The ‘Changing’ Land of High Passes by Trivik Verma

Evolving landscape Ladakh is a cold and dry desert in the upper Himalayas. In the recent past, locals have started planting vegetation close to their villages; emerging green patches of trees are sprouting all over the landscape, which in turn cause occasional rain. Photo: Tyler Wilkinson-Ray

Evolving landscape Ladakh is a cold and dry desert in the upper Himalayas. In the recent past, locals have started planting vegetation close to their villages; emerging green patches of trees are sprouting all over the landscape, which in turn cause occasional rain. Photo: Tyler Wilkinson-Ray

The highest and coldest desert in the world is set for change, both natural and manmade

“People will realize it in twenty years, what they had was so much better,” Tashi Tundup was gripped with emotion. The postmaster of Padum (Zanskar), a perennial remote region of the high Himalayas, explained how the seasons were changing, including farming patterns and river flows. “Roads will be built soon to connect this valley to the rest of Ladakh, when ‘culture, food, and language’, will be lost forever,” he said. Tashi is happy in his environment, a post-master by day and a homestay owner by night, he serves a handful of travelers every summer. Sub-zero winters are spent drinking Chhaang, a locally brewed Nepalese and Tibetan alcoholic beverage, and sitting through large village gatherings around fires with music and food.

The Military presence in Ladakh Leh - the once known capital of Ladakh, is a military base that shares its airstrip for public use. In 1998, the Indian Army started a program called Op Sadhbhavana (goodwill) to return some peace to the community. Despite that, military areas occupy majority of inhabited land. Photo: Yogesh Kumar

The Military presence in Ladakh Leh - the once known capital of Ladakh, is a military base that shares its airstrip for public use. In 1998, the Indian Army started a program called Op Sadhbhavana (goodwill) to return some peace to the community. Despite that, military areas occupy majority of inhabited land. Photo: Yogesh Kumar

A peaceful home for refugees After her parents fled from Tibet in 1970, Tashi Sinon was born in Leh. Ladakh is at the center of a war waged by three governments - India, China and Pakistan. Yet, things here are peaceful. Tashi reflects that emotion well; she is stylish, makes her own jewelery and speaks fluent English. Photo: Trivik Verma

A peaceful home for refugees After her parents fled from Tibet in 1970, Tashi Sinon was born in Leh. Ladakh is at the center of a war waged by three governments - India, China and Pakistan. Yet, things here are peaceful. Tashi reflects that emotion well; she is stylish, makes her own jewelery and speaks fluent English. Photo: Trivik Verma

The economy is based on experiential travel Tourism in Leh and neighboring regions is on the rise. Locals of this region run adventurous activities as a means to support their livelihood. Every shop in the main city of Leh offers a tour or package. “Best adventure company..” they all advertise. Photo: Trivik Verma

The economy is based on experiential travel Tourism in Leh and neighboring regions is on the rise. Locals of this region run adventurous activities as a means to support their livelihood. Every shop in the main city of Leh offers a tour or package. “Best adventure company..” they all advertise. Photo: Trivik Verma

Receding glaciers of the high Himalayas "This glacier used to come up to the road connecting Kargil to Zanskar," Stanzin Chotchan recalled, during an interview in the quest of finding the last Mail Runners of India. Chotchan runs an expedition company in Leh. Once the glaciers dry up, the only source of water in Ladakh will disappear. Photo: Tyler Wilkinson-Ray

Receding glaciers of the high Himalayas "This glacier used to come up to the road connecting Kargil to Zanskar," Stanzin Chotchan recalled, during an interview in the quest of finding the last Mail Runners of India. Chotchan runs an expedition company in Leh. Once the glaciers dry up, the only source of water in Ladakh will disappear. Photo: Tyler Wilkinson-Ray

Greenery in patches Purne (Zanskar district) is a three-house village situated at the confluence of two rivers - Tsarap and Kargyak. For the lack of roads, people here run up to the neighbouring Chah village for daily work. For them, the altitude and steep terrain don’t matter. Athleticism is built in their livelihood. Photo: Yogesh Kumar

Greenery in patches Purne (Zanskar district) is a three-house village situated at the confluence of two rivers - Tsarap and Kargyak. For the lack of roads, people here run up to the neighbouring Chah village for daily work. For them, the altitude and steep terrain don’t matter. Athleticism is built in their livelihood. Photo: Yogesh Kumar

