Where next: Manaslu Circuit, Nepal (2nd attempt!)

We’ve pencilled in the dates and destination for my third trek planned for 2018. I think I can just about eke out my LW vacation days to cover it… Details  of the other two trips will materialise once they firm up.

Destination: Manaslu Circuit, Nepal.

When: November 2018.

What: The Manaslu Circuit with Val, Steffi and Charles. Our 2nd attempt.

How: With Val Pitkethly and Sirdar Chhiring, who else?!

We’re allowing three and a half weeks to complete the Manaslu Circuit (excellent map) anticlockwise around the mighty Manaslu (मनास्लु) – the eighth highest mountain in the world (8163 m / 26781 ft) – and including a rest day in KTM at the start to get through the jetlag and to allow for more thoughtful repacking than we’ve managed previously!

Why: Same reasons as last time – primarily more high altitude trekking in the Himalaya, plus some “Val specials” in an area where Light Education Development (LED) funds have provided school and medical supplies for many years – plus it means I’ll cover one more one more section of the GHT….

Itinerary: Who knows – it’s Val!

Dolpo Expedition: Packing

I’ve spent today packing. Even though it’s a week or so before we fly to Kathmandu, today / tomorrow was my only chance before Steffi and Sam arrive from Far West Wales.

When we met up in March, Val had given me a holdall of LED* stuff (including a box of donated eye glasses and 10 or so of the inflatable LuminAID solar lights) to take out, and last Tuesday I’d picked up a large suitcase and a big M&S Christmas Carrier Bag full of clothes donated by Sonal and her friends. Getting all of that into my 75 litre Karrimor rucksack, and handbaggage, was looking like a Herculean Challenge…

But with the help of 3 of those vacuum storage bags which you put clothes in and then suck the air out of, plus (wo)man power from Silver Surfer Jean and (vitally!) her hoover, I’ve managed to compress a bunch of the warmest coats/jackets/fleece tops etc so that I can fit as much as possible in, and still have room for my own kit.

So. Kit. What am I taking? We’re away for 31 days, it’s a portered trek and the weather’s wintry:

  • Update from Val today: OK there is heaps of snow and we’ve had lots of rain so I’m hoping that with your arrival it will all start to clear up and be good normal weather.
  • Mark Horrell’s blogpost about his recent Langtang trek: The 3 curses of the Himalayan snow
  • Yr.No weather forecast for Dolpā (Altitude: 4857 m)

    Dolpo Expedition: Long term forecast for Dolpā, Mid West (Nepal)
    Yr.No Long term forecast for Dolpā, Mid West (Nepal)

Well, I took photos as I packed:

Dolpo Expedition: Packing
Dolpo Expedition: Packing

And used my trusty kit list spreadsheet, which translated into this packing:

Documents & paperwork

  • Passport
  • Insurance Policy
  • Tickets / Flight confirmation email
  • Vaccinations log book
  • 6 x passport photos for park permit & tourist visa (on arrival)
  • KTM contact details
  • Emergency family contacts
  • Photos of home
  • Travel diary & pens
  • Envelopes + postcards for tips

Money

  • GBP
  • USD
  • NPR
  • Credit card
  • Debit card

Travel clothes / KTM & Pokhara

  • Cargo trousers, T-shirt, Grey zip top (plus trek boots and socks I don’t mind walking around the aeroplane in)
  • Orange check shirt
  • Long sleeve T shirt

Trek clothes

  • 2 pairs of trekking trousers
  • 2 x microfibre trekking T-shirts
  • 2 x T-shirts
  • 1 Fleece zip top
  • Thermals: leggings + long sleeved microfibre top + thicker Icebreaker top
  • Down jacket
  • Gloves (1x mittens; 1 x red fleece)
  • Warm hat
  • Buff
  • Goretex jacket
  • Waterproof trousers
  • Gaiters (new ones, an early birthday present from TJBR)
  • Windproof / showerproof jacket
  • Sun hat
  • Sunglasses (1 x normal for KTM/POK; 1 x Julbo for snow/sun/altitude)
  • 16 pairs pants
  • 3 x bras
  • 4 pairs walking socks
  • handkerchief x 2

Sleeping

  • Silk sleep sheet
  • Sleeping bag fleece liner
  • PJ bottoms x 2 (1 x trek; 1 x KTM / POK)
  • T shirts x 2 (1 x trek; 1 x KTM / POK)

Footwear

  • Trekking boots
  • Adventure sandals
  • Yaktrax (and planning to buy some spikeys in KTM/POK if the conditions still look super snowy)

Plus

  • Trekking poles
  • 2 x Muji metal water bottles
  • Head torch + spare batteries (3xAAA)
  • Watch with alarm
  • Swiss Army knife

