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.

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!

Mera Peak – Amphu Lapsta – Imja Tse: Update

Even the best laid plans sometimes go awry….

Being my usual super organised self, I sorted out flights for November’s four week extravaganza way back in January. We got a fantastic price with Jet Airways (£430), flying out via Mumbai and back via Delhi.

In early April, a chance chat at work flagged up that Jet were experiencing financial problems…. and I’d booked direct, and on my debit card. Uh-oh.

Then, on my birthday I got a cryptic email from Steffi: Flight cancellation?

A quick Google and email check revealed all – Jet Airways had suspended operations, “temporarily”, as of 17 April. Here’s the first couple of paras of the BBC’s article:

Troubled Indian airline Jet Airways has temporarily suspended all its domestic and international flights after failing to find fresh funding.

The airline said its last flight would operate on Wednesday as it was not able to pay for fuel and other critical services.

So I spent a good hour or so working through the Jet Airways Flight Cancellation emails and refund claim process – a separate claim per flight, per person. That made 8 in total.

Since then, I’ve had various confirmation emails, all automated, but as yet no refund.  I’ve got the CAA’s Advice to UK consumers impacted by Jet Airways suspending operations tucked away, just in case.

Once I’d recovered from that little “Birthday treat”, I dug out my dusty credit card and scoured Kayak for replacement flights. The algorithms must have been in overdrive, factoring in all the Jet passengers suddenly swamping the flight search. Hey ho.

We’ve ended up with a not-too-bad option flying out with Emirates / FlyDubai and back with Qatar. Handily, given that we’re flying out at the end of a work day for me, our outbound flight leaves from Stansted so we’ll be getting the Stansted Express from Liverpool Street, which is (a) 5 mins walk from work, (b) a more reliable journey than the Piccadilly line out to LHR, and (c) much, much easier for those wielding heavy luggage. VIP that last point as we have 30kg baggage allowance both ways.

I’ve been in to “manage my booking” for the new flights today, primarily to check that we do actually have tickets (paranoia!), and was able to book seats, set meal preferences, provide emergency contacts and print e-tickets. So that’s a good job done.

Let’s just hope that Jet Airways refund does eventually materialise….

In other news, it’s the LED Fundraising Challenge up in the Lake District next weekend, which will provide an opportunity for Steffi and I to meet Nicola, who’s doing the Mera Peak section. We’ve already emailed a bit, mainly about boot hire and training. Now I’m worried I’m not doing as much as Val seems to think I am!  We’ll also be able to talk through the 6000m gear list Val sent through, working out what we might be able to borrow or hire either from Bim’s in KTM or the UK in the case of insulated boots.

Five months to go. Better get working on those weedy arms…..


13 May 2019 – Update

Jet Airways refund came through today.

Phew.

Where next: Mera Peak – Amphu Lapsta – Imja Tse

I’ve been talking to Val about my main 2019 trek since the summer and settled the dates shortly after getting back from Manaslu & Tsum*. It’s always a question of juggling my LW working pattern and vacation days to “optimise the optics”, but Val’s managed to schedule the 29 days to fit into four weeks off.

I need to come up with a good name for the trip. “Two Trekking Peaks and a Tricky Pass” doesn’t tell you where it is or what the peaks and pass are. For now, let’s make do with the relevant names…

As is so often the case, it’s not “next”, but it is the main trip for 2019.

Destination: Mera Peak – Amphu Lapsta Pass – Imja Tse / Island Peak, Nepal.

When: November 2019.

What: Back to Nepal for another November trip, this time tackling two 6000 m trekking peaks with a 5800 m pass in between. It will be my first time going that high, and will be more technical than anything I’ve done before requiring ropes, jumar and ice axe, insulated boots and crampons. There will be glacier walking and abseiling. It’ll be cold. And we’ll need to do some winter skills training before we go.

Steffi is coming, Charles is a possible (probable?). Hazel is pondering joining for the first section together with two other ladies Val’s talking to. Plus there are Three Chaps Unknown for the full route.

How: With Val Pitkethly and Sirdar Chhiring. So we will be in safe hands.

Why: The usual – to do more high altitude trekking in the Himalaya – but with a step up from a straightforward trek, in terms of both altitude and technical difficulty. Don’t be misled by the term “trekking peak“.

Itinerary: Waiting for details, but the outline plan is to drive to Phaplu, then gradual acclimatisation in Solukhumbu en route to Mera Peak (6476 m / 21250 ft) followed by 5 nights over 5000 m in the Hongu Valley to reach the Amphu Lapsta Pass (5845 m / 19177 ft). From there I think we drop into the Imja Khola valley en route to Imja Tse / Island Peak (6189 m / 20310 ft). There is the inevitable flight back from horrible Lukla.

* And I know I’ve not written my “We’re back!” post for Manaslu & Tsum yet!

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]