Landscape and Panoramic Photography

Posts tagged “Himalaya

Descent from Lakes

After the fog halted our coring efforts for the day, we took a few minutes to walk around in the clouds before heading back to camp (first panorama). The next day, we got up early and headed back over a nearby pass to start our long descent out of the mountains back to the Karnali River valley (second panorama).

windowthroughcloudsbacktocampnepalWindow through the Clouds back to Camp, near Jumla, Nepal (16″x50″)

pathoverthepassnepalPath over the Pass, near Jumla, Nepal (16″x52″)

Lower Lake Levels

As I mentioned in a previous week’s post, lake levels were down in 2016 in the mountains of far western Nepal after an especially hot year. I am accustomed to ‘bathtub ring’ images of Lake Powell in the American Southwest, but we could see our own ‘bathtub ring’ effect around our study lakes in the Himalaya.

bathtubringsaroundretreatinglakenepalBathtub Rings around Retreating Lake, near Jumla, Nepal (16″x42″)

cloudreflectionsinlakenepalCloud Reflections in Shrinking Lake, near Jumla, Nepal (16″x41″)


Shadows at Sunset

The rain stopped and many of the clouds started to clear off by sunset, so I climbed out of my tent, grabbed my camera and tripod, and rest stepped my way up the hill above camp to photograph the landscape as the sun descended over the ridge the west. I think the panorama with the rock in the foreground was one of my most successful photographs on the trip (first panorama). Although I don’t usually include my own image in my photographs, I also liked the way my shadow falls across the hillside opposite the setting sun (second panorama).


rockshadowatsunsetnepalRock Shadow at Sunset over the Lake, near Jumla, Nepal (16″x44″)

risingshadowsretreatingcloudssunsetnepalRising Shadows and Retreating Clouds at Sunset, near Jumla, Nepal (16″x60″)

From Clear to Foggy

As I mentioned in last week’s post, rising air on the flanks of the Himalaya brings moisture to ~14,000 feet by around 11:00AM. We could see clouds gathering by 9:00 AM as we hiked across an open, rolling landscape to reach one of the slightly higher lakes (first panorama). By the time we cored the lake twice, visibility was down to a few feet- getting wet out on the water with no sunshine made the work miserably cold (second panorama).

hiketotheupperlakeanddistantcloudsnepalHike to the Upper Lake and Distant Clouds, near Jumla, Nepal (14″x82″)

foggedinupperlakenepalFogged in Upper Lake, near Jumla, Nepal (16″x74″)


Sunrise over the Lake

The weather at 14,000 feet in June in the Himalaya can make coring lakes difficult. The sky tends to be clear from around sunrise to 11:00 AM, so I woke up early every morning, shook the ice off my tent, ate a quick breakfast, and got out on the lake to start work before conditions made coring nearly impossible (hail, lightning, thick fog). Here is a panorama of a picturesque cold, clear sunrise before we started our work.

shorelinesunriseshadowsnepalShoreline, Sunrise, and Shadows, near Jumla, Nepal (16″x62″)

Lake Basecamp

The final push up the river valley and a steep ravine to our lake basecamp would have been easy at 5,000 feet, but near 14,000 feet, carrying a heavy pack up a hill can be exhausting. However, the relatively short hike to our campsite was worth the view- a lake basin surrounded by constantly shifting clouds draped over craggy peaks near 16,000 feet. Although these ‘hills’ are insignificant by Nepali standards, for North Americans doing field work in the area it was a beautiful sight. The lake levels were noticeably lower this year- a few warmer and drier seasons had left lake levels well below where they had been on our previous trip two years ago (see exposed shoreline in second panorama).

firstlookatthelakenepalFirst Look at the Lake, near Jumla, Nepal (16″x93″)

exposedshorelinerocksandcampnepalExposed Shoreline Rocks and Camp, near Jumla, Nepal (16″x58″)

