21st of September

Memories From the Indian Himalayas

After a month in the south of India, in blazing heat and moisture I was in need of an escape. And the best place for me to escape that I know of is the Himalayas. Until recently I had never given it any thought that the Himalayas also spans India – but it turns out it does. So I decided to travel 3500 kilomters north and visit Kashmir – more specifically Ladakh.

I fly into the capital of Ladakh – Leh, at an altitude of 3524 meters. Flying in from Delhi I gain more than 3200 meters of altitude in an about an hour, first time I have tried such a massive altitude gain. But the body seems to manage fine. I spend most of the day doing what I know needs to be done for the body to adjust – resting! I just sit and read my book, and drink massive amounts of tea. I did a bit of rough calculations, and during my first day in Ladakh I consume more than 8 liters of liquid. The climate is extremely dry in Ladakh, so this giant body needs all the hydration it can get its hands on.

Originally my plan was to rest all of the first day due to the altitude gain, but after a while my itchy feet kicked in, so I decide to push the body further and gain a few hundred meter going up the hill checking out Leh castle. From here I view the sunset, and feel a sense of adventure and trill that I have not felt since last year when I climbed Imjse Tse in Nepal. For the first time during this trip I feel “home” somehow. There is just something about the high altitude, the cold fresh air, the simplicity of this life that makes me feel at ease. I smile to myself and take it all in.

After a few days of acclimatisation I travel into the mountains with my guide and spend a little less than a week hiking in this region of the Himalays. Having been sick for a week before going to Ladakh I was a bit worried how my body would take it, but the fresh mountain air seemed to have a healing effect. And all the healthy mountain food was very nourising indeed.

The feel of Ladakh is very different from what I have experienced so far in my other Himalayan adventures in Nepal. Firstly the air is much drier, and the altitude hits harder. Secondly the landscape is just completely different. Very stark – it is like an high altitude dessert. I hardly see any vegetation, just rocks and sand. I quickly realise that it makes no sense to take photographs when there is no clouds in the sky. The photographs simply will be too flat to look at.

We travel light, carrying no sleeping bags – just sleeping at local houses. Some of the bigger cities it almost feels like a hostel experience, but the deeper we get into the mountains the more “local” it gets. Sometimes I just sleep in someones kitchen. A very authentic Ladakhi experience indeed – loved it!

In terms of people, Ladakh feels like nothing I have experienced before in India. The values of people here are simply different. It is all about survival. Some very nice, soft, hardworking people, reminding me in many ways of the Nepalis, but with different facial features. I think there is some similarities between mountain people around the world – this life seem to promote some similar values.

After returning to Leh, the first thing I do is to get myself a hot shower. The next thing I do is to book an oneway ticket for Nepal the next day. There was no way that I could return to the non-Himalyan India after this experience. I need the soft, gentle, kind Nepalis around me. So I head off to Kathmandu to rest, meet friends, do some business, some yoga, and eat some great food. So long India for now!

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Categories:  India Nepal Photography
7th of December

You Cannot Hide From Who You Are


I haven’t really posted here for a while – to be honest I have been too caught up in
climbing, and after returning to Kathmandu, hanging out with friends and walking the streets photographing for my little book project “Colors of Kathmandu”

Today I leave Nepal, after almost 40 wonderful days here. There are so many impressions from this trip to Nepal – I hope I will manage to materialize them soon, and share them here!

All I can say for now is that this has been an amazing trip. I prepared for this adventure for a year. I managed to loose 15kgs of body weight finally getting under 100kg as part of the preparations. First time I visited Nepal in 2009 I was 128kg heavy, next time (in 2011) 115kg. Now I am slightly less than 100kg. I think it is safe to say that the quest for the mountains has been good for my health!

Summiting Imjse Tse, 6189m was an amazing experience. Preparing for something for that long, and making the dream become a reality was nothing short of amazing. It is by far the hardest thing I have ever done in my life, and it motivates me and gives me the confidence to prepare for further adventures (next trip to Nepal is already in the making).

When I left for this trip, some part of me was struggling coming to terms with my way of life – maybe it is time to settle down, maybe it is time to live a “normal” life?

I think if it is one thing I have learned from this trip, it is you cannot hide from who you are. There is a reason that I keep coming back to this part of the world.
There is a reason that I keep hitting the streets with my camera. There is a reason that I keep seeking out adventure. It is simply just who I am.

I have realized that when I do what I love, I put out a lot of positive energy, and “good stuff” just happens in return. New opportunities arises. I meet new like-minded people. New projects appear. A fellow nomad and photographer friend Flemming Bo Jensen – who also is a great writer, wrote something on his blog a while back, that I can really relate to. As he said – “I am not running away from something – I am running towards to something”! The last few years has been filled with me running towards my dreams.

