Herefordshire Week 026: Tuesday 23 – Monday 30 June 2020

Horridly hot and humid week, followed by a wet and windy weekend. But “good for the garden” (which has got even greener), and featuring a conservative conservatory lunch with dad and Jean.


It’s been WAY too hot and humid here this week. Thursday night was unbearable. Even after a 10pm stroll up to Kerrys Gate and back before bed, I ended up going to sit on one of the comfy chairs in the conservatory and slept there for for a couple of hours.

Hatterral Ridge and Hay Bluff, from Kerrys Gate
Hatterral Ridge and Hay Bluff, from Kerrys Gate

London would have been worse though.

Phil and I really don’t know how we’ll decide about whether “here” is the new “home” or not. Right now, we are loving it. But the past few months have all felt a bit unreal. That said, the only benefit of being back in London I can see is being able to see friends there. I’ll probably have to work from home some of the time, and our flat isn’t set up for that, and all the social/cultural things, even if they’re open, will be weird. I really can’t imagine going to the cinema, or going into a pub once winter comes. 2021 is going to be strange. Anyway, we’re here until the end of September, and enjoying ourselves – am I allowed to say that?


LED Trustee Meeting over Zoom on Tuesday, VWW with Hazel (v nice to catch up), Wine Zoom with Kirsten and Justine (and back to another 90 mins work afterwards; it was only a small glass of wine), Family Zoom on Friday. Socialising over the internet is still going strong.


We got an email about returning to the office this week – no dates and a clear message that it would be voluntary once the office does start to open up. It’s what seems to be the fairly standard phase 1, phase 2 approach, team/week 1 / team/week 2. The biggest hurdle is going to be the lifts. We’ve been allocated exclusive use of 2 of the 5 lifts on each side of the lift shaft, but with only 2 people allowed into a lift at any one time it’s going to take a while to get even 40% of our workforce to their desks – let alone “from”. All in all, I can’t see us returning to ‘normal’ anytime soon.


On Friday, out of the blue, I got an email from Ang Rita Sherpa, the current chairman of The Partners Nepal, asking if he could use some of my photos from Gokyo and Khumbu in a book he is working on about Climate Change in the Himalayas (A Case from Solukhumbu). The book is to raise awareness on Climate Change and its impact on the local environment and local livelihoods, and proceeds will go to The Partners Nepal’s projects in Solukhumbu.

Climate Change in the Himalayas
Climate Change in the Himalayas – The Partners Nepal

I would have said “yes” in any event, but I’m even more delighted to as Val knows the family well and we visited his mum for morning tea when we stayed in Khunde towards the end of 2016’s Off and On the Beaten Track in Solukhumbu.

Val and Ama Dooli, Khunde
Val and Ama Dooli, Khunde

Fresher weather arrived on Friday, so I got out for a walk along the lanes in the morning and spent the afternoon pottering in the garden – planted my radish trays into bigger pots, and sowed some more lettuce.

Radishes potted up, plus more lettuce seed planted
Radishes potted up, plus more lettuce seed planted

The herb bed and extension are jam packed – lush and green. Lovely. The sunflowers have suddenly had a growth spurt and the pumpkin plants have flowers and a couple of small yellow orbs have appeared… I’m getting quite obsessed.

A Proto-Pumpkin!
A Proto-Pumpkin!

(Also getting quite obsessed with Mabel and Olive. But I’m not alone there.)

At least Sunday’s rain showers meant I haven’t had to water the lettuce and radishes in the “herb bed” (and extension) this week. We are certainly not going to run out of salad.

We are certainly not going to run out of salad!
We are certainly not going to run out of salad!

Phil’s mum turned 80 this week. Sue found a local lady who runs a cake-making business and ordered a birthday cake – it looked amazing! We FaceTimed at lunch to find Janet sat outside in the garden for a socially distanced birthday picnic lunch with some local friends and neighbours. Clearly big birthday celebrations can cope with COVID, even if they’re a bit different 🙂


Saturday started off badly. I deleted my Facebook account a long time ago and I loathe it as a thing. But we use it to keep friends and supporters updated on LED (Light Education Development, aka Val’s charity) activity and donations, and I had some posts to do following Tuesday’s Trustees’ Meeting.

I spent two hours struggling to do anything on Facebook. Let alone post anything. I’m getting “too many redirects” when I try to log in from Chrome or Safari from my mac, and the same on Chrome on my work laptop. In IE I can log in but the page doesn’t load.

Phil found this work around, which includes a link to this blog post about the same issue.

The work around worked….

…. Only for me to discover that it looks like we can’t schedule posts any more. So I ended up publishing the series of posts I’ve planned to space out over a couple of weeks all in one go.

After that I couldn’t face trying to fathom out how to fix the problem permanently. I’d already spent time futilely searching for help on Facebook and there’s no support contact details. Obviously.

I HATE FACEBOOK!

So after a stomp around the garden, I settled down in the conservatory and finished Hilary Mantel’s 900+ page The Mirror & The Light, which I started in the middle of May.

