Monday, April 14, 2008

And We're Off...

I'll be leaving early tomorrow for Nepal to trek the Annapurna Circuit. I'll be back sometime in the middle of May. I hope you'll come back and visit me then.

All the best to everyone til then,

Namaste.
Ken

Photo: Taking of from Lukla. Nikon F4, telephoto lens.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Trekking The Annapurna Circuit: Packing List

If you’re trekking without a porter and carrying your own backpack, ultralight is the way to go. Experience is the best judge on what to pack, because the lighter you go, the more compromises on comfort and safety you are going to make.

There has been a revolution in terms of lightweight gear recently. Lighter gear takes up less space in the pack, which means you can carry a smaller, lighter pack. Carrying a smaller, lighter pack is easier to balance, which means you can ditch those heavy leather boots for some lightweight trail runners. Lighter footwear pays off in terms of energy saved, which means you can carry less food, water… and so on and so forth.

A lot of my old stuff is being gradually replaced, courtesy of my new sponsor, The North Face. If you see something on my packing list with a 5 star rating, it means that I have used this extensively and am giving this product my highest recommendation.

Packing List
Backpack: The North Face Skareb 40
Sleeping Bag: Montbell U.L. Alpine Down Hugger #3
Shoes: TNF Ultra 103 XCR
Light Fleece Pullover: Kathmandu Microgrid Top
Light Fleece Jacket: Marmot Driclime Windshirt *****
Down Jacket: Montbell U.L. Inner Down Jacket
Rain Jacket: TNF Prophecy Jacket
Pants: TNF Paramount Convertible Pants
Fleece Pants: MEC Powerstretch
Rain Pants: Lowe Alpine Triplepoint Ceramic Pants
Fleece Hat: Mountain Hardwear Dome Perignon
Buff *****
Sun Hat: Kavu visor
Gloves: Marmot Evolution
2 x tech tees
2 x underwear
2 x Thorlo Trail Runner Socks *****
Headlamp: Petzl e+Lite
Knife: Swiss Army Mini Classic *****
1 Liter Water Bottle
Water Filter: Steripen Adventurer
Sunglasses, Sunblock, Lipbalm
First Aid Kit (Including: Anti-biotics, Diamox, Diarrhea meds)
Small Toiletry Kit (Including: biodegradable soap, toothbrush)
Microfiber Towel
Toilet Paper
Hand Sanitizer
Lighter
Vitamins and cough drops
Guidebook and Map
Notebook and Pen
Reading Glasses
Passport
Cash
Small Combination Padlock

Photography Gear
Nikon D300
Nikkor 18-200mm
Nikkor 10.5mm
Polarizer
2 spare batteries and charger
24G of CF cards
Lenspen
Lowepro Topload Zoom
Lowepro Lens Case

Photo: Mountain Biking The Himalaya. Taken somewhere in Nepal with a Nikon FM2, 24mm.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Expedition Brief: Trekking The Annapurna Circuit 2008

I’ll be off next week to trek the Annapurna Circuit for about 3 weeks. Part of my original plan was to run the Circuit in Two weeks or less. However, my bike accident and a subsequent long bout with respiratory illness took me off training for a couple of months, and so I scuttled the plan to run the Circuit and will trek it in the normal 3 weeks.

The other part of the plan was to observe and report on the present Maoist situation and its impact on the safety of trekkers for 2008. The Maoists have been active in Nepal since 1949, but the present revolt started in 1996. They signed a fragile peace treaty with the government in November 2006, after a 10-year struggle, which saw an estimated 13,000 killed. Despite joining the interim government in 2007, continued reports of peace treaty violations by the Maoists has done little to ease the minds of would-be tourists to the mountain kingdom.

The Maoist insurgency, together with the massacre of the royal family in 2001, has shattered the image of a peaceful Nepal, and has led to the collapse of their economy from the loss of tourist dollars.

Nepal will hold elections tomorrow, April 10th 2008. I’m hopeful that this will introduce the stability needed for Nepal to see the return of tourists that it so desperately needs.

