Latest news from the Himalaya and Karakoram

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Trip report for Dhaulagiri Circuit led by Ade Summers and Chandra Rai in April 2017

Photo: crossing French Pass with Mt Dhaulagiri behind
In April we organised our 14th group trek around Dhaulagiri Circuit. Our leaders were Ade Summers (UK & Australia) and Chandra Rai (Nepal) and the Sherpa guides supporting the group were Mhin and Bhim. We had six people in this group and like in previous years this group was an international mix with people coming from Switzerland, USA and UK.

The group arrived to Kathmandu on April 16th and we organised the group briefing for late afternoon. We made one change with our Dhaulagiri Circuit itinerary compared to previous years  as we have extended by one day so the trip is now 21 days from arrival to Kathmandu. In previous years on Day 2 we flew from Kathmandu to Pokhara, drove to Beni and then trekked to first night's camp at Babuchur. This was too long especially if there were any delays in flying to Pokhara and quite often the group would arrive to Babuchur after dark therefore we now include one night in Pokhara before starting the trek. The feedback from the leaders and the group has been positive with this change in itinerary so we will keep this in place for our future Dhaulagiri Circuit groups.

The trek went well and the group arrived to Italian Base Camp as planned on April 24th. On April 30th the group crossed French Col into Hidden Valley. However the weather throughout the trek was quite rainy and there was deep snow higher up making the days crossing French and Dhampus passes more challenging for the group and crew. The weather this Spring throughout Nepal has been unsettled with more precipitation than in previous years. On May 2nd 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.

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. 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 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 camping 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

Congratulations to the group for completing Dhaulagiri Circuit. I would like thank Ade and Chandra 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 several member’s feedback from AITO.com website below:

"I had an excellent experience with The Mountain Company---Top Notch" Melvin

"The Mountain Company organised everything to a tee. We never had to worry about anything as everything was taken care of giving us the time and space to enjoy Nepal."  Mat

"The whole trip was well planned,organised and executed by The Mountain Company. The Mountain Company works to very high standards and achieves them, whilst being sensitive to the fragile environment in which it operates and respectful of the local peoples. From the off, the level of communication and personal advice offered is detailed, considered and personally tailored. Very impressive personal service. It is pleasing that customer feedback is listened to, then, where appropriate, put into action to enhance the next treks experiences. Well done and I hope to trek with you again in the near future." Paula


The Mountain Company organises Dhaulagiri Circuit trek and Dhampus Peak expedition twice a year in April and October. Our Dhaulagiri Circuit group in October 2017 is now guaranteed to run so please get in touch soon if you like to join this group.

Trek on!

Roland Hunter

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

The Mountain Company 16 point difference | Why you should choose us to organise your holiday in the Himalaya or Karakoram in 2017

The Mountain Company is an award winning operator

With so many rival trekking operators out there to choose from, it is worth highlighting the main reasons why we think you should choose us to organise your holiday in the Himalaya or Karakoram in 2017.  The Mountain Company 16 point difference is as follows:

1. The Mountain Company (TMC) is an independently owned niche operator with a strong track record and deep experience of our destinations, whilst still being small enough to offer a good old fashioned friendly and personal service. The Mountain Company is proud to be a member of the Association of Independent Tour Operators (“AITO”).

2. TMC is an ATOL licenced operator located in the UK. We are fully insured with combined public and product liability and hold professional indemnity insurance with Camberford Law PLC.

3. We provide comprehensive pre trip information to help you prepare for your holiday. This advice will come from our team who has first-hand knowledge and experience of the trip you are interested in joining.

4. We organise treks to Everest and Annapurna regions of Nepal, however we also enjoy organising treks to the most remote regions of the Himalaya. Many of these, such as Upper Dolpo to JomsomMakalu to Everest over Sherpani Pass and West ColLadakh Sky TrailRodung La with Merak and Sakten and Lunana Snowman, are along The Great Himalaya Trail (GHT) where you are unlikely to see many other trekking groups.

5. Through our online pre-trip application, we carefully screen everyone applying to join our groups. By asking about your outdoor experience, fitness level and medical conditions we hope to ensure you have an enjoyable and successful trip suited to your ambitions and capabilities.

6. Our treks are tried and tested and since TMC was set up in 2004 our groups have had excellent success rates of completing their objectives, such as reaching Everest Base Camp or crossing high passes on the classic camping treks like Dhaulagiri Circuit and Kanchenjunga Circuit. We have 100% success rate in organising the full Lunana Snowman trek in Bhutan traversing from Paro to Bumthang.

7. Our trek itineraries are designed for gradual ascent to allow time for your body to naturally adapt to the high altitude. We never compromise on the number of days within our itineraries in order to sell more holidays!

8. Our trips are organised with a high guide to trekker ratio to allow for a range of walking speeds within a group and also, for contingency planning in case a trekker has to turn back due to sickness or other reasons. In Nepal we provide one guide for a group size of two people, two guides for a group size of three people, and three guides for a group of more than six people.

9. We send a Thuraya satellite phone on all of our treks in Nepal, Pakistan and Bhutan. We also send a SPOT GPS tracker on camping treks. It is critical for group safety, risk management and contingency planning in an emergency situation, to know the location of and to have reliable communications with our trekking groups in the field.

10. We monitor the weather forecasts throughout the season by getting bespoke weather forecasts from EverestWeather.com. Having forecasts is important for safety before crossing a high pass or climbing to a summit such as Mera Peak or Dhampus Peak.

