It’s been a flurry of activity in the last few days.
I got the final money instructions from Val on Thursday, after a nudge. Handily I had accumulated sufficient cash on recent journeys into Hereford. It’s a far cry from a couple of weeks of stopping off at the cash machine on the way to work and changing GPB for USD at Thomas Foreign Exchange just across the road.
I’ve had my COVID booster the Friday before last and am banking on my existing vaccinations being effective… probably need to check that before I travel again. Printed off my updated NHS COVID Pass (International travel version).
There are no COVID or visa requirements for transiting through Doha, but Qatar Airways wants me to present a completed Customer Acknowledgement Form at check-in, so I’ve printed off and filled that out for both pairs of journeys.
I sped through online check-in for LHR-DOH-KTM yesterday, and selected (hopefully) good seats, so straight to the bag drop for me. Did I mention that Qatar Airways had been playing around with the Doha arrival/departure times on my return flight, and then emailed to let me know they’d cancelled the DOH-LGW flight I was booked on? Thankfully they’d booked me onto another flight which leaves only an hour or so later – not that the notification email said that! Hopefully no more changes between now and then.
Packed this evening. Thank heavens for lists!
Now I just need all the alarms to wake me up tomorrow morning so that I can catch the 06.43 HFD-PAD….. (Tickets purchased 23 Sept)
Oh, and I’m still not entirely sure of the itinerary. I think we’re doing most of the Manaslu Circuit then branching off into Naar Phu before returning to … Annapurna Circuit? take another route to Jomsom or Pokhara? Anyway, it means I’ve not been able to check the weather forecasts on YR.no. All will be revealed soon I’m sure!
MCR continued. Nepal firms up. Heatwave. Meadow cutting marathon and clearing the small pond.
As regular readers will know, I was in Manchester for work Monday-Wednesday this week and Tuesday and Wednesday continued to be(e) hotter and sunnier than ever before. A good trip.
Not such a good journey home – my 18:31 train was cancelled so it was a slow service to Wilmslow then a wait for the train to Cardiff.
I’ve no idea of the geography, and it turned out I was joining the 19.31 departure from Manchester. If I’d waited there I might have found a glass of wine for company! Oh well. Phil and I had a cheese and wine supper once I was home.
Not working a Thursday threw my week out completely.
Took the car for its MOT first thing, and heard back with the all clear a few hours later. A came over for tea and a hot cross bun and we chatted in the shady part of the garden until gone 1pm.
Caught up with Val early afternoon, and – Trek Siren – I am officially off on a 3 week trip to Naar Phu with Val in October / November. Naar (Nar) and Phu are small villages in Nepal, north and east of the Annapurnas, Manang side. Chulu East and Himlung Himal were also mentioned. I’ve booked flights with Qatar Airways.
I’ve christened this trip Val Pitkethly’s Naar Phu Explorer.
Spent the rest of the afternoon doing admin on the computer, including trying to sort out our LPG supply for the next 2 years. It’s just Too Hot outside.
Friday was hotter.
We were both awake around 5.30am so made an early start to the day. Handy, as we needed to walk back to Ewyas to pick up the Panda post MOT. We took the Dicks Pitch route – shady and speedy – and got to the garage in less than an hour.
Just don’t ask about locking the conservatory keys in the conservatory before we set out … Thank heavens (Thank dad) for the tub of spare keys.
Raked up the strimmer grass and relocated it to the dip by the hedge (freshly cut by Richard while I was in MN). Hot and sweaty work. Dug up a few weeds – easy to spot as they’re still green against the parched yellow grass.
In the afternoon, more admin – inside, but not cool. Did online check in for our flights to Bilbao for September’s Picos trip. That’s coming up fast!
In the evening (still hot, but not quite so sweltering), our first visit to Winchester as “guests” since dad and Jean moved. A lovely BBQ.
The extreme heatwave continued on Saturday (mid-30s), so another early start.
Ray called round a bit after 7.30am and said he could clear our cut grass later in the day, so I got to work with the strimmer mower, hacking down the tougher grass and tall flowers that have grown on the slope down to the pond. Hot hard work. My blisters have blisters. Well, not quite but not far off.
