logo

All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.

- JRR Tolkien

image

Athletes & Explorers

Mar 06, 2019

Adrenaline Addiction: Fallout

24 year-old Chase Reinford seizes a life of freedom and extreme stunts, while we all watch, white-knuckling our office chairs.

WRITTEN BY

Davey Braun

Chase Reinford’s Adrenaline Addiction YouTube channel expresses the way I would live my life if I was sure that there was a heaven waiting for me on the other side.

If you’re thinking that the above photo isn’t real, or that it’s a screenshot from a Tom Cruise movie like Mission Impossible: Fallout, then you’re half-right. Chase’s whole life, it seems, is one scene from an action movie after another.

Minutes before the hangar door of this CASA aircraft opens up, while double-checking his wing-suit on a runway in Sebastian, Florida, Chase connects with The Outdoor Journal to discuss flying high, going viral, facing fears and forging an inspirational extreme lifestyle (that is more natural than a life confined inside a cubicle).

Chase Reinford, not to be confused with Will Ferrell’s Wedding Crashers character Chazz Reinhold, might also go down in the legends of man. Chase lives a life in extremes – from triple backflipping over a waterfall in Hawaii, to infiltrating a tower in Bangkok for a nighttime BASE jump.

Scaling a crane in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

With well over 600,000 YouTube subscribers and 150k followers on Instagram, this 24 year-old from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is forging his own adventurous lifestyle that captures the zeitgeist of his generation. Following in the footsteps of Dean Potter and Sketchy Andy Lewis, Chase creates breathtaking aerial art in rebellion against modern corporate culture expectations.

“Meet the Jack Kerouac of the vertical dimension.”

In a typical Adrenaline Addiction episode, you’ll see Chase send a variety of tricks from cliffs, rope-swings and waterfalls, such as triple backflips, stalled out gainers and castaways off bridge railings. In addition to these technical maneuvers, you’ll also see wacky stunts like my personal favorite, the “Salmon,” where Chase convulses his body like a fish out of water.

Chase is rarely alone. He’s always meeting up with a crew of like-minded thrill seekers who enjoy pushing their limits in the outdoors, camping out and hiking through deep forests while listening for the far-off rumble of a massive waterfall.

Adrenaline Addiction is the type of content that my mom would refuse to watch because it seems so reckless. As I watch the “AA” crew depth-check their water landings by poking around with bamboo poles and even occasionally “death checking” by jumping first without looking for any rocks under the surface, it’s hard to argue the point.

But it would be a shame to focus solely on the daredevil nature of Chase’s stunts while overlooking the skill. In comparison, a professional diver on the Red Bull Cliff Diving circuit will take off from a platform 85 to 92 feet in the air, while safety divers churn up the water below to make a softer landing, and an ambulance stands by. The winning male dive at Red Bull this year was a triple backflip with four twists. Chase is throwing triple somersaults off 100-plus-foot cliffs with no safety support.

A common misconception about cliff jumping is that landing in water from height is like jumping into concrete. It’s not. However, there is a very small margin for error. An over-rotation can result in a concussion, a broken arm or internal injuries. Even a perfect two-foot stomp landing can lead to injury. As stated in his Vietnam series (Jumping the Tallest Waterfall in Vietnam), venturing into remote destinations without safety teams or even access to ambulances means that a broken leg results in losing your leg and a broken back means almost certain death.

Read Next on TOJ: World champion cliff diver Rhiannan Iffland ventures into aboriginal territory in search of extreme cliffs and a deeper understanding of her home country’s heritage.

After three years of filming episodes, Chase probably needs to kick off his shoes to count his close calls, like the time he flipped off a bascule bridge without noticing the boat passing underneath.

#VANLIFE

Meet the Jack Kerouac of the vertical dimension. As part of the Vanlife, a trending lifestyle choice amongst millennials, Chase converted a miniature school bus (or shortbus), the type kids take to school everyday, into his own “road-trip adventure vehicle.”

Armed with a Panasonic GH5, several GoPro’s and a DJI Mavic Drone, Chase operates his own media house on wheels. Setting his own hours within this mobile office, that now includes two rescue dogs, Chase is living the new American dream. Instead of working in an office grind from 9 to 5 everyday for 50 years before earning the freedom to roam, Chase has seized it in his early 20’s.

