Mera Peak – Amphu Lapsta Pass – Island Peak: We are back!

A great trip.

I made it to the top of Mera Peak (6476m) and Steffi got to 6300m. Magic views, as Charles promised.

Stuart, Chhering, Nicola and me, Mera Peak
Stuart, Chhering, Nicola and me, Mera Peak
Looking north from Mera Peak
Looking north from Mera Peak

The Amphu Lapsta pass was hard – clipping/unclipping on fixed lines, abseiling / lowered over a huge rock outcrop – with lots of the snow/glacier had gone on both sides, making it harder. A sheer drop down from the precipitous pass (5845m) down into the valley, 600m below.

Val, Amphu Lapsta Pass
Val, Amphu Lapsta Pass
Steffi and Bhudi, Amphu Lapsta Pass ascent
Steffi and Bhudi, Amphu Lapsta Pass ascent

Too tired to attempt Island Peak. Also that’s become far more technical with snow / ice loss too.

BIG congrats to Nicola for managing all three.

It was the hardest trip I’ve done – eight days / nights over 5000m, including Mera Peak High Camp 5800m and Amphu Lapsta Base Camp 5600m. Walking out was 4 l-o-n-g days too. One evening we ended up doing the last hour in the dark, with head torches. Uphill, OF COURSE!!!

Very, very pleased I was able to get to the top of Mera, but Amphu Lapsta was a whole heap more complicated than anyone anticipated. I loved working with crampons, ice axes and ropes. Could do with more practice abseiling mind you!

Map with our anticlockwise route from Phaplu and back
Map with our anticlockwise route from Phaplu and back

I shall be making good use of Günter Seyfferth’s excellent website – Die Berge des Himalaya (The mountains of Himalaya) – to identify the mountains we could see on our Mera and Amphu Lapsta days.

Mera Peak – Amphu Lapsta Pass – Imja Tse: Final Update

I have somewhat belatedly realised that I’ve not actually posted up details of Val’s planned route for this year’s trek encompassing Mera PeakAmphu Lapsta PassImja Tse / Island Peak.

(Am I allowed to call it A Climb? An Expedition? It feels more than a simple trek, and definitely represents a step up from previous trips. About 800m up from my previous high point – the Drölma La on the Mt Kailash Kora. And that didn’t require anything more than a daypack for 4 days. But I digress.)

Here’s a summary of the itinerary we got from Val back in January. I’m not sure how it will spread out over the 27 days we have between leaving Kathmandu for Paphlu and returning to Kathmandu. The Trakshindo to Kharikhola section is familiar from 2011 and 2016, as is Chukhung to Namche (2011), and Namche to Lukla (both trips).

  • Drive to to Paphlu (2500m) (9-10 hours). If we arrive early enough, trek to Trakshindo, otherwise stay in Phaplu.
  • Trek to Kharikhola (2069m) or Nuntala (2200m) depending on where we camp previous night, via the Trakshindo La pass (3071m) and we will drop some solar lights at one of the communities on the way.
  • Trek to Pangkongma / Pangom (2850m) little settlement above Kharikhola where we camp near the Gompa.
  • Depending on how everyone is doing I have 2 routes for days 5 & 6:
    Option A
    – Trek to Ning So (2850m) via Pangkongma La (3174m), steep descent to the village of Sibuje (2770 m) then undulating trail through the forested river valley to Ning So (2850m).
    – Trek to ‘Jungle Camp’ (3160m) via a tea house at 3280 m and high point of the day at 3350 m. Steep descent back to the river. After lunch undulations through the forest with some steep sections of trail to ‘Jungle Camp’ (3160m).
    Option B: Trek via Nashing Dingma, Chlum Kharak and Chumbu Kharaka
  • Trek to Gotay (3600m) following the Hinku Khola
  • Trek to Tagnag / Thangnag (4350m) beside the Hinku River to the small gompa at Gondishung. From the gompa it is an hour’s walk over moraines to the Yak herders settlement of Tagnag.
  • Acclimatisation day at Tagnag / Thangnag. Day trip up towards the moraines below Kusum Kanguru (6367 m). Practise with ropes and harnesses and crampons after lunch.
  • Trek beside the Dig Glacier to Khare (5000m).
  • Acclimatisation day and skills training, with more practice techniques and safety procedures to be used on our climbs.
  • Climb to the Mera La (5415m). Overnight at Val’s Mera La camp.
  • Climb easy snow slopes on Mera Peak to a high camp (5800m).
  • Climb easy-angled snow slopes and short steeper section to Mera Peak central summit (6476m) or north summit. Long descent to Mera La (5415m) and on down to Khare (5000m).
  • We have some spare days and depending on weather we may take a day after the climb resting before heading up the Hongu Valley.
  • We spend the next few days trekking up the Hongu Valley via a few camps (1) one very close to Chamlung BC (2) another one close to Baruntse and (3) a further one situated below Amphu Lapsta.
  • Cross Amphu Lapsta and descend into the Imjatse valley opposite Imja Tse / Island Peak. Camp Island Peak BC.
  • Climb Imja Tse / Island Peak (6183m) from BC or move up to HC and climb from there.
  • Trek Island Peak BC to Lukla via Chukung / Chukhung (4730m), Dingboche (4410m), Kyangjungma and Namche (3440m), Monjo / Manjo (2835m) over 3 long days.
  • Walk from Lukla to roadhead.
  • Drive from roadhead to Kathmandu.

Severe gales (up to 95 km /hr) were forecast for Mera Peak last week and this…. Not quite so fierce on Imja Tse (Island Peak).