The Mirror & The Light - Hilary Mantel


On Sunday, Dad and Jean came for lunch: quiche and salad, accompanied by the very nice bottle of white wine Annette and Michael gave us for Christmas / moving in back in January. It was lovely to see Dad and Jean, even if the patio dining plan was stymied by the heavy rainy showers that came sweeping across all day.

In between downpours we did manage to get out for a stroll around the grounds, and on Monday, after I’d done the Kerrys Gate – Cockyard – Camp Crossroads route and sent Ang Rita the photos in the morning, Phil and I staked up the dwarf apple tree and the growth-spurt sunflowers, and I took some photos of the pumpkin flower, the now-securely staked sunflowers and the red hazelnuts.

Remarkable red hazelnuts
Remarkable red hazelnuts

My dad keeps reminding me that the squirrels will harvest the hazelnuts and walnuts the second they’re ripe and that all we will see is the leftover leaves and shells. We’ll see…..


Photos from Herefordshire week 26. No hanging about this week!

Herefordshire Week 025: Tuesday 16 – Monday 22 June 2020

Conservatory casualties. Muggy downpours = greenery galore. Father’s Day BBQ. Longer walks.


No photos for one of the week’s main events – on Tuesday morning I found two female blackbirds, dead on the patio. They’d flown head first into the conservatory windows, despite the yellow post it notes and hovering birds of prey transfers. I wondered if the change in the weather – to much more humid conditions, with sporadic heavy downpours, might be partly to blame. Later in the day, Phil spotted a male recovering on the patio. It died in the early evening. All a bit sad.

It doesn’t help that I’m too squeamish to deal with the dead, of any species.

I fled the scene, doing the shorter Cockyard – Duffryn Farm – Wellfield loop.


Work’s got even busier, and the signs of the stress and strain of working from home are starting to show in earnest. Having failed to make VWW and worked late Thursday as family Zoom had moved to Friday, I worked Friday morning to break the back of a couple of larger automation projects, and feel more on top of things as a result.

It helped that Friday morning was wet.

The very rainy few days haven't ended
The very rainy few days haven’t ended

On the plus side, the garden is very green after a very rainy few days, there’s lots of Loosemore Lettuce and the tomatoes (and chillies) are thriving in their ASDA growbag.

Montage: Garden greenery
Montage: Garden greenery

On Saturday, I planted out some of the radish seedlings and the last of the junior lettuce. I had been protecting them in the conservatory during the deluges, but as it turned out, the veg patch radishes were doing much better in comparison. I’d been rather profligate in my radish seed sowing into the recycled seed trays, so I’d filled the rest of the spare space in the veg bed with the occupants of only one of the trays. Hmm. Good job I like radishes.

Lettuce and radish seedlings planted out into the Extension
Lettuce and radish seedlings planted out into the Extension

Elsewhere, apples, wild plums, hazelnuts and walnuts are burgeoning, elderflower berries are emerging and the pond lilies are looking lovely.


We have new neighbours in Thistly Field:

New neighbours: cows in Thistly Field
New neighbours: cows in Thistly Field

The Sheep Field is still vacant though.


On Sunday morning I did a longer walk, extending the usual Bacton Square: Kerrys Gate and Riverdale as usual, then turning off the B4347 and walking up past Bacton’s St Faith’s Church and on to the junction with Tremorithic Road – where there were magic views out over Hatterrall Ridge – before walking back towards the Common, dropping down into Abbey Dore on Cwm Road.

Signposts and post box at the Tremorithic Road / "Bacton Road" T junction
Signposts and post box at the Tremorithic Road / “Bacton Road” T junction

The extension pretty much doubles the route.

In the afternoon, we headed over to dad and Jean’s for another smashing BBQ. A Father’s Day FEAST:

BBQ with dad and Jean
BBQ with dad and Jean

I really want to get over to Longtown, to walk The Cat’s Back, but Monday proved a bit too breezy, and I’m a bit nervous about getting right up onto the border when Wales is still on a 5 mile lockdown, so I satisfied my wanderlust with a new, slightly random, route over to Ewyas Harold, up towards Rowlestone and a meander around Lower Maescoed before dropping back down into Dulas at The Old Trout Inn.

Monday marathon
Monday marathon

After taking the footpath round the back of Abbey Dore Court and across the field to Dore Abbey, I tried a different footpath up onto the Common from the abbey: not entirely successful as a field with cows, calves and a bull meant I deviated from the direct route – but I did discover that the farm on Cwm Hill is a deer farm. Which might explain the escapees we’ve seen roaming around…..

At the EH end of the Common, I managed to find the footpath back down to School Lane, and continued out the other side of the village along Prill Lane – Rabbit Lane – The Hill Road.

Rabbit Lane is a bit of a misnomer – it’s the sunken road we walked down as kids, and whilst it starts off with tarmac it swiftly turns to an overgrown track, then path, then stream bed before you reach a steep cobbled section that brings you out on The Hill Road. I acquired a handy stick for restraining nettles and bramble shoots. Slow going.

And I’ve just spotted that Google maps shows Rabbit Lane as a road…. HA!

