Latest news from the Himalaya and Karakoram

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Trip report for Upper Dolpo to Jomsom GHT (Nepal) in May 2018 led by Almas Khan (Aus) and Chandra Rai (Nepal)

Photo: Phoksumdo Lake
Our Upper Dolpo to Jomsom GHT Trek in May 2018 was led by Almas Khan and our Nepali Sirdar was Chandra Rai. Our cook was Sangram.

We have run this trip at the end of the spring season (May) since 2010. This is the optimal time of year to complete the traverse as the window between the end of the winter snows melting on the passes and the onset of monsoon is quite short. Now five of our groups have successfully completed the traverse since 2010. To see how our previous Upper Dolpo treks did please take a look at Trip Reports for Upper Dolpo to Jomsom GHT.

This group had ten trekkers: from New Zealand, UK and Canada. The first day was May 6th and they met in the morning for the trip briefing from Almas. In the afternoon they took the flight to Nepalgunj and stayed the night at the Soaltee Westend Hotel. The following morning they flew on a twin otter plane to Juphal. This was a change in itinerary from last year when we chartered a plane from Phokhara to Juphal. The runway at Juphal was blacktopped in June 2017 making scheduled flights from Nepalgunj more reliable as a result. Upon arrival in Juphal and after sorting their bags and porters the team trekked to Dunai for their first night of camping.

The trip went well and all clients completed the itinerary with spare days for resting and that also allowed for bad weather. After reaching Dunai on the first night of the trek the group heard on the grapevine there was considerable snow on the passes and it was still snowing. The following day it snowed down to 2700m. For the first five days of the trek it rained or snowed at night, though luckily the weather was good while walking during the day. This weather pattern took them to Phoksumdo Lake and after a rest day there, they were ready to make their way towards the first high pass of the trek - The Kang La.

Photo: Lar Tsa Camp before Kang La
As they went up to the higher camps, the group discovered the left hand side of the valleys had significantly less snow on it due to the sun melting what snow had fallen on that side. Moving up the valley, after the Lar Tsa Camp they went up to the high camp (Snowfields) from the left side of the valley instead of the right hand side and encountered no snow. This high camp was the coldest the group experienced during the trip, with temperatures down to about -5°C.

As this is the fifth time we have run the Upper Dolpo to Jomson trip, we are developing very good knowledge and understanding of the various routes across the passes and their alternatives. Crossing the Kang La to Shey Gompa is the crux of the trek and last year when the team reached Snowfields Camp there was too much snow to cross this Pass. As a result we descended back into the valley and camped, before heading towards another route over Pass B.

In the knowledge that there was a lot of snow this year as well, the team still headed up towards Snowfields knowing that they might have to retreat to Pass B. This decision was made because camping at Snowfields allows for better acclimatization than going directly for Pass B. This time there was snow on the Kang La but the guides found if they stuck to the left of the pass, there was an alternative route with only a small amount of shallow snow on each side of the trail. This gives us three options for crossing this pass, which has in the past been problematic under snowy conditions.

After successfully crossing the Kang La pass the weather improved and they had little precipitation but strong winds. The group arrived at Shey Gompa where they spent two nights. They had the opportunity to explore the area, visit the Gompa and enjoy views of the sacred Crystal Mountain.

This far into the Upper Dolpo trek, it is very remote and arid and there is no fresh food to resupply along the way. On the early treks to this region our groups found a deficiency in fruit and vegetables in their diet, which can have health consequences due to a lack of vitamins and moral consequences due to uninspiring food. For this reason we bought a dehydrator last year and have started dehydrating fresh fruit and vegetables in Kathmandu to take on trek. This provides a wide variety of lightweight food which are rehydrated by the chef. It has become an important element of food provision on treks like this one in Upper Dolpo and we have received good feedback from both the group and crew on the taste and quality.

The windy, arid climate in this area can cause some problems along the way. We use Mountain Hardware tents as they are very sturdy and can withstand most things they could encounter. On this trip however, dust was a particular problem, causing issues with some of the zips. We send a ‘leader kit’ of repair items on all our trips which include items such as duct tape, tent repair kit and zip lube. We are currently looking at new options for better types of zip lube as despite constant reapplying, the dust still crept into the zips and caused problems. We hope to have a better solution for next year.