Camp in the High River Valley

After descending from the pass and high plateau, we continued up a river valley and made camp on the bank near sunset. Rhododendron bushes and small trees lined the hillsides at the edge of tree line, and landslide debris was piled on the hillsides (first panorama). Another rainstorm rolled through around sunset, and I was able to photograph a few grazing horses on a ridge top in front of the clouds (second, third panoramas).

landslidedebrishillsidenepalLandslide Debris and Hillside, near Jumla, Nepal (16″x55″)

horsesstormcloudsonridgenepalHorses and Storm Clouds on the Ridge, near Jumla, Nepal (16″x32″)

streamstormcloudshillsidenepalStorm Clouds over Hillside and Stream, near Jumla, Nepal (13″x53″)

Cloudy Pass

We rested at a high plateau on the pass near ~14,500+ feet. Horses and sheep appear to graze at this elevation, and the soil appears to be eroding rapidly (first panorama). The landscape is mostly covered in shades of brown, but occasional patches of yellow wildflowers seem to flow through dry stream beds (second panorama). On our way down from the plateau, we passed a herd of horses grazing near 14,000 feet (third panorama).

erodedpassandcloudsnepalEroded Pass and Clouds, near Jumla, Nepal (16″x62″)

flowersonpassnepalFlowers on the Pass, near Jumla, Nepal (16″x72″)

streamvalleyhorsesonpassnepalStream Valley and Horses on the Pass, near Jumla, Nepal (16″x64″)

Jumla Region Trek, Part 2

We ate a quick breakfast, packed our tents, and descended into a fog-draped valley before continuing up a steep, forested hillside. We climbed through the pines along a mountain stream, passing the occasional logging camp. The scents of cook fire smoke and pine resin wafted through the forest. After hiking most of the day in the trees, we ascended a last few steep slopes and popped out above tree line in an open meadow. We stopped and made camp in this valley (first panorama) to allow ourselves to acclimate to the higher elevation. The next morning we rose early and started over the 14,000+ foot pass (second and third panoramas). At this elevation, clouds surrounded us throughout most of the day.


campinfoggyvalleynepalCamp in the Foggy Valley, near Jumla, Nepal (16″x83″)

cloudypathoverthepassnepalCloudy Path over the Pass, near Jumla, Nepal (16″x57″)

patcheslightthroughcloudsonpassnepalPatches of Light through Clouds on the Pass, near Jumla, Nepal (16″x75″)

Jumla Region Trek, Part 1

After crossing over a small mountain range, we met the trucks in the Karnali river valley and stayed over night in Manma before continuing the next morning to Jumla along a one-lane road along a sheer drop off. We rested a day then re-packed the coring and backpacking equipment and started our trek to a series of lakes around 14,000 feet. On our first day, we hiked east along the Karnali river and took shelter in a small sheepherder hut as a pre-monsoon thunderstorm passed (first panorama). We then continued over a small pass and camped near 10,000 feet (second panorama) before starting our ascent to the lakes in earnest.

thunderstormfoothillsfieldsnepalThunderstorm over Foothills and Fields, near Jumla, Nepal (13″x69″)

camponthesaddleCamp on the Saddle, near Jumla, Nepal (16″x77″)

Hiking over the Pass in Fog, Part II

We crossed into the Karnali River drainage in the fog at ~3,500m elevation. After descending just a few hundred meters, the mists cleared, and we were able to see down valley. The descent was slippery, but as the rain stopped, the land leeches retreated and the hiking was relatively easy.

fogandtreesonthepass2Fog and Trees on the Pass (2), far western Nepal (16″x47″)

descendingoutofthecloudsDescending out of the Clouds, far western Nepal (16″x47″)


