A Digital Trip Over Chomolungma

Buzzing Everest's staggering summit and the snow-clad peaks of Annapurna is a mouse click away – almost. A recently completed series of digitally-animated flights over the Himalaya depict the region's mountains, valleys and glaciers in such detail they nearly pass for the real thing.

William Bowen, a professor of geography at California State University Northridge in the United States created the simulated flight videos as part of the Himalaya Aerial Reconnaissance on the Web, not long after making the Himalaya Atlas of Aerial Panoramas, which appeared in Asia Sentinel on 19 August.

“Individuals often perceive space and form in very dissimilar ways,” said Bowen, explaining why the atlas of still images wasn't enough. “Approaching a complex geographic space with both static and animated images seemed to convey more thoroughly a real sense of the spatial arrangements of landforms and their three-dimensional attributes.”

The aerial reconnaissance project uses the same technology as the atlas project, but a 'flight path' is marked out. Then the space between the digital images is defined and the program is set in motion.

Some of the simulated flights circle prominent Himalayan mountains. Other, longer ones, which took days to render, follow the range end to end.

Circling Annapurna and Dhaulagiri

This simulated flight loosely follows the Annapurna Circuit, the world-famous hiking trail that circles the 55-kilometre-long Annapurna massif, and includes views of the Annapurna Himal (notably Annapurna II, Annapurna I and Tilicho Peak), the Kali Gandaki river valley (which forms one of the world's deepest gorges) and Dhaulagiri.

Circling Chomolungma (Mount Everest) and the Khumbu Himal

Soaring Chomolungma, known as Mount Everest in the west and is the world's highest mountain, dominates this animated flight, which loops through Tibet and Nepal, giving a close up look at all sides of Everest and other nearby peaks (including Makalu, Lhotse, Nupste and Cho Oyu) and glaciers.

Flying over Kanchenjunga – Sikkim, Tibet, Nepal

Offering rarely-glimpsed perspectives of Kanchenjunga, this simulated flight circles the massif's peaks and glaciers before appearing to dive off the summit to the valleys below.

Circling Nanda Devi and the Garhwal Himal

This animated flight is a quick buzz around Nanda Devi (the highest mountain entirely in India) and other parts of the Garhwal Himal.