Latest news from the Himalaya and Mount Kilimanjaro

Latest news from the Himalaya and Mount Kilimanjaro

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Trip report for Dhaulagiri Circuit led by Ade Summers and Chandra Rai in October 2016

Photo: Dhaulagiri Base Camp
In October we organised our 13th group trek around Dhaulagiri Circuit and this was also our 3rd expedition to climb Dhampus Peak. On their return to Kathmandu I caught up with most of the group for a debrief at Yak Bar on the roof terrace of Hotel Tibet in Kathmandu to get their feedback on the trip.

We had twelve people in this group and like in previous years this group was an international mix with people coming from Australia, Switzerland, USA, Canada and UK. There were three people who decided to pay for the extra cost to climb Dhampus Peak. This surcharge covers the permit fee and per permit rules the costs to provide equipment to the climbing guide and insurance fees for helicopter rescue. Therefore the cost of this surcharge depends on the number of people opting for Dhampus Peak and with a larger group the cost per person will decrease.

The leaders for our Dhaulagiri Circuit with Dhampus trip were Ade Summers (UK & Australia) and Chandra Rai (Nepal). The climbing guide for Dhampus Peak was Dorje Sherpa and the Sherpa guides supporting the group was Hebi and Bhim. The cook was Kancha Tamang.

The group arrived to Kathmandu on October 9th and we organized group briefing for late afternoon. The group flew to Pokhara on 10th and took the bus to Beni. As it was already 3pm by the time the group had finished lunch Ade and Chandra decided it would be better to take a bus to the first camp as it was not possible to camp at Tatopani instead continued on to Babaychur camp.

There was a late monsoon in Nepal this Autumn and from checking weather forecasts the Annapurna and Dhaulagiri regions started to dry out with less precipitation by end of first week of October. We have carefully selected the first day of Dhaulagiri Circuit on October 9th as it is quite common for monsoon to continue into October. Luckily by the time our Dhaulagiri group started the trek there was settled and sunny post monsoon weather. I gather they were lucky to get good views of the Himalayas including Mt Dhaulagiri over the first two days as they walked through the villages. As ever the days lower down on Dhaulagiri Circuit are hot and humid as first night camp at Babaychur is only at an altitude of 870m.

Throughout this expedition we received weather forecasts from Michael Fagin at everestweather.com and we sent these onto Ade by text to his satellite phone. Overall the weather for this trek was good with sunny and stable conditions and had clear days with superb views for crossing French Pass and Dhampus Pass. Having professional weather forecasts is essential for safety in crossing high passes and for decision making in the field.


The trek went well with fine weather virtually no precipitation and the group arrived to Italian Base Camp as planned on October 16th. On October 22nd the group crossed French Col into Hidden Valley. As per our weather forecast from everestweather.com it was sunny however windy on the pass as the jet streams were low and high winds were mixing down to 5,000m.

On morning of October 23rd Ade got up at 3am and decided to abort the summit attempt on Dhampus Peak due to the strong wind. Three people who paid for the permit understood this decision and instead went for a good walk around Hidden Valley. This day in Hidden Valley is one of the highlights of the trip and during the day some people decided to relax and enjoy the views from camp while others explored Hidden Valley.

On October 24th the group crossed Dhampus Pass with superb views of Annapurna South and Nilgiris and made good progress to camp at Alu Bari for the night. The next day there is a steep and sustained descent to Marpha village and after a refreshing apple juice (this village is well known for its apple products including stronger versions of juice!) some of the group took a bus to Jomsom and others walked.

We have carefully designed our Dhaulagiri Circuit 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.

As with all of TMC western led treks we track their progress while in the field through SPOT gps check ins, you can see the map of this trek in SPOT Adventure website

I heard the group and crew had a good celebration this evening and a cake was baked by Kancha to celebrate the end of the trek. The group handed out the tips during the evening and this was appreciate by the crew.

Congratulations to the group for completing Dhaulagiri Circuit. I would like thank Ade, Chandra, Dorje, Hebi, Bhim, Kancha plus the rest of the team for their help and hard work.