Mera Peak (6476m) weather forecast
Mera Peak (6476m) weather forecast

In other news, I bought my travel insurance from the BMC (Alpine & Ski cover) last Tuesday and my La Sportiva G2 SM mountaineering boots plus ski goggles, fleece balaclava and hand/foot warmers arrived on Wednesday. Excellent service from Expedition Kit Hire and FedEx.

Packed today. Buying Dirhams tomorrow morning and going out for dinner at the Saravana Bhavan tomorrow evening.

All set!

Mera Peak – Amphu Lapsta Pass – Imja Tse: Flight Change & Training Weekend

It feels like our flights for this year’s big trip are cursed.

I got a text on Wednesday from GoToGate, who we booked our new flights with back in April when Jet suspended their flight operations, advising that there had been a change to our flight schedule and to check my email for details.

Now, normally when I get these emails, the flights have moved by a matter of minutes, occasionally an hour or two.

Not so this time. Our outbound flight to Dubai has been cancelled and we’ve been offered the same flight 24 hours earlier. Not only that, but our onward flight from DXB to KTM had been moved from early morning to midday, arriving into KTM at 6pm. Thanks Emirates. Our choices were to accept the new flights and sort out accommodation in Dubai at our own cost, or cancel one or both parts of our journey and book our own alternatives, although a refund of the cancelled flights wasn’t 100% certain.

Not a great choice really, and both Steffi and I were up to our eyeballs with work and family stuff.

Looking for positives, although leaving on the Wednesday rather than the Thursday would be a pain, at least it was doable for us both. I’ve been able to juggle my working days (although that does mean I lose the Monday I had set aside to pack, and the weekend before we go I’ll be in Northern Ireland for a birthday), and Steffi had booked the whole week off.

My initial thought was to take the main flight and book an onwards flight for the Thursday and ask Val to sort out an extra night’s accommodation in KTM. That way at least we’d be in KTM. I was influenced by the expectation that hotels in Dubai would be ex.pen.sive – Burj Khalifa, Jumeriah et al. But, when I googled Hotels Dubai International Airport I was pleasantly surprised, quickly homing in on the presence of the ever-reliable Premier Inn. Checking availability, prices and location on their website, I realised that staying in Dubai would be doable without breaking the bank, and may well come in cheaper than cancelling our DXB-KTM flight and booking a new one.

So that’s what we decided to do: take the alternative flights offered by Emirates, and book 2 nights in Dubai International Airport Premier Inn – 2 nights meaning we can get a room as soon as we’ve landed and cleared immigration and baggage collection (2 minor minuses with staying in Dubai is that we have to do that, which is a pain), worth it given we land at 7.10am and Premier Inn checkin is 2pm. They provide free transfers between the airport and the hotel, and it’s only 10-15 min journey.

But inevitably it was not smooth sailing putting this plan into action.

The GoToGate email instructions were to respond to the email confirming our course of action within 6 days. By the time Steffi and I had conferred it was Thursday. No problem, I emailed them with our decision then and there. Five days left to go.

Thursday I heard nothing,

Friday, nothing – and Phil and I headed north to spend the weekend in Leith with Sue. Checking my junk mail every 30 mins brought no joy and the stress began to build. What if GTG were having trouble getting seats on the alternative flights? What if we wouldn’t be able to get to KTM in time for the trek? Had I lost Steffi and me another £60 each, having already booked the hotel on Thursday….. What if they hadn’t actually received my email at all?

So after a terrible night’s sleep Fri/Sat I decided I had to call GTG – assuming I could find a number, and even if that meant sitting on hold for hours.

I should be more positive. The phone number was easy to find, was a “normal” rather than premium rate number, and within a minute or so of navigating the automated call menu I was speaking with a very calm and reassuring lady. She could see my email, and confirmed they’d rebook us on the offered flights – there was no risk that we’d be left in limbo. PHEW.

Her confirmation email came straight after the call, and although it took a few days to get the updated confirmation PDF from GTG, once we were home I was able to log into the booking and see we were on the new flights. From there to the Emirates site to download our boarding passes and to book new seats – no need! We’d got the same ones as I’d booked for the original flights. Neither planes look very busy at all, which may explain the cancellation…. I’d half wondered if the main flight cancellation might be Brexit related.

Let’s hope that’s it for the flight stress.

(OK – we’ve still got Yukla in the schedule, but that’s Val’s responsibility.)

(And annoyed that we paid more for a flight without the inconvenience of a layover, and have ended up with one.)

So now I can start to ponder how we might spend our day in Dubai. It’s been a long time since my one and only visit, but Janette’s been recently and tells me the metro makes it easy to get around, plus the hotel has a pool and plenty of food places nearby, and having booked direct we get 2-for-1 deals, which helps. One good thing about our new DXB-KTM flight is that we don’t have to get up at the crack of dawn to get to the airport for checkin.

I’ve bought new Stansted Express tickets and Steffi’s changed her train to arrive on the Tuesday.

Let’s hope that’s it for travel plan changes.

In the meantime I’ve been buying USD daily via the ever reliable Thomas Exchange Global to try to even out exchange rate fluctuations (thank you Brexit; thank you Trump), and I’m writing this as my Virgin Train heads north to Penrith for a weekend’s walking and training with Val; Steffi and Nicola are coming too so that we can all get some practice in using ropes, harnesses, crampons and scrambling. We’ve also got a prelim kit check and I am sure we’ll be fine tuning our “getting the gear” plan, although I’m hoping Steffi and I will still be OK to hire kit from Val’s KTM contacts, to avoid having to lug it there and back. Let’s hope my birthday daypack passes muster.

