The MountainWorld Blog by Jake Norton

The MountainWorld Blog by Jake Norton


Honored that our film, Holy (un)Holy River,…

Honored that our film, Holy (un)Holy River, was awarded Best Cinematography at the 20th Annual United Nations Association Film Festival. It was a long process for @pedromcbride and I to tell the story of the Ganges, and very happy to see it resonate well with audiences around the world. Huge thanks to the jury, audience, and team at #UNAFF2017! #liveyouradventure #gangas2s #gangaaction

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The #Ganges River in India is a…

The #Ganges River in India is a flowing contradiction. On the one hand, the river is revered, viewed as a living incarnation of the divine in the form of the goddess Maa Ganga. Her physical embodiment as the flowing waters and fertile floodplains of this mighty river that sustains some 500 million people along its 1600 mile course is also revered, for without her the breadbasket of north India would have no lifeblood. Simultaneously, though, and counter-intuitively, the river is a blighted example of anti-respect and abject defilement. Maa Ganga’s waters are recipients of billions of liters of untreated sewage, industrial chemicals, toxic runoff, and human remains on a daily basis; the ample prayers offered to her are no match for the incoming pollutants. It is a strange dichotomy, a river revered and reviled, a paradox of our time and one which threatens the very existence of the Ganges in all its majesty. I’m trilled that our film, Holy (un)Holy River, will screen this weekend at the 20th United Nations Association Film Festival at Stanford (see link in profile), and I’ll be there to answer questions afterward. Hope to see you there! #UNAFF2017 #unaff #liveyouradventure #gangas2s #holyunholyriver @pedromcbride

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As friends around the world gather to…

As friends around the world gather to celebrate Diwali, the Festival of Light, I find myself thinking about how important the idea is in this day and age. If you’re not familiar with it, Diwali (or Tihar in Nepal) is a grand festival of light – both visual and spiritual – and celebrates the victory of good over evil, knowledge over ignorance, hope over despair, and light over darkness. As our world seems ever more consumed with hatred and violence, division and destruction, anger, vitriol, and spite, let’s all bring some light into our corners, some hope into this world, and remember the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness, in a descending spiral of destruction. The chain reaction of evil must
be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.” #liveyouradventure #lettherebelight #diwali #lightoverdarkness #Tihar #martinlutherkingjr #goodoverevil

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It’s with great sadness I learned this…

It’s with great sadness I learned this morning of the passing of Norman Dyhrenfurth at age 99 at home in Salzburg. I got to know Norman first by legend as the leader of and cinematographer for the 1963 American Mount Everest Expedition and producer of the film “Americans on Everest,” and I’d much later get to know him personally through our 2012 film about that expedition, “High and Hallowed: Everest 1963.” The son of climbers and explorers, Norman came to the mountains naturally, and left his mark. He was a member of the 1952 Swiss Everest Expedition – which nearly reached the summit – and then led an attempt on Lhotse in 1955, and filmed the first ascent of Dhaulagiri in 1960. But, it was the 1963 American expedition which garnered him the most notoreity and respect, and for good reason. The team was incredibly strong, and well-led by Norman, and achieved huge success with putting Jim Whittaker on top as the first American (with Nawang Gombu) on May 1, and then seeing Willi Unsoeld and Tom Hornbein reach the summit via the unclimbed West Ridge on the 22nd, just hours after Barry Bishop and Lute Jerstad climbed from the Southeast Ridge. Norman’s expedition film was a huge success, and – like the West Ridge climb – ushered in a new era of possibility in high-altitude cinema. Norman also was a ski instructor in New Hampshire, Dean of the UCLA Film School, and a groundbreaking legend in the mountains throughout his long life. He will be dearly missed, but his legacy will live on and continue to inspire. Namaste, Norman. #liveyouradventure @eddiebauer #lostlegend | In this photo, taken in 1963 by Barry Corbet, Norman shares the camera with Nepali children en route to #Everest.

