in  her place in Dalston, East London (frankly an area I wouldn’t have visited 10y ago when I lived in nearby Shoreditch, but things have changed).

Since my new camera hadn’t arrived yet, we used her Canon and a 24/105mm lens with minimum aperture of 4.0. For basic stuff it doesn’t really depend on the model/make of the camera. Personally I use a Sony alpha 7r II with a 24/240mm (3.5 aperture) superzoom Sony lens and most likely a 35mm (1.4) fixed lens.

Intro to catching the right light

Topic for the day was how to use the camera in manual mode and make sure that there is sufficient light.

  • Aperture: In essence the aperture stands for the focus / sharpness of a lens (the pupil of the camera). Large aperture lets you capture many objects in a frame while a low aperture will focus on one object (say a face) while the rest around it will look blurry/fizzy. A low aperture reading (say 1.4) lets in more light. Low aperture is expensive and thus a 35mm lens with f1.4 can quickly set you back GBP1,000+. For fixed lenses the minimum aperture is a constant more or less, while for zoom lenses you will most often find a rising aperture as you increase the zoom.

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Swing sharp

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Foreground sharp

  • Timer: The timer settings allow you to control how long you want to let light come ‘through the door’. It’s measures in fractions of a second (e.g. 1/250), but since only the denominator is quoted a smaller number improves light and vice versa.

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  • ISO: Higher number caches more light. In normal light ISO100/200 will do just fine. Some may remember this from the standard  Kodak film rolls back in the days. Modern day cameras let you take this up to much higher levels though you should use a tripod some stage (my Sony offers above ISO100,000).
  • Flash: Flash can be of good help when natural light is rare. Dark rooms being one example, but more importantly also when a picture involves competing lights e.g. bright sky vs. darker foreground. Since all camera adjustment apply to both natural light sources, then flash can give you the edge to increase light in the closer vicinity.

Now it has to be said that these settings interact. For example higher aperture reduces light, so you have to ‘open the door longer’ to collect more light or increase ISO (or both). But that will come with experience. At least I know the levers now.

Tina in action … picture of snake teeth ;o)

By the time we had gone through the four points, taken a few snaps and laughed our socks off on several occasions (Tina was still recovering from a 5 day seminar in the countryside, which was at least say unusual ;o) our feet started to get cold and it was time for some food.

We opted for a Japanese place (Tonkotsu East) based in converted railway arches not far from Haggerston overground station (same area as a restaurant that I had previously visited with Chanel). The food was good and even included a special ‘Spanish’ ramen from a very god Spanish friend of Tina – I remember well the long queues at Borough Market as folks patiently waited for their  chorizo sandwich. He went on to launch his own restaurants (link). Only downside of the place was the chilly temperature in the room (hold on tight to your ramen soup!).

Overall an amazing and unusual way to spend a day in London on a Monday morning. Thanks Mrs. Valero! Will definitely consider your workshop idea once I got my head around the new toy.

Kicking about in London

Alex and myself woke up to a chilly yet beautiful Sunday morning. We greeted it with a choco croissant, finished off the homework quickly (never great to come home after a Sunday out to do spelling and math) and had a quick chat with Flora & Georgia – our two airbnb guests from Greece. They are both students and moved in yesterday. I think their plan was the British Museum. Great choice.

Kiddykicks football, for which I signed him up only yesterday, had been cancelled as the ground was frozen. Good call, but a pity as we skipped church to head for regents park. Anyway, Alex did want to try out his new kit (the mouth guard being the unexpected favorite!) and so we headed over to Paddington Rec for a bit of kicking about. Alex, like me in my days, has an interest in goal keeping. Training ensued (and yes, jumping on hard ground hurts … stop whingeing boy!) though at times interrupted by a dog chasing our ball.

