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Vienna Resident Completes 40-day Himalayas Expedition

Justin Gilbert, 48, of Vienna, recently completed a 40-day expedition in the Himalayas of India with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS).

Gilbert and his coursemates began the Himalaya Mountaineering course trekking and climbing in the Kumaon region of the Indian Himalaya. The students learned the basic skills needed to organize and carry out a technical expedition in the vast Himalaya.

The students first rode a bus from New Delhi to the roadhead, stopping along the way to spend a day in Ranikhet, where the NOLS India facility is located. At 6,500 feet Ranikhet is a quiet and wooded town where students rested and repacked food and gear for traveling in the mountains.

The group continued by bus to Song at 5,200 feet and then over 25 miles to reach 7,000 feet at Zero Point, the camp at the toe of the Pindari Glacier.

Gilbert and his coursemates trekked through dense forests and glades of ferns and wildflowers along the Pindari River gorge. As they traveled upstream, the landscape opened up and vegetation changed from alpine shrubs to a world of moraine, rock, ice and snow of the Changuch Glacier.

The students then learned the tools and systems of glacier travel to safely trek in the Himalaya. First, they built a foundation of basic skills: knots, rope handling, belaying, anchors and use of the ice axe. Then, students learned more advanced techniques for snow and ice travel. The course spent two weeks at base camp acclimating and learning new techniques and then completed their route and the course.

Justin graduated from his NOLS course prepared to lead an expedition of his own. The course equipped students with the outdoor skills to safely and responsibly travel in the backcountry, coupled with the leadership skills to do so with others.