Photo: Upper Dolpo on trail to Shimen
With a day in hand the group were planning to rest at Chharka Village. However, with a weather forecast from Michael Fagin (everest weather.com) which was sent by text to Almas’ satellite phone they decided that they should keep moving to avoid some incoming bad weather on the Sangda La. Having professional weather forecasts like this is essential for safety on this remote trek with numerous high passes. The second coldest camp was the camp between the two Sangda passes - mainly because of the wind chill. The temperatures went down to about -3 at night.

Having crossed the two passes the group were on their final few days towards Jomson. They decided to spend their extra day in Kagbeni relaxing before arriving in Jomson on May 31st as planned. They enjoyed having the opportunity to spend an extra day exploring Kagbeni near the end of the trek. They were lucky enough to have this time as the group experienced no delays earlier in the trip either on flights or passes. However it is important to have these buffer days in the itinerary in case of delays such as flying in to Juphar or weather and allowing for porter time.

We currently send a SPOT on all of our remote treks and as you can see from this SPOT Adventure track which was recorded whilst were in the mountains, Upper Dolpo to Jomson is one of the most remote regions in Nepal. It is logistically challenging to support and we use the SPOT along with satellite phones to monitor the progress and safety of the team.

Photo: Bonpo monastery near Phoksumdo
It is these logistical challenges that we are continually working to overcome to improve our service. Next year we are considering a plan to change our logistics to resupply in Tinje (Day 17 of the trek) so that the food does not need to be carried over all of the passes before that. This would also give us the opportunity to send out our collected rubbish from this point.

This year we have continued with the collection of rubbish as part of our AITO project. In addition to carrying out our own rubbish, 3kg of additional rubbish was collected on this trek. The guides reported that there was not too much rubbish on the trail and around campgrounds and most of this was from local herders.

Photo: Ringmo village near Phoksumdo Lake
The Mountain Company would like to thank Almas, Chandra and the other guides for their leadership of this group and Sangram and the rest of the Nepalese crew, who as ever worked exceptionally hard throughout this expedition.

Below is a review we received from a member of this trek. For more AITO reviews on our Upper Dolpo to Jomsom GHT trek, check out the AITO website.

“Upper Dolpo to Jomsom trek in a seldom visited part of Nepal close to the China/Tibet border. A 25 day trek camping near remote villages in astonishing scenery and seeing a very different way of life.

Their pre-trip information was excellent-both accurate and detailed. All my advance enquiries were answered fully and promptly. The trek itself was very well organised and every effort was made to ensure our group (10 in number) got the maximum enjoyment from the trip (in sometimes very difficult conditions both in terms of remoteness and climate).”

Our next treks to Upper Dolpo to Jomsom GHT will be in October 2018 and then May 2019 and both of these departures are nearly guaranteed to run. Please get in touch soon if you would like to join one of these groups.

Jo Clark
Nepal Operations Manager

Friday, 18 May 2018

Everest expeditions update for Spring 2018 by Jo Clark

Photo: north face of Mt Everest from Tibet
It’s an exciting time in the region and Everest Base Camp is a small town, buzzing with the activity of climbers heading up and down the mountain, trekkers visiting and yaks and porters carrying goods up and down the trail. Summits are being rapidly ticked off right now and with good weather, perhaps for the balance of the week.

As every season, along with the climbers who are climbing the mountain for personal challenge, the experience and themselves there are a number who are breaking records or making first attempts at something.

The record for the fastest ascent of the seven 7 summits has just been broken by Australian Steve Plain. He climbed the highest peak on each of the 7 continents in just 117 days - the previous record was 126 days.

Two sherpas have also set new records on Everest this year with Kami Rita Sherpa summiting for the 22nd time this year - creating a new record for the most summits. Lhakpa Sherpa summited for the 9th time breaking her own record for the most ascents by a woman.

When Roland Hunter, The Mountain Company owner and founder summited Everest in 2001 he said ‘I spent half an hour on the summit while enjoying the amazing view, I remember thinking at the time that Makalu in the next valley would be good mountain to climb one day’.

One climb leads to another - just as one trek often leads to more.