At the top of The Hill Road I turned right onto The Wigga, right again at the junction with Lower House Road, and left onto Wern Ddu at Balls Cross. I love the blend of English and Welsh names as we get ever closer to the border. Ddu = Black. Maes = Field. Coed = Wood.

Left onto the Longtown road for a short spell, then right onto what Google has as “Old School Mid Mc”, which I think is likely to be Old School [Road?] Middle Maes-Coed. Anyway, it was the first side of the square to Lower Maescoed, The Common Road providing sides 2 and 3, with Lower Maescoed at their corner and side 3 returning me to the Longtown road, for a downhill run to The Old Trout Inn.

Over Dulas Brook, up Mill Lane, footpaths over the fields to Tremorithic Road, then Cwm Road down into Abbey Dore and the road route home.

6 hours on mainly roads = tired legs! But a great walk. The Cat’s Back, Hay Bluff and Hatterrall Ridge were almost within touching distance from Wern Ddu.

Hatterrall Ridge: The Cat's Back, Hay Bluff
Hatterrall Ridge: The Cat’s Back, Hay Bluff

I’ll be back.


TV: Sharp Objects, season 1 (VG) with a sprinkling of Staged for light relief, plus a touch of The Trip to Greece – I fear the theme has worn thin – plus episode 1 of The Luminaries … “hmm, we’ll see”.

Podcasts: The National Archives Podcast Series (which goes back to 2006, so that’ll keep me going for a while), and Wind of Change – excellent, especially if you remember the time and the tune.


Here are the photos from week 25….. although it’s too sunny to Flickr the 117 photos from yesterday’s walk, so you’ll have to wait for those. It’s time to paint the tree house.

Herefordshire Week 024: Tuesday 09 – Monday 15 June 2020

Birds. ASDA. Mowing. Walks.


Bird bonanza this week.

Janet sent Phil a BTO email with a video feature on Identifying Great Spotted Woodpecker and Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. The key fact, loitering several minutes in, is that Greater Spotted are blackbird/thrush size, Lesser Spotted are sparrow size. Which means our two are Great Spotted Woodpeckers, one adult and one juvenile. It would explain why one of them seems to be leading each time the two of them visit the bird feeder, and occasionally passes peanuts to the other:

Greater spotted woodpeckers on the pear tree
Greater spotted woodpeckers on the pear tree

The new bird feeder is a hit with the smaller birds, blue tits and coal tits in particular. The great tits are a bit too big to fit inside the wire, so they and the nuthatches make the most of the other peanut feeder – when the squirrels or woodpeckers aren’t around. How To Tell The Difference Between Great Tits, Blue Tits And Coal Tits

Nuthatch on the bird feeder
Nuthatch on the bird feeder
Coal tit on the bird feeder
Coal tit on the bird feeder

The more humid weather has brought house martins, whizzing around over the patio and somehow managing to land safely up under the eaves, hanging onto the brickwork like spider man. I still find it hard to remember how to tell the difference: swifts, swallows and martins.

House Martin
House Martin

A more successful social life this week – VWW, family Zoom (special guests, Jo and Rosa), Skype with Rach, phone call with Tom. And on Sunday we chatted with the folks down at Yew Tree Cottage, who were making a start on their extension. Al fresco coffee is planned.


I went to Asda first thing on Friday to do an interim shop (mainly fruit), and was in the small queue that formed before they opened at 7am. About 10 people in there, which was fine by me. More masks.

Dropped a few things off with dad and Jean on the way home, and stayed for a cup of tea. Asda had tomato grow bags – they are the new toilet roll / tinned tomatoes / yeast / bread flour in terms of scarcity – so I bought two, one for me and one for Jean.

I left Dinedor with a “squirrel proof” bird feeder and tree netting from dad, and from Jean gorgeous sweet peas plus two pots of parsley and one of coriander – grown from seed.

Coal tit - Our first visitor on the NEW bird feeder
Coal tit – Our first visitor on the NEW bird feeder
Conservatory crops: Coriander, Parsley and Radishes
Conservatory crops: Coriander, Parsley and Radishes

Called in a Lock’s Garage on the way home to buy some eggs and they had free mini cucumbers and mange tout. The former got pickled on Saturday and the later are livening up lunches and dinners.

Later on on Friday we netted the cherry tree and I planted out my two tomato plants in the grow bag together with two of the chillies. On Saturday I took a leaf out of Primitive Technology‘s book and on my way from Stone Street to Canns Hill I picked up binder twine and cut hedgerow withies and used them to stake out my tomato plants.

Tomatoes and chillies, relocated and staked
Tomatoes and chillies, relocated and staked

The weather took a turn for the worse this week – lots of rain on Wednesday and really quite cold on Thursday. That said, the weekend’s rain didn’t arrive as often / for as long as forecast, so I postponed “computer time” (I was going to do my Blurb book for Nepal) and went out walking the lanes instead.

Saturday morning I did Thistly field – Camp Crossroads – Duffryn Farm – Cockyard – Stone Street – Kerry Gate, and Phil and I did the Bacton square on Sunday morning (although we got caught in heavy rain at Riverdale).