The feedback from the group has been very positive and everyone had a good time. I have copied one member’s feedback from AITO.com website below:

“It started with a warm and generous Nepali welcome at the airport and it continued for the next 20 days. A good bunch of people of varied ages, a fantastic Leader and support crew who could not do enough to ensure you had a great time. The views were superb, they seemed to get better each day and I loved every minute of the trip.

The itinerary was very well planned with rest days to assist with acclimatising. The tour company were extremely well organised, they communicated the plan for the day and were flexible in their attitude and generally appeared to care that everybody was well and enjoying themselves. There was always somebody not that far away on the trail if you had a question and to make sure the group stayed together. A truly professional tour group.” TE


It is worth pointing out we have decided to make one change to our Dhaulagiri Circuit itinerary for 2017. It is a long day on Day 2 to fly to Pokhara, drive to Beni, have lunch and then trek or drive to Babaychur camp (as it is no longer possible to camp at Tatopani). If there are delays in the flight to Pokhara or on the drive to Beni takes longer than expected then it is likely that the group will to arrive to camp in the dark. Therefore we decided to include one more day in the itinerary to have second night at hotel in Pokhara then on Day 3 driving to Beni and walking beyond Babaychur to Darbang (just before the bridge).

The Mountain Company organise our Dhaulagiri Circuit trek and Dhampus Peak expedition twice a year in April and October. Our Dhaulagiri Circuit group in April 2017 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 led by Almas Khan in September/ October 2016

Photo: Gophu La known as exit pass from Lunana
This is the eighth time The Mountain Company has organised the Complete Lunana Snowman trek in Bhutan starting in Paro and finishing in Bumthang. After another successful Snowman in September/ October 2016, The Mountain Company has 100% track record of organising this challenging and long trek through the remote Bhutanese Himalaya.

This year we had ten trekkers signed up for the full Snowman and like in previous years this group was an international mix with people coming from Australia, Finland, Netherlands, Germany, Denmark and UK. Our 2016 Snowman group was led by our regular guide, Almas Khan. Almas has now completed Snowman trek eight times including both Bumthang and Nikka Chu exit trails from Lunana. We received superb feedback from the group on Almas organisation and leadership skills. I have copied some of their comments below:

"Almas is an experienced and very capable trek leader." JH

"Almas was absolutely amazing! The way he kept his calm and the way he handled the long period of wet weather in the beginning of the trip made me feel in good hands. This was the first time I'd been on a long trek and the first time I'd been in a non-Western country, so to me it was very reassuring to have a trek leader who seemed so secure in everything he did. His humor was quite infectious as well, which of course isn't a necessary leadership skill, but did make the evenings more fun after a long, hard day. I liked the way he communicated important information without necessarily telling us everything; over-information isn't always a good thing if it makes people worry, and Almas knew exactly how much to tell us and when." DP


For our 2016 Snowman we had several new crew members including the cook, Sonam, and his kitchen helpers. We have made some changes to our logistics and organisation for Snowman 2016 as the food on Snowman 2015 was disappointing. We have worked with our partners in Bhutan and Almas’s wife, Jayne Khan, flew out to Bhutan in August to help train Sonam and work on the supplies and provisioning for this long trek. This effort has paid off and we received positive feedback on the food from the group such as:

“The cook on the trek was great! Food was plentiful, well prepared and for the most part delicious” SS

“I had expected to lose appetite due to the altitude and the foreign food, but our cook, Sonam, was excellent at preparing meals so delicious I actually often kept eating even when I wasn't hungry anymore. I never lost my appetite and always looked forward to the next meal.” DP


Photo: Karchung La known as entry pass to Lunana
We were happy to have our regular Bhutanese guide, Tashi, on board and Tsering Dorje joined our group again this year. Tsering guided on two of our  previous Snowman treks however had a break for a few years as he was busy in Autumn season as a cultural tour guide. Our third Bhutanese guide was called Tsering too.