Photo: view of Mt Makalu from summit of Everest in 2001 (credit: Roland Hunter)
If you would like to see to the big mountain from up close, we lead a variety of treks into the Everest region from the classic Everest Base Camp trek to Everest Luxury Lodges - which doesn’t go as high but gets some amazing views of Everest whilst using the most luxurious lodges available in the area.

And if you have your heart set on climbing in the himalayas but don’t yet have the experience to climb Everest, why not take a look at our Mera Peak Expedition which will be led this November by Everest summiteer Robert Mads Anderson. From the summit of Mera Peak you can see four 8000m peaks.

We still have spaces on some of our guaranteed to run Autumn 2018 trips and all of our Spring 2019 trips.

If you want to know more about the climbers on Everest this year, currently one of the most informative blogs on the Everest summit season is Alan Arnette

As Alan would say - Climb on!

Jo Clark 
Nepal Operations Manager | The Mountain Company

Sunday, 1 April 2018

Stupa to Stupa Trail Race in Kathmandu run by The Mountain Company (Jo and Roland)

Photo: Jo and Roland at Swayambunath Stupa (Credit: Robert Mads Anderson)
It’s still dark as the taxi pulls up to Swayambhu Stupa on Saturday 24th March and only a few locals can be seen doing the Kora at the bottom.  As we climb to the top, I can feel my thighs begin to wake up and I wonder whether 54 km running around the Kathmandu Valley rim from one stupa (Swayambhu) to another (Boudhanath) is realistic or sensible idea.

The Mountain Company (Jo and Roland) takes on Stupa to Stupa!
 
When we met with the other runners- just under 90 of them -, the excitement grew and, whilst walking the Kora of the stupa before the race started, we began to really wake up. As dawn broke, we jogged down the steps and up the first hill (Jamacho) of the trail. Everyone slowed down on the biggest hill of the run and focused on the climb.

Photo: starting Stupa to Stupa (Credit: Robert Mads Anderson)

Photo: Jo on summit of Jamacho (Credit: Robert Mads Anderson)
After that the trail opened up and wound through the woodland and beautiful open trails with some gentle ups and downs for the next 54km. The views along the way to snow capped mountains, then, down over Kathmandu at others were breathtaking and made the pain of each step worth the effort. The trail weaving along jeep tracks, through villages and along ridges were was truly varied and beautiful.

I am not going to pretend that there weren’t other hills on the route, that I didn’t walk huge sections, that I didn’t stop and wonder what I was doing.  But we did complete the course (with some running and a large amount of walking included in the mix) and it was a huge and memorable experience.

Photo: Jo on the trail (Credit: Robert Mads Anderson)

Photo: Jo on the trail (Credit: Robert Mads Anderson)
The day after the run, we were fortunate to attend a talk by one of the Races volunteers Lizzy Hawker.  Lizzy has won the UTMB 5 times, has run the Great Himalaya Trail solo twice, and is a phenomenal athlete and professional trail runner.  She spoke to us about her incredible journey traversing the GHT and how she did it alone with so little equipment it makes me rethink what I will put in my own pack on my next expedition.

Photo: Jo at the finish (Credit: Robert Mads Anderson)

Photo: Boudha stupa (Credit: Robert Mads Anderson)

Photo: Boudha stupa (Credit: Robert Mads Anderson)
So, one week on and we are already planning to be back next year.  The date has already been set for Stupa to Stupa 2019 on March 16th and The Mountain Company plans on expanding it’s participation.  We are offering to pay the entry fee for any of our local guides who want to run and will buy them a pair of running shoes to make sure they have the right start.

If you would like to take part in next years race and want to start training take a look at the details here. We suggest taking a good few days to rest after the race before heading out on your trek!

Many, many thanks to all of the organisers and volunteers for their hard work with Stupa to Stupa 2018. The entire organisation for the race went super smoothly with a fun, friendly and supportive atmosphere. What a great day out and we are already looking forward to 2019!

And finally, if you would like support and sponsor male and female Nepali trail runners hoping to compete at the 2018 Trail World Championship held in Spain please take a look at Trail Running Nepal website. What a great cause and good luck to them all!

Jo Clark- Nepal Operations Manager

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Trip report for Mera Peak Expedition in November 2017 led by Almas Khan and Pema Sherpa

Photo: Almas, Sona and Domenico on central summit of Mera Peak
Our Mera Peak Expedition in November 2017 was led by Almas Khan and our Nepali Sirdar was Pema Sherpa. The climbing Sherpas were Sonam and Lakpa and the cook was Sangram.