Remote villages of Zanskar Chah is almost a day’s hike from Ichar, end of the road from Padum. Roads are planned for this region and in a few years life here will change drastically. The region’s 23-year-old postmaster is not too happy about it. “Nobody will care anymore,” he sadly thinks out loud. Photo: Trivik Verma

Remote villages of Zanskar Chah is almost a day’s hike from Ichar, end of the road from Padum. Roads are planned for this region and in a few years life here will change drastically. The region’s 23-year-old postmaster is not too happy about it. “Nobody will care anymore,” he sadly thinks out loud. Photo: Trivik Verma

A young resident of Chah Village, Zanskar Valley Chah has a population of merely 500. Adults have to go to Padum or Leh for Jobs. There is a school for basic education in the village but some children go up to Manali for education. There are Homestays among these brick-walled houses and tourists are a common sight throughout summer. Photo: Yogesh Kumar

A young resident of Chah Village, Zanskar Valley Chah has a population of merely 500. Adults have to go to Padum or Leh for Jobs. There is a school for basic education in the village but some children go up to Manali for education. There are Homestays among these brick-walled houses and tourists are a common sight throughout summer. Photo: Yogesh Kumar

The treacherous valleys of Zanskar The rivers here are frozen in the winters. They are coined the term Chadar (sheet), symbolising a blanket of ice, on which villagers walk to the closest motorable towns for ration. Mules and horses are used to transport their things. Summers here are not any easier. Photo: Trivik Verma

The treacherous valleys of Zanskar The rivers here are frozen in the winters. They are coined the term Chadar (sheet), symbolising a blanket of ice, on which villagers walk to the closest motorable towns for ration. Mules and horses are used to transport their things. Summers here are not any easier. Photo: Trivik Verma

Phugtal Gompa in the Lungnak valley in Zanskar The Lungnak valley is the most remote region of Ladakh, including the Phugtal Gompa (monastery), which is the only monastery that is truly isolated and requires a long trek through difficult terrain. Photo: Trivik Verma

Phugtal Gompa in the Lungnak valley in Zanskar The Lungnak valley is the most remote region of Ladakh, including the Phugtal Gompa (monastery), which is the only monastery that is truly isolated and requires a long trek through difficult terrain. Photo: Trivik Verma

No phones, no rescue. A place for adventure? Hiking, Mountaineering and Skiing are some of the sports that draw tourists from around the world. Locals living in such inhospitable conditions are organically more agile. For them, traveling the world for sport doesn’t make much sense, but adventure tourism is part of their livelihood. Photo: Yogesh Kumar

No phones, no rescue. A place for adventure? Hiking, Mountaineering and Skiing are some of the sports that draw tourists from around the world. Locals living in such inhospitable conditions are organically more agile. For them, traveling the world for sport doesn’t make much sense, but adventure tourism is part of their livelihood. Photo: Yogesh Kumar

(As published @ RedBull)

Kameng - the Mishmi Takin hiking boot by Trivik Verma

Mishmi Takin, an outdoor brand coming out of the US that designs high-performance boots & jackets, could be the next big thing for all your adventures. Their Kickstarter campaign is now live and The Outdoor Journal received an early pair to review.

Industry graded hiking shoes keep you dry, but not in all climatic conditions. Most “waterproof” boots follow the standards of something called a  ‘Wet System’ made from a Polyurethane (PU) membrane. In simple words, for your feet to remain dry, the humidity inside the shoe must increase before you actually start sweating.

Mishmi Takin product shoot in Troutdale, OR. Photo by: Trevor Brown, Jr./Trevor Brown Photograph

Mishmi Takin product shoot in Troutdale, OR. Photo by: Trevor Brown, Jr./Trevor Brown Photograph

Mishmi Takin - an endangered species of the goat-antelope family that resides in the Indian, Myanmar and southern Chinese Himalayas - lent its name to a new brand that produces highly breathable and water repelling gear. The founder, Kapil Dev Singh, does things differently. “Our #1 difference is the use of DRY-SYSTEM membranes and fabrics that are microporous and air permeable, resulting in immediate expulsion of water vapor, some air exchange and a big difference in user comfort,” Singh said during his Kickstarter campaign launch.

