Review: Makalu Everest expedition Nepal 2011
Escorted Tour - Walking
Makalu Everest Trek April May 2011
28 people found this review helpful
In April/ May 2011 I was one of a party of trekkers who took part in a guided trek in Nepal. Of the 12 people in the party, the age range was 47 years (only person below 50) to 60 years of age. We all had previous trekking experience which was invaluable because unbeknown to most of us we had signed up to one of the toughest treks in Nepal.
I flew to Katmandhu from Manchester with Qatar Airways (via Doha) and would definately recomend them for comfort, good food and service. It is approx 7 hours to Doha which is in Qatar and then a further 5 hours to Kathmandu.
Our trek was organised and led by Roland Hunter, the proprietor of the Mountain Company, an experienced mountaineer who has summited Everest and Makalu. He used a Nepalese sirdhar (Pema)and team of Sherpa climbers, guides, porters and cooks without whom the trek would not have been possible. Their local knowledge, patience, skill, strength and willingness to help at any time was second to none and at times invaluable.
I wanted to do something that was both a challenge, an experience of a lifetime and to be honest something I could look back on and be proud of my achievement in my 50th year. This trek fulfilled all my wishes. It is without doubt the most challenging trek in Nepal because basically it is two treks bolted together with three days mountaineering. It roughly forms section 2 of the Great Himalayan trail, linking the Makalu Barun National Park with the Everest region by crossing the Sherpani pass, the Western Coll and the Amphu Labtsa pass. It starts with an internal flight to Tumlingtar from Kathmandu and ends at Lukla (for the return flight to Kathmandu)
If you want to visit Nepal, see Everest or many other famous mountains, there are easier treks and The Mountain Company will have a trek to suit you,(this is my 2nd time with them) but to walk in some of the remotest places, see some of the most beautiful scenery, mountains, glaciers, lakes, walk through jungle, climb over hills and mountain passes, see abundant birdlife, meet people from all over the world, abseil down icy cliffs,spend time and test your endurance at altitude, see the highest mountains in the world, enjoy (or endure)the thrill of flying to or from Lukla airport (Channel 5 worlds most dangerous airport) this is the trek for you.
Some basic details: you need to be an experienced hill/mountain walker, you need a good level of fitness. Altitude sickness is a problem, there is a drug you can take called Diamox, I needed it above 3,800m. The highest point for us was 6100m. You need adequate insurance (Snowcard is recomended), book your Kathmandu flights well in advance, you need a Visa to enter Nepal, (obtainable when you get there approx £30), you have to get some local currency when you get to Nepal. Roland Hunter will provide you with a kit list, try and stick to it. (You can hire plastic boots, ice axe, crampons, climbing harness, etc. in Kathmandu) You are limited to luggage weight (20kg), your travel baggage is carried for you by a Nepalese porter, you carry a day rucksac that will probably include waterproofs, hat, gloves, snacks, water bottles, sunglasses, lip gloss, suncream. Walking pole(s) is/are a must (this is an over 50's review!) This type of trekking is not for the squeamish, toilet facilities are legendary (squat over a hole in the ground dug by the porters inside a tent)You get a bowl of washing water and a mug of tea in the morning. It is true that your hair starts to clean itself if you don't wash it for a fortnight! You cannot drink the fresh water in the streams and rivers, top tip being to bring your water bottles to the evening meal in the mess tent, the sherpas and cooks fill them with boiling water. When you are at altitude they make brilliant hot water bottles during the night and the next day are nice and cool to drink. Bring a book, Ipod, uncomplicated solar charger that can hang off your rucksac during the day, I enjoy birdwatching so brought some binoculars and a "Birds of Nepal"(Grimmett, Inskipp and Inskipp) reference book. We all had a great time spotting "Lifers" throughout the trek and even in Kathmandu (43 in total). "Paul what's this one?", was often heard although some days I was too tired to take out the binos. Headtorch is essential!!! The whole trek is done with tents so a quality inflatable Thermarest and a suitable sleeping bag is necessary.
Internet access and mobile phone reception are non existent in the remote areas, but satelite phone is always available via Roland Hunter,(costly). Internet access is available in the more popular and populated Solo Khumbhu / Everest base camp trail area
Make a note of your photos and the ref no's from your camera at night in a small journal. It is often difficult to remember places or views when you get back home. You are usually in bed and tucked up by 8.30 pm, morning wake up call at 6.00 am or 6.30 am except on the big days over the passes when it is up at midnight or 4 am depending on where you are. walking days vary anything between 4 hours and 8 hours each day, not including the rest days.
None of the days are a race, take your time, especially at altitude when to be honest you have no choice. Bistare Bistare (slowly slowly) is the motto.
Roland Hunter, with his massive experience in this part of the world, was able to judge our abilty, fitness and had meticulously planned the trip so that we had days in hand. People were ill, that is somewhat inevitable, but everyone had a blood oxygen level and pulse check every day, all recorded. A good tactic is to climb high and sleep low, to take your time and acclimatise. On some of our rest days, particularly at Khongma and Makalu base camp, we went for day walks to gain altitude experience and then returned to camp and sleep lower. The days spent in the remote upper reaches of the Upper Barun Valley with Lhotse, Nuptse and occaisionally Everest ahead, Makalu towering above us, glaciers, Lammergeiers, glacial moraine, prayer flags on the La's,(high mountain passes) Yaks on the Khakas,(grazing pastures), the traditional Sherpa people, their children running to greet you when you pass a small hamlet or tea house, the photographic opportunities are unbelievable.
If you are an over 50, enjoy Scotland or the Lake District and have dreamed of something a bit more special then go for it! Take it to the next level. Nepal is geared up for trekking, and accessible for you even if you are over 50. It is an unbelievably poor country, nothing works properly, everything is rough and ready but the people are fantastic, the experience is to die for and you will have memories and photos to prove you were there. Go for it!!
One last thing, the main trekking seasons are April / May (sorry if you are a Farm Vet or a teacher) and October / November (sorry teachers again) . Monsoon kicks in by the end of May through the summer months. Our trek was just over a month but the more popular routes usually take anything between two and a half weeks to three weeks
Paul Carroll (Manchester)
28 people found this review helpful
This review is solely based on the opinion of a Silver Travel Advisor member and not of Silver Travel Advisor Ltd.