Monday morning’s attempt to get off the roads and onto some footpaths was frustrated by wet meadows and nettle-crowded stiles and paths. Still, did a good three hours over to Dulas / The Trout (as was) via Canns Hill and Cwm Road, and on to Ewyas Harold via the nature reserve and the footpath into the recreation ground, back over the Common on another new route.

The good news from EH is that The Old Stables is open again, for telephone orders – YAAAY!


Telly: we finished The Tunnel series 1 and started Succession series 2 (still SO GOOD). All the better for one of Phil’s best Friday night pizzas yet:

Friday Night Pizza
Friday Night Pizza

Podcasts: World Book Club (BBC) and On The Record (The National Archives). Gone off The Boring Talks – too knowing / self indulgent / making something out of nothing.


Monday afternoon mowed in the sunshine. Good timing as overnight Mon/Tues we were both woken up by a heavy downpour. The grass will love it, and I am hoping my lettuce and tomatoes have survived!


And on Sunday, I got the past three weeks of photos onto Flickr.

Here are the photos from week 24.

Herefordshire Week 023: Tuesday 02 – Monday 08 June 2020

Squirrel Wars. Bird watching. Herb Bed Extension.

A sort-of Socially Distanced BBQ.

Rain.


We continued our adventures in ice cream on Tuesday morning, with versatile vanilla. Jean’s old mixer is proving indispensable. Not only does it whizz up the egg yolks and sugar, but also the surplus-to-requirements egg whites, which this time got whipped up into amaretti biscuits. With hindsight, should have turned some of them into coconut macarooooooons. Next time.

Amaretti biscuits
Amaretti biscuits

Wednesday was historic occasion for bailing out of VWW due to patchy night’s sleep on Tuesday/Weds, but Family Zoom on Thursday was a good way to end the working week. And I haven’t spent all weekend turning work over in my mind, unlike last week.


Friday morning, Phil and I headed out on the Bacton square and in the afternoon, Squirrel Wars. As dad predicted, one of the at-least-five resident squirrels has discovered our peanut bird feeder. It’s not as though these are the ONLY nuts around – there are tree-fulls of them! Battle commenced with my shouting RAAAARRR through the windows ……I know…. completely ineffective, so on Saturday I “upgraded” to throwing pebbles in its general direction. My aim is useless, so I know it’s not in any real danger, but so far it’s not tested me out: it materialises under the bird feeder every now and again, but once I appear on the driveway it runs off.

Just after our return my dad turned up, and supervised while I created The Extension to the herb bed. Good timing as that’s chocabloc with green goodies, and there’s no room to plant out the next batch of little lettuces that are thriving in repurposed yoghurt pots, tonic bottles and an M&S Shortbread tray.

Herb Bed Extension - Stage 1
Herb Bed Extension – Stage 1

I am still loving watching the birds, and I’ve realised that I can get really quite close to the blue tits when they’re engrossed with feeding. They seem really quite chilled, hanging there on the wire container. We have a pair of lesser spotted / red woodpeckers visit too. When they turn up the smaller birds wait it out in the hedge or on the ground. Nuthatches, are generally next on the peanuts, together with coal tits and great tits, with robins and chaffinches feeding on spillage below and blackbirds and thrushes finding insects and worms in the grass.

A Pair of Greedy Blue Tits
A Pair of Greedy Blue Tits

One of the woodpeckers went BONK into the conservatory doors on Friday, so I got a close up through the lounge window:

Dazed woodpecker
Dazed woodpecker

I spent most of Saturday working through the final week of photos from last November’s Epic Trek-with-Ascents in Nepal, and finished writing it all up: Mera Peak – Amphu Lapsta Pass – Island Peak: Photos & Notes.

Me, Mera Peak ascent
Me, Mera Peak ascent

I am now desperate to get back to the mountains. Kanchenjunga N&S Base Camps is next on my list. Who knows when….

But first – I have to whittle down those 705 photos that are in my Nepal, November 2019 – Mera Peak, Amphu Lapsta, Island Peak album to a Blurb photo book.  I made a start on Saturday afternoon only to discover that BookSmart 4 has been replaced by BookWright. Whilst it’s fundamentally the same interface, with the invaluable connection into Flickr, it’s different enough to produce a painful learning curve. Particularly annoying that nothing created in BookSmart will open in BookWright, including My Layouts and previous projects. At least I can see preview previous photobooks to remember how I’d set them out, in terms of title page, chapters, and photo layouts.


Sunday afternoon we headed over to Dad and Jean’s for a Socially Distanced BBQ, which was lovely, if not entirely al fresco. We returned with spare old net curtains that we put over the cherry tree on Monday, plus rhubarb, radish and rocket seeds and two old patchwork cushions I made in my late teens.

No tomato plant compost at Lock’s though – disaster!

Sunday morning’s highlight was Phil putting up the Forty Acres sign he’d made. Looking very smart 🙂

Forty Acres - IT'S A SIGN!
Forty Acres – IT’S A SIGN!