“The school bus conversion was a great decision. It was always a dream of mine when I was younger, and then I finally had the means to do it. It’s for sure given me plenty of freedom to travel and see things I wouldn’t otherwise have been able to. I’ve been all over the country in it, and even Mexico.”

Chase’s DIY bus conversion parallels today’s most famous extreme athlete, Alex Honnold, who lived out of his van for the better part of a decade in order to live in close proximity to rock walls, allowing him to perform at his peak abilities in Free Soloing El Cap.

In addition to his converted shortbus, Chase often flies a cessna plane solo, after following in his father’s footsteps to earn his pilot’s license. Travel is a steady presence in Chase’s life. Just off a motorbike adventure through Vietnam, with a brief stop in the US, he’s off on his way to China.

Read Next on The Outdoor Journal: The Dirty Secrets of #VanLife

BUILDING, ANTENNA, SPAN, EARTH

Over the years, Chase’s infatuation with cliff jumping has progressed into the world of BASE jumping. His closest calls have come from this exceedingly dangerous endeavor that poses an utterly unforgiving learning curve. Watch Chase narrowly escape death while BASE jumping off Trump Tower.

This video is Chase’s most viral episode to date, with over 11 million views. After that near fatal mishap, Chase shared this advice with his audience, conscious of the fact that his actions might influence others to attempt dangerous stunts themselves: “Don’t get into BASE jumping, please. One mistake will kill you really quickly – like timing your jump one second wrong, or just the slider taking longer than you expected.”

FALLOUT

Besides referring to radioactive particles precipitating to Earth after a nuclear blast, the term “Fallout” is also defined as “the adverse results of a situation or action.” Chase has had to come to terms with the risks of his actions. In 2018, he witnessed his BASE jumping mentor die in an accident. He shared the life-changing nature of that traumatic experience in an Instagram post:

View this post on Instagram

I need to get this off my chest. I realize I have a large influence on many people, and recently I've seen a lot of people commenting on my videos saying they want to start BASE jumping because of me. That makes me very uneasy. This sport kills. I haven't publicly shared this yet, but on June 25th, my friend and BASE mentor died in my arms after our jump together went wrong. It was the most gruesome, tramatic experience of my life. He was still alive when I got to him, and I did everything I could to keep him with me, but I was helpless. The sound of his last breathe was something I will never unhear. The images in my head will never go away. Smells, sounds and random things bring me back to that moment. It haunts me. I will never be the same. What I'm trying to say is don't start BASE jumping because you think it's cool, or because you think I'm cool. And don't do it unless you are ready to see death up close and personal. Is it worth your life? For some it is. For me it is, but I don't want my friends or fans to start BASE. I can't handle another loss. And if you are wondering about this photo; that's me nearly dying… just in case the rest wasn't clear enough. #nostressjustenjoy #basejumping #skydiving

A post shared by Chase Reinford (@adrenaline.addiction) on

The Outdoor Journal interviewed Chase to learn more about his lifestyle in extremes.

ADRENALINE ADDICTION

TOJ: I went cliff jumping in Dubrovnik, Croatia, and when I asked the locals if they knew about Adrenaline Addiction, they said, “Of course!” How does it feel to be living a lifestyle and creating content that people from around the world are responding to?

Reinford: It was very surreal at first. I’ve had people recognize me in just about every country I’ve visited, and it always puts a smile on my face. The fact that my audience is worldwide blows my mind!

TOJ: You have over 600,000 subscribers on YouTube now. Describe the process of building traction on the platform and how you reacted to the growth of the channel?

“If I messed up, I would likely die or wish I was dead.”

Reinford: It all started taking off after I began jumping 100-plus-foot cliffs. At the time, a handful of people had straight jumped (no flips) cliffs this big, but no one was doing flips, and I was doing double and triple flips. That’s how my channel blew up and then it was just a matter of consistently uploading videos each week. I saw myself maybe getting to 10k followers someday, but I am blown away to see over a half million people following along with my journey.

