Category Archives: Adventures

Leeches, they are some of the sweetest tucker you’re ever likely to find when lost in the outback

Leeched Courtesy BBC

Here is an excellent read (with the occasional typographic error) for anyone who ventures in the wilds. The US Navy SEAL Survival Handbook.

Some years ago together with a colleague I was doing geological traverses across the Earaheedy Basin in the deserts of Western Australia – in January. Mapping along a traverse and only navigating with a compass in the early morning, I walked across the stratigraphy and then reversed course to locate the vehicle parked in thick scrub. My colleague was several kilometres away exploring access options to the west.

Counting paces (before portable GPS) I returned on the reverse compass bearing but could not locate the vehicle. Given that midday temperatures were in the high 40s I quickly realised that this was a potentially life threatening event. Important in this situation not panic. I sat down had a cup of tea and a biscuit and developed a strategy. I very carefully walked to the east 400 metres – no vehicle. I retraced my steps and traversed a mere 100 metres to the west to locate the vehicle.

An excellent read with entertaining anecdotes and much useful information. The overarching message, go prepared and when faced with a challenge avoid panic, sit and have a cup of tea and a biscuit.

The leeches comment is on page 218.

invitation to worakyls concert

One our my favorite artists, Worakyls, will be performing at the Zenith Toulouse Metropole, Toulouse France, Sunday November 10, 2019.  The event opens with Worakyls typical electronic music and finishes with his fusion classic-electronic- jazz orchestra.

You are invited. Go here to book

We will be spending a few days in Toulouse around the event, then driving down to the Pyrenees for 3 days and then up through Bordeau to spend 4 days in Poitiers. Message me if you are coming.

What was the first creature to be aware?

A new book from Simona Ginsburg and Eva Jablonka addresses this very issue.  In a complex and challenging book, the authors discuss the origins of consciousness from an evolutionary perspective.  They postulate that capability to learn was the driving force in the evolutionary transition to basic consciousness and it occurred during the Cambrian. 

This thought-provoking book has provided me with a new way to imagine the dynamics of the Cambrian Explosion and its impacts on life on this planet today.  A tour-de-force on consciousness study, recommended.

During the Cambrian, at the end of a protracted ice age when most of the earth was covered in ice sheets, the most remarkable period in the history of life on earth began.  Termed the Cambrian Explosion or Cambrian radiation it commended around 541 million years ago when most major animal phyla appeared in the fossil record and some which are no longer represented.  What has most fascinated geologists and evolutionary biologists is that Cambrian Explosion occurred in over a period of a mere 13 or million years.

Opabinia regalis is anextinct, stem group arthropod found in the Middle Cambrian Burgess Shale Lagerstätte of British Columbia, Canada. Jose Manuel Canete / Wikimedia Commons

There is evidence of life on earth as far back as 3.6 billion years, but prior to the events commencing in 541 MA most organisms were simple, composed of individual cells and occasionally organized into colonies.  They were soft-bodied, and their poor preservation has been a major obstacle to understanding the evolution of plant and animals on earth prior to the Cambrian. 

The Anomalocaridid comprise a group of very early marine animals known primarily from fossils found in Cambrian deposits in China, United States, Canada, Poland and Australia. Nobu Tamura / Wikimedia Commons

The authors ask the question “What marked the evolutionary transition from organisms that lacked consciousness to those with consciousness—to minimal subjective experiencing, or, as Aristotle described it, “the sensitive soul”?

Simona Ginsburg and Eva Jablonka postulate that learning was the driving force in the transition to basic consciousness. Using a methodology similar to that used by scientists when they identified the transition from non-life to life, Ginsburg and Jablonka suggest a set of criteria, identify a marker for the transition to minimal consciousness, and explore the far-reaching biological, psychological, and philosophical implications.