The eVent membrane technology, that Mishmi Takin has tied up with, is based on millions of micropores that disperse any buildup of vapour within seconds in lieu of a slow 4-step (condensation, absorption, diffusion, evaporation) process that is present in most hiking boots designed for protection in rain. The membrane technology is also waterproof so the shoe works in a wide range of conditions. After hours of hiking through a wet, muddy and slushy forest area in the Alps, I didn’t feel the need to change to another pair of socks.

The Kameng also features a VIBRAM® Megagrip sole (Mishmi Takin has also partnered with VIBRAM) that allows for a great grip on wet and slippery surfaces. I used it for scrambling up rocks in the equatorial heat of central India. The upper Cordura fabric was easy to clean. The Rocker Sole was perhaps a surprise and reminiscent of the industry leader Dachstein’s Super Leggera DDS.

Walking through a forest after an accidental splash in a muddy pool. Zero water permeated inside the shoe.

Walking through a forest after an accidental splash in a muddy pool. Zero water permeated inside the shoe.

Breathability and Waterproofing

Excessive hours of walking through forests in cold and wet conditions didn’t make me want to change to another pair. I found that the shoe doesn’t even emanate any foul odour that I often associate with my other hiking boots, no matter the conditions.

I have used the shoe in the warm temperate climate of India, while hiking in the Alps in Switzerland, the Black Forest region of Germany and for casual day to day activities during countless rainy days in Switzerland. The shoe has kept my feet dry and free of sweat. Of course it does get cold in there in subzero temperatures but that’s not what the shoe is for. 

Weight and Size

I wear a European 42 and most shoes go either way, 41 or 43. This one was a snug fit, and I almost never realized a heavy weight on my feet. At 630 grams, it comes very close to the Super Leggera DDS from Dachstein which is only 560 grams and poses a fair competition.

My absolute favorite thing about the shoe is its rocker sole feeling on steep terrain and the fact that I never feel its weight on slopes while pulling up a heavy pack.

Mishmi Takin’s Kameng series of hiking boots is in line with Singh’s experience in the tropical outdoors and his world class engineering (IIT, India) and management (MIT, USA) education. It has the right amount of aesthetics that bring together a wide-range of necessary features normally found in separate pairs of shoes, almost never together, and keeps you dry across many temperate climates while performing the same in colder regions. The Mishmi Takin species has great feet traction for climbing up and down steep terrain in the Eastern Himalayas and also has an oily outer skin layer that allows for rain to slide off easily. Their evolutionary advantage is what made Singh borrow the name.

Price: $125 - $230
Buy

(As published @ The Outdoor Journal)

Biomechanics of the Outdoor Athlete by Trivik Verma

In the age of rapidly evolving outdoor sports, athletes deal with injuries while simultaneously growing faster, fitter and stronger. Their bodies are like fingerprints, a balance of its nature versus the nurture it receives. What dictates the course of their bodies - musculoskeletal injuries, diagnosis and learning?

Vibram USA – a barefoot running footwear company – was sued in early 2012 for asserting that their shoes reduce foot injuries and progressively strengthen foot muscles. A long debated topic of discussion – barefoot versus shod running – has gripped both scientists and athletes for decades. Yet, all practitioners of the sport regularly face befuddling injuries; some because of the nature of the sport itself, while others due to the lack of a proper form.

I was ignorant of this fact five years ago, when, while practicing a different sport altogether, I heard the sound of a muscle stretching irregularly as I jumped for a Dyno.

A Dyno – in climbing parlance – is a dynamic movement to leap across a blank section of rock to grab a hold that is otherwise out of reach. This looks simple with enough grace but masks a volley of internal forces, sometimes outrageous in magnitude.

The silence in Fontainbleau was overwhelming. Laying on a crash pad, in the epicenter of outdoor European bouldering, I reflected on the consecutive winters spent inside climbing gyms, training regularly for any outdoor adventures.

A rotator-cuff tear on the left shoulder of a climber after executing a dyno. Illustration: Naveed Hussain

A rotator-cuff tear on the left shoulder of a climber after executing a dyno. Illustration: Naveed Hussain

Once back in the Netherlands, I visited a doctor, who diagnosed me with an inflammation of the rotator-cuff. She advised me to train my shoulders for at least a month before I started climbing again. I inquired about the extent of the injury and wondered how it could have been avoidable.