Three quarters of the way through the strimmer stopped working and neither of us could work out why. So we decided that was a good reason to have our first independent outing with the Stihl strimmer. Phil did the honours while I moved the pond weed piles and weeded the drive.
We had a bit of a hiatus when he reached the end of the cable and we had to work out how to load it up with another 8 metres…. The instruction booklet, a YouTube video and a call to dad later and Phil was back in action.
We are so not having a meadow next year!
I revere Monty Don as much as the next person but he must have “help” when it comes cutting the meadow – which we don’t – and better options for making use of the cut grass.
Thank heavens for Ray who turned up a bit after midday and lifted piles of the scythed grass onto a rake/frame attachment on the back of his tractor and drove the grass up to his field.
A break for lunch – we’re eating / relaxing in the shade down by the log shed / willow tree stump – after which I decided to have a go at clearing the small pond. It’s bone dry and we figured this gives us the chance to find and fix the leak….. Even unsaturated the iris bed was too heavy, do I made do with cutting back the leaves, pulling off chunks of dried out pond bottom and clearing the weeds and ivy from the rim.
Sweated so much that when salty sweat dripped into my eyes it really stung!
In an unusual turn of events, I made dinner, and tried out the Damson Gin. Tasty!
Sunday – still hot.
Phil and I finished clearing the iris bed out of the small pond, and swept out the remaining debris. There’s a crack running from near the centre towards the railway power point, so we’re looking up ways to fix that. Liner or cement/putty?
Raked the strimmed grass into piles, then lunch. A few jobs / tidying up by the compost heap, a breather to allow the shade to reach the piles and then it was time to start wheelbarrowing the grass piles to the compost slope above the BBQ and the bigger one at the far end of the path.
Before dinner we sat outside the kitchen and watched the birds on the feeders and in the font for a while, once they’d decided we weren’t a threat.
At dusk, a bat got into the conservatory, but it managed to make its own escape through the doors.
A cooler start to Monday and – AT LAST – some rain.
A day for “indoors jobs”.
Put surplus picture frames into the roof, then did some computer admin. Tidied up recent Flickr titles, tags and descriptions, prepped tax return, caught up with Val, did some Picos prep (looked at my kitlist and tried working out how much money to take).
7pm, thunder and heavier rain arrived.
In “heatwave and extreme weather warning” news, – it’s been > 30C most of the week, with – thankfully – rain / thunder arriving on Monday.
The trees are shedding leaves by the sack load.
Apples doing OK.
My office is still hot and the patio and the walls that side of the house are still radiating heat, but the rain is cooling things down.
It’s also been a week of massive moons and a mewing buzzard.
Caught up with Val early this afternoon, and an hour later I’d booked my flights to Kathmandu with Qatar Airways.
I’d been hoping that 2022 would be the year I finally got to trek to Kanchenjunga Base Camp(s) but Kanch is postponed, hopefully only to 2023, due to the low vaccination rates there.
Destination: Manaslu and Naar Phu, Nepal.
When: October / November 2022.
What: I am officially off on a 3 week trek to Naar Phu with Val in October / November. No idea of the itinerary, but I’ve 24 days KTM to KTM and Val tells me two other ladies will be coming.
Where: Naar (Nar) and Phu are small villages in Nepal, north and east of the Annapurnas, Manang side, between the Manaslu Circuit’s Larke La and the Annapurna Circuit’s Thorong La. Chulu East and Himlung Himal were also mentioned. The two ladies want to trek the Manaslu Circuit, so we’ll be doing that first – should help with the acclimatisation.
How: With Val, of course.
Why: Hiking high in the big mountains, with old friends.
I’ve christened this trip Val Pitkethly’s Naar Phu Explorer. (Rechristened Manaslu & Nar Phu on my return.)
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:
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.
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.
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).
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).
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)
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.
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.
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.
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
(7) Blick von Kenjoma (3600 m) nach Nordosten mit Taboche (6505 m), Lhotse (8516 m) und Ama Dablam (6814 m)
(12) Blick vom Kloster Tengboche nach Nordosten zum Nuptse (7864 m), Mount Everest (8848 m) und Lhotse (8516 m)
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.
I made it to the top of Mera Peak (6476m) and Steffi got to 6300m. Magic views, as Charles promised.
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.
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!