Friday, April 3, 2015

Indian army to remove tons of Mount Everest trash

Most climbers who try don't succeed in climbing the 29,035-foot-high Mount Everest, the world's tallest peak.

But they do leave their trash. Thousands of pounds of it.

That's why an experienced climbing group from the Indian army plans to trek up the 8,850-meter mountain to pick up at least 4,000 kilograms (more than 8,000 pounds) of waste from the high-altitude camps, according to India Today.

The mountain is part of the Himalaya mountain range on the border between Nepal and the Tibet region.

The 34-member team plans to depart for Kathmandu on Saturday and start the ascent in mid-May. The upcoming trip marks the 50th anniversary of the first Indian team to scale Mount Everest.
"Sadly, Mount Everest is now ... called the world's highest junkyard," Maj. Ranveer Singh Jamval, the team leader, told India Today.

"We will target the mountaineering waste from Camp 1 (19,695 feet) to the summit," said Jamval, who has scaled Mount Everest twice.

"There are old cylinders, tents, tins, packets, equipment and other mountaineering waste. Apart from our own haversacks weighing 10 kg each, we intend to bring in another 10 kg each on the trip."
More than 200 climbers have died attempting to climb the peak, part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Indian expedition isn't the first attempt to clean up the trash left by generations of hikers.
Among the cleanup efforts is the Eco Everest Expedition, an annual trip launched in 2008 that is all about climbing "in an eco-sensitive manner," bringing old refuse, in addition to that generated during the trip, down for disposal, according to the Asian Trekking website.

Last year, Nepalese tourism authorities started to require hikers to carry out an extra 18 pounds of garbage, in addition to their own trash and human waste, according to the New York Times.

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Thursday, April 2, 2015

Want to survive Mt Everest? Then join a team from an egalitarian country where people listen to each other. It’s that simple

The Summit of Everest: What it's Like

THERE are plenty of ways to die on the world’s highest peaks. 

There’s bad luck, like the avalanche that killed 16 Sherpas and other Nepalis on the Khumbu Icefall below Mt Everest last year.

There’s your own body, which can let you down in any number of ways from cerebral and pulmonary odoemas (an abnormal accumulation of fluid) to heart attack and plain old exhaustion.

There’s lack of experience, which claims an increasing number of big-spending victims each year on guided expeditions.

But according to a new study, the one factor which leads to more deaths on Everest (and the world’s highest peaks) is a rigid social heirarchy.
One of the lucky ones... this man survived an avalanche on Mount Manaslu in northern Nepa
One of the lucky ones... this man survived an avalanche on Mount Manaslu in northern Nepal. At least nine mountaineers were killed. (AP Photo/Garrett Madison, Alpine Ascents International) Source: AP
Here’s what that means. When countries with a strict social heirarchy organise mountaineering expeditions, they tend to reach the summit more than most groups. But they also end up with more dead climbers because the safety concerns of some climbers tend not to be addressed by expedition leaders.

“For better or worse, hierarchy exerts strong influence over group outcomes,” report the study’s authors, a doctoral candidate and a professor from Columbia Business School and an assistant professor from INSEAD graduate business school in France.

“Strong hierarchical values pave the way for coordinated effort, but, at the same time, these values can mute the voice of others in the face of threat,” the report’s authors say.

“Our results suggest that, to avoid errors, strong hierarchical cultures need to implement mechanisms geared toward encouraging low-ranking members to voice their perspectives
and for high-ranking members to integrate this feedback.”
Andrew Lock in his office in 2007.
Andrew Lock in his office in 2007. Source: News Limited contacted leading Australian mountaineer Andrew Lock to gauge his thoughts on the study. While he wasn’t aware of it, he agreed that it seemed to ring true.

“Look, anecdotally I would find it difficult to argue that position,” he said. “Certainly I have seen those rigid groups in the mountains. When there is a degree of inflexibilty in an expedition, I can certainly see that less experienced members may not be willing to raise their voices or their voice may not be heard.”

Andrew Lock is no ordinary climber. He recently released a book called Summit 8000, which details his amazing, and successful, 16-year quest to climb the 14 peaks in the world higher than 8000 metres. He is the only Australian to join the elite “Eight-thousander” club which has just 33 (undisputed) members.