Hiking Over the Pass in Fog

The pre-monsoon rains filled the rivers with water in the valleys; worried about the rising water, the truck drivers left us before the rivers became impassable and drove around the mountain range to meet us in the Karnali River valley near Manma. After coring the mid-elevation lakes, we packed our field equipment and started our multi-day journey through the mountains to meet the rest of the trucks. A slippery stone path led us over a pass through the dripping branches, wet leaves, and land leeches. Occasional dog barks and other sounds echoed through the fog as we walked, but the fog obscured any views of the surrounding countryside.

stonepathandtreesinthefogStone Path and Trees in the Fog, far western Nepal (16″x48″)

fogandtreesonthepassFog and Trees on the Pass, far western Nepal (16″x48″)

Fog Rolling into Camp

After the clouds moved up the steep valleys below our tents, the fog crept through the Dr. Seuss-like trees and over the campsite, eventually blanketing the ridge top and  shrouding the morning sunlight.

sunlightthroughmorningfogSunlight through Morning Fog, far western Nepal (16″x52″)

fogcreepingthroughtreesFog Creeping through the Trees, far western Nepal (16″x54″)


Lakes and Town in the Cloud Forest

More panoramas of our campsite from our two days coring lakes in the cloud forest in the Himalayan foothills. After dinner, I liked to sit and watch the clouds lift and lower over the cliffs in the distance (second panorama).


Ponds and Trees in the Cloud Forest Camp, far western Nepal (16″x72″)


Thornbush Wall and Cloud-Draped Cliffs in the Distance, far western Nepal (16″x50″)

Coring Nepali Foothill Lakes

We cored a lake near Bhimdatta then drove for a day or two along cliffside highways into the Himalayan foothills. The heavy, pre-monsoon air hung around us as we unloaded the trucks and sweated our way up the steep hillside. The river was black with sediment from the nearby rains, and the air was hazy with humidity.

swollenblackenedriverCrossing the Swollen River, far Western Nepal (13″x59″)

towerinthefieldTower in the Field, far Western Nepal (13″x56″)

paththroughterracedfieldsPath through Terraced Fields, far Western Nepal (16″x64″)

Leeches and Clouds near Gorkha, Nepal

The sound of rain thumping on my tent fly woke me up at about 5 AM. After packing up my sleeping gear, I got up and grabbed a cup of tea from our camp kitchen. The rain continued, and we started up the ridge by 8 AM to core a lake ~1500m above us. According to Dill, our trusty guide, rain “gives leeches many power.” I didn’t fully understand or appreciate what this often-repeated phrase meant until this final coring expedition in the wettest region in Nepal. The leeches look a bit like wriggling little twigs. They wait on vegetation and in mud for passing boots or hooves and then latch on, frantically inching their way up until they feel warm flesh, then attach.

After making a steep, wet, chilly final 600m elevation gain through 2 km of leech-infested oak and rhododendron cloud forest, we popped up onto a bright green grassy ridge crest spotted by the occasional bush, water buffalo, or grazing sheep. Clouds squeezed over the ridge top, and we found our lake nested among tall rhododendron. We ate an abbreviated lunch and got out on the lake by 1 PM to start making measurements and recovering sediment cores. The sun made an appearance for the afternoon, and the leeches mostly went into hiding while we were coring. My field partner and I finished our lake observations by 4 PM, and we headed down the slick, wet hillside. The guides assured me “leeches are now all sleeping,” but I was suspicious. Although no one else seemed to be getting parasites on their boots, I was still certainly playing siren in the forest and had to stop periodically to use a trekking pole to dislodge the more adamant leeches from my calves and ankles.

The day wasn’t all leeches and rain: the clouds cleared just enough for a small glimpse of the hazy 8000m peaks in the distance (Mansalu), and we were rewarded around sunset with a great view of a winding , hand-made stone staircase descending to one of the towns below. We were able to make it to the road by dusk, and we finished our hike in the dark.