TOJ: What are your top three episodes of Adrenaline Addiction, and why?

Reinford: I enjoy sharing all my adventures, but my favorite videos to share are my year-end highlight videos.

I enjoy seeing all that I’ve accomplished and all the memories I’ve made in a single year.

I’d say outside of those, the “Cliff Jumping in the Grand Canyon” and “Insane 140ft cliff jump” will always be my favorites. These videos showed two of the best adventures of my life, with great friends and epic jumps. They are the classics and will be tough to beat!

TOJ: How did you learn the film editing side of production?

Reinford: I have always made edits for my parents as a child. It all got taken to a professional level after I was in a serious snowboarding accident and was confined to a bed and the hospital for 12-plus weeks and was out of any physical activity for 14 months. I was losing my mind, so I bought a good camera and began crutching around, taking photos and filming. It began with filming my friends longboarding, and once I was back on my feet (literally) then I continued documenting and creating.

TOJ: How many hours does it take you to edit each episode?

Reinford: That’s hard to say because some edits are short, some are over 20 minutes. It depends on how many cameras were used, how much footage there is to go through and what type of edit I’m going for. I can throw an edit together in a few hours, but I’ve also spent over 70 hours on a single edit before. On average, I’d say I spend roughly eight hours on an edit.

TOJ: What is special about the cliff jumping community?

Reinford: Just like any community, it’s a group of like-minded people that all come together with a similar interest. I think it’s extra special because the community is so small. Everyone knows everyone and there are people from all types of backgrounds. There are scientists, pilots, engineers etc. Cliff jumping brings us all together.

TOJ: Is Adrenaline Addiction a red herring? Are you addicted to that release of neurotransmitters like adrenaline and endorphins, or is your lifestyle about something more? Camaraderie? Pushing limits? Freedom? Looking back at a life well-lived?

Reinford: It’s all of the above. At first, it was just a way to get an adrenaline rush and to have a moment of freedom. It’s evolved into much more. I’ve created life-long friendships and epic memories with people I’d otherwise never know. I have close friends that are like family to me in foreign countries, how incredible is that!? I feel at home in countries like Switzerland because of all the experiences and friends I have there after visiting each year.

TOJ: Does your channel put pressure on you to find more and more dangerous stunts?

“I got hurt trying to impress people.”

Reinford: The short answer is no. I will never put myself in a dangerous situation for my fans. I love them but I also value my life, and if I die or get injured trying to impress or please other people then I die in vain. Looking back at my snowboarding injury, I know the reason that happened was because I allowed the pressure of others to influence my decision, which ultimately got me hurt. I got hurt trying to impress people, and I will never make that mistake again.

I do what I do to challenge myself because it’s rewarding to push limits and break boundaries. The people watching are just an added bonus. I’m at a point where I don’t want to push it much further because the line of life and death is so fine. I will always do crazy shit, but I will be transitioning into the business side of things more in the future. I have been working on creating a company over the last several months. It’s in its infancy but going strong. I have aerospace engineers designing and optimizing my very own BASE specific parachute. The first few will be produced by summer and then thoroughly tested and fine-tuned before releasing it in the fall/winter. I’m excited.

FLYING SOLO

TOJ: The first video I ever watched of yours was your first time flying solo across the country. Travel plays a big part in your channel – from the Pacific Northwest to Hawaii, to Europe and even all the way to Asia. What impact does frequent travel play in your life and could you live without it?

Reinford: Most of my life has been constant travel. I am only “home” for about 2 months out of the year typically. It does get exhausting but I’m truly in love with the lifestyle. I will always need some sort of travel in my life. I thrive seeing new things and experiencing different cultures and people. I think everyone needs to travel at least once, and I’m not talking about spending a week at a resort in Cancun. Get away from tourist destinations, meet the locals, try their foods, live how they live. That’s culture and that’s exciting.

Back-flipping off of industrial dock machinery in rural Vietnam.

TOJ: Does cliff jumping lead to a natural progression to BASE jumping? What is the learning curve for a beginner to BASE jumping?