As is the “Herb Bed Extension”. Sadly with my weedy arms, I had failed to dig up the grass after dad headed home on Friday and decided it would need to wait until after next weekend and the promised week+ of rain. Except driving back on Sunday evening we could see signs of heavy rain showers – puddles on the road and curtains of rain falling over Hay Bluff – which reached us an hour or so later and proceeded to deliver a deluge overnight.

So Monday was spent pottering around the garden, digging over The Extension and forking compost into it then planting out those little lettuces and upgrading the M&S tray’s seedlings to the yoghurt pots, and netting the cherry tree.

Herb Bed Extension - Stage 2
Herb Bed Extension – Stage 2
Herb Bed Extension - Stage 3
Herb Bed Extension – Stage 3

After lunch (featuring Mary’s Organic, Zero Air Miles Lettuce!) and a sunny hour’s snooze on the patio, I hauled out some of the weed from the big pond, discovered just how hard it was going to be to dig out the yellow flag iris from the small pond (needs someone with stronger arms than I have) and lopped off the damaged branches from the apple trees by the train set. Phil had worked his way round the burgeoning apple harvest reducing each batch to two.

Mary's Organic, Zero Air Miles Lettuce!
Mary’s Organic, Zero Air Miles Lettuce!

Telly: We started on The Trip to Greece, and The Tunnel. Both excellent, The Tunnel especially as it turns out 7 years is enough for me to have forgotten pretty much all of the plot from the Scandi-Noir original (except for the twist at the end). The fact that for the whole of the first episode, in my head I was watching Clémence Poésy play the Pas-de-Calais version of Sarah Lund might have helped my happy ignorance.

I listen to podcasts a lot. Monday’s gardening was accompanied by History Extra and The Boring Talks. Recent (re-)discoveries include Slate’s Hit Parade with Chris Molanphy plus Out of the Ordinary, and The History of English podcast continues its excellent in depth exploration of the history of the English Language. 130 hour-ish-long episodes in, and we’ve just got to Chaucer.


Update 14 June 2020

Here are the photos from week 23.

Mera Peak – Amphu Lapsta Pass – Island Peak: Photos & Notes

I wrote up my first(ish) impressions of last November’s four week trek-with-ascents in my Mera Peak – Amphu Lapsta Pass – Island Peak: We’re back blogpost.

This blogpost is my day by day account, with links to each day’s photos, of my trek with Steffi, Nicola, Ernst, Stuart and Paul, led by Val Pitkethly and Ang Chhering. Our trip was 31 days in total, with 26 days “on trek” including the driving from/to KTM.

Before we start, here’s the mark up of our route that Val added to my map – click through to zoom in on the detail in the original, on Flickr:

Mera Peak – Amphu Lapsta Pass – Island Peak: Our route
Mera Peak – Amphu Lapsta Pass – Island Peak: Our route

Scroll down to the end for details of which sections of Günter Seyfferth’s invaluable Die Berge des Himalaya website I’ve used in this write up and when identifying some of the mountain views in my photos.

If you just want to take a look at my photos you’ll find them in my Nepal, November 2019 – Mera Peak, Amphu Lapsta, Island Peak Flickr album. I’ve included some of Nicola’s too.


Wednesday, 30 October 2019: London – Dubai (Photos)

Steffi and I flew overnight from London Stansted to Dubai on Emirates EK068, landing in Dubai just after 7am on Thursday morning.

Thursday, 31 October 2019: Dubai (Photos)

We were even less enthusiastic about our unwanted extra day in Dubai after a fairly tortuous transfer to the hotel and check in experience – might as well not have bothered booking a room for the night before. But, ever keen to make the most of a bad lot, we had a couple of hours power napping then we took the hotel shuttle bus to The Dubai Mall to spend the afternoon in air con comfort. Coffee; a late lunch at the excellent, tucked out of sight, food court; dancing fountains and people watching all featured. As did lots of strolling, always slightly lost, around this multi-storeyed citadel of consumerism.

A dip in the rooftop pool preceded the You Booked Direct free aperitif accompanied by al fresco Waitrose nibbles – our attempts to track down a supermarket in The Dubai Mall having proved futile.

Overnight: Premier Inn, Dubai International Airport.

Friday, 01 November 2019: Dubai – Kathmandu (Photos)

Much more efficient hotel transfer to Dubai terminal 2 where we rendezvoused with Nicola for our 4 hour FlyDubai flight (EK2155 / FZ0575) to Kathmandu.

Endured an hour or so queue at immigration – hot and stuffy, and exacerbated by the arrival of 3 jumbo-worth of tourists – followed by the inevitable, domino effect, queue to get through the security scanners. At least, after all that, we didn’t have to wait for our luggage. Just find it…

A relief to spot Mingmi waiting for us, and a relatively quick jeep ride to the Marshyangdi.

Great to see Val waiting for us in reception. Rooms sorted – newly refurbished ones, LOVELY – speedy unpack and a cuppa, and down the road for dinner at the good old Thakali Bhanchha Ghar.

Overnight: Hotel Marshyangdi, Thamel.

Saturday, 02 November 2019: Kathmandu (Photos)

A rare extra day in KTM ahead of the trek, which gave us a bit more time to get over jet lag (just don’t mention the cooing PIGEONS!), a leisurely Marshyangdi buffet breakfast, and to hang out with Ernst!