The book is divided into two parts.  Chapters 1 through 5 provides an historical, biological and conceptual foundation for a discussion of consciousness.  Their point of departure for their discussion is Aristotle’s “soul” the dynamics of living beings, and its different manifestation in different types of organisms; the “nutritive and reproductive soul” which involved self-maintenance and reproduction and is present in all living beings; the “sensitive soul” which is equated with the living organization of sentiment, subjectively experiencing beings; and the “rational soul” which is special to reasoning humans.  This section offers and outstanding summary of the state of knowledge and research on consciousness. 

Chapters 6 through 10 develop their evolutionary arguments.  They propose that the evolutionary marker of basic or minimal consciousness is a complex form of associative learning, which they term “unlimited associative learning” (UAL). UAL enables an organism to ascribe motivational value to a novel, compound, non-reflex-inducing stimulus or action, and use it as the basis for future learning. Associative learning, Ginsburg and Jablonka argue, drove the Cambrian explosion and its massive diversification of organisms. Finally, Ginsburg and Jablonka propose symbolic language as a similar type of marker for the evolutionary transition to human rationality—to Aristotle’s “rational soul.”

This book is a tour-de-force of the study of consciousness, a notoriously difficult topic, for it requires the study of the conscious by the conscious.  The question of consciousness and its origins in the Cambrian Explosion has allowed me to think about our origins in a different manner. 

I suspect that there were definite advantages for early Cambrian life to have been sensitive to light.  This would have allowed life to find the most productive niche with the greatest resources.  This likely rather quickly became a biological arms-race with better “sight” producing a competitive reproductive advantage.  Predation would have simply accelerated the evolution of sight and that requires increased processing capability and a larger collection of neurons.  With predation came awareness almost as a necessity to find a meal and with increased mobility, reproduction.  Sight then would seem to be the most significant evolutionary event which drove the early stages of the Cambrian Explosion however subsequently, increased processing capability over time would have played a pivotal role in the evolution of predation and earliest awareness.

Mt Semeru Volcano Trek – YOU Are Invited

Mt Semeru -Indonesia (Courtesy Indo Trekkers)

I am planning a trek up Java’s highest (and active) volcano, Mt Semeru at 3,676m ASL.  The trek will start in Jakarta with flights to Malang and then vehicles to the start of the trek.   Schedule:

  • Arrive Jakarat May 6th
  • Depart to Malang May 7th
  • Return to Malang and Jakarta May11th.

Cost including all accomodation from 6th through the 11th inclusive, including 2 nights in Jakarta and two dinners which will include presentations from local geologists, transfers, all meals (dedicated camp cook) and personal porter.  A data package on the geology and volcanology of East Java will be provided in paper and GIS formats prior to departure.  Cost includes . COST:  US$1,100

This is a demanding trek, no climbing skills required however.  Please message us in the event that you wish to participate. Does not include travel/medical insurance coverage.  You will be required to show proof of coverage and execute a waiver before participation.

Nepal – Fantastic Mountains

Just returned from three weeks in the Himalayas –  truly wonderful.  The mountains and the geology were wonderful.  We walked from moderately deformed Lesser Himalayan Series though the Metamorphic Core of the Orogen and across the South Tibetan Detachment Fault into weakly deformed and metamorphosed marine sediments of the Tethyan Ocean.  If you are a geologists this is a transect that you simply need to do and in addition its just a  great adventure.  Planning has already commenced for the 2017 expedition up into the remote Tsum Valley in northern Nepal.

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Trekking Around Manaslu, Nepal

Below is the final itinerary for the Manaslu Trek, commencing October 10 in Kathmandu.  We will be posting on Twitter and Facebook and you can follow our Spot Transponder here.

Mt Manaslu Trek, October 2016, cmi Capital Team – Click for High Resolution

View the Trek Route and Points of Interest in Earth Google.