Things left to do: buy Alpine & Ski Insurance from BMC. Pack. Buy UAE dirhams.

And in the background, at work David dropped his bombshell.

Post Lakes Training Weekend Update

  • We’re walking rather than flying from Lukla. GREAT!
  • Nicola’s on the same DXB-KTM flight. EXTRA GREAT!
  • The getting the gear plan is even less clear than it was before. And the trip cost has crept up again. NOT GREAT.

Training was fun.

Training for Mera Peak - Amphu Lapsta - Island Peak
Training for Mera Peak – Amphu Lapsta – Island Peak: Me, Steffi & Nicola at Near Howe

Manaslu & Tsum: Photos & Notes

I wrote up my first(ish) impressions of last November’s four week trek into Tsum and on around the Manaslu Circuit in my Manaslu & Tsum: We’re back blogpost.

This blogpost has the day by day account, with links to photos from the day. Scroll down to the end for Charles’ schematic map of our route, and for some of the useful resources I’ve used in this write up.

If you just want to take a look at my photos, you’ll find them, plus some lovely ones from Charles, Doug and Steffi, in my Nepal, November 2018 Flickr album.

The first and last sections of this trek involved retreading routes previously taken. I first trekked in the Tsum Valley with Hazel back in 2015 and my blogposts on our Tsum Valley trek with Val Pitkethly have all the details. Further back, in 2009,  Hazel and I spent three weeks trekking the Annapurna Circuit with Mountain Kingdoms. It was our first big trek and you can read about the trip in my Annapurna Circuit blogposts. A lot has changed in the intervening 3 / 9 years, as you’ll see from my Manaslu & Tsum: We’re back blogpost.

Here’s what I did on Val Pitkethly’s Manaslu and Tsum trek in November 2018, in the excellent company of Anne, Charles, Doug and Steffi.

Wednesday 31 October / Thursday 1 November 2018: London – Delhi – Kathmandu (photos)

LHR – DEL overnight flight on Air India AI 112.

DEL – KTM on Air India AI 215.

Overnight at the Hotel Marshyandi, Thamel.

Friday 2 November 2018: Kathmandu – Sotikhola (597 m) – Lapubesi (880 m) (photos)

Manaslu Circuit Day 1

Drive Kathmandu / काठमाडौं – Sotikhola / सोती खोला (597 m).

Route: Trek to Laupubensi / Lapubesi / लापुबेसी (880 m).

Camp: Laxshmi’s Lodge.

Saturday 3 November 2018: Lapubesi (880 m) – Yaruphant (1170 m) (photos)

Manaslu Circuit Day 2

Route: Laupubensi / Lapubesi / लापुबेसी (880 m) – Machhakhola / Machha Khola / मछाखोला (930 m) – Khorlabesi / Khorlabeshi / खोर्लाबेसी (970 m) – Tatopani / तातोपानी (990 m) – Dobhan / दोभान (1050 m) – Yaruphant / लापुबेसी (1170 m).

Camp: Between Yaru village and its bridge.

First (alleged) sighting of poisonous snakes. One of this trek’s recurring themes.

Sunday 4 November 2018: Yaruphant (1170 m) – Chisapani (1620 m) (photos)

Manaslu Circuit Day 3

Route: Yaruphant / लापुबेसी (1170 m) – Jagat / जगत (1340 m) – Sirdibas / सिर्दिबास (1420 m) – Philim / Phillim / फिलिम (1570 m) – Chisapani / चिसापानी (1620 m).

Camp: Mountain View Lodge.

We had a cup of tea to pass the time while Chhering dealt with the paperwork at the Manaslu Conservation Area Checkpoint on the way out of Jagat. And Welsh Whisky at Chisapani!

Monday 5 November 2018: Chisapani (1620 m) – Chumling (2385 m) (photos)

Manaslu Circuit Day 4 / Tsum Valley Day 1

Route: Chisapani / चिसापानी (1620 m) – Gampul (1626 m) – Lokpa / Lhokpa / लोक्पा (2240 m) – Sarli Khola Bridge & Gorge (1825 m) – Gadhi Khola Bridge – Chumling / चुम्लिंग (2385 m).

Camp: Chumling School.

Gampul is where the trail into the Tsum Valley splits off from the Manaslu Circuit. We spent the next week in Tsum.

Tuesday 6 November 2018: Chumling (2385 m) – Chhokang Paro (3030 m) (photos)

Tsum Valley Day 2

Route: Chumling / चुम्लिंग (2385 m) – Domje / Tumje / तुम्जे (2460 m) – Gho (2510 m) – Chauri Kharka (2950 m) – Chhekampar / Chhekam / Chhaikampar / Chhokang Paro / छैकम्पार (3030 m).

Camp: Namgyl’s Bio-Hotel Khamsangbo.

Fab views of Peak 5698, Baudha Himal / Boudha Himal (6672 m) and Himal Chuli / Himalchuli East (7893 m) from the viewpoint on the approach to Chhokang Paro.

Cham Festival at Jhong / Dzong Gompa.


Wednesday 7 November 2018: Chhokang Paro (3030 m) – Chule (3350 m) (photos)

Tsum Valley Day 3

Route: Chhekampar / Chekampar / Chhaikampar / Chhokang Paro / छैकम्पार (3030 m) – Ngakyu-Leru – Lamagaon / Lamabagar / लामाबगर – Phurbe (3251 m) – Pangdun (3258 m) – Chule / छुले (3350 m).

Camp: Ani Ayurvedic Clinic.

Distributed LED* Solar Lights at Leru. Tea at Pangdun. The Afternoon of the Missing Mules. Chhule Gompa (Gonhgye Gompa) views and circling birds of prey….