Reinford: I wouldn’t say it’s the natural progression. They are polar opposites but so similar at the very same time. The main difference is the parachute system, and no cliff jumping prepares you for flying and landing a parachute. If skydiving and cliff jumping had a baby it would be BASE jumping. That being said, cliff jumping for sure allowed me to advance my BASE skills much faster than otherwise possible. I have very good air awareness and body control because of my extreme sports background, so for me, BASE was the next step after skydiving.

TOJ: Who are some of the extreme sports athletes you have looked up to over the years? What was it like to get some jumping in with Sketchy Andy Lewis and how did you two connect?

Reinford: Travis Pastrana has always been my hero. Shane McConkey is another legend I look up to. I grew up watching Sketchy Andy as well, and always thought he was a total badass. It was awesome to meet him, and even cooler that he took me along for some sketchy missions which totally reminded me why he got his nickname. His style of jumping is much too loose for most BASE jumpers, but I thoroughly enjoyed all the fear I shared with Andy. We both love sketchy shit, and that’s why we became friends. I’m stoked for more missions with Andy in the future.

Read Next on TOJ: On Freedom, and the Facade of the American Dream – by Sketchy Andy Lewis: Many people spend their entire adult existence trapped in what others might consider a dream.

TOJ: How has your family reacted to your decision to pursue a lifestyle of extreme sports full-time? Was it a process to gain acceptance?

“I’ve always been the black sheep of the family.”

Reinford: I’ve always been a bit of a rebel, or the black sheep of the family. I don’t think it’s any surprise to them that I pursued this life, maybe just surprised that I pulled it off. I first went for a career in professional snowboarding and I broke myself in half and proved them right after I failed. I went and got all my pilot licenses and completed the schooling to appease them by earning a backup plan. After that was finished, I felt like I could go any direction in life without feeling pressure from my parents. They have since fully accepted my choice and supported my decisions. They are happy that I am happy and the rest is irrelevant. My dad always told me not to worry what others think about me, and he couldn’t be an exception to his own wise words.

TOJ: What has the experience of dog rescue added to your life?

Reinford: I’ve always been a dog lover but my lifestyle was much too hectic to actually commit to a dog. I guess destiny, or whatever you want to call it, had other plans. Paco fell into my life and originally I was just going to take him to an animal sanctuary. The animal Sanctuary was almost 2 hours away from where we had weekend cliff jumping plans so I told myself I’d just drop him there after. I fell in love with the little adventure dog and couldn’t just leave him. I’m pretty stoked that I found him and since have found another dog in Mexico. I miss them whenever I travel and it gives me something to look forward to when I’m headed home.

TOJ: On the one hand, following your passion is an inspiration to people, but on the other hand, someone who is not as skilled as you might try to pull off a similar stunt and get hurt, does that weigh on you?

Reinford: Yea, it does bother me sometimes. It bothered me most in the beginning, but I feel as if I do much more good than harm. I get countless emails and messages from people thanking me for inspiring them to get out and travel, or just live more fearlessly. Most of the time this has no connection to cliff jumping or people trying to do things that I do. It’s the mindset to push their own personal limits in their own life that I help with. To me, that’s rewarding. I’ve even had people that were suicidal and depressed reach out and tell me that I’ve changed their life after they were exposed to my mindset and optimism. It’s an extreme case, but so is someone attempting to recreate one of my jumps. People are going to do stupid shit regardless. If they don’t see me try something, they’ll see someone else. Darwinism in full effect. I don’t lose sleep over it.

TOJ: Can you describe the feeling of infiltrating a building and scoping out the security before BASE jumping off of it?

“I think BASE jumping from a building is the ultimate mission and rush.”

Reinford: I think BASE jumping from a building is the ultimate mission and rush. It’s technical and many jumpers never get to experience it. Some of my friends are experts at it and I’ve learned a few tricks that I can’t share. Most of the buildings I’ve jumped will never be shared with the internet because I want to be able to jump them again, and I want my friends and others in the community to jump them. It’s a code in BASE that should be respected. I’ve of course posted a few jumps but these were less sensitive buildings, usually in foreign countries, where it wasn’t a huge deal. I may or may not have jumped in NYC, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and other major cities in North America, but some things are best left to the imagination. What I can tell you is that sneaking past security, figuring out the entire layout of a building and climbing to the roof is probably the scariest and most exhilarating thing I’ve done. The jump itself is the easiest part!

