What’s the use of a fine house if you haven’t got a tolerable planet to put it on?

- Henry David Thoreau



Oct 16, 2017

Himalayan Database Soon to be Available Online for Free

Miss Elizabeth Hawley started recording information about ascents in the Himalayas in 1963.


Michael Levy

Today her records are the most complete history of Himalayan climbing that exist, and starting in November, they will be available online completely free for the first time.

Ever wonder how many Polish climbers have summited Everest? Or how many expeditions were on Manaslu in 1988? Or the youngest climber to reach the top of Cho Oyu? Or any other of the countless obscure factoids and possible ways to construe information about climbing in the high peaks of Nepal and Tibet?

Starting in November, for the first time, anyone so inclined to look up such information will be able to do so with just a few clicks. The Himalayan Database—the most complete record there is of climbing in the Himalayas, with information on over 69,000 climbers’ attempts on nearly 460 peaks—will soon be available online, completely free of charge.  

The Database’s current form dates back to 2004, but the archives out of which it grew were started by Miss Elizabeth Hawley, in 1963. Miss Hawley was on assignment for Reuters covering the first sanctioned American expedition to Everest, on which Tom Hornbein and Willi Unsoeld made the first ascent of the West Ridge via the Hornbein Couloir.

Over the ensuing decades, Miss Hawley became the de facto authority on Himalayan ascents, collecting as much information as she could about the various expeditions that came to Nepal each year. Billi Bierling, Miss Hawley’s assistant, says that back in those early days Hawley would simply “trump to the airport, look at the mountaineering boots of one of the four international flights that came into Kathmandu each week, and ask what mountain they were going to climb.”

Miss Elizabeth Hawley (left) – the founder of the Himalayan Database – and Billi Berling (right), her assistant. Photo: Ralf Dujmovits.

In 2004, after a decade of feeding all the existing data into a computer (regarding how long it took, Bierling jokes, “Miss Hawley’s handwriting is appalling”), Hawley and Bierling released the Himalayan Database in CD-ROM form. They had 1,000 copies made, each available for $69.

Now that CDs are a bygone technology, they decided it was time to have the archives available online. And since they never made any money on the CD-ROMs anyway—“The money we made by selling the Database was the same amount we spent on producing it,”—why not have it available for free?

When the Database goes live online in the beginning of November, armchair mountaineers, motivated first or repeat ascentionists, and climbers looking to break arcane records alike will all have a much easier time finding the information they seek. Bierling proudly explains how exhaustive the database is: “Every expedition has to be debriefed by the Ministry of Tourism [in Nepal], so some people ask why we do it separately. But we’re much more precise. We get pictures of new routes, find out where camps were placed, how dangerous it was. What you can download is very detailed.”

To this day, the small team at the Himalayan Database follows Miss Hawley’s example from way back when and interview as many climbers as possible in Kathmandu before or after their expeditions. With the explosion of popularity in Himalayan climbing and its increasing accessibility to non-professional alpinists in recent years, the amount of work required to do those interviews has risen significantly. So Bierling wants to ensure that would-be climbers know about the Database and reach out: “I still want to do the interviews personally, but there are so many now that we also have online forms where people can register. It’s pretty cool. The more people who help us, the more complete our records will be.”

Want to see the mountains that people climb to get their names in the Himalayan Database? Visit The Outdoor Voyage today and join a trek to Annapurna Base Camp!

Feature Image: Ama Dablam (left-most peak). Photo: Faj2323 (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons.

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Adventure Travel

Jul 31, 2018

Kayaking’s Elite Return to India at the Malabar River Festival

During the week of July 18th to 22nd, the Malabar River Festival returned to Kerala, India with one of the biggest cash prizes in whitewater kayaking in the world.



Brooke Hess

A $20,000 purse attracted some of the world’s best kayakers to the region for an epic week battling it out on some of India’s best whitewater.

The kayaking events at Malabar River Festival were held on the Kuttiyadi River, Chalippuzha River, and the Iruvajippuzha River, in South India on the Malabar Coast. The festival was founded and organized by Manik Taneja and Jacopo Nordera of GoodWave Adventures, the first whitewater kayaking school in South India.

Photo: Akash Sharma

“Look out for these guys in the future because there are some future stars there”

One of the goals of the festival is to promote whitewater kayaking in the state of Kerala and encourage locals to get into the sport. One of the event organizers, Vaijayanthi Bhat, feels that the festival plays a large part in promoting the sport within the community.  “The kayak community is building up through the Malabar Festival. Quite a few people are picking up kayaking… It starts with people watching the event and getting curious.  GoodWave Adventures are teaching the locals.”

Photo: Akash Sharma

Vaijayanthi is not lying when she says the kayak community is starting to build up.  In addition to the pro category, this year’s Malabar Festival hosted an intermediate competition specifically designed for local kayakers. The intermediate competition saw a huge turnout of 22 competitors in the men’s category and 9 competitors in the women’s category. Even the professional kayakers who traveled across the world to compete at the festival were impressed with the talent shown by the local kayakers. Mike Dawson of New Zealand, and the winner of the men’s pro competition had nothing but good things to say about the local kayakers. “I have so much respect for the local kayakers. I was stoked to see huge improvements from these guys since I met them in 2015. It was cool to see them ripping up the rivers and also just trying to hang out and ask as many questions about how to improve their paddling. It was awesome to watch them racing and making it through the rounds. Look out for these guys in the future because there are some future stars there.”

Photo: Akash Sharma


“It was awesome because you had such a great field of racers so you had to push it and be on your game without making a mistake”

Vaijayanthi says the festival has future goals of being named a world championship.  In order to do this, they have to attract world class kayakers to the event.  With names like Dane Jackson, Nouria Newman, Nicole Mansfield, Mike Dawson, and Gerd Serrasolses coming out for the pro competition, it already seems like they are doing a good job of working toward that goal! The pro competition was composed of four different kayaking events- boatercross, freestyle, slalom, and a superfinal race down a technical rapid. “The Finals of the extreme racing held on the Malabar Express was the favourite event for me. It was an epic rapid to race down. 90 seconds of continuous whitewater with a decent flow. It was awesome because you had such a great field of racers so you had to push it and be on your game without making a mistake.” says Dawson.

Photo: Akash Sharma

The impressive amount of prize money wasn’t the only thing that lured these big name kayakers to Kerala for the festival. Many of the kayakers have stayed in South India after the event ended to explore the rivers in the region. With numerous unexplored jungle rivers, the possibilities for exploratory kayaking are seemingly endless. Dawson knows the exploratory nature of the region well.  “I’ve been to the Malabar River Fest in 2015. I loved it then, and that’s why I’ve been so keen to come back. Kerala is an amazing region for kayaking. In the rainy season there is so much water, and because the state has tons of mountains close to the sea it means that there’s a lot of exploring and sections that are around. It’s a unique kind of paddling, with the rivers taking you through some really jungly inaccessible terrain. Looking forward to coming back to Kerala and also exploring the other regions of India in the future.”


For more information on the festival, visit: http://www.malabarfest.com/

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