Thursday 8 November 2018: Chule (3350 m) – Mu Gompa (3700 m) (photos)

Tsum Valley Day 4

Route: Chule / छुले (3350 m) – Mu Gompa (3700 m).

Camp: below Mu Gompa.

Trail runners (French race) at Mu. Dhephu Doma Ani Gompa. High climb above camp with Val for views of the trail to Tibet.

The road building around Mu Gompa broke my heart.

Friday 9 November 2018 : Mu Gompa (3700 m) – Chhokang Paro (3030 m) (photos)

Tsum Valley Day 5

Route: Mu Gompa (3700 m) – Chule / छुले (3350 m) – Chhokang Paro / Chhekampar / Chekampar / Chhaikampar / छैकम्पार (3030 m).

Camp: Namgyl’s Bio-Hotel Khamsangbo.

In Chule, Chhering, Steffi and I ran the first LED eye clinic of the trek, using Pat Booth’s excellent guide and two boxes of donated glasses. Val and Anne also distributed school supplies and Val ran a mobile medical clinic.

Saturday 10 November 2018: Chhokang Paro (3030 m) – Gumba Lungdung / Gompa Lungdang (3200 m) (photos)

Tsum Valley Day 6

Route: Chhekampar / Chekampar / Chhaikampar / Chhokang Paro / छैकम्पार (3030 m) – Domje / Tumje / तुम्जे (2460 m) – Gumba Lungdung / Gompa Lungdang (3200 m).

Camp: Terraces below old Ani houses.

Coffee at the Tsum Valley Cafe!

Beautiful wooden bridge crossing – turquoise water, red virginia creeper vines – en route to Domje, where Val and Chhering did some LED solar light distribution.

Long climb up into the valley of the Langdang Khola, through forest high above the river. Beautiful moss hanging from the trees. Steep drops down. On the trail to Ganesh Himal Base Camp. The trail from Domje onwards was new to me.


Sunday 11 November 2018: Gumba Lungdung / Gompa Lungdang (3200 m) – Ripchet (2470 m) (photos)

Tsum Valley Day 7

Route: Gumba Lungdung / Gompa Lungdang (3200 m) – Domje / Tumje / तुम्जे (2460 m) – Ripchet (2470 m).

Camp: Ripchet School.

Early morning call courtesy of Doug for the glorious mountain view sunrise:

  • East – Himal Chuli / Himalchuli East (7893 m), Ngadi Chuli / Peak 29 (7871 m) and our first sighting of mighty Manaslu (just) (8156 m)
  • West – Ganesh I / Yangra Kangri (7422 m), Ganesh II (7118 m) and the Lumbo Himal.

LED solar light distribution and eye clinic / glasses distribution with the Anis (nuns).

Back down the trail clinging to hillsides high above the Langdang Khola and through the forests to Domje’s modern bridge and LED solar light distribution on the Ripchet side of the Tsum Chu.

En route to Ripchet: ravines, small bright yellow birds and monkeys in trees.

Sunny afternoon opportunity for clothes washing.

Leopard killing monkey screams overnight (which I slept through).

Monday 12 November 2018: Ripchet (2470 m) – Deng (1870 m) (photos)

Tsum Valley Day 8 / Manaslu Circuit Day 5

Route: Ripchet (2470 m) – Gadhi Khola Bridge – Lokpa / Lhokpa (लोक्पा) (2240 m) – Gampul (1626 m) – Nyak Phedi (1625 m) – Deng / Dyang / डेङ (1870 m).

Camp: Deng Shop.

At Gampul we crossed the Budhi Gandaki river to rejoin the main Manaslu Circuit. Lots more trekkers and mules. Hot this low down!

Overcast all the way to Deng. Not that inspiring.

Tuesday 13 November 2018: Deng (1870 m) – Prok (2397 m) (photos)

Manaslu Circuit Day 6

Route: Deng / Dyang / डेङ (1870 m) – Rana (1970 m) – Bihi Phedi / बिहि फेदी (1985 m) – Bhijam (2020 m) – Prok / प्रोक (2397 m).

Camp: “Outer Prok”.

Deng to Bihi Phedi was dull, bar an impromptu mini medical clinic by Val in Rana. Too many trekkers (in too few clothes).

Things improved once we crossed the river and left the main trail. A lovely walk up through thick forest, passing DIY saw mills and water powered flour mills en route to Prok. Not another trekker to be seen. Bliss.

A stiff climb up to Prok’s plateau, and Prok proved to be a big place. Lots of land for farming, lots of homes. Fences. A (new-looking) gompa perched above the main village, which I didn’t make it to. I liked Prok.

We camped on the far side of the village. Dali bought fresh greens from the family whose land we camped on. We lunched late on paratha.

Wednesday 14 November 2018: Prok (2397 m) – Lihi (2900 m) (photos)

Manaslu Circuit Day 7

Route: Prok / प्रोक (2397 m) – Ghap / घप (2660 m) – Lunga Chhyuda (2375 m) – Suksum – Namrung / नाम्रुङ (2660 m) – Bhanjam / बन्जाम (2650 m) – Lihi / Lhi / लिही (2900 m).

Overnight: Lihi Teahouse (rooms due to rain).

We paused in Ghap to distribute LED solar lights to Chak and Tsak villagers before leaving Steffi and Val to do a medical clinic.

A lovely autumn walk through the forest and alongside the Budhi Gandaki river, crossing some splendid water carved corkscrew channels at Lunga Chhyuda.