First, let’s talk about Danny Way. Unless you are a skateboarding enthusiast, it is hard to put a face to that name. In 2005, he jumped off a ramp to clear a 19-meter (62.34 feet) gap at The Great Wall of China. This is no ordinary feat in itself but most of the world, at that moment, was oblivious to a tiny piece of detail. His steering foot was smashed and his knee had broken mechanics at play. In addition to living through this incomprehensible attempt, Way threw a 360 in mid-air. He then did it five times over. The amount of force a human body would experience standing on earth was quadrupled in Way’s case.

In comparison, a dyno demonstrates negligible force.

Every so often, in climbing gyms scattered around the globe, teenagers crawl through overhanging 7c (5.14 in US terminology) routes, exerting much more force on their bodies than a mere dyno would. Today, they have abundant resources, controlled environments, thoroughly robust exercise regimen and dogged food habits. Alternatively, I started climbing much later in life; when my body had already set up limitations on its abilities following a lifestyle that barely involved any stretching.

Raffael Walter attempting a boulder in Selma, Switzerland, through a rehabilitating left elbow. 

Raffael Walter attempting a boulder in Selma, Switzerland, through a rehabilitating left elbow. 

My recovery and subsequent physiotherapy after the episode in France made me realise the nature of my body. The truth, at least for most of us with a sedentary lifestyle (coupled with demanding athletic endeavours), is that our bodies are accustomed to being at rest. We spend, on average, a third of our lives sitting, a third sleeping, and maybe a minor fraction of the remaining third indulging in very demanding athletic activities. It is conceivable that such extreme forces may make us prone to injury on occasion.

Musculoskeletal injury is one of the primary hazards of industrialisation where normal body movements are occasionally compromised by regular lifting of weights. Dr. Kathryn Sophia Stok – a lecturer at the Biomechanics laboratory of ETH Zurich – asserted in one of her lectures, “Muscles are a core element of strength,” in an attempt to reiterate how important muscle forces are in the study of Orthopaedic Biomechanics.

Our muscles are made up of basic rod like units called myofibrils. It is the contraction of the myofibrils that generates the force a muscle produces. We can train our neural pathways for better contraction of muscles to exert more force. A child’s brain learns faster and adapts muscle contractions quicker to the task they are performing. Have you tried learning how to ski at the age of twenty-four? Kids aged four or five are much faster and more comfortable at learning this sport, or for that matter any exacting sport.

The same myofibrils allow professional climbers like Alex Honnold and Ashima Shiraishi to warm up on menacingly flat pieces of rock, habitually. Honnold is thirty years old. Shiraishi, as the The Guardian reported in March 2015, became the first female to climb a 9a+ route (5.15a in US climbing terminology). No female has ever achieved such a feat earlier. Shiraishi is only thirteen years old.

Let’s try a different perspective, one that doesn’t excuse the older generation. How is it that Dean Karnazes (aged 52) runs through the warmest conditions known to man and Will Gadd (47) climbs overhanging ice walls in sub-zero temperatures? Just in case our standards have already digested the potential of these outdoor athletes, Kilian Jornet is attempting to “run” up Everest in 2015.

These athletes neither have a different bone structure, nor are they dictated by special mechanics. So what explains this spectrum of physical variation? Our musculoskeletal system is like a fingerprint; everybody has one, yet each is a story of its own. The environment individuals grow up in, their eating habits, physical routines and medical histories are all factors that shape this story. It is the same set of bones, tendons, ligaments, muscles and cartilage, packed up in a personal experiment of nurturing.

Ironman Zurich, 2014. Athletes from around the world are training in cold open waters before the race. 

Ironman Zurich, 2014. Athletes from around the world are training in cold open waters before the race. 

Locomotion is one of the cardinal functions of our musculoskeletal system. Tissue component surrounding the tendons allows us to move our limbs with ease avoiding any excess stress on them. Tendons control the movement of muscles by connecting them to the bone. Whereas, ligaments keep the bones in place by connecting them at joints preventing unreasonable movement of our body parts. This intricate network of bones and surrounding tissue works in perfect synchrony.

A disruption of this locomotor system can turn a privilege like walking or holding a glass into the most arduous task, especially during old age. Reflect on a senior member around you who may be suffering from Osteoporosis. This condition results in weak bones that are more prone to injury. Osis – degeneration of tissue (collagen fibers in this case) – results in the bone and tendons around the bone to degrade in their tissue component. In contrast, itis – inflammation of a tissue – is the body’s response to an injury to muscles, tendons, ligaments, cartilage and bone itself. Sometimes, longer periods of wear and tear of our joints or tissues (leading to repeated inflammation) cause chronic damage and ultimately, degeneration.