Toiletries etc

  • Flannel & soap in ziplock bag
  • Hair brush & comb
  • Elastic hair bands & hair clip
  • Travel towel (microfibre cloth)
  • Hair towel
  • Toothbrush & toothpaste
  • Deodorant (stick)
  • Tampons & disposal bags
  • Shampoo & conditioner (3 sample sachets of each)
  • Sunscreen & lip screen
  • 8 hour moisturising cream (always!!!)
  • Normal moisturiser
  • Antiseptic handwash
  • Wet wipes (biodegradable)
  • Loo roll / tissues
  • Ear plugs
  • Laundry liquid
  • Washing up gloves

Bags

  • Rucksack (to leave in POK)
  • Nisamax holdall (Val’s)
  • Daypack
  • Black travel bag
  • Money belt
  • Plastic carrier bags (always more than I think I’ll need, in all sizes)
  • Travel purse x 2 (GBP / Nepali Rupees)

First aid kit (in plastic grab bag)

  • Antiseptic wipes
  • Paracetamol (headaches)
  • Diamox
  • Antihistamine pills
  • Diarrhoea stopper (Immodium)
  • Rehydration sachets
  • Ibuprofen gel
  • Compeed
  • Plasters
  • Aspirin (3 tablets for the  journey home, vs DVT after 3 weeks at altitude)

Electricals and gadgets

  • Camera, cables, battery recharger, plug adapter
  • Spare camera batteries – charged
  • Mobile phone (no charging kit – I’ll turn it off once we’re in KTM)
  • Earphones

I’m borrowing a sleeping bag, thermarest and (I hope!) kit bag from Val, who’s also providing travel scrabble and dice for Ten Thousand. I’ll buy a map out there and I’m hoping I’ll be able to squeeze in a couple of books, just in case Etihad’s in flight entertainment fails me. Plus we do have hours in Abu Dhabi in both directions.

And this list doesn’t include all the stuff I’m taking for Val/LED.


Feeling less stressed now that I’ve got my bags packed.

So that just leaves sorting out a birthday present for Rosa before I go…..


Packing List Update: 04 April 2017

  • 1 x pillow case (to turn spare clothes into a pillow)
  • 1 x nail clippers and nail file – usually on the list. I shall make room.
  • Elastic washing line. I am going to need to do some washing….

Light Education Development, the charity Val runs to bring affordable, sustainable solar light, education supplies and basic medical care to the Manaslu, Tsum, Solu and Humla regions of northern Nepal, yak herders in highland areas of the Himalaya, and the high mountain villages of the Cordillera Blanca and Huayhuash in Northern Peru. I’m a trustee.

Dolpo Expedition: Prep

A month to go until my Dolpo Expedition with Val Pitkethly, and Steffi, Sam, Charles, Christine and the as-yet-unmet-Ernst.

I’ve paid our deposit (I hope!! *), done DIY Passport Photos and decided I don’t need any more jabs – partly because the travel clinic at my GP now only operates on Wednesday afternoons, which is useless given it takes 20 mins to get there/back from work and they never keep to the appointment schedule. My premium LV= annual travel insurance covers me trekking to 6000m, does mountain rescue and runs until September, so that’s all the “admin” done and I’m now at the more pleasurable “collecting kit on the spare bed” stage (and pondering my “Kit To Take” spreadsheet) and keeping an eye on the weather:

Here are the Yr.No Nepal weather map and their forecasts for ….

… and the Google map, centred on Dolpā:

Val’s got three alternate routes mapped out, and has warned that this winter Nepal saw the heaviest snowfall in 20 years, but that last summer’s wild fires made Phoksundo (फोकसुण्डो) inaccessible. Hence the options, and the plan to purchase microspikes / spikys in KTM…. At least the suggestion of taking walking ice axes seems to have receded into the distance. Well, at least until Val gets to Nepal in a few weeks time.

It will be lovely to see Chhiring, Gori and hopefully Krishna again, and – all being well – to do some solar light distribution for Val’s charity, Light Education Development (LED) in this remote part of Nepal. I’ve got a whole bag of warm clothing donated by friends (and friends of friends) to take out with me too.

Now, back to working out that packing….

* 11 March 2017: Got an email from Val today confirming the money’s arrived. Phew. And thank you to FairFX for handling the International Money Transfer for me. Recommended! I used them to get travel cash delivered to the door too.

Where next: Dolpo, Nepal

The first big trip of 2017 will be the long awaited Dolpo expedition – four weeks trekking in the Dolpa (Dolpā, डोल्पा) district of Nepal and into Upper / Inner Dolpo (དོལ་པོ ). Flights booked today, which makes this trip “confirmed” in my book!

Destination: Dolpa, northern Nepal.