The big news in Himalaya this Autumn season was the late monsoon as this year finished raining much later than usual by mid-October. Normally the heavy rains are decreasing by end of September however the timing and intensity of monsoon varies year to year. Our Snowman 2016 was unlucky as when monsoon was winding down a low pressure system came off Bay of Bengal bringing in more heavy rain on October 12th and 13th.

Throughout the course of Snowman trek we received 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. Michael sent us advanced warning of this low pressure system and tracked its path so we could provide Almas with information a few days before its arrival to Bhutan.


Normally by the time group arrives to Chomolhari BC the weather improves however it is important to start this trek in September as a week or two later precipitation will fall as snow on the exit passes of Gophu La and Saga La. As mentioned in previous Snowman trip reports the number of days on Snowman is longer than the typical weather window available. The compromise is to start earlier in Autumn season when there is still a chance of precipitation however it means it is less likely for the exit passes of Lunana to be blocked by snow as the snowline is higher at this time of year. This strategy worked for Snowman 2016 as after the low pressure system discussed above passed through the snow was not too deep on the high passes and melted off quite fast. Therefore we had no issues with our pack animals and group crossing these passes.

Photo: Mount Jitchu Drake
For this year’s Snowman we modified our itinerary from Snowman 2015 as the group spent two nights in the less visited Haa valley before starting the trek. After the group's arrival to Paro they had one night at Olathang hotel and then next day the group walked up Tiger's Nest and then in afternoon drive over Chele La (3,780m) to Haa Valley. After two nights at Haa valley they drove back over Chele La and then drive on through Paro to Shana for the first night's camp of the trek.

In Haa valley the group enjoyed a lovely day walk and as this valley is at 2,712m this is 500m higher than Paro it is very effective for acclimatisation. In Haa valley the group enjoyed staying at a traditional farmhouse called Lechuna Heritage Lodge for more information please take a look at their website. The feedback from Snowman 2016 has been very positive about staying in Haa Valley before starting the trek and everyone was well acclimatized for the ascent up to Chomolhari Base Camp. We believe our modified 2016 Snowman trek should add in terms of interest and also increase our groups chances of safely completing the Snowman trek

Our Snowman 2016 group made good progress and did not lose any days due to bad weather or other delays along the way. As usual Almas decided to have only one night at Thanza and to keep moving in case a spare buffer day was required later on. In the end they arrived to the hot springs at Dur Tsachu one day early like previous year so they had two nights to relax in the hot tubs.

On October 19th we had one member of the group suffer from an allergic reaction so Almas decided this person should be evacuated by helicopter. It is not known what caused this reaction however it may have been a plant that caused a rash to spread and then proceed to swelling of lips. After a discussion with their insurance company through the satellite phone it was agreed the best course of action was to evacuate this person by helicopter.

In previous years there were no helicopters available in Bhutan so evacuations were organized by Indian Army however this process was slow and unreliable. Two years ago Bhutan government purchased two helicopters now stationed throughout the year in Thimphu and Paro to provide more effective service for rapid evacuation. After the approval had been received from insurance company our partner in Thimphu arranged for the helicopter rescue. One of the reasons our leaders on remote treks carry GPS Spot locator is so that we can provide latitude and longitude to the pilot for location of pick up.

Photo: helicopter evacuation from Worithang
The evacuation went well and this person was flown back to Thimphu for checkup and made a full recovery. This worked well as we were able to send in food and meat in the helicopter so the group enjoyed chicken dishes for a few nights! This was our first helicopter evacuation required on our eight Snowman treks however it is good to know this service is available in case required. For more information on helicopter service in Bhutan please take a look at Airbus Helicopter's website

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. Click here to see the way points overlaid onto a map for Lunana Snowman

The feedback for Snowman 2016 has been positive and I have copied one below:

“The Mountain Company organised an excellent Snowman trek in Bhutan. The pre-trek information and advice was very helpful and the trek was expertly led in country by Almas Khan, a very experienced trek leader who has now completed numerous Snowman treks.

