Fire, Water, Earth, Sky, Air, and Stratigraphy

For our brief time off following the mapping project, we are staying in the town of Kagbeni. Despite how far into the mountains it is, the town of Kagbeni is actually comparatively large and modern. This is likely because of its proximity to the famous pilgrimage destination Muktinath. The first day off we explored the town, discovering a “Yak Donalds” which we wandering into at least three times without ever encountering a shop owner, and an “Applebee’s” coffee shop. To reach Applebee’s you travel through the new city and then through the old city with its tight tunnel-like corridors to the very northern edge of town.

The following day we all traveled together by bus even higher into the mountains to Muktinath. Situated at a breezy 12,467 feet above sea level, Muktinath contains a famous temple, sacred in both Buddhist and Hindu faiths. It is considered especially sacred because it is one of few temples where all the elements (fire, water, earth, air, and sky) can be found. The more rare elements, fire and water, are found here in the form of an eternal flame and the 108 taps from which freezing cold water gushes. After exploring the religious area, we began a long search for ammonites; in this region they are called shaligrams and are thought to represent the Lord Vishnu. After filling our pockets with rocks, we walked the 15 kilometers back down to our hotel in Kagbeni.

While the two rest days were well appreciated, we quickly got back to work beginning the final project for our first field methods class. This project involved creating a stratigraphic column of the Chukh Formation which is exposed across the river from Kagbeni. In this portion of the valley, the wind becomes dangerously strong after noon, so every day my group (Roshani and I) and the others woke up at 5:30AM and worked until lunch and then stayed inside doing homework for the rest of the day.

Using makeshift bamboo pole meter sticks and sampling, we recorded and differentiated beds within the formation in our stratigraphic log. In addition to the final copy of the stratigraphic log, we had to write another essay on the depositional environment for these rocks. Overall, we saw mostly sandstones, siltstones, and shales with different varieties of fossils as well as occasional ash beds and coal beds. Ultimately my group decided on a prograding delta environment characterized by migrating braided rivers on the delta top for our interpretation of the area. For the final write up we traveled back to Jomsom in a bus, so we all found ourselves in the exact same room as last time, frantically rushing through a write-up until the deadline!

All is well,


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