In this group we had four climbers coming from UK and USA. The first day of the trip was November 4th and everyone met up on morning of November 5th for the trip briefing from Almas. I also attending the briefing. On morning of 6th the group took the flight into Lukla and after lunch started the walk to Puiyan where they stayed the first night of the trek. The ten day trek to Mera Peak went well with sunny & dry post monsoon weather.

On November 15th the group arrived as planned to Mera Peak Base Camp at Khare at an altitude of 5,000m. For acclimatisation to the high altitude we include two nights at Khare as well as two nights at Tagnag at an altitude of 4,360m. The guides organised rope training in the morning and the group got all of their own climbing gear set up then had a demonstration and practice session on ascending and descending a fixed rope. These mountaineering skills are required for the steep final summit slopes on Mera Peak where fixed rope is placed by the Sherpas to protect this section of the climb.

On November 17th the group left Mera Peak Base Camp and made good progress up to Mera La at 5,415m. Of interest the trail to Mera La now follows the alternative route that I helped find with Domi Sherpa back in November 2012, this has less objective danger from rockfall from ridge above the old route. You can read more about this route to Mera La on our Trip Report from November 2012

On November 18th Almas, Sonam and Domenico arrived to High Camp and then in early morning of 19th set off for the summit. The group made good progress and summited the central summit of Mera Peak at 6,461m with excellent views of the Himalaya including five 8,000m peaks of Mt Everest, Makalu, Kanchenjunga, Lhotse and Cho Oyu. Almas explains in his own words his experience on summit day as follows:

“The best part of the trip was the summit of Mera Peak, it’s a great expedition I would love to go back again. The itinerary is very good with enough time and rest days to acclimatise for high camps and Mera Peak.”

And as for the weather, Almas reports:

“The weather forecasts from everestweather.com sent through to my satellite phone were accurate and very helpful. The weather on the trip was good as it did not rain at all and was typical autumn weather. It did get quite windy as we got to the higher camps and on the day we summited the peak. Overall the weather and views were great.”



Photo: summit day on Mera Peak

Throughout this expedition we received weather forecasts from Michael Fagin at everestweather.com and we sent these onto Almas by text to his satellite phone. Having professional weather forecasts is essential for safety on a summit day of 6,000m+ mountain in the Himalaya and for decision making in the field.


For Mera Peak Expeditions in Nepal we use Mountain Hardwear Trango 3.1 tents owned by The Mountain Company. These are three person domed tents where there is plenty of space for two people sharing a tent plus gear. More importantly these tents are incredibly strong and are designed for use on expeditions to the highest mountains. I have used Trango 3.1s on expeditions to Everest, Makalu, Broad Peak and Kanchenjunga. As long as these tents are well anchored they will survive almost any storm.


I enjoyed meeting Almas and the members of this expedition on their return to Kathmandu and heard their feedback about the trip. Several people made comments how they liked our organisation especially as we sent our cooks and food whereas others groups they met were getting food from the lodges. By bringing our own kitchen means the food is better and also we have more control over the hygiene and cleanliness of food preparation.

This group had a day in hand as they had not used up their spare summit day so the decision was made to walk to Lukla one day early and we were lucky as were able to change their tickets to fly to Kathmandu on November 23rd.

We used SPOT gps tracker for this group, for each night on trek Almas checked in sending a gps signal to us so we could track this group's progress: click here to see the way points overlaid onto a map for Mera Peak Expedition

The Mountain Company has a pledge through AITO Project Protect for our groups to collect at least 120kg of rubbish/ trash in the Himalaya and Karakoram during 2017. Our 2017 Mera Peak Expedition trek has collected 103kg of rubbish and Almas's words:

"We brought back 13 kgs of rubbish from the two camps above Khare back to Khare village and Sona did a great job of collecting at least 90 Kgs of rubbish from the trails and bringing it back to rubbish disposal places at various camp sites and villages". Well done to Almas and Sona, crew and group for an exceptional contribution to our pledge, thank you!


I would like to thank Almas and Pema for their leadership of this group and Sonam and Lhakpa and the rest of the Nepalese crew who as ever worked exceptionally hard throughout this expedition.

