Myanmar isn’t exactly a country that leaps to mind when you think about major mountaineering expeditions, but the country is starting to become a hotbed for adventure, in part because it has allowed limited access to outsiders for some time. Now, a team of climbers sponsored by National Geographic and The North Face, has traveled to the Southeast Asian country to not only climb several peaks, but to also chart their true heights in an effort to determine the highest mountain in the region.
The team is made up of an all-star cast of adventurers, including expedition leader Hilaree O’Neill, photographer Cory Richards, adventure filmmaker Renan Ozturk, writer Mark Jenkins, climber Emily Harrington, and video assistant Taylor Rees. The group is in Myanmar now, and has released its first dispatch to the Nat Geo Adventure Blog. Over the next seven weeks, they will continue to share updates from the field, as they travel to parts of the country that have only recently opened up to westerners.
In the weeks to come, the group will focus on climbing to the top of Hkakabo Razi, a remote peak that is roughly 5800 meters (19,140 feet) in height. They’ll carry with them a specially calibrated GPS system, that will allow them to take precise measurements of the altitude of the mountain. The hope is that they’ll be able to summit, and determine where the peak falls in relation to its height as compared to other mountains in Southeast Asia. If they have time, the team will also attempt to summit Gamlang Razi nearby.
Just getting to these mountains will be quite an adventure. According to the Nat Geo description of the expedition, the team will travel by plane, train, bus, and motorbike, just to reach the start of a trail that will take them on a 300 mile (482 km) round-trip trek through dense jungle, where they can set up Base Camp for their operation. It will be an incredibly demanding journey just to get to their starting point ahead of the start of the climb.
To give you a sense of what they are experiencing, upon setting out on the trail, they immediately encountered a white-lipped pit viper, one of the most venomous snakes in the entire world. A bite from this snake can deliver enough venom to kill a person in just one hour. When you are days away from assistance, that is an incredibly scary animal to come across. Fortunately, the team is carrying anti-venom with them, but I’m sure they would prefer to not have to use it.
Stay tuned to the Nat Geo Adventure Blog for more updates in the days to come.