BASE jumping from an undisclosed city in the US.

TOJ: Can you explain the decision to enter the BASE jumping community knowing that you will undoubtedly experience loss?

Reinford: Death is inevitable, and not just in BASE jumping. Everyone is 100% going to die sometime, so deciding not to BASE jump because of the fear of potential loss didn’t seem reasonable. At first, I had the attitude “well none of my friends are going to die.” That was a lie to myself to deal with the fear. 32 people died this year BASE jumping. One was my good friend, and I watched it happen. It was a life changing experience and it fucked me up real good. I learned so much from my friend, alive and dead. I learned you can’t let the fear of death keep you from living fully. After the accident, I didn’t know how to handle it or what direction my life would go. I know my friend lived the best life he could have. He had more badass stories than anyone. He jumped the Eiffel Tower, he got launched out of a human slingshot, he competed in dog sled competitions all over the world. His life was full and it was because he didn’t let fear stop him. It’s the only way he would be happy living, and his death was not in vain. He would never want me to stop living my best life. “No stress, just enjoy” is what he always told me. I apply that to life everyday.

THE ART OF CLIFF JUMPING

TOJ: How do you overcome the days when you just don’t feel it?

Reinford: Best case scenario is sunny warm weather, warm water, clear water, safety swimmers, etc. This isn’t Red Bull cliff diving, this is RAW. Often times I have nothing from this equation and just have to be miserable and cold to accomplish what I came to do. I’ve jumped in far less than perfect conditions, because often times there won’t be another opportunity for certain jumps or just because I want to. I’ve also walked away from jumps with perfect conditions just because I don’t feel it. I always listen to my gut in every scenario.

Read Next on The Outdoor Journal: #VanLife Meets Sailing: One year in the life of a professional paraglider and paramotor pilot.

TOJ: Describe the physiological sensations right before a jump versus right after a jump.

Reinford: Depends a lot on the jumps. Most of the time on very high, dangerous jumps I get a heavy feeling that weighs down my body. My heart starts pounding, I start sweating, my mouth gets dry. I will not jump with this feeling. This sort of stress and fear will cause me to perform poorly and put me into a dangerous situation. If I’ve done the proper mental preparation and am fully confident in the jump, I will override this bodily response. I have learned how to do this over the last few years. I calm myself to a point of total peace where I sometimes experience a type of euphoria. I slow my heart beat, I feel the weight dissipate and I know I’m ready to jump. I believe I get a dopamine release in this moments, similar to the one I get after I stomp the jump. Before the jump is the tension/build and after the jump is the climax. Both are rewarding.

TOJ: What looks more aesthetically pleasing to you, a tight triple or a laid-out single?

Reinford: I think triples might look cooler, but a big ol’ laid out single is way more fun to perform! More recently, I’ve been trying to enjoy the jumps more, rather than trying to see how technical of a trick I can do. That’s why you’ll see me throwing big single flips mostly. If it’s 100-plus-foot drop, a double-flip is still super floaty and enjoyable. Triples are simply not fun. The jump is just a big blur. It is nice to see what you are capable of doing, which is why I do triples from time to time.

TOJ: What trick has been the elusive “Holy Grail” for you that you have not been able to stomp, or maybe even attempt yet?

Reinford: I’ve always wanted to do a quad front flip. Unfortunately, I tried one when I was very ill-prepared and it ended pretty brutally. Ever since then I have never pursued the quad into water, and probably never will. I value my lungs and preferred them not filled with blood after a flop! I’ll keep the quads for BASE jumping.

Watch as Chase’s attempt for a quadruple front flip ends in a bloody mess:

TOJ: What is your most proud moment in cliff jumping?

Reinford: I think it will always be the 110ft triple gainer. Everything about that trip was magical. At the time I hadn’t even jumped anything that high before, and I’ve only seen someone straight jump that high. I knew I could survive the impact, but knew I had to land absolutely perfectly. I knew if I messed up I would likely die or wish I was dead. For whatever reason, I just thought “Well, I’ll have plenty of time to do a triple, why not?!” And that’s what I did. I stomped it perfectly and it was the first video of mine to completely go viral. That moment will be impossible to beat. It was special.