Photo: Bamboo Swing. A makeshift swing made of bamboo somewhere in Nepal. Probably taken with a Nikon FM2, and I think a 24mm lens.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

My D300 is back!

I collected my D300 yesterday from the Nikon Service Center in Singapore. The issues I had with the camera have apparently been resolved. The EN-EL3e battery that was in the camera at the time of failure was defective. They kindly gave me a new one. It still doesn’t explain why my D300 wouldn’t fire up again even though I changed batteries. It also doesn’t explain why my D300 remained dead for 5 days and then mysteriously came back to life. They changed out the power board on my D300 as a precaution. Anyway, it works fine… for now.

Incidentally, while I was at the Nikon Service Center, I asked an engineer about whether any improvements had been made to the 18-200mm its introduction. He told me that although no parts had been changed, they did change the specifications to tighten up the zoom about six months ago. So if you have an older one that creeps, it might be possible to send it in to have it tightened.

Update Nov '08:
My D300 died again, under similar conditions to the first failure. The camera is with Nikon Service Center as I write this. Refer to the month of November on my blog for updates.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Q & A With Jimmy Chin

Jimmy 'jugging' up the Pacific Ocean Wall, Yosemite. Photo courtesy of Jimmy Chin.

Professional adventure photographer Jimmy Chin has been to the summit of Mt. Everest twice (he skied down after his second successful climb to the top). His keen eye and attention to detail have won him numerous awards for photography including The National Geographic Emerging Explorers Grant and the Galen Rowell Memorial Photography Award. Jimmy is also a world-class mountain climber and skier, and it is the physical interaction with the landscape that draws Jimmy to photograph it.

Jimmy is away A LOT. In the last month, Jimmy was filming down in a remote part of Chile. He flew back to Jackson to give a presentation to investment bankers, then flew to Minneapolis to give a presentation at a North Face store grand opening, then flew to NYC for a fashion shoot, and then finally returned home to try and catch up on work and expense reports. That’s when I caught up with Jimmy and I am really psyched that he could spare the time for this interview:

Adventure Nomad: I've heard you've made the switch to digital. What sort of equipment are you using now? Any favorite lenses?
Jimmy Chin: Yes, mostly digital right now. Nikon D300. Nikkor 18-200mm, 12-24mm.

AN: How do you carry your photography gear into the wilderness or on climbs?
JC: I carry it in a basic Lowe Pro AW bag. Nothing special.

AN: You've got a great eye for exposure, especially on difficult areas like snow. How do you meter?
JC: On camera Matrix metering works just fine. I occasionally use the spot meter or center weight meter for slightly trickier lighting situations, but I don't do anything complicated. Keep it simple so you can focus on the compositions and creativity.

AN: When shooting climbing or action, do you do anything different or change your technique?
JC: I just make sure I am shooting at higher speeds for action.

AN: Do you do your own photo editing? What programs are you using?
JC: I have an office manager, but I generally do my own initial edits. We use Lightroom and Bridge.

AN: What's a typical day like in the life of Jimmy Chin?
JC: I guess we could use today as an example (although it is atypical since I get so few days at home):

Wake up. Check the snow report and avalanche report to see how much snow we got and what avalanche conditions are like. Call a friend and set a time to meet up. Pound out a few emails. Eat breakfast. Run out the door, meet up with friend and climb Taylor Peak and ski back down it. Come home and catch up on emails and calls to clients. Prep presentation for two lectures I have to give this week - the first for North Face's all company meeting; the second for National Geographic at UC Santa Cruz. Pack bags for lecture trip and a month long surfing trip to Mexico, plus another climbing trip and photo shoot to Yosemite. I won't get to come home between now and the climbing trip, so I have to pack all the climbing gear, photography gear, clothing for urban settings, boat and beach, as well as big wall situations. That's a lot of gear to remember! Go out for dinner with friends. Come home and do more packing. Read. Fall asleep.



Thanks Jimmy, have a great time in Mexico!