Take a trip to the Himalayas with Alex Lanchester's latest BBC documentary
Alex Lanchester takes us on a trip to the Himalayas, the animal life that exists there, often in extreme conditions
Through the recent BBC series, Mountain: Life at the Extreme, we’ve been able to immerse ourselves in the lives of the extraordinary animals and people who coexist and make a home in the mountain ranges, the Himalayas. This is a three-part series narrated by Douglas Henshall, with one episode each on the Himalayas, the Rockies and the Andes. They have worked with several government organisations, charities and NGOs, including the Nature and Wildlife Conservation. Taking us behind the lens and deeper into the jungle tales is Alex Lanchester, the producer of the episodes. He has previously worked on several series’ including Springwatch, Lifestory and Hidden India, as a producer, director and cinematographer.
Covering Ladakh, and Himachal Pradesh and Nepal extensively, the team also filmed in the Huangshan province in China. “You have to see it to believe it, it looks like something out of Star Wars! We did a story in Tibet too, but I didn’t go for it at the time. That’s definitely a place I want to visit,” Alex says. Working in temperatures of minus 33 degrees, the team was pushed to new extremes. “It’s some of the hardest physical work my team and I have ever done. My fitness levels were on test while trekking mountains up with heavy equipment, and waiting in the biting cold.”
From the elusive to the most exotic creatures like the chiru, that have the warmest wool in the world, Alex shares stories about some of the most interesting species in the forest. Here, we meet the huge population of snow leopards which live around Ladakh. “One time we were filming in an isolated mountain village, which relies only on its livestock. When the snow leopards started preying on their livestock, the people in the village did not immediately jump to attack. They instead, decreased their natural prey, and the snow leopards stopped coming shortly after,” Alex shares. Through incidents like this, Alex came to realise how there is a deep spiritual belief in the sanctity of life in the mountains. “It’s such an extreme place, but I’ve noticed that there is a sense of community between both the wildlife and humanity.”
Hypoxia occurs with a sharp increase in altitude and when the air pressure drops, which results in a sharp decrease of oxygen. In harsh environments such as these, Alex talks about how certain animals adapt genetically, over time. “Not only do the Himalayan yaks have larger hearts and lungs to enable them to pump more blood, but they also produce specialised haemoglobin which allows them to extract more oxygen from their lungs.” We also learn that spiders are the only creatures that live above the altitude of 6,000 feet above sea level. “There is nothing for them to eat at that height, and rely purely on the chance of an insect being blown up by the wind.”
Mountains: Life Above the Clouds will air on August 17, 11 am on Sony BBC Earth.