Intrepid adventure to build traditional bridge near Himalayas
A VETERAN mountaineer from Wotton-under-Edge has returned from one of the best treks of his life visiting a bridge project close to the Himalayas.
Steve Berry, managing director of leading trekking firm Mountain Kingdoms, spent August leading eight people on an expedition in Zanskar, a small Tibetan Buddhist kingdom in Ladakh, India.
Mr Berry, who founded his travel firm in 1987, said he loved the complete remoteness of the whole region.
“I think it’s just so fantastic, I just love it,” he enthused. ““One of the best treks I’ve ever been on. There is just the most incredible scenery you’ll ever see in the world. You’re going down huge gorges and frightening cliff paths.”
In places these reach 18,000 feet so it was fortunate that the team had good weather for the majority of the 33-day trek.
“There are all sorts of fantastic things,” he added. “Paths that we had to reconstruct in order to cross. Hundreds of river crossings. And everyone on the trip was over 60 years old.”
Mr Berry had a special reason for returning to Zanskar, as he needed to check on the progress of his building project.
Traditionally Ladakhi people depended on woven twig bridges to cross the icy rivers which cut through their mountain kingdom, but these ancient traditions have been dying out.
As these handmade bridges have been replaced with steel bridges large enough to carry vehicles, it has left just three twig bridges in the region. With a lifespan of 15 years, it was not going to be long before these too disappeared.
Mr Berry, 64, launched the Zanskar Bridge Project and work on a new bridge in Padum commenced in 2010.
Money raised has sent to the King of Zanskar, Gyalpo (precious ruler) Punchok Dawa.
Progress has been slow, as the bridge can only be worked on during the winter when the river below is frozen solid and although the bridge hasn’t quite been completed, Mr Berry is pleased with the progress and proud of the legacy it will leave.
“I was hoping and expecting it to be completed but it is still very positive,” he said. “I could see that he (the builder) had done a phenomenal amount of work.
“I’m really thrilled with it. It will be a really brilliant bridge when it’s finished.”
Mr Berry has recently published a collection of stories from his early expeditions to the Himalayas. Straight Up is on sale for £12.99 including postage and packaging.
Cheques should be made out to HIMALAYAN KINGDOMS LTD and sent to 20 Long Street, Wotton-under- Edge, Gloucestershire GL12 7BT.
Visit www.mountainkingdoms.com for more information on the Zanskar Bridge Project.
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