Activity   Comments
Day -03: JLM/JCM/MKM arrive in Kathmandu Arrive in Kathmandu TBA
Day -02: JCM/JLM/KMK Kathmandu Shopping for equipment and provisions
Day -01:  JLM  Kathmandu Shopping for equipment and provisions
Day 01: Drive from Kathmandu to Barpak (2000m), depending on raod condition may have to walk up the final 1000 m elevation from the valley. 8-9 hours Today, we drive from Kathmandu to Barpak following the road towards  Pokhara before turning off .   We travel 50 km up the Prithvi Highway then turn north passing through Chanaute where we turn off the road towards Barpak.  We climb steadily passing though Baluwa and Rangrung.  We pass within 500 metres of the epicentre of the devastating 2015 7.8 earthquake.  From Rangrung at an elevation of 850m we climb through Mandre on narrow roads that follow the contour up to Barpak where we spend the night.
Day 02: Trek Barpak to Larpak (2200) 6-7 hours We climb from Barpak up 800 metres and over the ridge to Larpak through lush forests and spend the night in Larpak.
Day 03: Trek Larpak to Khorlabeshi (875m) 7-8 hours From Larpak the trek follows the contour of the ridge  with spectacular views across a 700 metre valley above Gumda and onwards around the contour towards Khorla and then down to the  Budh Kandaki river and the village of Khorlabesi where we spend the night.
Day 04: Trek from Khorlabeshi to Jagat  (1410m) 6 hours From Khorlabesi we take careful note of the weather conditions as this is one of the more hazardous portions of the trek.  The left side of the river is dominated by unstable geology and was the site of a recent avalanche which killed 4 and injured 11.  We pass upstream past Tatopani and Yaruphant before arriving in Jagarat where we spend the night.
Day 05: Trek from Jagat to Deng (1840m) 6-7 hours Today, our trail climbs over the ridge and reaches Dovan. We cross a long suspension bridge over the Yaru Khola and climb some stone stairs  to Tharo Bhanjyang. After crossing the river  and climbing through small villages, we get to Deng Khola and then to tiny village of Deng where we spend the night.
Day 06: Trek from Deng to Namrung (2630m) 6-7 hours Today, our trail climbs up to Rana which is a short distance beyond Deng. After passing some houses, our trail climbs high above the river and drops into the Shringi Valley passing through Bihi Bazar. Our trail makes further ups and down through the forest before reaching Ghap and eventually though thick bamboo and rhododendron forest we reach, after a steep climb,  Namrung where we stay overnight.
Day 07: Trek from Namrung to Samagaon  (3530m) 6-7 hours Today, our trail makes a serious and long ascent through the forest of bamboo and rhododendron crossing the river several times past the villages of Lhi and Lho Bazar.  We climb through a forest of oaks, fir and rhododendrons and enter the closely packed houses of Lhi. Further, our trail leaves Lihi village and enters another village of Sho (2960m) where we get some spectacular views of Mount Manaslu North (7157m) and Naike Peak (5515m). Walking further will bring us to the settlement of Shrip. We continue to the village of Samagaon where we stay overnight.
Day 08: Samagaon – Pungyen gompa – Samagaon or Manaslu BC Today is spent gaining acclimatization to altitude.  We will, depending on the weather and avalanche risk either climb to Pungyen Gompa or Manaslu Base Camp up the glacier.
Day 09: Trek from Samagaon to Samdo (3830m) 4-5 hours Our route from Samagaon passes juniper and birch forests and the stone huts of Kermo Kharka today. Trekking further for some hours, we eventfully reach at Samdo where we stay overnight.
Day 10: Samdo: Acclimatization and Exploration Day We spend a day in Samdo for acclimatization above 4000 metres. We will hike up into the surrounding hills and we stay overnight at Samdo.
Day 11: Trek from Samdo to Dharmasala (4470m) 4-5 hours Today, we descend on a wide and gentle trail from Samdo. We pass through a stone archway. We climb gently over the huge Larkya Glacier and get to the ridge where there is a viewpoint over the edge of a huge gorge. We reach Dharmasala after trekking for some hours. We stay overnight at a local guesthouse in Dharmasala.
Day 12: Trek from Dharmasala to Bhimtang (3720m) 8-9 hours Today, we leave Dharmasala very early crossing several moraines. We ascend past four frozen lakes and reach Larkya La from where we can witness the tremendous views of Himlung Himal (7126m) and others including Annapurna II, Gyaji Kung, Cheo Himal, and Kang Guru. We further descend along the grassy moraine to a small meadow called Bhimtang where we stay overnight.
Day 13: Trek from Bhimtang to Tiliche (2320m) 5-6 hours Our trail today drops from Bhimtang and crosses a glacial stream. We then descend into a beautiful forest of pine and rhododendron to Hompuk. After descending further, we reach the fenced field of Karache and to the village of Gho. Tilche is nearby, where we spend overnight.
Day 14: Trek from Tiliche to Tal (2300(m) 5-6 hours Today, our trail drops down and passes through several fields, houses, and forests of rhododendron and oak. We descend through a scrub forest and reach Dharapani. Trekking for some time, we eventually reach at Chyamje, where we stay overnight.
Day 15/ 26th Oct: Tal – Syange  (1080m) 6-7 hours  Today we trek down the Marvangdi Valley  to Syange where we spend the night.
Day 16: Drive from Syange to Kathmandu 8-9 hours Today, in the morning, we drive back to Kathmandu from Sange It takes approx. 8-9 hours to arrive at Kathmandu. We celebrate the farewell dinner together with Green Valley Nepal Trekking Team. We stay overnight at standard hotel on B/B plan.
Depart Kathmandu