When you read Andrew’s book, you see that decision-making is often the difference between life and death. Several times he wisely neglected to attempt a summit even though he was within a few hundred metres of completing an expedition which had been months and tens of thousands of dollars in the making.
Dhaulagiri is no place to get stubborn.
Dhaulagiri is no place to get stubborn. Source: NewsComAu
Once, on a climb of the world’s 7th highest peak, the 8167 Dhaulagiri in Nepal, Andrew needed to spend a night alone on the mountain to acclimatise to the lack of oxygen. Acclimatisation is something climbers do to prepare their bodies for the onslaught of summit day, but it’s highly unusual for a climber to spend a night alone so high. But his team leader, an Aussie, agreed to let him do it. Andrew reckons he could have experienced life-threatening physical difficulties if he’d attempted the summit without that extra night up high.

Andrew Lock has lost more than 20 of his climbing friends either on expeditions in which he participated, or on subsequent climbing trips. He knows that danger strikes in many ways in the so-called “death zone” above 8000 metres. But he also knows that the more regimented a climbing party, the more the chance of failure.

“I know of instances where an Indian army team died on Everest where one would think they should have had the nous for lateral thinking, to turn around when the circumstances were not right,” he says.

India, says the study, is one of the world’s most heirarchical countries, right up there with the likes of Russia and China, who have also had multiple fatalities over the years on Everest and nearby peaks.
Andrew also cites the example of a Japanese expedtition which came to grief on the summit plateau of Manaslu, the world’s eighth highest mountain at 8,163m.

Mt Manaslu, Nepal. The Japanese group came to grief on the flattish area between the two
Mt Manaslu, Nepal. The Japanese group came to grief on the flattish area between the two summits. Source: News Limited
“How the lot of them got caught out raises questions,” he says.

“My experience from cultures around the world is that Australians are more outspoken and willing to challenge leadership, not confrontationally, but willing to talk about it.

“I can imagine in some cultures people simply would not argue with leadership and that would bring them unstuck.”

Not that any of this should lead you to think we Aussies are immune to danger.

Five Australians have died on Mt Everest over the years. But far more Russians, Chinese, Japanese and Koreans and Indians have succumbed to the mountain’s will, so you’d have to think the study’s authors are onto something.

As their report says: “Hierarchy, it turns out, can elevate climbers to the summit, but at a potentially steep cost.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The geese that can conquer Mount Everest

A tracking study has revealed the secrets of the Himalayan flight of the bar-headed goose - the world's highest bird migration.

The geese have been recorded at heights of more than 7,000m (23,000 ft) and mountaineers have claimed they have seen the birds fly over Mount Everest.

Their ability to fly in such extreme conditions has fascinated scientists for decades, as the BBC's science reporter Victoria Gill reports.

For more information about the Summit Murder Mystery series, CLICK HERE 
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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