I left England after living there for 4 amazing years – even though I was enjoying it immensely there. But I had dreamed for long to try to work for my dream company Miracle A/S in Denmark. After having fulfilled that dream – having a great time, learning a lot, working with some amazing people, I quit my job to pursue my dream of traveling the world, for an undefined period. It was an amazing journey! It ended up with me returning to Denmark to start my own company, which was a new adventure indeed. At the same time the preparation started for Imjse Tse.

Now having fulfilled the dream of Imjse Tse, I realize that stopping with pursuing my dreams, and settling into a life that society calls “normal” would be silly.
I don’t see the point of trying to be something that I am not, and trying to want something that most people want. I realize that living a different lifestyle, is not always a dance on roses – but life will always be a bumpy ride no matter how you live it. I think the best we can do is to go for what we want, and own up to the consequences. And I have never been more ready to do that, than I am right now.

Of course I realize that doing crazy and sometimes dangerous things worries the people that I care about. And for that I am truly sorry – and I appreciate their effort to try and understand me. And thereby on a finishing note – thank you for all the support from my friends and family – it means the world to me!

So long Nepal, and thank you for all the daal bhat. Hope to see you again come May!

2nd of November

In Kathmandu – off to the Mountains Rock Star Style!!!


Life has been hectic today! I arrived in Kathmandu after a 23 hours tiring flight (12 hours of transit in Doha, is a real killer!!)

Today I metup with the fantastic people from Peak Promotion and I learned that we are leaving for Lukla tomorrow at 6:30 AM – not the 6th of November as I had thought. So everything had to be finalized in one day in sted of 4 days – meaning that today I managed to get a haircut, a nepali phone number, handle all the financial stuff, get copies of documents, purchase a bit of gear, get a one hour massage by a blind person (I am a returning happy customer at seing hand, Kathmandu – can only recommend their massages!!), bought all the medicine, and met up with my guide and planned the equipment. And finished the evening with a nice dinner with a friend here, and of course got to eat a slace of the amazing zuricake!!


Now my guide is such a nice person! (As are pretty much all the Nepalis I’ve met the three times I have been here are). I feel in very safe hands, seing as he has previously climbed Mt. Everest 5 times. Imjse Tse, is just a small speed bump for this guy :p :p

The hospitality I have received from Peak Promotion, the company I employed for this climb, has been amazing! From a nice reception in the airport, to a huuuuge 2×3 meter banner at the guest house with the following writting on it:

“Hearty welcome to Mr. Michael Birkmose, Island Peak Climb 2012”. I was soo overwhelmed!! This is truely Nepal rockstar style! πŸ™‚

Now these Peak Promotion guys are so cool and organized – they are even going to have a online blog with the trek along the way. So yeah – you will be able to follow this silly danish viking online here:


Did I mention that I am kinda super excited??? πŸ™‚

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Categories:  Nepal Travel
30th of October

Back to the Himalayas

More or less one year after leaving Nepal, it is time to return for new adventures.
Last year when I was there – standing on the top of Kala Patthar, 5545m I promised myself that I would return, and attempt to climb Imje Tse, 6189m. And now it is time to keep that promise to myself!

For the past year I have been training intensely for this adventure – including two extreme months in a Muay Thai training camp in Thailand (the thaiboxing was not so much the aim, as where the cardio benefits – the Nepali are very friendly people, and I don’t think any selfdefence skills will be needed during this adventure). Strangely enough the stay in the Muay Thai training camp, introduced me to the crossfit training style (thank you Luke Richmond!!), and I ended up falling completely in love with this way of training – spending all my time in Thailand training Crossfit, and have been doing the same ever since I returned to Denmark in April.

I return to Nepal 15kgs lighter, and defiantly the strongest/fittest ever in my life. I feel blessed for getting this opportunity, and I set out on this journey with great humility. I am very aware of the fact that there are no guarantees in the mountains, but I hope Imjse Tse will be hospitable and bless me with a safe passage to the summit, from where you can stare some of the tallest mountains in the world into the eyes: Lhotse (8,501m), Makalu (8475m) and Nuptse (7,879m) .

Unfortunatly all the people I met during my last stay in Nepal, who had attempted to summit Imjse Tse did not succeed – either due to falling ill, or because the weather did not permit for a safe climb. I am hoping my story will be a different one, but I have set my expectations accordingly. No matter what, the journey towards the return to Nepal has been a great experience on its own. As Edmund Hillary (first person to summit Mt. Everest, together with sherpa Tenzing Norgay) said: β€œIt is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.”. Those many hours spend doing crazy exercises in my local crossfit box has thought me a lot about myself, and pushed my tolerance for pain considerably (and I throw a mean farmers walk now πŸ˜‰ ). I hope this will serve me well in an environment with less than 50% of the oxygen compared to what we are able to breathe here at sea level – and in a slightly colder climate ;).

I think it goes without saying that I am excited to be back in Nepal, a country I am very fond of. To be able to walk in the Himalayas once again, and enjoy the spectacular views, and to enjoy lots of large servings of hearty Daal Bhat! And to be able to meet the Nepali hospitality once again!

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Categories:  Nepal Travel