We sheltered from the rain over a leisurely lunch in Bhanjam, waiting for Steffi and Val to catch up. Meanwhile back in Namrung, a surprisingly smart spot to pass through in this part of the world, they were enjoying a proper coffee at fancy Four Seasons Lodge!

A damp stretch on to Lihi. The rain meant rooms overnight in Lihi tea house, v basic but it gave us all the chance to dry off, and Lihi was a lovely serene spot.

Pasty, pumpkin and chips for dinner!

Thursday 15 November 2018: Lihi (2900 m) – Hinang Gompa (3200 m) (photos)

Manaslu Circuit Day 8

Route: Lihi / Lhi / लिही (2900 m) – Hinang Gompa (3200 m) – Hinang Glacier (3700 m) – Hinang Gompa (3200 m).

Camp: Hinang Gompa.

My Manaslu Circuit mood lifted at Lihi. We woke to blue skies, and a cold brisk morning. Val got us off early, and at a fast pace so that we could get to Hinang Gompa with enough time to continue up the valley to Hinang Glacier (3700 m) for lunch. Superb Himal Chuli views through drifting cloud, and a picnic lunch of chapattis, cheese and chutney.

Lots of photos, and a lovely stroll back through the woods to the gompas.

There are two: the large gompa in whose grounds we were camped is the monastery, the one perched on a rock near by is the nunnery, which also provides an old people’s home.

We coincided with trail runners at this gompa too (as at Mu). Brits this time, and it turned out that Val knew the organisers.

After soup and chips pick me up in one of the gompa classrooms, we ran another LED eye, glasses & medical clinic for the nearby nuns, monks and elderly. And then polished off the Penderyn Gold….

A fantastic day.

Friday 16 November 2018: Hinang Gompa (3200 m) – Sama Gaon / Samagaun (3500 m) (photos)

Manaslu Circuit Day 9

Route: Hinang Gompa (3200 m) – Sho / शो – Lho / ल्हो (3180 m) – Shyala / श्याला (3520 m) – Sama Gaon / Samagaun / सामागाउ (3500 m).

Camp: Mr Norbu’s Sama Goan Lodge.

Before saying a fond farewell to Hinang, we paid a morning visit to the Ani Gompa, which as a parting gift provided perfect views of Himal Chuli (7893 m) against clear blue skies.

A contented morning’s walk back on the main trail, lured ever onwards by the superb views of Manaslu towering above lowly Lho, and its gompa.

Coffee at Lho, lunch at Shyala, after a walk through the woods, where autumn had turned the leaves to bronze and gold.

We lunched al fresco, sat on the roof terrace of the Shanti Guesthouse surrounded by a panorama of mountains – Simnang Himal (6251 m), Ngadi Chuli / Peak 29 (7871 m), Manaslu (8156 m) and Manaslu North (6994 m) on either side of their huge glacier, and Naike Peak (6211 m).

A final stretch brought us to Sama, which sprawls in a wide river valley at the base of Manaslu and Naike Peak.

Another lovely day.

Guenter Seyfferth’s page on Manaslu Himal is invaluable for reminding me what we saw on this part of our trek.

Saturday 17 November 2018: Sama Gaon / Samagaun (3500 m): Day hike to Phuyang / Pung Gyen Gompa (3870 m) (photos)

Manaslu Circuit Day 10

Route: Sama Gaon / Samagaun / सामागाउ (3500 m) – Punggyen / Phuyang / Pung Gyen Gompa (3870 m) – Sama Gaon / Samagaun / सामागाउ (3500 m).

Camp: Mr Norbu’s Sama Gaon Lodge.

Fantastic morning walking up to Punggyen Gompa, which nestles at the foot of Manaslu (8163 m) within the wide valley carved out by the Punggyen Glacier. From the twin peaks of Manaslu the mountain vista continues on round to Ngadi Chuli Ngadi Chuli / Peak 29 (7871 m), Simnang Himal (6251 m) and the Taninga Danda, and across the Budhi Gandaki valley to the Pang Phuchi Himal and the Kutang Himal.

The tiny gompa is accompanied by small stone roofed buildings, some of which huddle into the gulley leading up to Manaslu, and strings of prayer flags arc in the breeze like streamers stretching up towards the snowline.

A fabulous, fabulous spot.

And our visit to the gompa coincided with a puja by some of the local ladies from Sama. We shared our picnic goodies and they brewed up some raksi for us. Magic.

Back in Sama, we accompanied Val visiting a friend in town who provided mugs of lovely milky coffee for us, and later on back at the lodge Steffi, Chhering, Val and I ran another LED eye glasses clinic. Our (beautifully organised) stock of donated specs in Pat Booth’s shoe boxes was rapidly dwindling.

Sunday 18 November 2018: Sama Gaon / Samagaun (3500 m) – Samdo (3860 m) (photos)

Manaslu Circuit Day 11

Route: Sama Gaon / Samagaun / सामागाउँ (3500 m) – Birendra Tal / बिरेन्द्र ताल (3460 m) – Samdo / संदो (3860 m).

Camp: Chez Karsang Lodge.

After swinging Sama’s cheekiest little monkey to school, we made a side trip to Birendra Tal, following the path that leads to Manaslu Base Camp and dropping down to the lake from the moraine wall, quite a steep path in places.

Down at the shore line we added our own stone towers and took lots of photos of the turquoise lake with Manaslu and Naike Peak towering above.

As the clouds gathered we followed the Budhi Gandaki up the valley to Samdo, letting the ungrateful trail runners overtake.

Chez Karsang Lodge was our Samdo base and after sorting out our tents and lunching in the lodge we had the (cloudy) afternoon free. Samdo’s a small place, but growing fast, and it was full of trekkers and trail runners.