The 27 day Snowman Trek was a tough challenge, both physically and mentally. The terrain was remote and often spectacular. Sandwiched between the monsoon and the start of the winter snows it pays to be well equipped for all weather. The many ascents are not technical but are often long. The steep descents often require a lot of concentration. Paths vary from smooth and dry to mud and rocks.
The 3 day pre-trek acclimatisation process was well thought out and none of the group suffered any significant altitude sickness. The three day cross-country return to Paro gave a good insight to Bhutan life.” JH


For more testimonials on Snowman and our other trips please take a look at AITO review section of their website

Many thanks to Almas, Tsering Dorje, Tashi, Tsering, Sonam and rest of the crew for all of their hard work, great job again! Thanks to Jayne Khan for all of her help with training the cooks and her work on provisioning. Thanks also to Kinley and Dawa in the office in Thimphu who worked hard to improve their level of service and have responded well to our feedback from Snowman 2015.

We have now launched the dates and prices for Lunana Snowman 2017 on TMC website so please get in touch soon if you would like to join this group. Almas Khan has confirmed his leadership for next year’s Snowman and we have already received confirmation from five people so I am confident our Snowman 2017 will be guaranteed soon. As soon as Druk Air starts to taking bookings for flights for dates of Snowman 2017 we will ask people to pay deposits if they like to go ahead to sign up.

If you have already done Lunana Snowman then you may be interested to hear Almas will also be heading back to Bhutan in April 2017 to lead our Rodung La with Sakten and Merak. This trek is an extension of the Lunana Snowman trek by starting in Bumthang and continuing east to Trashi Yangtse along The Great Himalaya Trail ("GHT").

Trek on!

Roland Hunter

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Trip Report for Snow Lake and Hispar La trek in Pakistan led by Ade Summers in July '16

Photo: Biafo Glacier (credit: Mar Knox)
Our Snow Lake and Hispar La group arrived to Islamabad on July 10th and were lucky to fly as planned to Skardu on 11th. It is worth pointing that in the past this flight has been unreliable and often cancelled. If the fight is cancelled then we drive the Karakoram Highway (“KKH”) and spend the night in Chilas along the way. At the moment Foreign & Commonwealth Office ("FCO") to Pakistan advises against travel on the Karakoram Highway (“KKH”) and therefore at point of booking we require a signed FCO Awareness Disclaimer from all clients. This document confirms that person joining the trip assumes and accepts the risks associated with travel against FCO advice.

Since we last organised a trek in Pakistan back in August 2012 the flight to Skardu has become more reliable as there are more planes flying the route from Islamabad to Skardu so these days the chances of having to drive KKH are reduced (although of course still possible). In fact over Summer 2016 of all our groups both Snow Lake and K2 Base Camp treks were lucky as they flew both ways Islamabad to Skardu and back to Islamabad.

Photo: Snow Lake (credit: Mar Knox)
As the group flew to Skardu at start of the trip they had two nights staying at K2 Motel before starting the trek. On July 13th the group drove in jeeps along the rough road to the village of Askole at the road head. Along the way there was a landslide blocking the way however they managed to cross the land slide on foot through an area with active rockfall with small rocks regularly falling. The guides organized the group to quickly cross this hazardous area with with spotters looking out for falling rocks. This is the reality of adventure travel in Pakistan where roads are often damaged by landslides so before booking any trip to this country you should make sure you are comfortable with this level of risk and uncertainty.

Photo: view from High Camp (credit: Mar Knox)
When our group arrived to Askole, Ade met a German group and their Pakistani guide who had attempted Snow Lake trek although had to turn around and trek back to Askole. After detailed discussions with this group Ade found out there were large crevasses 30m to 40 wide blocking the route to Hispar La. At that point Ade got in contact with TMC office in London to discuss the situation and we both agreed to continue with the trek and to check conditions at Hispar La to see if possible to proceed with the traverse into Hunza.