CNN Reporter Brooke Baldwin Climbs Kilimanjaro

Conquering Mount Kilimanjaro: 10 essential lessons

Climbing Kilimanjaro: The hardest thing I've ever done

Climbing Kilimanjaro: The hardest thing I've ever done 04:34

Story highlights

  • CNN anchor Brooke Baldwin stepped out of her comfort zone to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa's tallest peak
  • "Check your ego at the Machame route gate," she says. "The mountain is the boss"
  • About half of the 35,000 tourists who attempt the climb each year make it to the peak
When she's not climbing mountains, Brooke Baldwin anchors CNN from 2 to 4 p.m. ET.
(CNN)You normally see me on TV, holding down two hours on CNN every day. And while I absolutely love my job, I needed a break.
I'd moved to NYC last summer, threw myself into my life up here and have never been happier. But at the same time, the wheel started to spin faster than ever. And after a particularly tough news cycle, I needed a REAL break.
So I asked for two entire weeks off -- something I've never done in my 15-year career -- and decided it was time for me to stop talking about Africa and finally go to Africa.
It took me turning 35 to finally realize a dream I've had ever since I was 13 when a friend was whisked away to safari in Kenya with her father (I know, a safari at 13 -- we should all be so lucky). Fast-forward 20-plus years, I can still recall the giddiness in her voice when she came home, the tales of the Maasai Tribe and the little giraffe figurine she brought me that I still have tucked away.
Since I'd waited this long to take such a momentous trip, I couldn't just go to Africa. I'd need to climb a damn mountain -- and not just any mountain, but the tallest mountain on the continent: Mount Kilimanjaro, which stands at 19,340 feet above sea level in Tanzania.
But could I actually pull it off?
I'm a journalist, so I sprang into information-gathering mode. I got advice. Read books. Went to REI. (Admission: I bought items I had to go home and Google. Would you know how to put batteries into your Black Diamond headlamp in the dark? Pick out the right sweat/water resistant undies?
Mmmkay.) Finally and most importantly, I found a good girlfriend who was willing to attempt this adventure with me.
I also kicked up my work outs to six days a week. But would it be enough?
Just before I left for Tanzania, I panicked. My nerves got the best of me the night before my flight.
So what did this intrepid wanna-be Kili-climber do? I called my mother.
"Mom, remind me why I feel the need to climb the tallest freestanding mountain in the world again?!"
She gave me the assurance I needed. "Because at 9 months of age I can still see you pull yourself up and walk," Mom said. "You were this squatty strong baby walking! Because you can and you will."
What's that saying? "Listen to your mother, she's always right?" I was about to put that old adage to the test.
It turned out to be the experience of a lifetime.
Here are 10 lessons Mount Kilimanjaro taught me.

10. It takes a village

About 35,000 tourists attempt to climb Kilimanjaro every year -- about half of them make it to its peak. On average, three to seven die annually on the trek.
Tourists like me could never do it without the guides, especially the porters -- the local young men who quite literally break their backs for the sake of the summit. There were six of us in my group attempting to summit and 41 porters. Yes, 41!
On any given day, they strapped tents, tarps, toilets to their backs while balancing food sacks on their heads -- often leaving us, heavy-breathing, sea-level dwellers, in their dust. They would shimmy and scramble just to beat us to set up the next camp. And every time they passed us, we marveled (and felt like schmucks).
We never would have made it up that mountain had it not been for these Tanzanians. On Kili or off, I know I'm only as strong as those who support me. I realized that on Night One, when our porters greeted us at camp, serenading us with traditional Kilimanjaro songs. I had to clench my fists to keep the tears in check -- until I got to my tent and let it all go.

9. The mountain is the boss

Check your ego at the Machame route gate. Our group quickly realized all six of us were first-born children (Translation: go getters, goal oriented, sometimes quite stubborn in our pursuits). We were humbled rather quickly.
On Night Two, several of us got sick -- myself included. Little did I know I'd become lactose intolerant at high altitude. Who knew that was even a thing?! I'm the biggest ice cream eater you've ever met!
Forget what you thought you could eat or how much water you needed to drink or how you thought you should be sleeping at 15,000 feet. Check yourself, respect Kili and listen to your guide. The mountain is the boss.

8. The guide is the guru

I met our guide Dismass Mariki through the travel agency Abercrombie & Kent, a few nights before the climb. He came to the hotel to say hello. What I realized later was that he was really coming to give us a once-over: Could these six Americans hack it on the mountain?
When I met Dismass, I was sitting at our hotel with Allison, my adventure travel partner-in-crime. We'd just cracked open our first Kilimanjaro Lager fresh off our 24-hour travel day. Exhausted, but exhilarated to finally be on African soil.
Dismass took one look at us and said: "Mmmmhmmmm. Beer, huh? After this, no more beer."
It was the start of the 36-year-old father's sage advice. He would soon be watching us as carefully as he would his two children back in Arusha. "No milk for you. No mango for you. Stop eating an apple so late at night."
Without a doubt, he is the reason all six of us summited the mountain successfully (after all, he's done it more than 200 times -- and even speaks fondly of guiding an 82-year-old and her three septuagenarian girlfriends up there!).
On the final night -- just an hour into our eight-hour freezing uphill battle toward the summit -- I hit a sudden unexpected wall: dehydration. Dizzy, disoriented, slurred speech. I was frightened.
I'd come this far and would have to call it quits. I pictured the rest of my group summiting without me, only to return to tell me what I missed. Thanks to Dismass and his crew, that never happened. He leapt into action, feverishly yanking layers off me and forcing me to sit and hydrate and breathe. He saved me.
The climbers measure their heart rates and blood oxygen levels using oximeters on their fingers.