Inflammation of muscles or tendons is common among climbers and runners. How many times have you landed wrongly on your strong foot while bouldering or running along the trails? Once an injury occurs, the first step to dealing with it is to form a diagnosis. The frequently occurring ones become common terms of use and are often used incorrectly. For instance, the difference between a strain and a sprain. Muscles and tendons can be strained upon stretching. Tearing or stretching of ligaments is called a sprain.

When we abruptly land on our foot and hear a snap, it is associated with a sprain. The ankle, along with a multitude of ligaments to support the joint, also has attachments to the tendons of the muscles of the leg. Hence, as non-practitioners of medicine, we do not have enough knowledge and experience to point out the difference. Doctors try to do their best to diagnose the problem. Its success depends on how accurately we dictate our medical histories. Once the diagnosis is confirmed, spotlight shifts to repair and rehabilitation, which depends on adequate treatment given in time with proper follow-up and patient compliance.

All the examples of extraordinary physical prowess (despite injuries) commence from a single point – Learning. Even if evolution is understood down to its very ingredients, we have to depend on our learning abilities. This learning process of our brain put simply, starts with imitation. As a child, we have seen our neighbours “jog” with bent vertebrae, landing on their heels. The runners among us start running like that trying to naturally correct their form. But sensory feedback in running is delayed (most often until after injuries) because we have worn “comfortable” shoes all our lives. In contrast, the Tarahumara people, a tribe settled in the high sierras of Northwestern Mexico, who run barefoot, have different biomechanics. As is clear from the text of Born to Run, a book written by Christopher McDougall, to this day they are faster and fitter than most ultramarathon runners in the world.

In this epoch of accessible climbing gyms, we learn to mimic all kinds of climbing habits. A larger gym-climbing population crimps on small holds with a closed hand grip, the thumb covering the fingers, acting as a lock to avoid any slipping. This is the fastest way leading to injured fingers. “The correct way of doing this, with open handgrips where the subjected force is the least, is often ignored as it takes months of patience to develop such a style of climbing,” Doctor Schweizer told me.

I was sitting in his office – bereft of any expectation– with a folder of my past diagnosis, and a taped finger. A different but old injury had restricted me from climbing regularly. After my blasé narrative, Dr. Schweizer asked me to remove the tape and prepare for an ultrasound, the first in a year of visiting doctors across three continents. A finger pulley injury – a tendon related injury often attributed to climbing – had left me with an awkward feeling in my hand. The ultrasound indicated that everything was intact. I didn’t believe him, skeptical of having countless unsatisfactory opinions and therapies. He smiled and said, "You shouldn't stop climbing." As a hand surgeon of Swiss origin, he has a rather unconventional manner of dealing with his patients. Perhaps because he is a climber himself.

Raffael Walter on a classic Jura pitch (5.10/6a) in the middle of a cold, foggy morning.

Raffael Walter on a classic Jura pitch (5.10/6a) in the middle of a cold, foggy morning.

Dr. Schweizer has been climbing for more than two decades, something I realised when he first shook my hand. He showed me the results of our radiology examination. I was surprised to notice that a layer of collagen fibers, maybe three times as thick as mine, had developed around his fingers. He correctly pointed out that I must have started climbing four years ago back then. These fibers take time to generate, and progressively add to the strength of our hands.

In later life, I am attending a lecture in orthopaedic biomechanics. After a series of injuries that I have tumbled through since France, the inevitable consequences of the sports I indulge in are now transparent. Mikhail Baryshnikov, cited as one of the greatest Ballet dancers in history, says, “The more injuries you get, the smarter you get.” A lot of people have never studied the mechanics of their bodies and still manage to avoid unnecessary injuries.

By sixteen, Honnold was doing one-finger pull-ups. Steph Davis, prior to discovering her passion at eighteen and becoming one of the strongest female climbers in the world, religiously played a piano while growing up. Dean Karnazes quit his corporate job at thirty to add more running hours to his life. Mandy-Rae Cruickshank has gone deeper than most across oceans around the world, without supplemental oxygen. Jeff Clark surfed the Mavericks alone for fifteen years until others discovered it.

