Latest news from the Himalaya and Karakoram

Monday, 30 June 2008

Tibet opens to tourists again

The latest news is that Tibet is now open again for tourists. It has been confirmed that normal tour groups will be allowed to visit Tibet from the end of June, however it is not yet known when trekking and mountaineering expeditions will be allowed to enter.

There is a good article on summarising the current situation, the link is at:

The Mountain Company is hopeful about running an Everest North Col expediton in April 2009, however we will have to carefully follow the events in Tibet before confirming the departure. For more information on our Everest North Col expedition.

Photo: Everest Base Camp (Tibet)

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

National Geographic Lunana Snowman article

I have just read a very good article about the Lunana Snowman trek on the National Geographic Adventure website, the link is at:

Roland is leading the Snowman trek for The Mountain Company in September/October 2008. This trip is guaranteed to run and there is still currently availability, for more information on the Snowman

Monday, 16 June 2008

Nepal palace becomes a museum

Perhaps shortly we will add the ex Royal Palace onto our Kathmandu sightseeing tour! Take a look at this article on BBC News:

TMC pre-monsoon '08

Roland recently got back to the UK after spending three months in Nepal during the pre-monsoon trekking season. We had a busy season in Nepal including groups summitting Island Peak & nearly Naya Kanga (100m from the summit!), several successful Everest Base Camp treks and a trek around the Manaslu Circuit followed by Dhaulagiri Circuit.

The season started in early March with a private group going to Poon Hill and Ghorepani where some continued to the Sanctuary and Annapurna Base Camp and others coming back to Pokhara via Ghandrung village.

At the same time our Everest Base Camp and Island Peak group set off for their expedition led by Pemba Tamang. Pemba joined Roland last October as the Sirdar on his Mera Peak expedition. Pemba is an experienced climbing Sherpa having summitted both Everest and Manaslu twice. This group successfully reached Kalapathar, Everest bc and the summit of Island Peak.

In the second week of March five members of Everest Base Camp trek trek flew into Lukla. Having spoken to them on their return to Kathmandu overall they had good weather with great views of the mountains. The whole group got to Base Camp so well done everyone!

Throughout March and April, we organised a number of private treks to the Khumbu using the Everest luxury lodges, as ever they seem to be very popular way of seeing the spectacular Everest region while staying in comfortable lodges each night.

In early April the Naya Kanga expedition set off trekking through Helambu and over the Laurebina La before heading up the Langtang valley to Kianjin Gompa. From there they put in two camps on Naya Kanga before their summit attempt. On summit day the team reached just below the summit although had to make the hard call to turn around due to unstable snow on the final slope.

Following the team's debrief on their return to Kathmandu it was clear they made the right decision, however they had a great time and would highly recommend this trip to others. The trek passes through an area where there are fewer trekkers compared to the busier Everest and Annapurna region and the climb is technically interesting with superb views.

On April 7th the Manaslu Circuit group led by Roland set off for the roadhead at Arughat. The trek went well and as usual our Sirdar, Jhire, did a great job looking after the crew and clients. I would highly recommend this trek which explores a remote area of Nepal passing through a culturally and scenically diverse region of Nepal.

The trek starts at a low altitude (800m) where you will walk through rice paddies with mainly Gurung & Magar villages and then enters the Tibetan Buddhist region over 3000m. The Manaslu Circuit crosses over a high pass called Larkya La which is similar in difficulty to the Thorong La on the AC. This is a spectacular day with incredible views, it is challenging but a good objective for most fit walkers.

Photo: Larkya La on Manaslu Circuit

After a quick turnaround after the Manaslu Circuit, Roland set off for his next trek on the Dhaulagiri Circuit on April 26th. This was a reconnaisance trek to work out the best itinerary, as some of you have probably read this has a reputation as one of the toughest treks in Nepal!

This also means it is essential to equip the porters and crew well. At The Mountain Company we provide porters with walking boots, crampons, wind & waterproof jacket and trousers, down jacket, down sleeping bags, mats, gloves, warm hat, sunglasses and tents. In fact, I notice that some of them had better gear than I had!

The biggest challenge to successfully completing this trek is to spending enough to acclimatise to the altitude. Most groups push from Italian Base Camp at 3,660m to main Base Camp at 4,700m in one day!! In fact there was one other trekking party who followed this itinerary when we were there and the next day one client got severe AMS and was forced to descend and finish her trek.