7. Breathe

When you're climbing at altitudes of 13,000, 15,000, 19,000-feet, you have to learn how to breathe differently. It's a kind of a deep-breathing technique that Dismass taught us early -- and reminded us to use every hour of the day. For me, it became almost meditative.
Each time we popped that pulse oximeter on our fingers at mealtime -- to measure our heart rate and the oxygen in our blood -- we could see how this breathing would save us.
Now I don't plan to take this high-altitude breathing home with me entirely, but if I find my world start to spin, I know exactly what to do.

6. Keep your eyes on the prize -- but not for long

As each day passed, we could see the glacier-capped summit of Kilimanjaro become clearer. And as it did so, it became increasingly daunting. Hours into our daily hikes, we would turn our heads, squint up at the peak and quietly wonder: "We are gonna summit THAT?"
So as we'd be trekking -- always uphill, often dodging rocks large and small, sometimes scrambling along rock walls -- it'd be very easy to be temporarily hypnotized by the peak's beauty -- thus losing your footing and falling.
My takeaway: Whether it's summiting Kili or achieving my next work goal: Look forward for a moment but then keep your head down and trudge on.

5. Embrace the stink

Yes that's right. The stink. Seven days, no shower.
As someone who is lucky enough to have two lovely ladies do my hair and makeup every day for work -- and who has to pay a bit of attention to my appearance (don't be fooled, you should see me on the weekends), this whole no make-up, no-showering thing was certainly stepping out of my comfort zone.
I didn't bother bringing even a tube of lipstick. I bought dry shampoo; I think I used it once. And well, limited water meant no shaving which meant not a pretty picture under my hiking pants. Not to mention -- before this trip, I had never spent more than a weekend in a tent.
And let me tell you -- letting all of that go was surprisingly LIBERATING. I am already kicking around ideas for my next shower-free escape.
Brooke and her adventure travel partner-in-crime, Allison Ratajczak, pause along the way.

4. No cell service, no problem!

Seriously, how many places on this planet exist in which you get to say to your boss: "Sorry, but I'm leaving to climb a mountain and I won't have Wi-Fi or cell service for a week"? I think the last time I tucked my phone away like that was 2006 -- long before I started mindlessly checking Twitter/Instagram/Facebook whenever I had a down moment.
Without a phone, I wondered: Would I start to twitch? Break out in cold sweats?
None of the above.
Instead, the six of us and Dismass would sit over meals and discuss politics, movies, Africa -- face to face, distraction free.
Once my friend and I left the mountain and had access to Internet, we didn't speak for an hour as we were catching up on texts and emails. And then almost simultaneously, we decided to turn our phones back off. They were soul sucking.
Yes, I'm grateful for technology. But I'm also happy for the off switch.

3. Laugh, a LOT

Between my tent-mate Allison and a 60-something-year-old Broadway actress on our trip, I laughed more than I ever thought possible at that altitude.
We were silly. We were borderline inappropriate. We even laughed uphill, post-upchuck. (We got very close on this trip!)
We learned that by playing song games or 20 Questions or telling jokes, we could keep our spirits high and our attention off the steep climb ahead. And you know what? It worked. I mean, how many people do you know who do the chicken dance after climbing Kili?
An army of porters keeps the heavy-breathing, sea-level dwellers laughing -- and breathing -- as they conquer Kilimanjaro.

2. 'Pole pole'

That's Swahili for "go slow," and it's the mantra for climbing Kilimanjaro. If you try to climb too fast, you can't control your breathing. You panic, and you're toast. Instead, you must go slow. "Pole pole," as they say.
This saying was especially useful on summit night. We got up at 10 p.m. to get our gear ready to go. We began the trek to Uhuru Peak at 11:30 p.m., and as the air grew increasingly thin and the temperature plummeted during the steep climb, we kept hearing the whispers from our guide and porters: "pole pole."
I plan to take those two little words and apply them to my life back here at home in New York. When the pace and energy I thrive on starts to whirl out of control, "Pole pole, Brooke. Pole pole."