On July 14th they started their trek following the K2 Base Camp trail for three hours to Korofong (3,100m) then from there the Snow Lake trail turns to the west and ascends the Biafo glacier. As mentioned in K2 Base Camp trip reports, most of the high mountain treks in Pakistan like Snow Lake trek do not pass through any villages so this is very different to trekking experience to Nepal. The trek to Snow Lake passes through rough and rugged terrain. As there are no villages in this area the trails are less well travelled and there are no bridges over the rivers so you must be prepared for river crossings.

Photo: High Camp at 4,580m (credit: Mar Knox)
I gather from Ade for the first few days of the trek the weather was fine and quite hot however after a couple of days the weather became cloudier and there was heavy rain in afternoon. The trek proceeded as planned however there was heavy snow fall on the day before heading up to Snow Lake causing difficult conditions on the glacier. When there is fresh snow on the glacier this can hide the crevasses and also cause slippery conditions underfoot. At this point the decision was made by Ade to turn back and retreat to Askole given the low chance of finding a way through the large crevasses on way to Hispar La and also due to the fresh snow making glacial travel riskier for the group and crew.

After some discussion with TMC Office and our local partners in Pakistan we rescheduled their itinerary.  The group walked back down Hispar glacier to Askole then drove back to Skardu for one night and then drove around to the end point of the trek at Karimabad. The four people who had booked onto the K2 Base Camp & Gondogoro La trek decided to stay a few more nights in Karimabad and the rest of Snow Lake group with Ade flew back from Gilgit to Islamabad as planned.

Photo: roped up traverse to Snow Lake (credit: Mar Knox)
I think it was a real shame that this group were not able to cross Hispar La over to Hunza valley as I understand it is disappointing not to achieve the objective of the trip. When I heard this news from Ade I was surprised as many groups have crossed this pass over the years however for some reason the conditions of this glacier has dramatically changed.

From speaking to the local guides they thought these large crevasses may have been caused by two recent earthquakes experienced nearby in October 2015 (magnitude 7.5) and April 2016 (magnitude 6.6). This affect was reported in local Pakistan at the time although from Kyber News article it is not clear which glacier they are referring to. The other contributing factor likely to have influenced this change in conditions is global warming as it has been recorded that many glaciers in Himalaya and Karakoram are melting fast.

Photo: Khalil, Javed and Mark dancing at camp (credit: Mar Knox)
After Snow Lake, Ade went on to lead our K2 Base Camp groups and on return to Askole at end of August met a group they had also return to Askole after attempting to cross Hispar La as they were also unable to cross due to these crevasses. As far as I know no other groups managed to make the traverse from Askole to Hunza via Hispar during Summer 2016. For this reason we have decided not to run our Snow Lake trek in 2017 as we are not confident with the current conditions however if a route is found through these crevasses next summer then we will look to organize Snow Lake again in 2018.

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 way points overlaid onto a map for our 2016 Snow Lake

Thanks very much to Ade, Javeed and Wahab plus the rest of the Pakistan team for their hard work in leading this trek.

I have copied feedback below from one member of Snow Lake group: “Excellent trek in a remote part of Pakistan to the beautiful Snow Lake. Very professional, safety conscious and organised. Excellent individual service.” Mark S

As mentioned The Mountain Company will not organize Snow Lake in 2017 however we are promoting both our K2 Base Camp & Concordia and K2 Base Camp & Gondogoro La in Pakistan for July 2017.Please get in touch with us soon if you like to join one of these groups next summer.

Roland Hunter

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Trip report for Ladakh Sky Trail GHT led by Almas Khan in August/ September 2016

Photo: Tshokar salt lake
Our Ladakh Sky Trail GHT group arrived to Leh in northern Indian on August 17th and on 19th drove to Lamayuru (3,500m) and 20th they started the trek. Our Ladakh Sky Trail is a unique itinerary designed by Almas and travels through the best of the three areas of this region: Ladakh, Zanskar and Changthang/ Rupshu. For most of Ladakh Sky Trail GHT we follow rarely trekked trails and this is only possible due to the local knowledge of Almas and our local Ladakhi guides.