SunThroughAfternoonRainCloudsSun through Afternoon Rain Clouds, near Gorkha, Nepal (16″x56″)

CloudyRidgeTopCoreSiteCloudy Ridge Top Core Site, near Gorkha, Nepal (16″x62″)

SheepHutsAndFogSheep Huts and Fog, near Gorkha, Nepal (16″x60″)

ClearingStormAndPeaksintheDistanceClearing Storm and Peaks in the Distance, near Gorkha, Nepal (16″x72″)

Gathering Clouds and Storms in Nepal

After crossing a snowfield on the back side of a pass, we took a break with this view across the valley to the west (first panorama). The base camp that we used to get to Pale Daha was nestled in the valley near the snowfields on the bottom right corner of the panorama. On our way out of the mountains a few days later, a hailstorm crept up on us as we were traversing a ridge well above 4000m elevation. It seemed we were out of luck because there was no place to camp and my field partner was suffering from intermediate stage altitude sickness. Fortunately, we came across a rock overhang that provided protection from the storm (second panorama). We waited until the morning  to cross over the final pass before descending to the road.

GatheringStormCloudsOverCampGathering Storm Clouds over Camp, near Jumla, Nepal (16″x54″)

CaveCampandSnowyRidgeCave Camp and Snowy Ridge, near Jumla, Nepal (16″x64″)

Shrines in the Nepali Mountains

These rock structures seemed to watch over the travelers and sheep herders using the trail (they also provided a good excuse to stop and take a quick photo and water break). We encountered one shrine on our way into the mountains and one on the way back to the road near Jumla, both around 3,500-4,000m elevation.

ShrineAndCloudsShrine and Clouds, near Jumla, Nepal (16″x51″)

ShrineAndPeaksShrine and Peaks, near Jumla, Nepal (16″x60″)

Lakes and Storms in the Nepali Mountains

We reached 4,000-4,500m elevation on our third day of hiking outside Jumla. The slight elevation headaches could not overcome the gorgeous views of the hillsides at sunrise (see top panorama). We cored one lake (second panorama) while feeling a bit sick from the altitude, and after an evening of lightning, hail, and snow, we woke up to snow-covered hills (third panorama).

MorningCloudsSunCliffsSnowFieldsMorning Clouds, Sun, Cliffs, and Snow Fields, near Jumla, Nepal (16″x72″)

SnowAndIceOnPaleDahaSnow and Ice on Pale Daha, near Jumla, Nepal (16″x59″)

SnowySunriseSnowy Sunrise, near Jumla, Nepal (16″x67″)

Fog and Clouds in Nepal

In our attempt top reach remote, relatively untouched lakes in the Nepali Jumla region, we ascended to near 4,000m elevation on our second day of hiking. Although we tried to avoid climbing too quickly, limited water sources prevented us from stopping at lower elevations, so we continued on our second day up another 1,000m from our first camp. Before dinner, we scouted a potential lake for our study, and as we returned to camp, clouds crested the ridge top and obscured the sun.

FogRollingInFog Rolling In, near Jumla, Nepal (16″x54″)

SunThroughTheCloudsSun through the Clouds, near Jumla, Nepal (16″x55″)

Up the Ridge

In order to reach minimally impacted areas for our research, we often have to hike for days into the mountains with coring and backpacking equipment. In the Jumla region, we spent 2-3 days trekking up the side of a steep hill, first through pine forest, then oak forest, and finally out onto heavily grazed ridges above treeline. Here are two panoramas of the views from our first campsite near 3,000 meters elevation.  In the afternoons, thunderstorms rolled in, and around sunset fog lowered over the mountain and ridge tops, coating the distant peaks in snow that quickly melted off in the morning (first panorama).  The occasional lone oak tree or sheepherder hut on the ridge crest often became the focus of my photographs (second panorama).

RidgeSunriseMountainsSunrise Mountain View from the Ridge, near Jumla, Nepal (16″x50″)

RidgeHutOakCloudsRidge, Hut, Oak Tree, Clouds, near Jumla, Nepal (16″x80″)