After a stroll around “town”, Steffi and I decided to walk up the side valley that shelters the village, climbing up to a dry lake and getting good views back down into Samdo. This is the older side of the village, not on the trail to the Larke La, and from the hillside we looked down on the clusters of stone built houses with byres below, livestock pens outside and crops drying on the roof. Lovely.

Just time before dinner to head out with Val to deliver an LED solar light and to arrange further distribution of lights and school supples once we’re back from the Yak Kharka.

Monday 19 November 2018: Samdo (3860 m) – Yak Kharka above Samdo (photos)

Manaslu Circuit Day 12

Route: Samdo / संदो (3860 m) – Mayol Khola / Samdo Glacier valley – Yak Kharka above Samdo (4400 m).

Camp: Yak Kharka above Samdo.

We retraced the route Steffi and I had taken yesterday afternoon, continuing up the valley of Mayol Khola with the Samdo Glacier on our right. The trail leads to the Larjyang La / Lajyung Bhanjyang and Tibet, but we were only going to Val’s Yak Kharka a couple of hours hike from Samdo.

Fab views back over to Naike Peak and the Manaslu massif, and Samdo Peak / Pangpoche and the Samdo Himal to the south east.

A peaceful morning with the birds – chatty Choughs, Himalayan Red Kite, Himalayan Griffon Vultures and Lammergaier.

Afternoon stroll further up our bit of the valley for more great views: the Pana Danda roughly to the north, Sonam / Samdo Himal to the south, with the Mayol valley travelling east between them, and to the west our first sighting of the Larke peaks, the glacier and the pass…

I’ve lots of photos with the following sweep of peaks: Manaslu (8163 m, in cloud), Naike Peak (6211 m), the “No Name Pointy Peaks”, Larkya Peak (6416 m, square topped), P 5888, Larkya North (6246 m, snow topped), the Larkya La (5135 m) and some more snow covered peaks to the north of the pass.

The cloud came down for an atmospheric afternoon. At the yak kharka, the side stream between our tents and the dining tent was covered in a thick sheet of ice….

Tuesday 20 November 2018: Yak Kharka above Samdo (4400 m) – Samdo (3860 m) (photos)

Manaslu Circuit Day 13

Route: Yak Kharka above Samdo (4400 m) – “Samdo Ri” (5150 m) – Yak Kharka (4400 m) – Samdo / संदो (3860 m).

Camp: Chez Karsang Lodge.

Morning hike up what I’m calling Samdo Ri – it’s the viewpoint peak in the Pana Danda above Samdo, a couple of hours straight up from our Yak Kharka camp. Hard work, especially at Gori pace, but oh so worth it – clear blue skies brought The Best Views of the Trip. I think they even beat those from the Larkya La.

We had the same sweep of peaks as yesterday, plus Ngadi Chuli and Himal Chuli, and glaciers galore – Manaslu, Syacha and Larkya – all much, much clearer than yesterday, and from much higher up. Plus, tearing our gaze away from the Manaslu Massif, to the north and east the ridge from the Ri became the Pana Danda, leading into the Lajyung / Mayol Himal that form the border with Tibet. Snow capped mountains to the north (Nysing Himal ?) and to the west, across the Laryke La.

The vista list(a): Rani Peak (6693 m), Simnang Himal (6251 m), Himalchuli (7893 m), Ngadi Chuli / Peak 29 (7871 m), Manaslu (8163 m) and Manaslu North (6991 m), Naike Peak (6211 m), the “No Name Pointy Peaks”, Larkya Peak (6416 m, square topped), P 5888, Larkya North (6246 m, snow topped), the Larkya La (5135 m) plus all those snow covered peaks to the north and west of the pass. On the Mayol Khola side of the ridge, we could see clear across to Pangpoche (6400m) which I was calling Samdo Peak in yesterday’s write up and up to the Lajyung Pass and into Tibet.

Plus Himalayan Griffon Vulture and/or Lammergeier and Blue Sheep in the Mayol Valley uplands, where Val, Anne and Charles were hiking.

A steep descent brought us back to the Yak Kharka for a bowl of noodle soup, our packed lunch and a super cute politely pleading pooch, then back down the Mayol Khola valley trail to Samdo for a leisurely afternoon.

Dali did us proud for dinner:

  • Soup with popcorn
  • Pumpkin curry, iscus (the green things) and aubergine curry, peas, chips, cheese …. and PIZZA!
  • Apple Pie Fritters – YUMMY!!

Wednesday 21 November 2018: Samdo (3860 m) – Dharmasala (4460 m) (photos)

Manaslu Circuit Day 14

Route: Samdo / संदो (3860 m) – Dharmasala / Dharamshala धर्मशाला (4460 m).

Camp: Dharmasala.

Steffi and I spent a couple of hours LED-ing in Samdo with Val, distributing lights, clothes and school supplies, drinking butter tea and tucking into tsampa, before walking the easy trail to Dharmasala, getting there in time for lunch. The trail turns west at Samdo, still following the Budhi Gandaki river – more of a large stream now – and we had super views back to Pangpoche, the Mayol Khola valley and the Samdo Glacier. To the south, clear views of and up the Syacha Glacier to Manaslu North and Manaslu Main. Wonderful.

Afternoon acclimatisation walk up the ridge above camp. Dharmasala is a pretty unprepossessing place – it only really exists as a final overnight stop for trekkers before they (we) cross the Larkya La. As a result, it was busy with trekking groups, not all of whom were well acclimatised. We’d heard a lot of helicopter activity since Sama.