As for all or our treks in the Himalayas we received bespoke weather forecast from Michael Fagin at everestweather.com. Fortunately the weather was good for our 2016 Ladakh Sky Trail GHT trek and I gather from Almas there was less snow on the high passes compared to previous years. This meant that the river levels were low and there were no issues with river crossings. Amas knew this year's horsemen well as they had worked together on treks several years ago and are the best we have used so far on this trek. I gather due to low river levels and experienced horseman the horses did not need to be unloaded and reloaded during the many river crossings so this speeded up the days.

Photo: river crossing son way to Zangla Sumdo
As mentioned in previous year’s Trip Reports we have carefully selected the time of year to run this trek, by starting in late August into September much of the snow in the mountains has already melted over the summer so river levels should be lower at this time of year.

As the weather and conditions were favourable the group made good progress and followed the itinerary as planned. The whole group arrived to end of the trek at Tsomoriri lake on September 9th and then on 10th drove back to Leh. As with all of TMC western led treks we track their progress while in the field through SPOT gps check ins, you can see the map of this trek on SPOT Adventure website

Photo: on way to Lingshed
Thanks to Almas and the hardworking Ladakhi team for doing a great job on another successful Ladakh Sky Trail GHT. Almas will be back in Ladakh again next summer leading our 2017 Ladakh Sky Trail and we have already requested for the same local Ladakhi crew to join our group. Please get in touch soon if you are interested in joining our Ladakh Sky Trail GHT or if you have any questions on this trek.

Roland Hunter

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Trip Report for K2 Base Camp treks in Pakistan led by Ade Summers in August '16

Photo: K2
In 2016 we decided to run two treks to K2 Base Camp in Pakistan at the same time: our K2 Base Camp & Concordia and our K2 Base Camp & Gondogoro La. The plan was for both groups to walk together to K2 Base Camp then one group would return back down Baltoro and the second group from Concordia would follow Vigne glacier and ascend over the Gondogoro La pass to Hushe village. After the trek both groups were scheduled to meet back up again in Skardu then travel together back to Islamabad. These K2 treks were led by Ade Summers and supported by Pakistan guides Javeed and Wahab.

Our K2 Base Camp & Concordia is a non-technical walk however for a large portion of this trek follows a moraine covered glacier. The feedback received is this trek is more challenging than similar treks such as Everest Base Camp in Nepal. We recommend K2 Base Camp to experienced trekkers who have trekked to high altitude in the Himalaya on a previous occasion and experience in the outdoors such as regular walking and hiking in home country.

Whereas if you plan to join K2 Base Camp & Gondogoro La trek then mountaineering skills are required to cross this technical pass. At The Mountain Company we have a process of reviewing pre trip applications sent in through our website before providing feedback on suitability and whether any further training is required. I have noticed from having led K2 Base Camp trek many times over the years that often other groups underestimate the challenge of crossing the Gondogoro La. It is important for safety to have mountaineering skills and experience of previous high altitude treks before considering this trip.

Our K2 Base Camp groups arrived to Islamabad on July 30th and were lucky to fly to Skardu on 31st. It is worth pointing that in the past this flight has been unreliable and often cancelled. If the fight is cancelled then we drive the Karakoram Highway (“KKH”) and spend the night in Chilas along the way. At the moment Foreign & Commonwealth Office ("FCO") to Pakistan advises against travel on the Karakoram Highway (“KKH”) and therefore at point of booking we require a signed FCO Awareness Disclaimer from all clients. This document confirms that person joining the trip assumes and accepts the risks associated with travel against FCO advice.

Since we last organised a trek in Pakistan back in August 2012 the flight to Skardu has become more reliable as there are more planes flying the route from Islamabad to Skardu so these days the chances of having to drive KKH are reduced (although of course still possible). Our K2 Base Camp groups were lucky as they also flew back to Islamabad after the trek too.

As the group flew to Skardu at start of the trip they had two nights staying at K2 Motel before starting the trek. On this extra day in Skardu the group enjoyed exploring the town and bazaar as well as walking up to the fort located on a hill overlooking the Indus river.