These are mind boggling feats performed by individuals who have spent a better part of their lives perfecting the art of balancing mind and body, learning to demand just enough of themselves, which makes them achieve what seems impossible but have the wisdom to stop when damage outweighs performance with long lasting repercussions. Yet, there is one thing in common for all of these outdoor athletes. Injuries. No one escaped them.

This article was edited by a practicing medical doctor for any inconsistencies. 

(As published @ The Outdoor Journal)

Top gear at Outdoor Friedrichshafen 2015 by Trivik Verma

The Outdoor Journal lists top eight gear brands to look out for, from the 20th European outdoor trade exhibition at Friedrichshafen, Germany. Lesser known brands make their mark with creative leaps in technology for longer and safer experiences

1. Versant 60L Versant Backpacking Pack

By Thule

A carefully designed technical hiking backpack, the Versant series packs are designed for long hikes and expeditions. They are gender specific and available in three sizes (50L, 60L and 70L). The bottom quarter of the pack is lined with a waterproof fabric, ideal for river crossings. Their key is customization, with numerous combinations for very different conditions in the mountains. Thule recently entered the outdoor backpacking industry and has successfully made a stand among top brands with bags ranging from bike attachments to expeditions; all designed with durable and light weight fabrics. Thule-Erik Thulin's idea to provide fishermen with transport solutions, first in 1942-is primarily known for carriers for surf boards, cycles and ski equipment.

Versandt 60L expedition pack

Versandt 60L expedition pack


2. Polarmond ALL-IN-ONE tent

By Polarmond AG

Polarmond All-in-One Tent

Polarmond All-in-One Tent

The Polarmand technology is a 3-in-1 tent that is designed to have assortments for a sleep shell and bivouac module. It is targeted at extreme expeditions. All components of the tent system can be used separately. The sleep shell is designed to withstand up to -30°C and is marketed as a “self-warming tent” that regulates temperature and integrates a dehumidification management system. It has a light construction of 4.1 – 4.5 kg (depend on the liner insulation thickness) and does not use down in any of its parts. Polarmond is a Swiss startup set up with the help of researchers from EMPA (Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology).


Photo: Trivik Verma | Agro – Vegan rock climbing shoe

Photo: Trivik Verma | Agro – Vegan rock climbing shoe

3. Agro V

By Evolv

The Agro is a high end bouldering shoe devoid of any leather material. Their new Tension Power System (TPS) pulls the forefoot from three different positions. It is light, breathable and exceptionally soft for a midsole-less shoe. Evolv is evolving into an eco-friendly rock climbing shoe manufacturer; Steph Davis is designing a new vegan version of the Evolv Addict.

 


4. Rind Jacket

By Klättermusen

   

 

 

Klättermusen (KM) 2016 collection is inspired by the weather in Jämtland, Sweden. A day in this town, situated at the mouth of the North Sea wind, can experience anything from a hailstorm to soaring sunlight. Their collection is a testimony to these weather conditions with gear that is waterproof and light weight, easily removable and compresses in a small backpack. Rind products have taped seams and a 2.5 layer breathable fabric that is recycled from fishing-nets. The series is free from any fluorocarbon. Other products from this brand are so versatile and durable, “customers don’t want a new range. Instead they want the old product fixed even after excessive use”, Malin Nilsson told The Outdoor Journal at the KM booth.


Race 2.0 Ultra light sports glasses

Race 2.0 Ultra light sports glasses

5. Race 2.0

By Julbo

The Race 2.0 version has side vents for better ventilation and prevention of fog. Its temples curve to provide a snug fit on any sized skull. The nose grip enhances the fit by adjusting the rubbers attached to it according to the shape of the nose. It is extremely light weight, a huge relief for long distance runners.


6. Camalot Ultraight

By Black Diamond

This version shaves 25% weight from the Camalot camming device used for traditional climbing. A continuous loop of dyneema core replaces the steel cables in the shell of the traditional Camalot. Trigger wires are reinforced with plastic after shrinking them. Cams can add a lot of weight for long trad climbs. This is going to be a welcoming surprise for climbers around the world and perhaps allow cam manufacturers to completely revolutionise the cam industry. Black Diamond was initially called Chouinard Equipment, when climber Yvon Chouinard started selling hand-forged pitons in Yosemite.