Our next expedition to Mera Peak will be in April 2018 and this trip is nearly guaranteed to run. We are also planning an expedition in November 2018, please get in touch soon if you would like to join one of these groups.

Roland Hunter


Monday, 6 November 2017

Trip report for Naar to Upper Mustang GHT trek led by Ade Summers and Gopal Tamang in October 2017

Photo: Naar village
In October, we organised our second Naar to Upper Mustang trek along The Great Himalaya Trail (“GHT”) in Nepal. This trek was led by Ade Summers and Gopal Tamang with assistant guides Khumbu and Nima. Ade led this trek six years ago successfully crossing the Teri La and Gopal had also crossed Teri La on a recce trek for us in Summer 2015. Gopal was also the Sirdar of our November 2015 Naar to Upper Mustang GHT trek led with Tom Lawson.

In November 2015 our Naar to Upper Mustang GHT group were unable to cross Teri La as a result of too much snow on the rocky slabs on approach to the pass. Instead they diverted over Kang La to Manang followed by Tilicho La over to Jomsom -----> you can read our Trip Report. Therefore when we decided to organise this trek again we changed the dates to start in first week of October to allow for optimal conditions on crossing the pass. The drawback of starting at this time of year is the heat & humidity for first few days however as one starts approach to Naar village the temperature starts to cool off making for more pleasant walking conditions.

Our October 2017 group had fine weather with clear and sunny conditions, for some days there was afternoon cloud however there was no significant precipitation. We will keep the same dates for future treks as this is the optimal time of year to cross Teri La.  Ade describes the weather and conditions as follows:  “Perfect weather could not have been better. No snow on the pass or anywhere really. Great conditions.”
Photo: approach to Teri La
Throughout this expedition we received weather forecasts from Michael Fagin at everestweather.com and we send these onto Ade by text to the satellite phone. Having professional weather forecasts is essential for safety in crossing high passes and for decision making in the field.


This year for our Naar to Mustang GHT there were six trekkers in the group coming from USA, UK and Canada. The group arrived in Kathmandu on October 5th and next day Ade gave his trek briefing to the group on the lovely roof top at Hotel Tibet and I also attended. With this itinerary we have the second day of the trip in Kathmandu for briefings and kit checks, we also use this time to obtain all of the trekking permits required for the trek.

On October 7th the group drove to Ngadi to start the trek and this took 10 hours from Kathmandu. From this village it takes three days to walk to Koto where this trail diverts off the more popular Annapurna Circuit trek. Feedback received from this group (and Annapurna Circuit too) was that they did not enjoy walking on the section of road to Jagat  as there are fewer options available to walk on New Annapurna Trails (NATs) away from the road.

As a result we have updated this itinerary for future groups, we will change vehicles at Ngadi from our bus to local jeeps then continue the drive to Srichaur. From Srichaur the walk takes about one hour to the village of Jagat where we stay the first night of the trek. Therefore by using a combination of bus, jeep and walking it should be possible to arrive to Dharapani two days after leaving Kathmandu.

Also at the end of the trek on the way out from Lo Manthang we walk the first day to Ghemi and second day to Samar as these days are well worth walking through the spectacular Upper Mustang landscape with visits to interesting monasteries. The next day we take a jeep from Samar to Jomsom (changing vehicle in Chusang). With more roads encroaching in Nepal Himalaya it now makes sense to use jeeps to drive further into and out of the mountains to maximise the time spent up high in the beautiful and remote areas.

On October 11th the fourth day of the trek this itinerary heads north up the deep gorge of the Naar Phu Khola (river). After one night at Meta camp in the pine and bamboo forests at an altitude of 3,250m they walked up to Naar village at 4,100m where they spent two nights for acclimatisation. On October 13th the group left Naar village to start the approach to Teri La pass by following the Lapse Khola (river) valley, staying the first night at a Yak Kharka camp at an altitude of 4,400m. This section of the trail is narrow and steep but everyone made good progress to camp.

On October 14th they continued to a higher camp in the Lapse Khola valley at an altitude of 4,600m, then the next day to walked up to High Camp below the Teri La pass at an altitude of 5,200m. Their day for crossing the pass was fine weather with excellent views and luckily the forecasted high winds did not happen. The conditions on the pass were dry with no snow and they followed the long trail down to their camp at Pasphu Khola camp (4,750m). 