Apprehensive, as always, before a big day with an early start (4am), I don’t think anyone slept well. The mule bells and constant movement didn’t help. More about that “tomorrow”…

Thursday 22 November 2018: Dharmasala (4460 m) – Larkya La pass (5135 m) – Bhimtang (3720 m) (photos)

Manaslu Circuit Day 15

Route: Dharmasala / Dharamshala / धर्मशाला (4460 m) – Larkya La pass (5135 m) – Bhimtang / Bimthang / Bhimthang / बिम्थंग (3720 m).

Camp: Shushma’s Lodge.

After 4am bed tea and breakfast, we set off in the predawn dark on the trail tracking below the glacial moraine ridge, dawn rays hitting Pangpoche, Larkya North and Manaslu.

Gradually we left the grass and soil behind, moving onto stony stretches that become bouldered. You pick out the route by the poles set up to guide winter traders through the deep, deep snow.

Hot lemon and great views from the Larke Tea Shop at 4850 m then on over the boulder field. The final approach to the pass skirted shallow lakes frozen solid, before a final climb to the prayer flags at the pass. Once there, we added our prayer flags then celebrated with “Bombay” mix and Green & Blacks mini bars of chocolate, and enjoyed a last look at the views east. Farewell Gorkha District. Hello Manang District.

The Larkya La descent was gentle to start – which was good because the views west are stupendous: Lamjung Himal (6983 m), Annapurna II (7937 m), Kang Guru (6981 m) and Chombi (6704 m) with P6780 and P6805 in between, P6479, Kechakyu Himal (5542 m) and Gyaji Kang (7074 m), then Nemjung (7140 m), Himjung (7092 m) and Himlung (7126 m) and, closest to the pass, Panbari (6905 m).

But soon the path became steeper, still rocky, and we were zig zagging down into the valley towards the weird solid blue waters of Ponkar Tal, which disappeared as we got closer to the moraine walls and turned southwards – the trail follows the route of the Salpudanda Glacier which merges with the Ponkar Glacier and Kechahyu Khola Glacier a little north of Bhimtang. You get clear views of all three glaciers on the descent.

Gradually rocks and silence gave way to grass, shrubs and bushes; birds reappeared.

Revitalising veg noodle soup at Dangboche Kharka, then the final downhill stretch to Bhimtang and its surreal sunshine yellow chalets.

Our tents were on the edge of one of Bimthang’s wooden fenced corals with fine views of the north western flank of Manaslu.

Teatime segued into rakshi time, dinner, then bed. A long day, but a great one.

Plenty of people here too – we were already heading back to the mainstream. From here on in we’d find ourselves in busier places, as we drew closer to and eventually joined the Annapurna Circuit.

Friday 23 November 2018: Bhimtang (3720 m) – Tilche (2300 m) (photos)

Manaslu Circuit Day 16

Route: Bhimtang / Bimthang / Bhimthang / बिम्थंग (3720 m) – Habu (3400 m) – Chauli Kharka / Yak Kharka (3030 m) – Gho – Gowa / गोवा (2470 m) – Kharche / खर्चे – Tilje / Tilche (2300 m).

Camp: Apple Garden Lodge.

Glorious morning views back up the valley towards Bimthang to Nemjung (7140 m) and Panbari (6905 m), then into the forest for a lovely morning walk following the Dudh Khola, stopping off for final views of Mighty Manaslu and at Chauli Kharka for tea with Val’s friends who run the Purti Himalayan Hotel.

Lunch sat at the picnic tables of the The Seven Sister Lodge in Gho, then on through first farmland, and then the road, to Tilche,

Our last night under canvas. I didn’t take to Tilche.

Saturday 24 November 2018: Tilche (2300 m) – Chamje (1430 m) (photos)

Manaslu Circuit Day 17 / Annapurna Circuit Day 1

Route: Tilje / Tilche (2300 m) – Dharapani / धारापानी (1960 m) – Tal (1700 m) – Chamje / Chyamche / चामे (1430 m).

Hotel: Hotel Lhasa Tibet.

We joined the Annapurna Circuit at Dharapani, and an even bigger road. We’d had to negotiate the bulky remains of landslides on the bulldozered road from Tilje, the road from Dharapani still has the three streams flowing across what had been the unexpectedly epic section of the Annapurna Circuit back in 2009.

Lunch in Tal, preceded by waterfalls and rainbows, and back on an older trail after crossing the Marshyangdi after Dharapani.

On the trail on to Chamje we caught sight of monkeys playing in the large waterfall on the other side of the river, and Chamje itself brought rooms and showers – the first since leaving KTM 23 days earlier – at the Hotel Lhasa Tibet, then an evening celebrating the end of a great trek with thank yous, tips and the traditional song and dance.

Sunday 25 November 2018: Chamje to Pokhara (photos)

Manaslu Circuit Day 18 / Annapurna Circuit 2

Route: Drive to Pokhara / पोखरा (830 m) via Besi Sahar.

Hotel: Siddhartha Garden Hotel, near Peace Stupa.

A giant spider materialised in our room as we were packing up, which got the adrenaline pumping first thing. There then followed a long day in jeeps.

We changed jeeps in Besi, where we said our final goodbyes to crew who were returning to KTM by private bus, Val and Chhering excepted.

Lovely to return to the Siddhartha Garden Hotel, its tranquil gardens and fabulous Pokhara views. And wifi.

Monday 26 November 2018: Pokhara (photos)

A relaxing day in Pokhara, starting with dawn views out over Phewa Lake to the Annapurnas (and more) beyond, and a tranquil tour of the Peace Stupa.