7. Super Leggera DDS

By Dachstein

Photo: Trivik Verma | Super Leggera hiking boot

Photo: Trivik Verma | Super Leggera hiking boot

The Super Leggera has a knitted upper body, meshed using a flexible fabric that employs an interplay of tensile and compressive tissue zones. The boot fits like socks and is incredibly light weight compared to any other similar shoe grade on the market. The sole integrates Vibram’s Motion Flex Sole technology, making walking on rocky surfaces seem effortless. The company was established in 1925 after a successful shoemaker’s workshop, getting its name from the famous Dachstein mountain region in Austria.


Photo: Trivik Verma | Gecco Sleeping bag made from a plant-oil based nylon fabric

Photo: Trivik Verma | Gecco Sleeping bag made from a plant-oil based nylon fabric

8. Sleeping Gear

By Yeti

The sleeping tent gear set (mat, sleeping bag, tent) fits in a day backpack of 20L. Its combined weight is less than 1500 grams. Yeti is focusing on designing light weight breathable down packs for sleeping bags, tents, and camping mats. Their newest Gecko sleeping bag is eco-friendly, with a 100% recycled polyester lining and is filled with light weight down in their factory in Germany. Their unique Gecco fabric is based on renewable plant oil extracted from the non-food Ricinus plant. Yeti has renewed its brand focus in the recent years, committing to the lightest camping gear available.

 

 

 

Image courtesy : Outdoor Friedrichshafen 2015 Press Release

Feature Image : Trivik Verma

(As published @ The Outdoor Journal)

Nepal earthquake: Guerrilla style relief ops keep hope alive by Trivik Verma

A small bed-and-breakfast delivers aid to remote regions, a small non-for-profit uses open source mapping to create precise maps of the rugged terrain, an adventure gear company manufactures tarps and other relief material. Apart from the government and big agencies doing their bit, it is the small enterprising outfits helping Nepal back up on its feet after the earthquake.

Victims of the quake trying to find shelter in Shikharpur village, Sindhupalchowk distric

Victims of the quake trying to find shelter in Shikharpur village, Sindhupalchowk distric

Houses along the Tikucha River in the North-East corner of Kathmandu valley are traditional in construction, where clay mortar is used to bridge the gap between thick inner and outer wall structures made of baked bricks. They are supposed to be earthquake resistant. Now, all that remains along the river is a pile of rubble. Durbar Square is one of the three royal palace squares in the valley and a popular tourist attraction. It is now home to dilapidated temples, all of which are UNESCO world heritage sites.

Recently, a major earthquake (7.8 M) – the first one in a series of two – claimed over 8000 lives and injured more than 19,000 across various districts of Nepal. Tens of thousands of people are still in need of shelter, food and clean water.

Food for Relief team allotting relief materials for people affected at Mulabari, Kalleri VDC, Dhading under the coordination of the Armed Police Force at their camp.

Food for Relief team allotting relief materials for people affected at Mulabari, Kalleri VDC, Dhading under the coordination of the Armed Police Force at their camp.

While the government's rescue missions are focussed on Kathmandu and was earlier directed toward Everest, they are reportedly inactive in many regions. "Mountain villages are cut off from almost everything, landslides block the roads and no significant aid is on the way," CNN reported from the ground. Survivors have no access to potable water and landslides and rock falls have disrupted the chances of any potential aid.

Mountaineering expedition teams from around the world, who contribute to a major part of Nepal’s economy, have returned home. On a normal day, mountaineers would meet at the Rum Doodle café in Thamel district of Kathmandu. That too is partly wrecked in the devastating series of earthquakes. A few groups have stayed back to help aid services on the ground.

Merely fifteen minutes from, an unassuming bed and breakfast called the Yellow House is running a guerrilla style relief and rescue operation, emerging as one of the many ad-hoc relief services. After a day of organically establishing itself under the leadership of Nayantara Gurung Kakshapati, the group sent a truck filled with bread and first-aid kits to six towns in the Lalitpur district of Kathmandu. When one of her volunteers – a British nurse – came across injured people in an inaccessible village close to Sindhupalchowk, Gurung Kakshapati arranged for a private medevac for them. Abe Streep has documented their efforts in a comprehensive article for Wired Magazine, directly from Nepal.

Even May is a cold month here and erratic rains in the pre-monsoon season have hastened the need for tarps throughout the wrecked rural parts of the country. While international aid is sitting at the airport in Kathmandu, Sherpa Adventure Gear, a gear outfit based in Nepal is manufacturing and delivering relevant aid to the rural parts. “The company turned Sherpa's headquarters in Kathmandu into a mini relief centre and they quickly turned to manufacturing and distributing 700 blankets, 300 simple tents, and 500 tarps,” Tsedo Sherpa, vice president of the company, intimated to The Outdoor Journal. “Additionally they sourced another 1000 tarps from India via family connections.”

