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Mandip Singh Soin Speaks at the 5th Mail Today Tourism Summit 2019


Indian media outfit Mail Today organised its 5th Mail Today Tourism Summit 2019 last Friday, 31st May. The event, held at the Taj Mahal Hotel, New Delhi, witnessed a number of thought leaders from the tourism industry to discuss ideas that could redefine the future of tourism industry. There were panel discussions on how online companies are shaping travel, luxury travel, and destinations Indians prefer.

Speaking at the panel on “Digital Nomads: How online companies are shaping travel plans”, Mandip Singh Soin, founder president, Ecotourism Society of India, commented on how awareness needs to be created towards responsible tourism, even by online companies.

Read more about the event here.

Southwest face of Nilkanth - Ibex Expeditions

First Ascent of Southwest Face of Nilkanth



Southwest face of Nilkanth - Ibex Expeditions

Climbers Chantel Astorga, Anne Gilbert and Jason made the first ascent of the Southwest face of Nilkanth between 29th September and 2nd October 2017. The following post written by Chantel Astorga is a riveting reflection of their ascent. The journey was managed by Ibex Expeditions.

This blog was originally published in American Alpine Club.

Between September 29 and October 2, Anne Gilbert Chase, Jason Thompson, and I made the first ascent of the southwest face of Nilkanth (6,596m, a.k.a. Nilkanta or Nilkantha).

Anne Gilbert, Jason, and Caro North had planned to attempt the southwest face in 2015, and they climbed most of the peak’s west ridge, which would have formed their descent route. However, the weather did not allow them to set foot on the southwest face (AAJ 2016).

Two years later, Anne Gilbert and Jason were awarded an AAC Cutting Edge Grant for another attempt on the unclimbed southwest face. They invited me to join, and with assistance provided by Ibex Expeditions, we arrived in mid-September at a 4,115m base camp directly below the south face. The monsoon extended well into the month, bringing warm temperatures and heavy rain.

Access to the southwest face involved 1,000m of ascent over gravel-covered slabs, and featured brief periods of exposure to overhead objective hazard. Straightforward glacier travel then led to the foot of the wall. Our only opportunity to acclimatize through the unset- tled weather was to ascend these approach slabs and establish an advanced base below the wall at 5,180m. At that time, the first third of the wall looked in poor condition, with high temperatures melting the ice and exposing loose scrappy rock. Rain only began to turn to snow around 5,100m.

On September 27 a long weather window began, and although not well acclimatized, we decided this would be our opportunity. We left advanced base on the morning of the 28th, finding just enough ice on the lower face to afford reasonable passage. There were a few pitches of mixed climbing up to M5, simul-climbing on steep snow slopes, and a steep WI5 ice pitch. Our first bivouac was at 5,670m in a moat.

On day two we pitched most of the climbing, which consisted of technical mixed ground and some beautiful steep ice. We were unable to locate a tent platform that evening, so we chopped out a bench at 5,944m and succumbed to a sitting bivouac under the stars. On most days the mountain would see convective cloud buildup and light precipitation during the afternoon hours.

Day three was the crux. We needed to find a way to the top of what we’d dubbed the Castle, a steep granite formation. As we got nearer, we saw that our intended route would require big-wall tactics. Instead, we opted to navigate around the Castle’s right side and found a delicate ice runnel leading into an overhanging cave. To exit, we tensioned over a slab and gained access to difficult mixed ground; this was followed by a steep ice pillar, eventually depositing us on top of the Castle at 6,248m. The bivouac here was the coolest ever, the exposure and views unforgettable.

Anticipating more straightforward climbing, we hoped day four would take us to the summit. However, the technical ground continued almost to the top. The rock quality deteriorated and route-finding became more difficult. By evening we had arrived at a false summit. The summit ridge looked steep, difficult, and exposed, so we opted to descend 30m to a flat bench and set up camp at 6,523m, the highest elevation any of us had slept.

After a cold and restless night, we awoke to another beautiful morning, sluggishly melted snow for water, and packed our bags to complete the summit ridge. This turned out to be straightforward, and a couple of hours later we were standing on the summit, psyched. Our route, Obscured Perception (1,400m, VI WI5 M6 A0 70° snow), had overall been of very high quality.

The west ridge was still fresh in the minds of Anne Gilbert and Jason, so we hoped for a fluid descent. We downclimbed névé ridges and made about 10 rappels, with Anne Gilbert doing a great job remembering the locations of the previously rigged anchors. Fifteen hours later, at around 2 a.m., we made it back to our advanced base, rested a while, and then continued our descent to base camp later in the morning.

– Chantel Astorga, AAC

This blog was originally published in American Alpine Club.

Image © Chantel Astorga, Anne Gilbert, Jason

International Day for Biological Diversity 2019 - Ibex Expeditions

International Day for Biological Diversity – What Can We Do for Our Planet?

International Day for Biological Diversity 2019 - Ibex Expeditions

Today, the world celebrates the International Day for Biological Diversity, giving us a chance to reflect on the important role nature plays in our lives. It gives us food to eat, fresh water and air to breathe. It protects us from extreme weather conditions. It gives us beauty, an education, a system, a structure.

The United Nations proclaimed 22nd May as the day dedicated to Biological Diversity to increase our understanding of biological issues. When first created by the Second Committee of the UN General Assembly in late 1993, 29 December (the date of entry into force of the Convention of Biological Diversity), was designated The International Day for Biological Diversity. In December 2000, the UN General Assembly adopted 22 May as IDB, to commemorate the adoption of the text of the Convention on 22 May 1992 by the Nairobi Final Act of the Conference for the Adoption of the Agreed Text of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

This year, the theme for the day is “Our Biodiversity, Our Food, Our Health”.

A UNDP India blog post describes the current situation perfectly.

“This year, International Day on Biodiversity falls just two weeks after the release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem’s (IPBES) Global Assessment on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. It confirms what we’ve also heard from numerous other recently released reports. Over the past 50 years, we have destroyed half of the world’s tropical forests, degraded 40 percent of all land, and promoted unsustainable land use that led to one quarter of greenhouse gas emissions. Today, over one million species are threatened with extinction. In short, nature — our planet — and humankind — are in trouble.”

Our biodiversity is in a crisis. While governments, corporates and policy makers have the most important role to play to ensure the crisis is contained, we, as travellers, explorers and regular citizens of the world can also do our bit to lessen our own impact on the planet.

Here are a few tips,

1. During your travels, follow the principles of Leave No Trace.

2. Eat and purchase seasonal foods

3. Buy local foods

4. Reduce food waste

5. Compost food scraps

6. Reduce packaging by using reusable bags or glass jars

7. Avoid Single-Use Plastic

8. Travel with tour operators that adhere to strict policies of sustainability and responsible tourism.

Our upcoming journeys to Ladakh, Rajasthan, Satpura National Park and Tapovan will follow these principles. As we all know, our biodiversity is all that we have that makes us a unique, beautiful planet. And we have only one planet.