On August 2nd the group drove in local jeeps along the rough road to the road head at the village of Askole. On August 3rd they started their trek following the fast flowing Braldu river. Unlike treks in Nepal on K2 Base Camp trek there are no villages once one has left Askole. The trek to K2 Base Camp passes through rough and rugged terrain with impressive peaks flanking the Baltoro Glacier. As there are no villages in this area the trails are less well travelled and there are fewer bridges over the rivers so you must be prepared for river crossings.

We have carefully designed our itinerary for gradual acclimatisation and unlike most other companies we decide not have two nights in Paiju (3,383m) as this is too low to benefit from acclimatisation. Instead we continue onto Urdukas camp (4,130m) where we have two nights as this more beneficial at this altitude.

We made one change on our itinerary for summer 2016 as we now have one night at Concordia on the way up and then on next day we shift camp up to Broad Peak Base Camp. This works much better as one can walk up to K2 Base Camp from Broad Peak Base Camp then back down to Concordia. Whereas in the past we walked from Concordia to K2 Base Camp in a day and this is a very long way on rough moraine covered glacier. In practice this day walk is too far for most people and it is disappointing if group cannot reach their objective of K2 Base Camp.

I gather from Ade the first few days of the trek the weather was very hot and then they had rain at Urdukas followed by cloudy conditions for Concordia and trek to Broad Peak and K2 Base Camp. However luckily the group did see the mighty pyramid of K2 however not as clear as our groups have enjoyed in the past. The weather had been unstable in Karakoram from last week of July and this had fallen as snow that had accumulated on Gondogoro La.

One of the main risks of crossing this pass is rockfall and mudslides especially when fresh snow starts to melt. As a result the local Hushe Rescue Team were not in place to help teams over the pass. Therefore Ade made the decision that it was not safe to cross the pass and sadly our Gondogoro La group descended Baltoro with our K2 Base Camp team. The good news is that all eleven members of this group successfully made it to K2 Base Camp. Well done and congratulations!

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 way points overlaid onto a map for K2 Base Camp

Thanks very much to Ade, Javeed and Wahab plus the rest of the Pakistan team for their hard work in leading this trek.

I have copied some feedback below from one of K2 Base Camp group:

"This is a great company that provides point by point communication and attention to details. The head guide was well chosen to blend the needs of all the clients. The food and food preparation was excellent. Attention was paid to care and cleanliness to avoid illness on the trek. The local support crew was excellent and was also on target with camp preparation and helping the clients. The camp sites provide great views of more 7 and 8000 meter peaks than most any place in the world. The timing of the trip length was excellent to help with acclimatization. The whole package from start to finish makes this group and this trek one of the best treks on the planet." Doctor Phil (USA)

The Mountain Company is promoting both our K2 Base Camp & Concordia and K2 Base Camp & Gondogoro La for July 2017. We decided to organise these treks one month earlier compared to 2016 as there may be better chance of clearer weather and for crossing Gondogoro la in July. There is already interest in these departures so I am confident this will run as planned.

Please get in touch with us soon if you like to join one of our K2 Base Camp treks in July 2017.

Roland Hunter

Monday, 5 September 2016

The Mountain Company sends a Thuraya satellite phone on all of our treks in Nepal, Pakistan and Bhutan

We have recently introduced a company policy of sending Thuraya satellite phone with our guides on all treks in Nepal, Pakistan and Bhutan.

The question to ask is whether a satellite phone is really needed for a trek in Nepal, Pakistan or Bhutan? The answer is yes that having reliable communications in the field via a satellite phone such as Thuraya is critical for group safety, risk management and contingency planning in an emergency situation.

Please see photo below of four Thuraya satellite phones delivered today and this means The Mountain Company now has a total of twelve satellite phones for use on our 2016 Autumn treks in Nepal and Bhutan.

