High Altitude Vacations – Part I

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A photograph from 1990 shot from Aiguille-du-Midi (12,605 feet above sea level). Mont Blanc in the background.

– Huff-Puff!!  Huff-Puff!!

– We are at 12,000 feet altitude and oxygen levels are 40% of the normal. I doubt if I can climb any further.

– Oh! Just look around! It’s worth the climb. C’mon! We will be there soon.”

– Huff-Puff!!  Huff-Puff!!

– Ahhh! We are at summit! We made it!

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A photograph from 1990 shot from Aiguille-du-Midi (12,605 feet above sea-level)

And the show continues on TV channel. I was always impressed by these courageous people of NatGeo and similar organizations for exploring our earth at such destinations at heights and depths and also shooting these adventures to show on TV/films later. I envied the videographers and photographers who got the opportunity to shoot along with them. I always dreamt that one day even I would own a good camera. Someday someone will take me to some high altitude destinations and I will be able to do the photography to my heart’s content just like these TV show people.

But how could this happen? All said and done I was, and still am, a couch-potato adept at experiencing adventure travels over TV channels all the time in comforts of my home.

But some dreams come true. That’s exactly what is happening in India. The booming tourism industry coupled with improved means of transportation, better connectivity by air and road, and proximity of Himalayan destinations is bringing high altitude destinations within the reach of all. The advent of digital technology has put camera in the hands of every cell phone owner. High-caliber DSLRs are now within the reach of amateurs and enthusiasts. The ever increasing number of tour operators is ensuring that all kinds of tourists can reach the high altitude destinations – by hiking, or by biking or sitting comfortably in sedans/MPVs.

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Khardungla Pass – 18,380 feet above sea level
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Khardungla Pass – 18,380 feet above sea level

Altitude is defined as Normal (0 – 8000 feet / 0 -2,458 meters), High (8,000 – 12,000 feet / 2,438 – 3,658 meters), Very High (12,000 – 18,000 feet / 3,658 – 5,487 meters), and Extremely High (18,000+ feet / 5,500+ meters).

Many popular hill stations in northern India are below 8000 feet of altitude e.g. Mussoorie, Nainital, Shimla, Manali, Darjeeling, Srinagar, Gulmarg, Sonmarg, Pahalgaon. However, the newly popular destinations like Leh-Ladakh, Lahaul-Spiti, Zanskar, Kailash-Manasarovar, Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri, Yamunotri, Valley of Flowers, Nathula Pass, are all “High” to “Extremely high” altitude destinations.

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All right, All right! So what is this blog about?

At high altitudes many “unexpected”s come along with the “expected”s. This series of blogs notes down the unexpecteds that I came across during my vacations at high altitude destinations. It is for those who assume that vacations at high altitudes are no different than vacations at any other place and/or those who have yet to travel to high altitudes. All I would say to them is –

Expect the unexpected…..

So read on….

High Altitude Vacations – Part II –>

High Altitude Vacations – Part III –>

High Altitude Vacations – Part IV –>

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