If you’re interested in rocking some Adrenaline Addiction merch, check out the online store, however, you won’t be guaranteed to stomp a gainer just by wearing the gear.

YouTube: Adrenaline Addiction
Instagram: Adrenaline.Addiction

Continue Reading

image

Expeditions

May 21, 2019

Field Notes: Solo Ultra-Running the High Himalaya

Peter Van Geit, wilderness explorer, ultra-runner, Founder of the Chennai Trekking Club, shares the field notes from his 1500 km alpine-style run across 40 high altitude passes the Himalaya.

image

WRITTEN BY

Peter Van Geit

During the summer of 2018, I completed a three-month journey across 40 high altitude passes in Spiti, Pangi, Chamba, Kinnaur, Shimla and Kangra districts of Himachal, in the Himalaya. As always, I ran alpine style, which means self-navigated and with minimal gear through forests, alpine meadows, moraines, glaciers, snow and wild streams. Although I did meet up with a few friends for portions of the journey, my mostly solo exploration took me to many lesser known passes only used by shepherds including Chobia, Chaini, Kugti, Pratap Jot, Thamsar, Kaliheni, Lar La, Padang La and Buran to name a few.

In the following collection of photos and captions, I jumped districts and valleys across the Pir Panjal, Dauladhar and Baspa ranges traversing through the picturesque valleys of Pangi, Saichu, Sural, Miyar, Hudan, Chandra, Tsarap, Zanskar, Lingthi, Lugnak, Lug, Barot, Ravi, Pin, Parbati, Baspa, Chenab, Buddhil Nai, Pabbar, Chamba and Spiti.

The journey was one of stunning natural beauty, hospitality beyond words and overwhelming vastness of remote out-of-this-world landscapes.

Several weeks went into planning the route, analyzing maps including OSM (Open Street Maps), SOI (Survey of India), Google Earth, Olizane and various reference blogs. Credit goes to Sathya Narayanan who inspired me through his solo trekking explorations and wonderful blog before he went missing last August. Also thanks to my close friend Maniraj who identified many trails. Navigation (and photography) was done with my OnePlus 6 mobile and offline OpenTopoMaps. A total elevation gain of 200,000 meters with seven passes above 5,000 meters and 21 passes above 4,000 meters. Being an ultra runner and minimalist, carrying only 6kg luggage, most of the pass crossings were done in just one to two days after initial acclimatization, covering 30-40 km every day. The remaining time I traveled on HPRTC buses in between sections. The journey went across colorful alpine meadows, high altitude desert, vast glaciers, wild stream crossings, huge moraines, steep landslide-prone valley slopes, a few technical climbs and wilderness navigation near a few unused trails.

On many nights, I overnight camped in the tent I carried with me, but many times I stayed in shelters with shepherds and mountain tribes and in many welcoming homes at remote, hospitable villages. My food packing was kept basic with no cooking tools to reduce weight. No technical gear was carried except for a pair of hiking poles to assist in crossing streams, ice slopes, and landslides. The journey was one of stunning natural beauty, hospitality beyond words and overwhelming vastness of remote out-of-this-world landscapes. I indulged in lip-smacking local cuisine, encountered hikers and wildlife in the remotest corners of the Himalaya, and listened to beautiful music on local instruments. More details on passes, route, preparation, photos, and videos of my journey can be found at ultrajourneys.org.

Saichu Valley Apline Meadow, Pangi

Traversing beautiful alpine meadows dotted with pink and yellow flowers in the remote Saichu Valley in Pangi beyond the last village of Tuan. These higher altitude meadows of Saichu are grazed by many herds of the shepherds who migrate each summer from Chamba valley through one of the many passes across the Pir Panjal range. Here on the way to explore an unknown jot (5,260 m) trying to cross over from Saichu to Miyar valley.