The group commented there were several exposed sections on the descent from Teri La pass so it is necessary for anyone joining this trek to have accurate foot placement while walking and confidence in walking on rocky terrain without a defined trail. There was also a fresh landslide area with larger rocks and boulders to cross and it is likely this may have been caused by the 2015 earthquake.

The feedback received from the leaders and the group was that the days approaching the pass were too long and our altitude of High Camp was lower than the actual height (the correct altitude is 5,200m). Therefore for future Naar to Upper Mustang GHT treks we have added one more camp before the pass at Teri La Base Camp at 4,900m to help with acclimatisation to high altitude and to shorten the days. This is a beautiful valley and having more time in afternoon around camp to explore would be a good option before crossing the pass over to Upper Mustang.

As the crew and group were tired after several long days before and after Teri La pass, Ade decided to have two shorter days walking to Lo Manthang. As the group requested to have two nights in this village to explore north on the way back to Jomsom people took a jeep along the road for some sections.

We used SPOT gps tracker for this group, for each night on trek Ade checked in sending a gps signal to us so we could track this group's progress ----> click here to see the GPS map for Naar to Mustang GHT

As planned the group flew back from Jomsom to Pokhara to Kathmandu on October 27th. I met them on their arrival to Hotel Tibet and we had a very useful debrief meeting, I appreciate the feedback received and we will incorporate this into the planning and organisation for future treks. As mentioned in this Trip Report we have already made changes to Naar to Upper Mustang GHT itinerary for 2018 ----> take a look at TMC website. The trip length is 25 days from Kathmandu. As we take jeeps further up the road on way in and on way out to Jomsom this maximises the time spent up high in the beautiful & remote areas as well as shortening the long days before Teri La to enhance acclimatisation too.

Overall the opinion from Ade and the group was the trail on Naar to Upper Mustang GHT was a beautiful trek passing through a remote area of Nepal and with very few other trekkers around, they saw only one small group of two people after Naar village until arriving to Lo Manthang. It is refreshing to hear that there are still trails in Nepal during the peak month of October that are not too busy with other trekkers like the more popular Everest and Annapurna regions of Nepal.

Thanks very much to Ade and Gopal for their hard work in leading this trek and to the assistant guides, Khumbu and Nima and the cook, Suk Bahadur Rai. The group have all given positive feedback on the food so well done to Suk and his team!

The Mountain Company plans to organise our next Naar to Upper Mustang GHT trek in October 2018, please get in touch soon if you like to join this trek.

Trek on!

Roland Hunter
www.themountaincompany.co.uk


Friday, 3 November 2017

Trip report for Dhaulagiri Circuit led by Natalie Wilson and Pema Sherpa in October 2017

Photo: Mt Dhaulagiri seen from French Pass in October 2017 (credit: Natalie Wilson)
In October we organised our 15th trek around Dhaulagiri Circuit in Nepal and out of these 13 groups successfully & safely crossed the passes over to Jomsom. The two years where our groups had to turn back was after Cyclone HudHud in October 2014 and the earthquake in April 2015 ----> you can read all of our Trip Reports for Dhaulagiri Circuit

Our leaders for our October 2017 Dhaulagiri Circuit trek were Natalie, known as Nat, Wilson (UK) and Pema Sherpa (Nepal) and the asssistant guides supporting the group were Sona, Bale and Kancha. We had thirteen people in this group and like in previous years this group was an international mix with people coming from UK, USA, Germany, Canada, Australia and Denmark.

The group arrived to Kathmandu on October 8th, in the afternoon Nat gave her group briefing in the garden of Hotel Manaslu and I attended too. On the next day 9th they flew to Pokhara where they spent one night. Nat organised a group meal at Road House restaurant on Lakeside in the evening and I heard everyone enjoyed their time in Pokhara before starting the trek. On morning of 10th they drove by bus to the road head at Beni where they met the crew then walked to their first camp at Babichaur.