11. We work with some of the best mountain leaders and guides in the business, with deep knowledge and experience of the Himalaya and Karakoram. Unlike many other operators we still allocate appropriately trained international leaders for more remote and technical trips. Find out more about TMC leaders here

12. Within our detailed Trip Dossiers (downloadable from our website), we clearly define what is included in our packages so that you know exactly what to budget for. We go further to provide more within our packages. For example, our lodge based treks in Nepal include breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and biscuits plus two course dinner (soup and main meal) plus up to two cups of hot drinks per meal.

13. We have invested in high quality group equipment to support our camping groups in Nepal, such as Mountain Hardwear Trango 3.1 tents. On our camping trips we also provide portable high altitude chambers (known as PAC bags) for the emergency treatment of high altitude illnesses.

14. Given the current uncertain economic climate, you are assured that your money paid to us for your holiday is financially secure. Our UK clients will be issued an ATOL certificate backed by the British government. Our international clients will be covered by our financial protection insurance issued from International Passenger Protection.

15. We love what we do and are passionate about organising trips to the Himalaya and Karakoram! We focus on a small number of countries to ensure that we are the specialists for holidays in Nepal, Bhutan, India, Pakistan and Burma (Myanmar).

16. TMC head office is based in London, however Roland, our Managing Director, spends up to five months each year based in our destination countries. During 2016, Roland was in Kathmandu, Nepal supporting our groups for two months in Spring and two months in Autumn. He then travelled around Burma for a month in November inspecting tourist destinations and hotels there. Read more about our bespoke trips to Burma here.

Lastly, do not just take our word for it but please have a look at what our clients say about us on the AITO review website. TMC won the bronze award for AITO Tour Operator of the Year in 2015 based on receiving excellent customer feedback.

Please get in touch with us if you would like to find out more about The Mountain Company difference.

Roland Hunter

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Trip report for Kanchenjunga Circuit trek led by Almas Khan and Jhire Rai in November 2016

Photo: northside of Mt Kanchenjunga
In November, we organised Kanchenjunga Circuit trek in eastern Nepal and this was our second departure in 2016 -----> please click here to read our Trip Report for Kanchenjunga Circuit in April. Our November trek was led by Almas Khan and this was his third time leading this classic trek around the world’s third highest mountain. The Nepali sirdar for this group was Jhire Rai who knows Kanchenjunga region very well having completed this trek twelve times before!

Almas has had another busy year leading four treks for The Mountain Company; in April he led a group on Dhaulagiri Circuit; in August/ September he led Ladakh Sky Trail GHT; in September/ October to Bhutan for his seventh Lunana Snowman trek and then back to Nepal for Kanchenjunga Circuit. It looks like Almas will be busy again in 2017 with Rodung La with Merak & Sakten in Bhutan during April then Ladakh Sky Trail GHT; Lunana Snowman trek in September/ October and Kanchenjunga Circuit in November.

For our November 2016 Kanchenjunga Circuit group we had eight trekkers coming from Canada, Switzerland, Ireland Zealand and USA. The first day of the trip was November 1st and next morning Almas gave his trek briefing on the roof top restaurant at Hotel Tibet and I also attended. On November 3rd the group flew to Bhadrapur in east of Nepal and in afternoon drove up to Ilam for the night.

During the trek this group stuck to the scheduled itinerary walking up as planned to Pangpema at Kanchenjunga northside Base Camp on November 14th and then returned to Ghunsa on the next day. The group head up to High Camp before Mirgin La on 15th then successfully crossed over Mirgin La on 16th arriving to Tseram village in late afternoon.

The weather for this group was sunny throughout the trek and this is the normal pattern in Nepalese Himalaya where high pressure system tends to dominate after the monsoon has worked its way out. As discussed in Trip Report for our Dhaulagiri Circuit trek in October the monsoon finished late this year in mid October so having our Kanchenjunga Circuit in November works well in terms of weather and conditions. This group had sensational views of the north and southside of Mount Kanchenjunga as well wonderful vistas on crossing the high pass Mirgin La.

Throughout the course of Kanchenjunga Circuit trek we received bespoke weather forecasts from Michael Fagin at www.everestweather.com and this information was sent through to Almas on his satellite phone for days before approaching Kanchenjunga northside Base Camp and before crossing the Mirgin La. Having professional weather forecasts is essential for safety in crossing high passes and for decision making in the field.


I heard reports from another group trekking Kanchenjunga Circuit in October that the trail to Ghunsa had been damaged during the monsoons with a number of new landslides however in practice by November with the dryer weather these areas were fine with no active rocks falling. Almas mentioned also that one bridge had been swept away during the monsoon however the older bridge nearby survived so the group easily crossed over.

Over the years we have modified our itinerary for Kanchenjunga Circuit based on feedback from previous groups. We have carefully designed the day by day itinerary in order to allow time for acclimatisation to the high altitude and to maximise the chances of group successfully completing the trek. Almas confirmed in his debrief that our itinerary worked well and no further changes were required. 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 and follow their route on SPOT Adventure website

Thanks very much to Almas, Jhire, and Sangram and the rest of the team for their hard work leading and organising this trek.

The Mountain Company is promoting Kanchenjunga Circuit trek for April and November 2017. Our April departure is nearly guaranteed to run so please get in touch soon if you like to join this group.

Roland Hunter

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

The Mountain Company