Prayer flags and mountains are perhaps the archetypal Nepalese travel image. They capture a element of the beautiful spirit of a people at one with their locale, uniquely adapted to living in such a savage landscape. Visually, the rich contrast between stark white and blue of ice and sky and the multicoloured flags, the tension between the eternal, indominitable towers of rock and snow and the fragile tatters of cloth with the ethereal desires they inhabit, is striking and confronting. The flags themselves are believed to offer up their prayers as the wind causes them to flutter, a faith that resonates warmly in the imagination. The snapping of reams of flags in the steady winds that course like blood through the arteries of the valleys is a constant companion to the weary, introspective trekker. If the faithful are right, then the Himalayas must truly rank as among the holiest places the world has to share.
These images were taken at what amounts to the entrance to the Annapurna Sanctuary, an outrageous ring of towering mountain peaks culminating with the 8,091m Annapurna I, the world’s 10th highest mountain. The vantage from which I shot was just below the Macchapuchare Base Camp, where the cirque of the arena empties into the one accessible passage between mountain foundations. Beneath the flags is Annapurna South, our constant companion throughout the trek, and though small among the Annapurnas, a gargantuan peak in its own right at 7,219m.