Photo: October 2017 group having breakfast at Dharapani (credit: Natalie Wilson)
The trek went well and the group arrived to Italian Base Camp as planned on October 16th. On October 22nd the group crossed French Col into Hidden Valley. I think probably the weather and conditions experienced by this group was the best on any of our previous October treks. Nat sums up below:

"The weather was absolutely fantastic. An hour or so of rain at Sallaghiri, some cold winds and a little snow up high but settled mornings, great views, bit of cloud build up in afternoon."

Throughout this expedition we received weather forecasts from Michael Fagin at everestweather.com and we sent these onto Nat by text to her satellite phone. Having professional weather forecasts is essential for safety in crossing high passes and for decision making in the field.


We have carefully designed our Dhaulagiri Circuit trek for acclimatisation and our groups have two nights at Italian Base Camp at 3,660m followed by two nights at Glacier Camp at 4,200m then a further two nights at Dhaulagiri Base Camp at 4,700m. Only with this ascent profile will you have enough time for your body to adapt to the high altitude for safe crossing of the high passes and for sleeping in Hidden Valley at 5,050m.

Photo: Pema Sherpa demonstrating use of PAC bag (credit: Natalie Wilson)
As with all of TMC camping treks we track their progress while in the field through SPOT gps check ins -----> see the map of this trek in SPOT Adventure website

Within our Dhaulagiri Circuit itinerary after crossing the high  passes we fly out from Jomsom to Pokhara and then change planes for the flight back to Kathmandu. During the trek we were informed by Goma Air that they had decided to cancel our confirmed booking for this flight from Jomsom. As this is peak season we tried to rebook onto another airlines however Tara Airlines was full so it looked likely at one stage this group would have to drive from Jomsom to Pokhara down the rough jeep road along Kali Gandaki river. Luckily a few days before the group arrived to Pokhara we managed to book a charter plane from Tara Airlines directly back to Kathmandu. This is the reality of travelling in Nepal and confirmed bookings are not always honoured so it is worth bearing this in mind if you are considering a trip to Nepal! This is adventure travel...

Photo: October 2017 group in Hidden Valley (credit: Natalie Wilson)
Nat summarises her experience leading this group as follows:

"In my opinion Dhaulagiri Circuit is an incredible trip and we were particularly lucky to have better than expected weather every day. We only saw a couple of other groups and had the high camps all to ourselves. I think the group enjoyed it a lot and there were no fitness issues or excessive fatigue or struggle and for the main everyone stayed in good health. We experienced wonderful views and had a good crew with a nice atmosphere. The food was excellent – Sangram and his team did an excellent job. Lots of carbs but balanced out with plenty of veggies, lots of variety. His cakes, chicken curry and chop suey on the last night was absolutely the best yet!"

Photo: October 2017 group crossing Dhampus Pass (credit: Natalie Wilson)

Congratulations to the group for completing Dhaulagiri Circuit. I would like to thank Nat, Pema and Sangram plus the rest of the team for their help and hard work.

The Mountain Company organises our Dhaulagiri Circuit trek twice a year in April and October. Our Dhaulagiri Circuit group in April 2018 is nearly guaranteed to run so please get in touch soon if you like to join this group.

Trek on!

Roland Hunter

Trip report for Lunana Snowman in Bhutan led by Almas Khan in September/ October 2017

Photo: Tshorim Lake before Gophu La pass
This is the ninth time The Mountain Company has organised the Complete Lunana Snowman trek in Bhutan starting in Paro and finishing in Bumthang. Our Snowman 2017 went well and this group successfully made the full traverse through Lunana out to Bumthang. The Mountain Company has 100% track record of organising this challenging 28 day trek through the remote Bhutanese Himalaya.

This year we had fourteen trekkers signed up for Lunana Snowman and like in previous years this group was an international mix with people coming from UK, USA, Australia, Singapore, Belgium and Denmark. Our 2017 Snowman group was led by Almas Khan and he has now completed this trek nine times too!

For our 2017 Snowman we had a strong and experienced local crew who have worked with us for many years. The two regular guides are Tashi and Tsering Dorje, I remember leading the first TMC Snowman trek with these two back in 2008! It has been wonderful to see both Tashi and Tsering develop as guides over the years coached by Almas and also we have invested in their training by sending them to Kathmandu for their Wilderness Medical Training at KEEP. Thanks Tashi and Tsering for all of your help over the years!