Shepherd descending from the Kugti pass (5,040 m)

Descending from the Kugti pass (5,040 m) with a shepherd guiding his 500 sheep into the beautiful cloud indulged Chamba valley below. Kugti is one of the several passes across the Pir Panjal range used by shepherds for their annual migration to graze the high altitude meadows. Here we are crossing over from Rapay village along the Chenab river in Lahaul to the picturesque Kugti village in Bharmour, Chamba. The Kugti pass requires traversing of moraines and landslide-prone slopes on either side of the pass.

High altitude meadows of the Miyar valley

Bright red alpine flowers in the high altitude meadows (4200m) of the Miyar valley while descending the Pratap Jot (5,100 m) pass onto the moraines of the Kang La glacier. Pratap Jot is one of the several passes across the Pir Panjal range separating the Miyar and Saichu valleys. Around 10 shepherds and their 3000+ sheep graze the beautiful meadows of Saichu valley every year crossing one of these passes. The 25km long Kang La glacier seen here connects Lahual/Pangi with Zanskar, Ladakh – walking across this vast moraines landscape of huge boulders and rocks on top of melting ice is quite challenging.

Best friends in the mountains

“The warmest hospitality can be found in the most remote corners of our planet.”

Your best friends in the mountains – the gaddi’s! Here preparing hot chai, fluffy roti and yummy aloo gravy for two starved (and half frozen) travelers after an icy crossing of the Rupin pass with heavy snowfall and hazel during mid-September 2018. The shepherds leave home at the start of summer in May and cross several high altitude passes to graze their large herds of 300 to 600 sheep and goats in the remotest corners of the Himalaya returning only six months later in Sep-Oct. Every few weeks they descend to the nearest village to resupply rice, atta and other food items. They use home woven blankets and clothing to stay warm in their temporary shelters in the alpine meadows between 3,000 to 4,000 meters altitude. The warmest hospitality can be found in the most remote corners of our planet.

Chobia pass glacier

A heavily crevassed glacier as seen from the top of the Chobia pass (4,966 m), shepherd gateway across the Pir Panjal range separating the valleys of Lahaul/Pangi and Chamba. As per shepherds, the Chobia pass is the second most treacherous pass (after Kalicho) to cross the Pir Panjal range leaving around 20 out of 500 sheep dead during the annual crossing of this pass. From the Pangi side at Arat village along the Chenab river, one has to traverse steep landslide-prone valley slopes, a vast section of moraines and negotiate deep crevasses in the glacier (following a trail of sheep poop) before ascending a final steep rock to reach the narrow pass. On the Chamba side on the way to Seri Kao village, all bridges were washed away during flash floods in August 2018 requiring scaling steep trail-less slopes on one side of the valley unable to cross the forceful stream currents.

Fresh glacial snow near the Pin Parbati pass (5,300 m)

Fresh snow on top of the glacier near the Pin Parbati pass (5,300 m) in September 2018. The pass was first crossed in 1884 by Sir Louis Dane in search for an alternate route to the Spiti valley. The pass connects the fertile and lush green Parbati valley on the Kullu side with the barren high altitude desert of Spiti near Mud village. At the Parbati valley side, one encounters many shepherds and hikers on the way to the Mantalai lake and one can indulge in the scenic hot springs of Keerghanga. On the Pin valley side, the eye gets treated by the mesmerizing color shades of the valley slopes of the Spiti rock desert.

Tso Mesik ghost town

“Was survival of the harsh life in this barren high altitude desert too tough?”

Tso Mesik, one of the many ghost towns one encounters along the remote Tsarap river valley while hiking from the Gata loops (Manali-Leh highway) in Lahaul towards Phuktal gompa in Zanskar, Ladakh. What appears to be once thriving settlements with beautifully constructed homes, surrounded by fertile farming fields have been abandoned for many years. Residents seem to have left in a hurry leaving everything behind. Was survival of the harsh life in this barren high altitude desert too tough, did a natural calamity (2014 floods) force them to leave, did the comforts of the city life tempt them to migrate or did their lifelines (water streams) dry up due to global warming and melting glaciers?