Photo: some of The Mountain Company's Thuraya satellite phones
The Mountain Company sends a Thuraya satellite phone and also three fully charged batteries with each group. This means there will be sufficient battery power for extended treks and our groups do not have to rely on solar panels (as these do not work if cloudy) or unreliable power from local villages or lodges.

However just giving a satellite phone to our guides is not sufficient as we need to ensure they check messages sent and keep in regular contact. For example The Mountain Company receives weather forecasts from everestweather.com throughout the trekking seasons in Nepal, Pakistan and Bhutan and we will send SMS texts with the forecast summary to direct to the group's satellite phones. If the leader does not turn the satellite phone on to check for messages or call into The Mountain Company operation centre then they will not be aware if there is cyclone or large storm coming their way!

The Mountain Company has developed a communications policy for both our Western and Nepali leaders and this has been designed to enhance the safety for both crew and trekking group. Our communications policy means we can keep in touch with our leaders and groups in the field by monitoring their progress and provide support when required. A summary of The Mountain Company's communications policy is as follows:
  • Group leader must switch their Thuraya satellite phone on every day after 6pm to check for incoming SMS text messages.
  • Group leader must call The Mountain Company at a minimum every four days to give an update on their progress.
  • Group leader must call The Mountain Company on the day before crossing any high pass over 4,500m to receive an update on weather forecast and conditions. They should also phone to confirm when the group and crew have all crossed the pass safely.
  • Group leader must call The Mountain Company for approval before making any significant changes to the itinerary.
  • Group leader must call The Mountain Company if any member of the group or crew is sick or injured.
  • Group leader to call The Mountain Company at any time if they need any advice, help or support while leading a group.
Having led many treks throughout the Himalaya over the years I am frequently surprised how many groups met along the way do not have access to satellite communications in the field. If you are looking to join a group trek in the Himalaya I suggest you ask the operator during your enquiry (and before booking!) if your trek leader will have a satellite phone. Please do not assume if you are booking with a European or American trek operator that a satellite phone will be always be sent with your group!

Following the Nepal earthquakes in Spring 2015 we found that having direct communications with our leaders through their satellite phones was critical in finding out the status of our groups (luckily they were all fine) and deciding on their plans for rest of their trip. In the past we relied upon the cell phone system in Everest and Annapurna region however this is not reliable especially as many of cell phone towers are powered by solar panels. 

During our contingency planning at The Mountain Company we have considered the worst case situation of an extreme event such as a high magnitude earthquake that could destroy the entire cell phone system of one of our destination countries of Nepal, Pakistan or Bhutan. If this happened then having reliable satellite phone communications would be critical for contacting our groups in the field and organising their emergency evacuation. Unfortunately earthquakes and cyclones will certainly happen again in the Himalaya and Karakoram (hopefully not in our life time) however we need to be prepared for this and have robust contingency plans in place.

Roland Hunter

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

The Mountain Company has been nominated for the Best Escorted Adventure Holiday Company category in the 2016 British Travel Awards


We are delighted to report that The Mountain Company has been nominated for the Best Escorted Adventure Holiday Company category in the prestigious 2016 British Travel Awards (BTAs).

The winners will be determined by the consumer, who has until 30 September to cast their vote, with the successful companies announced at the BTA Gala Awards Dinner, being held in London on 23 November 2016.

The Mountain Company is London based adventure travel company organising remote treks, expeditions and tours to the Himalayan region from Burma, India, Nepal, Bhutan to Pakistan.

British Travel Awards’ chief executive Lorraine Barnes Burton said: “This year there are nearly seven hundred nominations listed against 83 Award categories and competition to win a British Travel Awards will be fierce. In 2015 more than a million votes were cast by the consumer to decide the winners, making the BTAs easily the largest awards programme in the UK. Voting in the 2016 Awards is now open and nominated companies have until 30th September to lobby their happy customers for votes – good luck to The Mountain Company.

The British Travel Awards are considered the benchmark for excellence when it comes to finding out who really is the best in the travel industry. The British Travel Awards is a proudly independent organisation, verified by leading global business practitioners, Deloitte.

The Mountain Company