The Walk Out
I have to be in Lukla on the 19th, and it will take the porters 5 days to reach Lukla from Baruntse base camp. That leaves me one spare day, but I plan to travel fast, and do some sightseeing.
Crossing of the AmphuLabsta [Pass] 5787m/18986ft and to Island Peak base camp 5150m/16896ft.
Pemba and I left with the rapid porter at 8am (see photo 26.09.02) taking only our essential gear. After leaving the base camp, we descended on loose rocks and snow, but then there was a long pleasant rising traverse on a trail, earth with vegetation, or rocks.
View south across the valley as we climb towards the AmphuLabsta (8;57am)
The last section to the AmphuLabsta wo
Pemba starting up the snow to the AmphuLabsta --- the route zig-zagged up snow shelves above and to the left of him (11:03am)
Our porter beginning the ascent on the final snow section to AmphuLabsta; it was quite dangerous for the porters with loads and without good equipment.
The other side had a steep rocky piece for which the fixed rope was handy.
The bottom of the steep rock on the descent of the AmphuLabsta
We then had a descending traverse on snow above bluffs to reach easy ground --- probably this is a trail without the snow.
Looking back at the tracks descending from the AmphuLabsta (12:40pm).
We had reached the top of the pass at midday, and descended 300m on the other side in one hour. After that, it was only hiking.
Island Peak, with Lhotse behind (2:24pm). The route on Island peak climbs rock and snow to reach the ridge a little to the left of the summit.
The weather had been perfectly clear when we started, but by now it was quite cloudy. We reached the AmphuLabsta campsite about 1:30, and the junction with the Island Peak trail about 3:30. At this point even our rapid porter was lagging, and so he continued down to the village of Chukung while Pemba and I carried my essential gear up to the Island Peak base camp (4:15). Then Pemba went down to Chukung.
15.10.02 Attempt on Island Peak 6173m/20252ft and to Chukung 4750m/15594ft.
I awoke at 3am to hear some Austrians camped nearby leaving. I left for Island peak at 4am. Followed up a moraine dip to a cairn, and then headed up left. Followed trails or cairns to snow, where I put my crampons on. It was a pleasure to cross the airy little ridge to the snow, where I had been stopped by high winds several years ago. Climbed easy snow, except for a crevasse crossing, to the foot of the slope to the final ridge. Here a guided group waited while a sherpa fixed a long rope. I climbed up to within about 30m of the ridge, but decided the final 20m were not for soloing --- too steep (c70 degrees) and the snow looked a little unstable. Thus, I stopped about 30m below the ridge, and only about 70m below the summit. [Island peak is a popular peak, but I don't think anyone climbs it without a rope --- Pemba told me that he had spoken to an Austrian guide who had tried it without a rope a few days earlier, and had turned back at the same point as I did.] Reached my high point at 8:15am, and then, after eating lunch, descended in 2 hours.
The weather on Island Peak had been perfect, with spectacular views, and I had thoroughly enjoyed the climb, despite not reaching the summit. I was surprised to feel so good on the climb after the long hard day crossing the AmphuLabsta.
Makalu from Island Peak.
A crevasse on Island peak (8:59am).
I packed my gear, and descended to Chukung in 1:45, leaving most of it for the rapid porter to retrieve. On the way down, the weather began to turn cloudy and windy. The porter left Chukung at 1pm, and was back with my gear by 4:15pm.
Pemba had run into a friend on the way down who asked him: "If you can climb Everest, how come you can't climb Baruntse?"
The rest of our party was supposed to cross the AmphuLabsta on the 14th, and spend the night at the AmphuLabsta camp site. Today they were to meet us in Chukung. But by 5pm, they still hadn't come ---- clearly, something had gone wrong, since it is only a short day from the AmphuLabsta camp site to Chukung. Finally, AngDawa arrived at 5:20pm, and the rest had straggled in by 8pm (with the help of the rapid porter). They had left too late and travelled too slowly on the 14th to be able to make it over the pass, and so had crossed it today.
After dinner, the sherpas bought some chung, and everyone, members, sherpas, kitchen crew, and porters celebrated the safe crossing of the pass and a Nepalese festival.
16.10.02 Lobuche 4930m
One of the lodges at Chukung, with the Lhotse behind.
I left Chukung at 8:30 in running shoes and with a fairly light pack. I would spend three days "tea-house trekking", and catch up with the porters in Namche Bazar. I reached Dingboche in about an hour, and then climbed up the valley towards Everest, reaching Lobuche at about 1pm. Stayed in the most expensive lodge ($20 a night).
The weather was perfectly clear until about 3pm --- great views, except for tourists who stand around all stupasetc having their photos taken. Parts of the Kumbu are like a museum, with sherpa-guides explaining to groups of tourists what they are seeing.