The cook, Sonam, and his kitchen helpers were new for last year's Snowman and as they did such a great job we requested their services again this year. I have heard from both Almas and group that the food was very good and has certainly improved since Sonam came on board. I have copied Almas’s comments on the food below:

“The quality of the food was very good and most of the clients commented they loved it. Hygiene standards by the entire kitchen crew were up to our standards. Quantity of food was adequate too.”


Photo: view from Karchung La
Overall the weather and conditions were favourable compared to previous years although this group had some rain & cloud crossing Karchung La into Lunana however they got lucky with stable & sunny weather on the exit passes over Gophu La and Saga La. We received weather forecasts of over 1m of snow for the day this group crossed the last passes over to Tso Chenchen as there was a low pressure system coming off the Bay of Bengal. However luckily this group was spared the extreme weather as the system tracked away from Bhutan at last minute! I have copied Almas’s assessment of weather and conditions below:

“The weather on the trip was very kind to us. Most of the time it only rained after we reached the camp. Not the best views at times. Rained and snowed on us while we walked on the day we walked over Karchung La to Tarina. Had excellent weather at the Tshorim lake and over the Gophu La. It was not as cold as I had expected. The lowest temperatures experienced were at Tshorim and Michigang -12. 8 Celsius at night outside and about -5 Celsius inside the tent in the coldest hour before dawn. Some group members found the trails a bit muddy - personally I have seen them worse on some previous treks."


Throughout our Lunana Snowman trek we receive bespoke weather forecasts from Michael Fagin at everestweather.com and this information is sent through to Almas on his satellite phone. Having professional weather forecasts is essential for safety in crossing high passes and for decision making in the field.


Our Snowman 2017 group made good progress and did not lose any days due to bad weather or other delays along the way. This year Almas decided to have two nights at Thanza to allow the group and crew to rest as the weather forecast was showing stable weather for a week allowing adequate time to cross Gophu La and Saga La.

Photo: Gophu La pass
Of interest on the day crossing Gophu La out of Lunana one of the cook boys saw a snow leopard while having a rest sitting on a rock near Geche Woma camp. Almas told me how this person was so startled that he dropped his chocolate bar (!) on the ground. Two members of the group also saw the snow leopard from afar as the cat quickly moved away. On further inspection of this area there were print mark seen in the sand that looked like snow leopard so we will take this is a confirmed snow leopard sighting! Blue sheep were also seen around Chomolhari Base Camp.

We used SPOT gps tracker for this group and each night Almas checked in sending a gps signal to us so we could track this group's progress --->  see the way points overlaid onto a map for Lunana Snowman

The Mountain Company has a pledge through AITO Project Protect for our groups to collect at least 120kg of rubbish/ trash in the Himalaya and Karakoram during 2017. Our 2017 Lunana Snowman trek has collected 40kg of rubbish from the trails and around campsites and was carried out to the road head by the ponies during resupply at Laya and out to the end of the trek at Minchugang. Well done to Almas, crew and group!

Photo: Tsering weighing the rubbish collected on Snowman

Photo: baskets of rubbish collected


I have copied below feedback received from one member of the group now published on AITO review site:

"The Lunana Snowman trek is a major logistical challenge for the leader to organise horses and food over such a long remote trek. On this trip everything worked really smoothly. TMC offer the Bumthang exit to the trek which is much less frequently visited and we had a real sense of being in a quite different world in Lunana. The scenery is fantastic, the walk is long but most days are quite straightforward. There is a bit of a sting in the tail going over the last few passes but by then we were all pretty fit and acclimatized. The Mountain Company was very efficient. Potential trekkers are screened for suitability so the risk of being held up by someone unfit is minimised. From personal experience I can confirm this is important!"

Many thanks to Almas, Tsering Dorje, Tashi, Tsering, Sonam and rest of the crew for all of their hard work with organising and leading another successful Snowman trek. Thanks also to Kinley and Dawa in the office in Thimphu who have provided an excellent service with their logistics and planning for this long and remote trek.

We have now launched the dates and prices for Lunana Snowman 2018 on TMC website so please get in touch soon if you would like to join this group. We have already received strong interest and this group is likely to fill fast as Snowman 2017 was fully booked with fourteen trekkers by April over six months before departure date.

Trek on!

Roland Hunter

The Mountain Company