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High in the Garhwal Himalaya, running SE-NW,…

High in the Garhwal Himalaya, running SE-NW, is one of the region’s biggest and most important glaciers: the Gangotri. @pedromcbride, @davidcmorton, and I were near the top of this 30km glacier 4 years ago, beginning to tell the story of the Ganges River. (This clip is a segment of our film, “Holy (un)Holy River.) The Ganges, which sustains 500 million people along its 1600 mile course, erupts from the toe of the glacier at Gaumukh, or Cow’s Mouth, some 25+ km below where we were. As we trudged up the glacier, dwarfed by the towering walls of Chaukhamba, supraglacial streams roared past us on all sides, the first bits of the Ganges flowing free and pure at nearly 18,000 feet. The trouble was there should not be major supraglacial flow here, high on the glacier, well within the zone of accumulation. This should be the land of ice, of glacial might and power, but instead showed distinct signs of struggle and poor glacial health. Like most of the region, the Gangotri Glacier is in a state of sharp decline, retreating roughly 20 meters (66 feet) per year, and nearly 2km (1.2 miles) since 1935. A recent article in @guardian, (see link in profile), citing research by the journal #Nature, indicates that even with the 1.5° C target from Paris, the Hindu Kush Himalaya – which run 3,500 miles from Afghanistan to Myanmar – would see an average increase of 2.3° C, or a little over 4° F. The projected result is a 29-43% loss in the Himalayan glaciers by 2100. As the largest mass of ice outside the polar regions, the Himalayan glaciers are an incredible store of freshwater and critical to the flows of the world’s great rivers: the Ganges, Brahmaputra/Yarlung Tsang Po, Indus, Irrawaddy, and more. No, these glaciers won’t disappear completely anytime soon. But, their rapid retreat will have a major impact on all those that live downstream, altering micro-climates, river flows, agricultural production and stability, and more. May we as a nation and as humans find the courage to act and do what we can to minimize our impact and take the long view for the better of everyone. #liveyouradventure #mountainsmatter

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As he gazed out on Venezuela’s Lake…

As he gazed out on Venezuela’s Lake Valencia in 1800, Alexander von Humboldt – who was born on this day in 1769 – being the amazing polymath he was, connected the myriad dots of lake level decrease, deforestation, and human induced micro-climate change, and was able to see the natural environment in which he was immersed as a vast, interconnected web…an idea that defied scientific conventions at the time. As he noted, “Everything is interaction and reciprocal.” Humboldt was arguably the grandfather of much of modern​ science – Darwin likely would not have gone on the Beagle if not for Humboldt, and thus there would be no “Origin of Species” – and was a huge influence on the modern understanding of our world, environment, and need to protect it. He was a friend – and critic – of Thomas Jefferson, influenced the philosophy and writing of John Muir, and a remarkable adventurer as well, floating the Orinoco, traveling much of the Andes, and setting a world altitude record in 1802 when he reached 19,286 feet of Ecuador’s Chimborazo (thought to be the highest mountain in the world at the time). But, more than anything, Humboldt was a visionary thinker, a scientist of the whole rather than the part, and while much of his writing and legacy is lost in America these days (thanks to anti-German purges post WWI), his thoughts and concepts resonate more than ever:
“The most dangerous worldviews are the worldviews of those who have never viewed the world.”
“Before being free, it is necessary to be just.” “…but there are no races nobler than others. All are equally destined for freedom.”
“Our imagination is struck only by what is great; but the lover of natural philosophy should reflect equally on little things.”
“By felling the trees which cover the tops and sides of mountains, men in all climates seem to bring upon future generations two calamities at once; want of fuel and a scarcity of water.”
If you want to learn more about this amazing man, read “The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World” by Andrea Wulf. #liveyouradventure #alexandervonhumboldt | Here, Mitre Peak is reflected in tide pools at Milford Sound, New Zealand.