17.10.02 Kala Patar 5600m/18733ft, Everest base camp, and back to Lobuche
Left before daybreak at 5:15am for the famous viewpoint Kala Patar. Reached GorakShep 5170m/16,926ft at 6:40am. After a brief second breakfast, I climbed the final 430m in 67 minutes, passing all 30 trekkers who were ahead of me. Early, there had been few clouds, but it gradually became overcaste, and the summit of Everest disappeared into the clouds a few minutes before I reached the top.
Everest from Kala Patar (7:50am). There seemed to be much more snow than usual on the rocks.
I was back at GorakShep by 9am, which seemed too early to return to Lobuche, and so I set off for the Everest Base Camp. Reached it at 11am. The Everest climbers had already departed [no one climbed Everest from Nepal this season --- they had the same problem we had with too much powder snow]. The campsite was a desolate place without the tents.
Everest Base Camp had been abandoned to the crows (11.01am)
It was interesting to be so close to the famous Khumbu icefall (10:53am)
There was little trash, but the site had a musty smell. The tent sites looked very uncomfortable.
I was back at GorakShep at 1, where lunch at one of the restaurants restored my energy, and I reached Lobuche about 3.
It had been a long day, and I was relieved to see that my guidebook called it "an extremely tough day" whereas tomorrow's walk to Namche is only "a very tough day".
18.10.02 ToNamche 3450m/11319ft
The weather was perfect in the morning, but there had been a heavy frost. Had breakfast, and left at 6:45. Great views as I walked down the valley.
The beautiful Thamserku (7:33am)
As I approached Periche, about 100 trekkers were leaving up the valley. Had a small lunch in Pangboche. Left Tengboche 12:15 --- the temple seemed to have grown since I was last there. By now it was quite cloudy.
Reached Namche at 3:15, 8 1/2 hours after leaving Lobuche.
Fortunately, AngDawa was waiting for me, and took me to the lodge Kala Patar, which is pretty pleasant. Not long after I arrived, it began raining. Eduardo and Vicente were in a grumpy mood. Eduardo had telephoned home, and had had to explain why, for the first time on an expedition, he had failed to climb a mountain. By a strange coincidence, met Bir Singh Tamang at dinner [he is the son of GunjamanTamang, with whom I enjoyed six great treks in Nepal]. ThuloTamang, whom I also knew well, was with another trekking group at another hotel.
Cans of coke cost 50 rupees (about 70 cents) in Namche, but 100 rupees in Lukla, because the former come over the Nangpo La from Tibet (about 3days by yak from the nearest road), while the latter have to be flown in or carried in (about 7 days from the nearest road).
Said goodbye to Bim, the two kitchen boys, and to AngDawa.
Namche 7:58 --- since this was Saturday, the market was opening.
Left 8am and arrived Lukla 1:45. I think this is the most beautiful walk in the Kumbu, with the river, the forests, and the snow peaks visible above.
River valley, forests, and mountains.
Pemba was waiting for me in Lukla. We stayed in the Mera hotel, which is a bit grungy. We discussed next fall. We will attempt Cho Oyu together.
Pemba said two members of the German expedition attempting Baruntse had to be evacuated by helicopter because of acute altitude sickness.
20.10.02 Fly to Kathmandu
Left hotel 7:45. Flights were delayed, and we were on the second Yeti Airlines round trip, and so didn't get to Kathmandu until midday. While I was waiting, I saw about a dozen flights come and go --- about 250 people. I weighed 85kg in trekking boots --- Pemba says he normally weighs 60kg.
In the evening, I went with Rai, Ramesh, Pemba, and two Austrians to a restaurant with ethnic dancing.
Finished Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises, and Levi, If This is a Man.
Spoke to Sonam Sherpa. He asked me about the ugly incident between the Spanish and the sherpas. He said the German expedition to Baruntse seemed to be falling apart --- in addition to the two climbers evacuated by helicopter, several others had left early over the AmphuLabsta. No expedition organized by Thamserku has succeeded on Baruntse in the last four years.
22.10.02 To Bangkok
This trek takes you to Makalu Base Camp (5250 m), now designated as Makalu Barun National Park and Conservation Area. Mt. Makalu (8463 m) is the fifth highest peak in the world. The Makalu Base camp trek is a true adventure with scenery so beautiful that it will never tire you. The trek starts with a flight to Tumlingtar and heads up the Aurn River valley to Sedua and Num, then crossing Shipton La Pass (4210 m) into the upper Barun river valley for a close look at Makalu and ChamlangHimal. This trek visits one of the most remote and unfrequented areas of Nepal. The Barun valley is a part of a huge international protected area under the agreement between the governments of Nepal and China, which comprises of 2330 sq. km of National Park and 830 sq. km of conservation area in Nepal alone. The trek returns the same way and ends with a flight back to Kathmandu.