Manaslu Trek Update

Sunset on false summit, Manaslu. Credit Himalayan Expeditions

 

As departure date approaches for our trek in the Manaslu region,the monsoon season remains in full swing.  On Manaslu (8,163m) this year there are a remarkable number of foreign climbers and climbing Sherpas.  Seven Summits Trek is reporting 60 climbers and 70 Sherpas on the mountain, Asian Trekking has 18 foreign climbers and Himalayan Experience has five.  Trekking Camp Nepal is managing a Korean team and then there are the Chinese.   Considering that Manaslu has only been summited 980 times since Toshio Imanishi and Gyalzen Norbu first climbed it on May 9, 1956, 2016 should see a large number of summits.  This large increase in interest should have a very positive economic impact on the Budh Kandaki Valley communities hit hard by the 2015 earthquake.

Russel Brice from Himalayan Experience reported September 8:

    • Himalayan Experience now in Base Camp (BC) after leaving Kathmandu on August 29 for their 9th trip to Manaslu;
    • Himalayan Experience team flew into Samagaon by helicopter. Supplies however still portered over Larkya Pass from the Marvangdi Valley to the west. Team Cmi will however be trekking up the Budh Kandaki valley after a steep descent following a traverse just 1 km from the 2015 earthquake epicentre.
    • Russel Brice reports considerable new house development in Samagaon but slow progress on road and track clearing along the Budh Kandaki Valley which was severely impacted by the 2015 earthquake.

The thriving village of Samagaon, just before the trek up to Base Camp. Credit Himalayan Experience
The thriving village of Samagaon, just before the trek up to Base Camp. Credit Himalayan Experience

On September 13 Russel Brice reported that the rain continued.

    • Rain in Base Camp (BC) continues. Meteotest suggests that the tail end of the monsoon is approaching with BC on the edge of the rain band –  still its very wet.
    • BC is filling with Himalayan Experience, Seven Summits and Japanese teams with a large group of Chinese waiting for a weather break in Samagaon.
    • The Japanese team is attempting the East ridge route to the summit and reportedly making good progress.
    • Seven Summits have the rope fixing contract for all teams for 2016 and are making good progress and on the 11/9 got within 200m of C2 after using 8 ladders on the upper reaches of the Hour Glass.  They made the route to C3 yesterday.
    • Himalayan Experience spent the night at C1 on the 12th.

