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Snowscapes Exploratory Expedition Services

The famous quote by the legendary Frank S Smythe drives our motto for expedition services.

“…The successful carrying out of an expedition to the summit of a Great Himalayan Peak depends upon so many factors that it is difficult to enumerate them in order, yet however well planned  an expedition may be , and however well the plans are executed, there is always one link of strength unknown in the chain of circumstances, and that is- luck. That solitary link may be stretched unreasonably and not break; it  may be strong and unyielding or pitifully weak; when apparently strong, it may develop an unexpected flaw, when apparently weak, it may continue to hold. Luck is blessed and cursed, but without it mountaineering would be a dull, mechanical pastime. Luck depends largely on the weather, and what the weather has done, or may do, to the mountain. Bow therefore to luck, accept it and forget it, making sure at the same time that all other links in the chain are as strong as human ingenuity and forethought can devise. ..”- Frank Sydney Smythe (Kamet Conquered- 1931)

Snowscapes provides specialised services for designing and executing customised expeditions in rare routes. Some of these routes are already explored, documented and digitized through our Annual Flagship Expeditions (SFEX) as can be seen at our blogsite. We do have a repertoire of unexplored terrain that we maintain through regular scanning of the Himalayan region through our cartography division. We can examine feasibility, design and execute exploratory expeditions also on request. Whatever be the route we design and execute these expeditions exactly in the style that we execute our annual SFEX.

We mention below the few KSFs (Key Success Factors)  that we have mastered in our last one and a half decade of our exploratory expedition experiences, factors which separate our expedition design from the rest. These of course are over and above the  basic expertise, equipment and logistics needed for carrying out any high altitude expedition.

Detailed Route Maps


One of the key differences of exploring wilderness in Himalayas and in any other part of the world is lack of detailed topographic data of the terrain. The Himalayas, because of it’s remoteness and security sensitivity continues to be a blank on the map in the days of GPS navigation.  Many years back we decided to take the task upon ourselves and perfected our techniques of accurately producing mapdata from available free sources in the internet.

Waypoints and routes are planned after careful analysis of the 3D Digital elevation data on Google Earth. Apart from historical research material, old maps of Survey of India and SFAR (Swiss Foundation of Alpine Research) are also used as reference for route planning.

Many of the maps we prepare have a 1:5000 scale, about 10 times greater resolution than the best topographical maps available with the Survey of India. These maps are then geotagged and fed into the handheld GPS navigation system that we carry in our expeditions. Large map printouts are also taken in order to annotate additional route information during the expedition and finally merged into the GPS Mapdata. Snowscapes Cartography has archived maps of all our previous expedition in GPS friendly formats.

Accurate Weather forecasting

Weather forecast is one of the prime factors before commencement of any and every expedition. We take into consideration factors such as cloud conditions, rain, wind, snowfall, sun index, temperature etc. The forecasts not only provides us with the necessary guidance on navigation and safety but also helps take decisions on expedition kit, emergency evacuation plan, emergency equipment and camping site selection. Snowscapes uses the state of art weather prediction mechanisms and web applications. A sample post here.

 

 

 

We in snowscapes believe that the key to make a good forecast is not limiting oneself to quantitative information but also to gather local intelligence from the denizens of the mountains. We also monitor weather forecast changes for about a month before the expedition to have a understanding of the trending patterns of multiple weather stations in the targeted area. Snow-cover and terrain conditions are monitored through available free data of “Earth Observation Satellites” that provide daily topographical scan, as can be seen in the sample post here. Quite often the local information comes handy in sticky situations and the predictions of the guides who are natives to this part of the world turns to be correct.

Modern Technology and Equipment


Gears and equipments not only make activities easier but also make crucial difference in learning. State of the art gears and equipment are paramount for flawless execution and world-class safety. The expedition equipments we use are tried and tested in our own SFEX expeditions .

We never make compromise in brands of basic equipment we use e.g. trekking poles, ropes, carabineers, climbing harness, ascenders (jumars), gaiters etc. With the fast changing technology the gears and equipment are changing for the better. We continue to add the latest technology in navigation, remote sensing and communication so as to design and execute expeditions on the safest possible routes in the high Himalayas.

We are in the continuous look out for revolutionary technological break through in all areas of high altitude climbing and rescue. We add them to our arsenal as soon as we are confident about its functionality. Weight and bulk limit the amount of equipment on can carry. So we give our best efforts to balance the weight and functional need to the fullest possible order.

Deep Research of Terrain and History


Team Snowscapes has steadfastly focussed on exploring unexplored areas of the Great Himalayas especially in the Kinnaur and Garhwal ranges. This focus has helped us to create deep understanding of the landscape, topography, geology, history, flora and fauna.

In the SFEX expeditions of the last 5 years we have explored many historical routes, abandoned habitations, unexplored valleys, forgotten passes and have also carved out new and easy routes.

We have seen and discovered many  high altitude alpine meadows in Garhwal region each jealously competing with the grand view as seen in the famous “Valley of Flowers”. These are frequented by grazers and their flocks every summer and lie ensconced in unknown nooks and crannies of the Garhwal Ranges. 


The Garhwal region is rich in wildlife, and has always been so. Animals such as Bharal (The Himalayan Blue Sheep), The Himalayan Tahr, The Himalayan Brown Bear, The Monal Pheasant, The Musk Deer and the ever elusive Snow Leopard are some such examples. At the turn of the century, man-eating leopards used to be a menace. This brought hunters like Jim Corbett to the area. Stories of Jim Corbett and his exploits with the man eaters of the region have since become famous. Although the wild life is much sparser now a days, one still manages to get to places where there are greater chances of sighting these rare animals.


But apart from snow leopards (whose pug marks are all that we have seen) all others have been sighted by our expedition teams from insanely close proximity. So for the wildlife enthusiasts it’s a rare occasion to bag upon.

Our expedition team also found six million year old fossil rocks of the late Jurassic age  during the Himank Expedition of 2011 to Girthi Valley;  indicating  the existence of the Sea of Tethys  in that Trans Himalayan region.

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