Spent the morning in Val’s tender mercies – kit check, crampon fitting and shopping, settling up and changing trek spends into NPR. Plus packing… always a challenge. Thankfully big boots, crampons and ice axes were allowed into separate kit bags, but cramming the remaining 6000m gear into our usual kit bags was tricky. Extra layers, puffier down jackets etc.

Paul and Stuart arrived – first impressions: They’re GIANTS! Lovely men, both of them.

The afternoon was spent mainly faffing. Steffi, Nicola, Ernst and I headed out for coffee and cake in the Hotel Mandap’s garden bakery/cafe.

Early dinner back at Thakali Bhanchha Ghar. Early night. Early start tomorrow.

Overnight: Hotel Marshyangdi, Thamel.

Sunday, 03 November 2019: Kathmandu – Phaplu (Photos)

Trek Day 1

Route: Drive Kathmandu / काठमाडौं to Phaplu / फाप्लु (2500m) (9-10 hours).

Overnight: Numbur Guest House.

So, not really trekking. But getting closer to the start, and avoiding an internal flight and the attendant uncertainties / risks. Lunch in Okhaldhunga / ओखलढुङ्गा (1561m).

Monday, 04 November 2019: Phaplu (2500m) – Takshindo (2930m) – Kharikhola (2040m) (Photos)

Trek Day 2

Route: Drive from Phaplu / फाप्लु (2500m) to Takshindo / टाक्सिन्धु (2930m) via Ringmo / Rungmu / रिङमो and the Trakshingdo La / Takshingdo La / Takshindo La / Trakshindo La (3071m).

Trek to Kharikhola / Kharikola / खरीखोला (2040m) via Nuntala / Nunthala / नुनथला (2440m), Pipli Papli (lunch), Chhirdi (1500m) / Dudh Kosi river / दुध कोसी and Juving / Jubing / जुबिङ (1670m).

Overnight: Namaste Lodge / Snowland Cabins.

Tuesday, 05 November 2019: Kharikhola (2040m) – Panggom (2850m) (Photos)

Trek Day 3

Route: Trek to Pangkongma / Pangom / Panggom / पन्गोम (2850m). Visit Gompa – Tashi Sangag Chholing monastery.

Camp: Hotel Panggom Inn.

Wednesday, 06 November 2019: Panggom (2850m) – Najingdingma (2730m) (Photos)

Trek Day 4

Route: Trek to Najing / Najingdingma (2730m) via Pangkongma La / Panggom La (3174m), Sibuje / Chatuk / सिबुजे (2770m), Inkhu Khola / Hinku Khola river (2028m).

Lunch at Mera Peak Lodge & Restaurant, Waku 4, Inkhu River / Mapya Dudhkoshi R.M.-7, Sibuje, down at the Inkhu Khola bridge.

Camp: Mera Hotel & Restaurant camp.

Thursday, 07 November 2019: Najingdingma (2730m) – Chalem Kharka (3250m) (Photos)

Trek Day 5

Route: Trek to Chholem / Chalem Kharka (3250m) via Surke La / Surkie La / Spiki La / Charakot Pass (3085m) and Phokte (lunch).

Camp: Himalayan Lodge camp.

Friday, 08 November 2019: Chalem Kharka (3250m) – Khola Kharka / Chanbu Kharka (4200m) (Photos)

Trek Day 6

Route: Trek to Khola Kharka / Chanbu Kharka (4200m) via Pokta La (c. 4500m), Panch Pokhari La (c. 4600m) and the Panch Pokhari / Five Lakes (4336m).

Camp: New Mera Lodge camp.

Saturday, 09 November 2019: Khola Kharka / Chanbu Kharka (4200m) – Kothe (3600m) (Photos)

Trek Day 7

Route: Trek to Gotay / Khote / Kote / Kothe (3600m)

High trail above the Hinku Khola / Inkhu Khola, dropping down through the Mojang Forest to lunch at the bridge over the Mojang Khola.

Camp: Sherpa Hotel & Lodge camp.

Sunday, 10 November 2019: Kothe (3600m) – Thangnak (4350m) (Photos)

Trek Day 8

Route: Trek up the Hinku Khola valley to Tagnag / Thangnag / Tangnag / Thangnak (4350m). Lunch at Gondishung / Godishung Gompa (4161m).

Camp: Pemba Dickie’s Tagnag Lodge camp.

Monday, 11 November 2019: Thangnak (4350m) (Photos)

Trek Day 9

Route: Acclimatisation day at Tagnag / Thangnag (4350m).

Hike up towards the moraines below Kusum Kanguru to the cairns at 5025m.

Camp: Pemba Dickie’s Tagnag Lodge camp.

Tuesday, 12 November 2019: Thangnak (4350m) – Khare (5000m) (Photos)

Trek Day 10

Route: Trek to Khare / खरे (5000m), via Dig Kharka.

Camp: Pemba Dickie’s Khare Lodge camp.

Wednesday, 13 November 2019: Khare (5000m) (Photos)

Trek Day 11

Route: Acclimatisation day and skills training, Khare / खरे (5000m).