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It’s hard to believe that it was…

It’s hard to believe that it was 4 years ago that @pedromcbride, @davidcmorton, and I sat in Rishikesh, India, watching the spectacle of devotion that is Ganga Aarti, and preparing for a 45-day, 1600-mile journey down the most revered and reviled river in the world. Our trip following the Ganges took us from 18,000 feet in the Garhwal Himalaya – some 20 kilometers above Gaumukh on the Gangotri Glacier – through the lower hills, across the steaming and teeming Indo-Gangetic Plains to the Bay of Bengal. Three long years later, our experiences and all we learned came together in a labor of love of a film, Holy (un)Holy River. It’s been screening at a lot of festivals over the past year, and has quite a few more to come in India, Czech Republic, Austria, San Francisco, and more. Check the link in my profile, or go to, to learn more and maybe catch the film near you. #liveyouradventure #gangas2s #gangaaction @natgeo @eddiebauer

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Last week, I shared some images of…

Last week, I shared some images of artifacts I recovered from #Everest years ago, items from the pre-modern era expeditions that I rediscovered while moving my office. Many people in turn asked about video from that 2004 expedition…I have had one on YouTube for some years, but in poor quality, so finally found the best source footage I have (still not great) and re-uploaded the video I shot while exploring the “mystery” camp on the First Step of the Northeast Ridge back in 2004. It’s an interesting camp, sitting on the ridge crest – above the standard climbing route – and, to me, the likely ascent route used by George Mallory and Andrew Irvine back in 1924. It later became a camp used by the Chinese in 1960 and again in 1975, and then by the French in 1981. It was a cool exploration of a bit of the Northeast Ridge seldom visited by climbers, and full of artifacts from a bygone age. This is the first minute of the video, but check the link in my profile ( for the full version. #liveyouradventure @davehahn.climb

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I remember first meeting @cm back in…

I remember first meeting @cm back in 1993. I was a freshman at Colorado College, and he was an illustrious alum back in town to share stories from his recent climb of K2. I was then – as now – awestruck at a person who could be so accomplished, and yet so humble. As the years passed, I got to know Charley a bit better, eventually sharing a rope with him on climbs in our backyard, and eventually on some bigger trips like our attempt on Everest’s West Ridge. Throughout, Mace’s humble, can-do attitude has shone through, a smile and a laugh at the ready whether we’re dodging hail and lightning a couple pitches up in Clear Creek Canyon, sharing near misses in the Khumbu Icefall, or free forming it on a stunning day in New Zealand, like in this picture from the Remarkables. There are few people I’d rather tie in with, who I’d trust more in any situation, at any time, in any place, with the bond climbers share. Thanks, Charley, for so many good times, and here’s to a Happy Birthday and many more trips around the sun! #liveyouradventure #happybirthday

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The ancient landscape of Mustang, Nepal, is…

The ancient landscape of Mustang, Nepal, is awe inspiring. Jagged canyons – carved first by glaciers and then by the mighty Kali Gandaki – etch the ruddy brown land, exposing towering bands of conglomerate and other sedimentary layers that were just slightly harder than their surroundings and survived the weathering of eons. It was in these hallmark bands of cliffs that ancient peoples, several thousand years ago, carved tombs to bury their dead, and conducted intricate, pre-Buddhist rituals to protect themselves from the undead. Who were these people who settled some 3000 years ago in one of the most inhospitable places on earth? What were their rituals and beliefs, and what of those can still be seen in Mustang today? And, what artifacts and remnants of the past still remain in these myriad, isolated tombs high in the cliffs? I’ve been fortunate to be able to work with @clarkliesl, @mreverest7x, and others for the past two years helping to film and tell the story of these caves and all the secrets they hold. @novapbs is sharing the film, Secrets of the Sky Tombs, for free for the next 4 weeks online. Take a look! (See link in my profile.) | In this photo, Nilgiri is seen towering over the Kali Gandaki River Valley from inside a cave near Rhi Rhi Cave outside of Chuksang, Mustang, Nepal, 2015. #liveyouradventure #skytombs

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