The middle hills region – as the locals refer to it – is wedged between flatlands in the south and high mountains in the north. Villages in this area are surrounded by steep and inaccessible hills. A local non-profit called 'Kathmandu Living Labs' run by Nama Budhathoki launched the site quakemaps.org for reporting real time earthquake response information. This has helped various relief groups in creation of maps for understanding the rugged terrain of a country where navigation is otherwise an onerous task.

Another, more amateur, organization found itself using the quakemaps site. Food for Relief, started as an effort with a group of friends trying to help the grieving villagers of Nepal. Two days after the first quake, Mridula Saria reached out to the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce (FNCCI). “My immediate instinct was to go to the relief camp and see how I could help. But looking at the politics going on within the organization, I was demotivated,” Mridula told The Outdoor Journal.

Distribution of relief material in a village in Dhading distric.

Distribution of relief material in a village in Dhading distric.

Disappointed with the bureaucracy, a handful of them gathered 100,000 Nepalese Rupees to procure rice, lentils and biscuits and left for villages in the Harisiddhi area of Lalitpur district. Food for Relief has an active Facebook page and was started from a broken house in Kathmandu. They are neither registered under any official name, nor licensed to provide aid in disaster-stricken areas. But Mridula and her friends are getting the job done.

The lack of a common platform led different relief groups to reach Sindhupalchowk (the quake epicentre) separately where many villagers leapt at the volunteers to snatch food and other supplies. “It seemed that a lot of other groups had gotten together the same way, to help the quake victims, but none of us coordinated with each other, because of which all nearby villages were receiving supplies repeatedly by two or more groups, and there were other villages that were receiving no supplies,“ says Mridula. Amid such confusion, quakemaps was rather simple to use; you register your group name and mark the areas you are helping on a map. Their relief efforts have sped up over the past few weeks.

In light of such damage and local heroic uprisings, the broken infrastructure of Nepal has found worldwide attention. Aid through government organizations and established international NGOs hasn’t reached villages. Instead, after every aftershock, these local aid groups are sending out trucks with supplies trying to cover as much ground as possible, even if it means hiking uphill for two hours.

TLC Project Update - Khare Dhunga Ward 6, Dhading on 9th May 2015.

TLC Project Update - Khare Dhunga Ward 6, Dhading on 9th May 2015.

The economic losses post the Nepal earthquake are estimated to be around $10bn by a United States geological survey, which is close to half of their economy. One of the poorest nations in Asia, it is landlocked by two rapidly growing economic superpowers. The villagers near the epicentre of both quakes are unaware of this lapse in infrastructure and are waiting for substantial help to rebuild their lives.

Exports are badly hit too. Nepal’s tea which normally finds itself in high-end cafes of Europe has no means of leaving the country. Tea plantations and other livestock are buried below the cracked earth. The villages that were least affected are also going through a period of turmoil due to lack of basic resources.

Food for Relief is also setting up temporary schools for the children of demolished villages. Mridula describes, “The one thing that most villagers in Dhading district complained about was the schools and houses. They had no roof over their head and had nowhere to leave their children while they went to work. So we got in touch with UNICEF and an architect friend who helped us design a Temporary Learning Center (TLC), with minimalistic materials.”

A completed TLC at Khare Dhunga, Dhading.

A completed TLC at Khare Dhunga, Dhading.

Nepal has a deep rooted connection to westerners. Its rebuilding is not just an effort from within the local community but is also proving to be a worldwide collaboration of sorts. Adventurers of all kinds who are drawn to the mountains of Nepal have volunteered to bring relief to the people. An Indian photographer informed The Outdoor Journal of his efforts to bring extremely effective and simple water filters to the victims of the quake and asked to remain anonymous. The Nepalese government is under scrutiny for its broken aid system. Mridula and her friends do not care about this vilification. They only want to get food and tarps to people, many of whom are still sleeping under the open skies, hungry and cold.

Image courtesy : Food for Relief

Feature Image: Kids collecting relief material from a Food for Relief volunteer at Khare Dhunga, Dhading

(As published @ The Outdoor Journal)