Well, I feel that although Nepal offers somewhat more day time shooting opportunities than other locales, there is still value in shooting sunrise and sunset images where a tripod is mandatory. So for me that was not an option really.
As far as panoramas goes, I shot a few handheld for a variety of reasons and got overall good results. The fact remains though that subjects with a strong front rear dimension do not stitch well because of parallalax when the lens is not located around its nodal point. For me this makes the pano head mandatory also.
This being said I agree that tripod/no tripod is a difficult call to make in windy situations where hand held and VR/IS can result in better sharpness than shots on a tripo + pano head.
I admit there will always be the odd occasion where a tripod is essential for best results. If the slowest shutter speed of a series of bracketed shots to increase DR is simply too slow for a sharp result without tripod, then use of a higher ISO may not produce the best tonality. It would also be impossible to take a waterfall shot without a tripod if one wanted the traditional silky smooth blur, or a shot at night without flash or where flash was not appropriate.
However, in view of the increased functionality of software such as CS3E with regard to stacking of images and auto-alignment, and the much improved parallax correction of stitching programs like Autopano Pro, as well as CS3's Photomerge, I wonder if the need for a tripod is exaggerated.
Sunsets and sunrises can be considered as stationary, like still lifes, can't they? The Nikon D3 has a fast frame rate and a base ISO of 200. My experience with stacking images in CS3E for noise removal suggests one can get as much as a 2 stop improvement. Instead of using a tripod for shots at 1/15th or 1/30th sec at ISO 200, how about 6 or 9 hand-held shots at ISO 800 and at 1/60th or 1/125th second?
If shutter speed is not an issue but dynamic range is, then CS3's auto-alignment of images is excellent for merging hand-held bracketed shots to HDR, although I admit there's a danger of the resulting sharpness being limited to the sharpness of the image with the slowest shutter speed.
It's a concern for me because whenever I travel I always seem to take too much stuff just in case I might find the need of something, a particular lens or a tripod.