When: April / May 2017

Why: Because it’s been somewhere I’ve wanted to trek in for ages, ever since we did the return leg of the Annapurna Circuit and gazed at the mountains on the western side of the Kali Gandaki river…. and Christine and Val decided that 2017 would be The Year, and Steffi and Charles persuaded me that it wasn’t going to get any cheaper! This last factor after the Nepali Government introduced permit fees for Lower Dolpo, on top of last year’s increase to $500++ for Upper Dolpo.

How: With Val Pitkethly – who else!? Flights booked with Emirates via FlySharp / Kayak.

Highlights:

Weather: Yr.no forecast for Dolpā, Mid West (Nepal)

Map: Google map of Dolpa, Nepal

Manaslu Circuit Trek: Turned out to be “On and Off the Beaten Track through Solukhumbu”

I spent three weeks in April/May on another great trek with Val Pitkethly, and in the company of two familiar faces from last spring’s Tsum Valley Trek – sirdar Chhiring and cook Krishna.

But instead of tackling the Manaslu Circuit as planned, Steffi, Charles and I spent three weeks with Val and our trek crew trekking off and on the beaten track in the Everest area, ending up in one of the remote valleys below the Renjo La that lead to the glacier-passes to Tibet.

Remote valley views
Remote valley views

On the beaten track you could easily forget about the earthquake (and then you’d find a house/stupa in ruins). Off it, people are still sleeping out under tarps and tents, too scared to sleep in their houses.

LED solar light checks, Upper Bhote Kosi valley
LED solar light checks, Upper Bhote Kosi valley

Val and Chhirring did solar light distribution and checking/repairs/replacement all the way, and we were often invited into homes and tarp-tents to be thanked with tea by ladies living solitary lives tending their family’s yaks in their summer pastures way up high in the region’s remote valleys. A hard life for humans and animals – ongoing drought meant that vegetation was sparse, and what there was had dried to a crisp.

LED solar light distribution, Upper Thame valley
LED solar light distribution, Upper Thame valley

Some of the other main memories: Stunning rhododendrons; Steffi and Chhiring Pilates Planking; Jack, Nikolai and Lubko (how could we forget you?); potatoes….; a Krishna-Cake for my birthday in Bhulbhule; that bird call; dice games galore; coffee, cake and wifi in Namche; actually seeing Namche, and the Kongde Ri; exciting river crossings; three sick days; “last night” dancing party in Lukla, loads of amazing views…. and al fresco loos.

Rhododendrons en route to Bhulbhule
Rhododendrons en route to Bhulbhule

So how come we switched from Manaslu to Solukhumbu?

I caught up with Val just before she headed out to Nepal a couple of days ahead of us. Our plan to do the Manaslu Circuit was off – there had been some big landslides in the previous couple of weeks which made some sections of the trail difficult underfoot, even for the people who live there, plus Val was worried that there could be more landslides.

So we were on Plan B: Solukhumbu.

Val knew Steffi, Charles and I had all been to the area before – Steffi and I met her (and each other) on the Three High Passes to Everest trek in 2011 – and so Val had planned out an alternative route which would have some familiar names but the places in between would be new to us, and off the beaten track as far as possible.

All being well, we’d get stunning views and the opportunity to deliver / check / repair / replace some of simple solar lights that Val’s charity – Light Education Development (LED) – provides to some of the region’s most remote communities.

And we did.

From the road head at Dhap we trekked to Junbesi via PK / Pikey Peak (aka Off the Beaten Track, part 1), then took the main trail to Namche, north west into the Thame Valley and up the Bhote Kosi towards Lungden (On the Beaten Track, part 1) before heading off the (relatively) popular route to explore the remote valleys beyond Arye (Off the Beaten Track, part 2).

Our return route back down to Thame took us high, high above the Bhote Kosi valley, and we headed back to Namche via Khunde and breakfast with Dr Kami Temba at Kunde Hospital (Not sure if that classifies as On or Off the Beaten Track!).

The final section – Namche to Lukla – was always going to be On the Beaten Track (part 2) – and The Big Question for Steffi and I was whether we’d actually get to fly fixed wing back to Kathmandu…. which we did….. just…. but only after almost two days of increasingly agonised waiting featuring a day of low cloud and hail, a premature farewell party with our crew and lots of time in the dining room of the Lukla Numbur Hotel. Next time I’m insisting we plan on walking back out right from the get go.

Our time in Nepal over, we were treated to wonderful Himalayan views out of the window of our Jet Airways flight to Delhi, although we did almost lose Charles in the international transfer “process”.

Steffi wrote up our trip for the LED website and Charles’ photos are in his (private) SoluKhumbu Trek, 2016 Flickr album. I fear my photos and notes will be a time coming yet…. [and it’s August 2016 now]