After breakfast, we all walked down from the Peace Stupa to the lake, where Chhering organised boats to ferry us to Lakeside for shopping followed by coffee (with brandy) in the Bamboo Garden Hotel garden. “Refreshed”, we walked further on around the lake to Devi Falls for a lovely lunch with Tenzi and Jetsen at Tseten’s.

Overnight: Siddhartha Garden Hotel.

Tuesday 27 November 2018: Pokhara (photos)

Another relaxing day in Pokhara: Walk down to Devi Falls to catch buses to the Himalayan Mountaineering Museum. After that, buses to Lakeside for lunch.

Steffi & I spent the rest of the afternoon shopping before catching a taxi back to the Peace Stupa car park for our last night all together, and our final all members meal on the terrace of the Siddhartha Garden.

Overnight: Siddhartha Garden Hotel.

Wednesday 28 November 2018: Pokhara to Kathmandu (photos)

Farewell to Charles and Val, then into our private jeep with Chhering for the 5 hour drive from Pokhara / पोखरा (830 m) to Kathmandu / काठमाडौं (1400 m), arriving back in the city at rush hour.

We managed to find Charles’ Best Falafel in KTM! And the Mandap’s courtyard cafe for coffee after epic felt-focused shopping.

After repacking and showering (can’t have too much of a good thing now the water is on tap), we met for beers in the Marshyangdi courtyard and returned to the Mandap restaurant for the traditional last night meal courtesy of Kang Kora Treks and Travels, with Mingmi and her mum, together with Chhering.

Overnight: Hotel Marshyangdi, Thamel.

Thursday 29 November 2018: KTM – DEL – LHR (photos)

Air India flight AI 21 to Delhi, an easy change (and outrageously expensive coffees) then Air India AI 111 on to London.

Wholemeal breadmaker bread with cheese and red wine for supper. Steffi and I had been dreaming of it for days….

Charles’ schematic map of our route

Manaslu Trek Schematic Map 2018

Useful resources

Guenter Seyfferth’s Die Berge des Himalaya (The mountains of Himalaya) is always invaluable in identifying peaks in Nepal. His site had mountain maps and a whole host of annotated photos taken from a variety of perspectives, including satellite. His page on Ganesh Himal + Shringi Himal covers the first part of our route, including the Tsum Valley. For the Manaslu Circuit, I used his pages on Manaslu Himal and Larkya La.

For altitudes and coordinates (and maps), Sherpana’s pages on the Manaslu Region (including Tsum) and the Annapurna Region are good.

Magical Nepal’s website has an excellent online Manaslu Tsum Valley Trek Map provided by Himalayan Map House.

I also enjoyed the geological details in Arjayempee’s Flickr Album: 2016 Nepal.

* LED – Light Education Development

You can read more about Light Education Development (aka LED) on the website – it’s Val’s charity, I’m a trustee.

Mera Peak – Amphu Lapsta Pass – Imja Tse: Gear Update

The LED fundraising weekend in the North Lakes last month was a prompt to sort out a few more pieces of November’s Nepal Plan, principally BOOTS!

We did have a chance to go through Val’s “6000m Gear List” with her, the main outcome of which is that I’m borrowing her down jacket from last year, and a sleeping bag (but not the one from last year). She also recommended taking some of the disposable self-heating hand and foot warmers for the summit days (pre-dawn starts). Bim in KTM can provide most of the technical gear, and we arranged another trip to the North Lakes for some training with ropes etc in September.

Boots surfaced as Nicola was heading to Adventure Peaks to try on the boots she’s hiring from them, and Steffi decided to go with her to get a boot fitting, and as it transpired, to hire a pair of Boreal G1s…. in a size 44, as advised by the thorough chap in Snow & Rock when we made an initial fact finding foray into Covent Garden a few months back.

After an abortive attempt to hire from Adventure Peaks (very, very busy), I focused on the La Sportiva G2 and the Scarpa Phantom 6000 and learned the following:

  • Boreal boots are a wide fit, so not a good option for me
  • La Sportiva are warmer and a narrower boot, Scarpa have a more durable sole
  • with a long, slim foot and a long big toe, I can wear shoes / boots “shorter”
  • trying out boots, especially with narrow feet, there will be some “slip” but provided this is the inner boot slipping against the outer you’re OK
  • it can be impossible to find boots that are a good fit according to all the rules, and padding / heel lifts  insoles can help.

Having decided that I needed La Sportiva G2 in a size 42, I emailed Expedition Kit Hire who I’d earmarked earlier on. Same day reply from Stuart, confirming they had a pair available for my dates and attaching the hire form. A couple of exchanges and less than 24 hours later, I’d hired the boots plus goggles and balaclava and bought 5 pairs each of hand and foot warmers. All paid up, delivery due the week before we go, and the hire includes prepaid return. Very efficient, very friendly. I can see why The Mountain Company recommend them.

(As an aside, what was interesting about doing the foot outlines was realising that my feet are pretty much the same length, but my left foot is slightly wider at the ball. And shoes / boots are always tighter on that foot. I’d always thought it was because it was longer, but no – wider!)

So that just leaves travel insurance that will cover me to 6,500m and using ropes, crampons and ice axes, which I think means it will be the BMC. The Austrian Alpine Club (UK) standard AWS policy doesn’t cover you above 6,000m and the Alpenverein Premium Single Trip Cover you have to get then is a lot more expensive. I’ve yet to find a ‘normal’ policy that covers you above 6,000m, (although Nicola’s just flagged that Trailfinders’ goes up to 7,000m).

And last, but not least, Nicola has managed to wangle 4 weeks off work, so she’s coming for the whole thing.

But for now M-ALP-I is on the back burner – our week in Picos de Europa is only a month away!