Day 01:Arrive Kathmandu. Meet & transfer to Hotel. O/N Hotel.
Day 02:½ day sightseeing tour of Kathmandu valley. O/N Hotel.
Day 03:Fly Kathmandu / Tumlingtar. Trek to Khandbari. O/N Camp.
Day 04: Trek to Chichile. O/N Camp.
Day 05:Trek to Num. O/N Camp.
Day 06:Trek to Sedua. O/N Camp. .
Day 07:Trek to TashiGaon. O/N Camp. .
Day 08:Trek to Khongma Ridge. O/N Camp.
Day 09:Trek to Mumbuk. O/N Camp.
Day 10:Trek to NeheKharka. O/N Camp.
Day 11:Trek to Sherson. O/N Camp.
Day 12:Rest day at Sherson for acclimatization. O/N Camp.
Day 13:Trek to High Makalu Base Camp. O/N Camp.
Day 14:Trek to High Camp enrouteSherpani Col. O/N Camp.
Day 15:Trek to camp near Sherpani Col. O/N Camp.
Day 16:Rest day for preparation for high climb. O/N Camp.
Day 17:Trek near Hongu Glacier. O/N Camp.
Day 18:Trek to PanchPokhari. O/N Camp.
Day 19:Rest day for preparation for crossing AmphuLaptsa. O/N Camp.
Day 20:Trek to Chhukung. O/N Camp.
Day 21:Trek to Thyangboche. O/N Camp.
Day 22:Trek to Namche Bazaar. O/N Camp.
Day 23:Trek to Lukla. O/N Camp
Day 24:Fly Lukla / Kathmandu. Transfer to Hotel. O/N Hotel.
Day 25:In Kathmandu for independent activities. O/N Hotel.
Q: How many days was this trek? (is there a minimum and maximum days, fast / slow)A: we took 22 days walking from Tumlingtar/ Chichila to Lukla, this worked well and allowed sufficient time for acclimatisation before crossing the passes. Our total itinerary from arrival/ departure Kathmandu is 29 days including time getting permits in Kathmandu, flights to/ from Tumlingtar and Lukla and one spare day at end of itinerary in case of delays flying back from Lukla. I would not recommend doing this trek any faster as you would minimise your chances of safely completing the traverse. We had two nights at Khongma (3,560m), LangmaleKharka (4,450m) and Sherpani Low Camp (5,200m) as well as three nights at Makalu Base Camp (4,900m) which you can see on our itinerary. (NB: This is a well researched itinerary allowing sufficient time for acclimatisation which is necessary for your whole group, including porters. Be wary of rushing this trek, it would be dangerous.)
Q: Are there any chances to use local services like tea-houses or local guides?A: We used the dining room of local teahouse lodges in several places for lunch as well as evenings in Tashigaon, Khongma and LangmaleKharka. However with a smaller group one could use these for most evenings apart from above Makalu Base Camp. In all places we used local camp sites and paid a camping fee to the owner. We also purchased local produce such as potatoes and vegetables at Tashigaon and LangmaleKharka. In the past we have used some local porters from Tumlingtar and Tashigaon however most of the porters for Spring ’11 trek came from our Sirdar’s village at Kharikhola in SoluKhumbu.
Q: What kind of person is it for – I guess fitness is very important, but prior mountaineering experience? Or is it possible to practice ice-axe, crampon, rope work enough on the way while acclimatising?A: I suggest people have mountaineering experience before undertaking Makalu to Everest trek however it is also well worthwhile practising techniques for ascending and descending a fixed rope on slopes near Makalau Base Camp. Most of our Spring ’11 group had undertaken previous treks with The Mountain Company in Nepal to Mera Peak or Dhaulagiri Circuit. Makalu to Everest is a good trek to consider if you have already been on a trek in Nepal at an altitude over 5,000m and are looking for a more challenging objective.
The route up to Sherpani Col does not strictly require ropes, but they are commonly fixed near the top section as it does get just a little bit steep. Descending the other side is an abseil / rappel, which puts you on a wide 1 km glacier crossing that begins with a few open crevasses, normally easy enough to avoid, and for the most part people don’t necessarily rope up for this. At the other side of the glacier the crevasses also tend to be open and easy to spot. It is normal to camp at the base of West Col and cross the next morning. There are at least two routes down, one a long abseil with some rockfall danger, the other a long abseil down a snow ramp. Then you have to negotiate a glacier to Baruntse BC, and this is most definitely crevassed. If there is a trail most people avoid roping up, but if there is no clear trail on the snow then you must rope up.
And then after two days trekking you have a 5,700 m pass that usually requires ropes to get you to Chukhung.
In other words it is a serious mountaineering proposition between the base camps and real climbing gear required.
Finding the right Sherpani Col is tricky unless there is another group there, there are three possible side valleys that lead up!