1. Summit, what summit?

As the days inched closer to summit night and the anxiety grew more intense for some, we were all reminding ourselves why we'd come all this way.
For me, it was about Africa and attempting an out-of-my-comfort-zone challenge. For others, Kili was about bragging rights. We hiked hours and hours every day -- but the goal of reaching the summit drove us. Mercilessly. We'd spent no small penny to arrive at this point. By Day Six, it was within our grasp.
Seeing the famed wooden Uhuru Peak sign. Snapping that photo. Soaking it all in. Well, would you believe once that moment arrived as the sun rose over Tanzania, our group lasted all of six minutes at that altitude before we all started racing down off that mountain!
But we had come all this way! And yes, we reached our goal.
But what's most memorable to me won't be tromping through the snows of Kilimanjaro and reaching the peak. No, when I close my eyes and think of my seven days on Kili: It's singing. It's Dismass. It's the breathtaking views of stars overhead.
As tough as it is for this goal-driven CNN anchor to admit, it really is about the journey.
Back to my mom -- telling me I would make it.
Yeah, yeah. She was right.
And I'll admit: I'm already starting to think about what's next.

For more information about the Summit Murder Mystery series, CLICK HERE 
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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Official says human waste on Mt. Everest a major problem

KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) - Human waste left by climbers on Mount Everest has become a problem that is causing pollution and threatening to spread disease on the world's highest peak, the chief of Nepal's mountaineering association said Tuesday.

The more than 700 climbers and guides who spend nearly two months on Everest's slopes each climbing season leave large amounts of feces and urine, and the issue has not been addressed, Ang Tshering told reporters. He said Nepal's government needs to get the climbers to dispose of the waste properly so the mountain remains pristine.

Hundreds of foreign climbers attempt to scale Everest during Nepal's mountaineering season, which began this week and runs through May. Last year's season was canceled after 16 local guides were killed in an avalanche in April.

Climbers spend weeks acclimatizing around the four camps set up between the base camp at 5,300 meters (17,380 feet) and the 8,850-meter-high (29,035-foot-high) summit. The camps have tents and some essential equipment and supplies, but do not have toilets.

"Climbers usually dig holes in the snow for their toilet use and leave the human waste there," Tshering said, adding that the waste has been "piling up" for years around the four camps. At the base camp, where there are more porters, cooks and support staff during the climbing season, there are toilet tents with drums to store the waste. Once filled, the drums are carried to a lower area, where the waste is properly disposed.

Dawa Steven Sherpa, who has been leading Everest cleanup expeditions since 2008, said some climbers carry disposable travel toilet bags to use in the higher camps.

"It is a health hazard and the issue needs to be addressed," he said. Nepal's government has not come up with a plan yet to tackle the issue of human waste. But starting this season, officials stationed at the base camp will strictly monitor garbage on the mountain, said Puspa Raj Katuwal, the head of the government's Mountaineering Department.

The government imposed new rules last year requiring each climber to bring down to the base camp 8 kilograms (18 pounds) of trash - the amount it estimates a climber discards along the route. Climbing teams must leave a $4,000 deposit that they lose if they don't comply with the regulations, Katuwal said.

More than 4,000 climbers have scaled Mount Everest since 1953, when it was first conquered by New Zealand climber Edmund Hillary and his Sherpa guide, Tenzing Norgay. Hundreds of others have died in the attempt, while many have succeeded only with help from oxygen tanks, equipment porters and Sherpa guides.

For more information about the Summit Murder Mystery series, CLICK HERE 
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Monday, March 9, 2015

Want to Climb Mt. Kilimanjaro? Here's How

Here’s what you need to know before climbing Africa’s tallest peak.
It pays to be prepared when climbing Africa's highest peak. Photo: Shutterstock
Two years ago I climbed 5895 metres to the roof of Africa with no boots, no jacket and no idea.
Nestled on the border of Tanzania and Kenya, the goal for Mount Kilimanjaro trekkers is to reach ‘Uhuru Peak’ and watch the sun rise over the Serengeti National Park, home of The Lion King.