Morning: Acclimatisation hike above the Hinku Shar / Khare Glacier system to c. 5400m.

Afternoon: Training with crampons and ropes (jumar up, karabiner across, abseil down).

Camp: Pemba Dickie’s Khare Lodge camp.

Thursday, 14 November 2019: Khare (5000m) – Mera La (5415m) – Mera La camp (5350m) (Photos)

Trek Day 12

Route: Trek over Mera moraine to crampon point, onto glacier/snow and climb snow slopes to the Mera La (5415m). Drop down off glacier to Mera La camp (5350m).

Crossing from the West to the East side of Mera La takes you from the Hinku Valley and into the Hongu Valley.

Camp: Mera La camp.

Friday, 15 November 2019: Mera La camp (5350m) – Mera Peak High Camp (5800m) (Photos)

Trek Day 13

Route: Climb easy snow slopes to Mera Peak High Camp (5800m).

Camp: Mera Peak High Camp.

Saturday, 16 November 2019: Mera Peak High Camp (5800m) – Mera Peak (Mera Central, 6461m) – Kongma Dingma (4850m) (Photos)

Trek Day 14 – Summit Day

Route: Mera Peak High Camp (5800m) – Mera Peak (Mera Central, 6461m) – Mera La (5415m) – Kongma Dingma (4850m)

Described as “Climb easy-angled snow slopes and short steeper section to summit Mera Peak.” Incredibly hard work at this altitude – each step felt like it was the last one I could take. But, roped up with Chhering and Nicola, I did it.

Mera Peak / मीरा पीक has multiple summits – we did Mera Central (6461m). As always, Günter Seyfferth’s Die Berge des Himalaya (The mountains of Himalaya) is invaluable for its annotated photos and maps. Here’s his page on Mera Peak.

Then a long descent to Mera La (5415m) and off the glacier down by our previous camp for a really, really long descent into the Hongu Valley to camp at Kongma Dingma / Kongme Dingma (4850m).

A long day: Wake up call / bed tea at 2.30am, into KD around 4pm. Bed around 7pm?

A fantastic day.

Camp: Kongma Dingma camp.

Sunday, 17 November 2019: Kongma Dingma (4850m) (Photos)

Trek Day 15

Route: Rest day Kongma Dingma / Kongme Dingma (4850m).

Camp: Kongma Dingma camp.

Monday, 18 November 2019: Kongma Dingma (4850m) – Seto Pokhari (5035m) (Photos)

Trek Day 16

Route: Trek to Seto Pokhari (5035m).

Seto Pokhari means White Lake, appropriate given it is frozen.

Camp: Seto Pokhari camp.

Tuesday, 19 November 2019: Seto Pokhari (5035m) – Amphu Lapsta Base Camp, South (c. 5600m) (Photos)

Trek Day 17

Route: Trek north up the Hongu Valley before turning north west off the main glaciated valley and climbing to lunch at Panch Pokhari. Big Baruntse views. Trek to Amphu Lapsta / Amphu Lapste / Amphu Labtsa / Amphu Lapcha / Amphu Labcha Base Camp (South) (c. 5600m).

Camp: Amphu Lapsta Base Camp (South).

Wednesday, 20 November 2019: Amphu Lapsta Base Camp, South (c. 5600m) – Amphu Lapsta (5780m) – Imja Khola camp (c. 5000m) (Photos)

Trek Day 18

Route: Cross Amphu Lapsta / Amphu Lapste / Amphu Labtsa / Amphu Lapcha / Amphu Labcha (5780m). Descend to Imja Khola camp (c. 5000m).

Crossing the pass entailed crunching over moraine, then rope and crampons to jumar up the glacier snow slopes to the pass.

On the Imja Khola side, a steep, steep descent clipped onto a roped route, with a short abseiling section over large rock outcrop.

Once down in the bowl of the Ambulapcha glacial valley, it was an easy but long trek over sand then turf towards Imja Tsho’s southern moraine wall before heading west to reach camp next to the Imja Khola. Another long day.

Camp: Imja Khola camp.

Thursday, 21 November 2019: Imja Khola camp (c. 5000m) – Island Peak Base Camp (5100m) (Photos)

Trek Day 19

Route: Trek to Island Peak Base Camp (5100m)

Ernst was helicoptered down to the hospital at Khunde, and the rest of us crossed the Imja Khola and the glacier’s moraine debris and did the gentle stroll over up the other side of the Imja Tsho to get to Island Peak Base Camp. Busy! After lunch, Nicola and I settled in to camp and to prep for tomorrow’s ascent, Steffi and Stuart opting to head back down to Chukhung (4730m) for a couple of rest days.

Camp: Island Peak Base Camp.

Friday, 22 November 2019: Island Peak Base Camp (5100m) – Chukhung (4730m) (Photos)

Trek Day 20

Route: Climb Island Peak – if you’re Nicola and Chhering! I started, but turned back after 45 mins or so – I just didn’t have any energy. Trek to Chukhung (4730m). Tea and apple cake with Steffi and Stuart.

Camp: Chukhung Cafe & Snooker House camp.

