Packing for the Himalayas

I am going to India; specifically Ladakh which is high up in the Himalayas.  I’ll be there to participate in the NASA Spaceward Bound India 2016 expedition:

The pencil point shows where I'll be. It's in India, but very close to Tibet and Pakistan.
The pencil point shows where I’ll be. It’s in India, but very close to Tibet and Pakistan.

Astrobiologists study life in extreme environments here on earth, like hot springs, deserts and mountaintops.  I’ll be going with some of them.  I will have to miss the first four days of school!  To my new students:  I am very sorry.  I don’t usually do this.  See you very soon.

What to bring?

One set of artificial hypoliths to deploy for Drake High’s worldwide hypolith project
GPS (Global Positioning System) receiver with extra batteries
blood oxygen meter with extra batteries
Li-Cor Quantum Radiometer/Photometer
Digital camera with charger
Laptop computer with power cord
plug adapter for Indian electrical sockets
data stick with files, presentations
binoculars, field notebook + pencils
Scale model of solar system to use on school visits
business cards
Copy of Peter Matthiessen’s The Snow Leopard
water purification tablets and hand sanitizer
PASSPORT with Indian Visa, watch, wallet, money, house key
Lots of paperwork!
Sun hat, bandana hankerchrief, sunglesses, sunscreen
day pack and water bottle
hiking boots and socks
thermal underwear, wool hat, rain gear
clothes and bath kit.


June 24, 2016: Shepherd’s huts and stone rings in the White Mountains

Just because our cold frame project is finished doesn’t mean we can’t go to the White Mountains.  We love it up here at 13,000 feet.


Last year we noticed that the place is full of old stone shepherd’s huts.  We assumed these were made by Basque people between 1850 and 1950.  This year we came back to survey, and boy we have just scratched the surface.  Stone structures are absolutely everywhere.  Not all of them look the same.  Besides proper huts, there are stone walls, circles, crescents, horseshoes, doughnuts, etc.  Some of them are really too small or too full of sharp rocks to lie down in comfortably.

Snow Gauge

Some are probably prehistoric hunting blinds.  There are lots of deer and bighorn sheep up here, and lots of obsidian arrowheads.  To kill an animal with a bow and arrow means you have to get close, and there is no natural cover here.  But you can hide behind a low stone wall or circle.

Insomniac's Roost

There are other structures that look more like hut circles (tent pads, basically), windbreaks, or food caches.  We made detailed measurements and generated 22 pages of data.  We know of dozens more structures that we haven’t been to yet.

Stone huts

What does a “proper” shepherd’s hut look like?   It has a fireplace on the south side with a chimney.  It faces north or east.  Stones with naturally flat faces are stacked neatly with the faces in a plane to make one big face.  It has low “spurs” flanking the doorway.  It does not have to have a roof.  Around it are artifacts like metal cans, horseshoes, cut wood, shoe leather, or pieces of glass.  The name “A. Giraud” was found on two of them.

Big Stone

We only observed and photographed them.  We moved nothing and left all artifacts in place.

Crooked Creek