Benegas Brother Expedition to Manaslu trekking down the Budh Kandaki valley towards Samogan which they reached yesterday September 15. Remote spectacular and currently wet. Manaslu is up to the right of the image and Samogan is directly ahead. Team Cmi will be walking in the opposite direction. Credit: Benegas Brothers
Benegas Brothers Expedition to Manaslu trekking down the Budh Kandaki valley towards Samogan which they reached yesterday September 15. Remote spectacular and currently wet. Manaslu is up to the right of the image and Samogan is directly ahead. Team Cmi will be walking in the opposite direction. Credit: Benegas Brothers

View down Manaslu from C1. Note the absence of snow due to heavy precipitation. Credit: Himalayan Experience
View down Manaslu from C1. Note the absence of snow due to heavy precipitation. Credit: Himalayan Experience

 

Alan Arnette comments that Seven Summits is already on their final acclimatization rotation aiming to spend nights at Camps 1, 2 and 3 before returning to base camp for the usual late September weather window.

Meanwhile Benegas Brothers Expeditions are mounting an expedition this year as well.  The last members of their team arrived in Kathmandu on September 4.  They left for Manaslu BC, September 7, via 4×4 to the village of Nagani Khola –  the end of the road.  The team trekked up the Marvangdi Valley and over Larkya Pass.  The Benegas Brothers team members reached Samagaon on the 15/9.  They will now stage to Base Camp.  This is a rapid ascent route and gives limited opportunity for acclimatization for climbers.  We will be trekking in the reverse direction over the pass after visiting Manaslu Base Camp.\n\n Benegas Brother Expedition to Manaslu trekking down the Budh Kandaki valley towards Samogan which they reached yesterday September 15. Remote spectacular and currently wet.

In summary, it’s been wet in Nepal this season and as of writing the freezing level was up to 5,000 metres.  There is little snow on the lower slopes and progress up Manaslu has been fast.  This more remote region of Nepal, around  Manaslu should be both a challenge and a delight. 

Our route will begin in Barpak with a  steep 1000 metre ascent to the ridge and rapid 2,000 descent to Laprak, Gumda and the Budh Kandaki river –  in the first two days.  We will then walk up the Budh Kandaki Valley and eventually over the Larkya Pass at just over 5,000 metres.   We will post regularly on this blog ( and Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin) when communications allow.

We leave Kathmandu on on 12th October –  should be quite the hoot.

Manaslu, Nepal: October 2016

Team CMI is now preparing for 3 weeks hiking around Manaslu.

We will climb to base camp and reach 17,000 feet.  October 2016 before heading over the Larkya La (pass).   Manaslu is the eighth highest mountain in the world reaching 8,163 metres (26,781 ft) above sea level. It is located in the a part of the Nepalese Himalayas known as the Mansiri Himal.  Manaslu means “mountain of the spirit” in Nepalese comes from the Sanskrit word manasa, meaning “intellect” or “soul”.  Manaslu was first climbed on May 9, 1956 by Toshio Imanishi.  Our expedition will start a few kilometres from the epicentre of the 2015 earthquake that devastated much of the country.

Sea, Sand and Kata – Heaven!

Sea, Sand and Kata  – Heaven!

White Beach Phuket

Time for 10 days holiday by the sea on the island of Phuket.  Will be in residence from August 2 through August 12 then back to our energy and metals endeavours from our HQ in Phonm Penh.

Andaman White Beach Resort

White Beach Phuket – Looks like a great beach for sunrise and sunset workout and meditation.

This was a fantastic resort.  Not quite 5 star but very comfortable and quiet enough.  The beach is the real asset and is not accessible except from the resort.  The most memorable event was Qi Gong on the beach at 0500 to a thundering surf and a wild tropical storm lashing the beach with wind and rain. Strongly recommended. Planning to return on the way back from Manaslu in Nepal.