Saturday, 23 November 2019: Chukhung (4730m) – Phortse (3840m) (Photos)

Trek Day 21

Route: Trek to Phortse / फोर्छे (3840m) via Dingboche / दिङबोचे (4410m), Shomare (4136m) (lunch) and Pangboche / पाङबोचे (4030m) and Pangboche Gompa.

Overnight: Namaste Lodge.

Sunday, 24 November 2019: Phortse (3840m) – Monjo (2840m) (Photos)

Trek Day 22

Route: Monjo / Monzo / Manjo / मान्जो (2840m) via Dudh Koshi river (bridge), Phortse Thanga (3680m), Mong La (3975m), Kyangjungma / Kyangjuma / Kyanjuma (3620m) and Namche Bazaar / नाम्चे बजार (3440m, lunch), Larcha Dovan (2935m) and Sagarmatha National Park Entry, Jorsalle / जोरसल्ले.

Our last night together with the full crew – so it was time to party!

Overnight: Monjo Guest House Eco-Lodge.

Monday, 25 November 2019: Monjo (2840m) – Pakhepani (2710m) (Photos)

Trek Day 23

Route: Trek to Pakhepani (2710m) via Benkar / बेन्कार, Phakding (2639m), Choplung / Chheplung / Cheplung / छेप्लुङ् (2660m, lunch) and Surke / Surkhe / सुर्के (2290m).

We said farewell to Ernst, Chhering and Budi before we left Monjo, and to Stuart and Tenzi after lunch in Chheplung. Ernst had extra time to take its easy for a few more days, and Stuart and Tenzi were braving the Lukla-KTM flight. Steffi and I kept our fingers crossed for good weather for them all.

Overnight: Khumbu View Lodge.

Tuesday, 26 November 2019: Pakhepani (2710m) – Nuntala (2440m) (Photos)

Trek Day 24

Route: Trek to Nuntala / Nunthala / नुनथला (2440m) via Chutok La (2775m), Paiyan / Puiya / Paiya / Puiyan / Poyan / Poyen / पैया (2770m), Khari La / Kare La / Kari La (2840m), Bupsa (2360m), Kharikhola / Kharikola / खरीखोला (2040m, lunch), Jubing / Juving / जुभिङ (1670m) and Chhirdi (1500m) / Dudh Kosi river / दुध कोसी.

We said farewell to Val and Despier before we left Pakhepani. A long day – we were walking in the dark for the last hour.

Overnight: Shangrila Guest House.

Wednesday, 27 November 2019: Nuntala (2440m) – Takshindo (2930m) – Khurkot (Photos)

Trek Day 25

Route: Trek to Takshindo / टाक्सिन्धु (2930m).

Drive to Phaplu / फाप्लु (2500m) via the Trakshingdo La / Takshingdo La / Takshindo La / Trakshindo La (3071m) and Ringmo / Rungmu / रिङमो.

Drive to Khurkot / खुर्कोट via Okhaldhunga / ओखलढुङ्गा जिल्ला

Overnight: “Khurkot Roadside Motel”.

Thursday, 28 November 2019: Khurkot – Kathmandu (Photos)

Trek Day 26

Route: Drive to Kathmandu / काठमाडौं.

CLEAN CLOTHES.

HAIR WASH.

We had the traditional last night feast at The Mandap, hosted by Tenzi. A bit strange to be without Val and Chhering.

Overnight: Hotel Marshyangdi, Thamel.

Friday, 29 November 2019: Kathmandu – London (No photos)

Route: Fly Kathmandu – Doha – London

Qatar Airways QR 0653: KTM 11:25 – DOH 14:35 (5h 55m), then Qatar Airways QR 0015: DOH 15:50 – LHR 20:25 (7h 35m). Steffi and I said our farewells at the airport, then I took the tube home.

Overnight: Home!


Resources

I cannot recommend highly enough Günter Seyfferth’s Die Berge des Himalaya (The mountains of Himalaya) website with its annotated maps and photos. The following are the pages covering key elements of our route.

The Hinku Valley including Kothe, Thangnak and Khare

Mera La and Mera Peak, plus upper sections of the Hinku and Hongu valleys

Hongu Valley and Amphu Lapsta

  • Makalu Region – Kangshug, Barun, Hongu Valley: G. The Hongu Khola Valley (Hunku Khola) (includes Baruntse and Amphu Lapsta)
  • Amphu Labsta pass and in particular photos:
    • (7) View from Amphu Labtsa north to east
    • (11) Looking south from Amphu Labtsa into the western area of ​​the upper Hunku Valley with Chamlang and Peak 41
    • (10) View from Amphu Labtsa to the southeast with Westcol and Chamlang
    • (14) View from Amphu Labtsa to west-southwest with Kangtega and Ama Dablam

Island Peak and the Imja Khola and Dudh Kosi valleys from Chukhung to Namche


Not surprisingly, having just spent a chunk of time revisiting this trek, I am now desperate to get back to the mountains…. I doubt it will be this year, but Kanchenjunga south and north base camps with possible extension to exit via the Wolungchu valley is TOP of my list now.