As it’s the world’s highest ‘walkable’ mountain (meaning you won’t need ice picks and ropes to reach the top) you definitely don’t need to practice trekking for months beforehand to conquer Africa’s highest peak.

However, you do need to know what to expect:
Mt Kilimanjaro is 5895m above sea level.
Mt Kilimanjaro is 5895m above sea level.

Altitude sickness will be your worst enemy

The real killer on the mountain is the altitude. During the trek you’ll pass from being at sea level to ‘high altitude’, to ‘very high altitude’ and briefly walk at ‘extreme altitude’.

For those who haven’t been altitude trekking before, it can be unsettling.

Whether you choose to take altitude sickness medication or not, your heart races, your head aches, you may feel dizzy and nauseous, sleep badly, lose your appetite and without a doubt, your breath will become short.

A good fix for this is to take an iPod. If you crank the volume to drown out the sound of your own breathing it makes it much easier to not concentrate on the fact you’re panting like a dog on a hot day.
The trick to avoiding accute altitude sickness is to listen to your body: ascend slowly and allow your body time to adjust to the new climate. It’s ok to take a rest day and it’s ok to descend for a little bit before continuing on with your climb.

You’ll need to pack sensibly and warmly

I climbed Kilimanjaro in runners and leather lace-ups with holes in them, so can confirm that you won’t need to spend hundreds on new hiking boots, unless it’s because you want to fit in with the other western tourists on the mountain (Lululemon would make a killing if they opened a store in Tanzania).

Either way, make sure your footwear is comfortable.

I also took a thick jacket, two thermal tops and a pair of running leggings.

This outfit was more than enough for the first few cold nights but for the final ascent to the peak it would have been really nice to have an extra pair of thermals and some waterproof pants.
For that last ascent, you should bring:
• Waterproof gloves
• A warm beanie
• Thick socks
• A metal water bottle (so it doesn’t freeze over)
• High-sugar snacks
• A head torch

Shorts, a t-shirt, a light jumper and a hat are all you need for the day treks.

You’ll also need a thermal sleeping bag and sunscreen.

Remember, Tanzania is in a malaria zone so if you’re on anti-malaria medication it’s likely that your skin will be more sensitive to UV.

Finally, someone else (a porter) is probably hauling a lot of your stuff up the mountain, so keep it light.

The last part will be the hardest

The trek starts in the rainforest (keep a look out for monkeys), passes through the sandy desert and finishes at the frozen peak.

The first few days are not too difficult so it is easy to rush ahead. But remember the mountain’s mantra is “slowly slowly” – you shouldn’t climb more than 1000m a day.

I won’t sugar coat it. The final climb is painful.

It’s cold, it’s dark, it’s long, it’s steep, it’s high and there’s no path for half of it.

You just have to keep reminding yourself how far you’ve come and how close you are to the finish line.

There is no better feeling than reaching the top of that mountain and realising that you are the king (or queen) of Africa.

For more information about the Summit Murder Mystery series, CLICK HERE 
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To order your copy of Murder on Kilimanjaro, CLICK HERE
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Monday, February 16, 2015

Stunning Timelapse Video Shows the World at Night in Motion

Award-winning photographer Babak Tafreshi from The World At Night (TWAN) has been traveling the world to captures nightscapes in various locations. He has shared five beautiful timelapse videos of night sky landscapes “from locations that never been filmed like this before,” he said.

A view of Mt. Kilimanjaro at night. Credit and copyright: Babak Tafreshi.
A view of Mt. Kilimanjaro at night. Credit and copyright: Babak Tafreshi.

Kilimanjaro at Night
Here, travel to Mount Kilimanjaro and view it under the starry skies of Amboseli. You’ll see the Magellanic Clouds and fast-passing satellites, along with African wildlife.

For more information about the Summit Murder Mystery series, CLICK HERE 
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To order your copy of Murder on Kilimanjaro, CLICK HERE
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