Ibex skull found on the Lar La pass (4,670 m)

An ibex skull on the Lar La pass (4,670 m) deep inside the Zanskarian mountains in Ladakh on the way from Phuktal to Zangla. The entire journey involves crossing two other passes including Rotang La (4,900 m) and Padang La (5,170 m). On the way one passes through Shade village, one of the most remote settlements in Zanskar, being two days away from the nearest road head. Between Lar La and Padang La, I encountered yak herders grazing remote alpine meadows in this barren desert, producing 100 liters of milk from as many domesticated yaks every day, also producing butter and cheese. The same is transported using donkeys, horses and yaks to Shade village to survive the six months of total isolation during winter. All animals are carefully kept in enclosures at night, safe from nocturnal attacks by the elusive snow leopard.

Beneath the milky way at the base of the Phirtse La pass (5,560 m)

Dreaming beneath the milky way at the base of the Phirtse La pass (5,560 m), the highest of the 40 passes crossed in this trans-Himalayan journey, the Phirtse La connects Tangze village in Zanskar with Sarchu in Lahaul. The starlit skies were captured on my OnePlus 6 phone with 30 seconds exposure trying hard not to freeze off my butt in that very cold night at 4,700 m. The pass connects the Southern most section of the Zanskar valley which is dotted with many beautiful small settlements like Testa, Kuru, Tangze, Kargyak, small fertile patches in the barren desert of Ladakh. On the other side, one descends into the beautiful Lingthi valley encountering shepherds and wild yaks on the way to Sarchu where it joins the Tsarap river.

Menthosa peak, 6,443 meters

Menthosa peak, at 6,443 m, the second highest peak in Lahaul and Spiti, as seen from an unknown pass (5,300 m) while crossing over the Pir Panjal range from Saichu to Miyar valley in Pangi. Menthosa is situated in the Urgos Nallah, a tributary of the exceptionally beautiful Miyar Nallah. Here climbing up steeply from the beautiful alpine meadows of the Saichu Nallah beyond the last settlement of Tuan across vast stretches of moraines towards Great Himalayan Range to enter Miyar valley.

Trapped in a fog whiteout

“I got trapped in a sudden dense fog whiteout in the late afternoon at 4,100 meters and lost the trail.”

One of the most intense experiences during my journey. While descending from the Chobia pass, the most dangerous in the 40 crossed, I got trapped in a sudden dense fog whiteout in the late afternoon at 4,100 meters and lost the trail used by shepherds. Further descent was impossible being blocked by steep rock faces on all sides. Having lost my tent the previous day in the beautiful Miyar valley, I spend that night wrapped up beneath a small tarpaulin sheet braving the cold rains, while trying not to slide down from the inclined slope. Next morning the sunrise cleared up the fog and I was treated to a stunning view of the green Chamba valley below. One hour later and 500 meters lower I was enjoying a hot cup of chai and alloo roti in the first shepherd shelter on my way out.

Award-winning documentary

Upon returning, I shared all of the footage from my journey that I took with my OnePlus 6 and shared it with my friend Neil D’Souza, who compiled it into a short film which won the Best Mountain Exploration Film Award at the IMF Mountain film festival.

For more information on Peter’s journeys, visit ultrajourneys.org.

Instagram: @petervangeit
Facebook: @PeterVanGeit

Introducing The Outdoor Voyage

Whilst you’re here, given you believe in our mission, we would love to introduce you to The Outdoor Voyage – our booking platform and online marketplace which only lists good operators, who care for sustainability, the environment and immersive, authentic experiences. All listed prices are agreed directly with the operator, and we promise that 86% of any money spent ends up supporting the local community that you’re visiting. Click the image below to find out more.

Recent Articles



Bringing Kiwi Back to Wellington

As New Zealand announces a new plan to reverse the decline of the iconic kiwi bird, Wellingtonians are already lining up to save their emblematic bird.

Plastic Patrol: How One World Record Became a Global Movement

Eco-activist and paddleboard adventurer Lizzie Carr inspires a global community of citizen scientists to map plastic pollution in her crisis-fighting app.

The Dream of Everest: Four Arab Women Challenge Social Expectations

Pushing back against social norms, some with family resistance, some with support, these women from Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Oman are proving that social expectations do not count for anything.

Privacy Preference Center

Necessary

Advertising

Analytics

Other