Lunchtime we headed over to Covent Garden for my ice climbing session at Vertical Chill (located in the Ellis Brigham store) and for me to try some additional high altitude kit that had arrived Friday (the Scarpa phantom techs – single layered boot for most alpine and Scottish mountaineering). The session went mostly well. Twice I managed the easiest route (right up the middle) and twice the small overhang (towards the left of the well). My instructor gave me a few good tips here too. After that my arms felt already bit tired, but the overhang killed me off (again). Twice I tried, twice I had to give up. No juice left in the arms. Well, next time! Maybe I should start there. Alex entertained himself in the shop meanwhile. Loads of interesting equipment around (… those shiny ice axes ;o)

Time to refuel! We were both starving and headed to Wagamama’s opposite the shop. I always like to come here. Great food, fresh juices and outstanding service. While I enjoyed my usual chilli chicken ramen, Alex went for rice and chicken from the childs menu. The children chopsticks, which can be cleverly combined with ordinary sticks to form the shape of a plane, were fun to play  with yet left a tiny splinter in Alex finger. A flood of tears followed until the staff removed it helped by pineapple as anaesthetics. Alex deserved a present for all his bravery and didn’t take long to dig out a Lego like set at the shop of the transport museum. Time to go home and relax – I could fall asleep on the spot for some reason. Alex wants ice cream. Hurry!

 

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Fresh orange & apple juice was a hit!

Four amazon parcels were waiting at home … including the memory stick for my new gopro camera … I figured it out eventually.

Meeting (half) the team 1st time amidst tragedy on Ama Dablam (R.I.P. Thundu)

I had emailed Tim yesterday (my expedition guide, back right in the picture) to see how his November/ December expedition to Ama Dablam (6,812m) went and also to get a few gear related questions answered. Once we managed to connect and discussed the sad news from Italy this morning, he told me that he would actually be in London today to meet a bunch of clients. I gladly headed over to Euston (so exciting!).

Half the team face to face in London

By the time I arrived, Tim was accompanied by 6 hikers. Five of the lot will join us for the 3 weeks base camp trek (sorry folks, names I didn’t keep just yet) and Rory, from Ireland, who will head for Everest summit I believe. Nice bunch of people first glance and some good Q&A from which all benefitted. They seem to be all friends and/or colleagues and most have done Kilimanjaro. Rory seems to have a good amount of mountaineering experience (well, more than me anyway) with Denali, Aconcagua etc (probably loads more) done. In total we will be 12 people of which 4-5 high altitude climbers and some 8 people trekking to base camp – a big feat in itself at almost 5,400m.

High altitude team of four, maybe five

  1. Rory, Ireland, ex city worker (back left in the picture)
  2. Blake, US (?),  he tried 2y ago but didn’t make in 2015 due to the earthquake, was with IMG at the time yet had moved to Tim (better food!), permits from 2014/15 (two disaster years) can be used again (5y & 2y expiry respectively)
  3. Billy, ???, oil service background
  4. Ronny, East Germany, ex city worker
  5. Maybe one more guy (tbc)

Not sure yet if there is anyone in the team who also heads for Lhotse. Most likely, they all will attempt Everest I reckon. I guess I will find out soon enough.

Departure date set

Tim expects us to be in Kathmandu by Sunday 26th March. I will head out the 25th and enjoy an extra day in what I have been told is the craziest city there is (lets see JW ;o). Things are beginning to fall in place.

Bad news elsewhere, sadly

The initial reason to get in touch with Tim was to hear about his November/ December expedition to Ama Dablam (here a few pictures from another expedition). Unfortunately it didn’t go entirely as planned, as a freak accident above camp 3 killed Thundu Sherpa, injured another climber and led to an early end to this expedition. The reason was the tremor of a 5.4 earthquake in the region that dislodged some blocks of ice that hit the sherpa on the head and a client (who got also injured, but survived supported by a helicopter rescue). Reminds one of the risks this environment exposes you to. Thundu was only 43y and leaves two kids behind. Tim has visited Thundu’s family and organised a fundraiser to support his family and 9 other children left exposed following the earthquakes in 2015 the killed their fathers. You can help here.

Rest In Peace Thundu!