On The Mountain Company itinerary we have included two nights in our itinerary from Italian Base Camp to main Base Camp, one at French Base Camp at 3,870m and the other on the Chonbarden Glacer at 4,700m. We also have three nights at main Base Camp to ensure good acclimatisation for clients and the crew before crossing the French Pass and camping in the Hidden Valley at 5,100m. These extra days can also be used as buffer days in case of delays from poor weather or landslides etc.

Overall, I highly recommend the Dhaulagiri Circuit as a challenging trek in a remote and rarely visited part of the Nepal Himalayas.

Photo: Dhaulagiri Base Camp 4,700m

Sunday, 15 June 2008

When is the best time of year to trek in the Himalayas?

This is probably the most commonly asked question we get at The Mountain Company. There is no definitive answer as there are pros and cons for each month and the answer, of course, depends on your objective and interests. However, there are reasonably predictable patterns to the weather in the Himalayas and Karakoram which can help you determine the best month to time your visit.

In the Himalayas there are two main trekking seasons, pre-monsoon & post-monsoon.

Pre-monsoon season
The pre-monsoon season starts around the end of February and continues until the end of May. In late February it is still the tail end of winter so temperatures are colder especially at higher altitudes. Early March is a good time to visit places at a lower elevation (between 800m and 2000m) , such as the Annapurna middle hills north of Pokhara, because it is pleasant walking conditions in cool temperatures

As one gets into April and May it will be very hot & sweaty at these lower altitudes and the views will be poor with a haze blocking out the Himalayan peaks. The haze comes from dust & pollution from Northern India as well as smoke from villages in the Himalayas.

The advantage of trekking in the Annapurnas during March & April is that the rhododendrons will be in bloom (and other places of same similar aspect & elevation). In mid March the rhodendrons flower lower down and will ripple upwards in altitude as the season progresses.

If you are looking to trek high passes over 5000m like Cho La, Larkya La or Dhampus Pass it is better to leave it until April & May. If you attempt passes in March you will normally find that they are still blocked with winter snows, whereas by April and into May much of this snow has melted.

For example Roland crossed the Larkya La on the Manaslu Circuit on April 19 this year. This is a good time to cross during the pre-monsoon season because by that stage alot of the snow has melted and crucially the ground warmed by the sun means any fresh snow does not stay too long. We experienced quite heavy snowfall when we were at Samdo (3,850m), however after a day most of this had melted away.

After returning to Kathmandu from Manaslu Circuit, Roland then set off on April 26 with another group to lead the Dhaulagiri Circuit . We crossed the French and Dhampus pass around mid May which again worked well with limited snow on these passes. Dhaulagiri Circuit is better later in the season into May because the temperatures are warmer especially for the night in Hidden Valley at 5100m!

A typical characteristic of pre-monsoon weather is to get clear blue skies in the morning with clouding building during the day. Often there is precipitation in the afternoon and then the skies clear off again in the evenings.

One of the main advantages of trekking in the pre-monsoon season is that there are fewer other trekkers around compared to October & November. Importantly, this also means that it is easier & cheaper to get flights to Kathmandu at this time of year.

Post-monsoon season
October is the most popular trekking month in the Nepal Himalayas. This is because the weather is generally stable with clear blue skies and, unlike the pre-monsoon season, it is often clear for the whole day with no afternoon cloud blocking the sun.

The beginning of the post-monsoon trekking season starts at a different date each year as it depends on when the monsoon finishes. Sometimes the stable weather can start in early to mid September whereas other years it can go into October. In October 2007 there was still heavy rain into the first week of October causing the flights to Lukla to be cancelled for 5 days!

By mid October the weather should have settled, this is the best time to view the Himalayan peaks and for photography because the monsoon has cleared the dust and other impurities from the air. As the season progresses into November the weather becomes more stable and predictable with most days having sun and blue skies. The temperature begins to cool off especially in the evenings once the sun has gone down, for this reason you should make sure you have a warm sleeping bag!

It is also possible to trek during December although of course the temperatures are colder at night. This is one of my favourite times of year to visit more popular places like the Khumbu because there are far fewer people around compared to October and November. It often feels warmer during the day because one feels the sun's heat whereas in pre-monsoon the sun is usually blocked by cloud later in the day.

It is possible to get snowfall at this time of year and if it does snow it is likely to settle at a relatively low altitude and could stay on the frozen ground for a long time. However, over the last few years there have been dry winters in the Himalayas so has been a great time to trek.

Summer season
For most of the Himalayas this is not a good time to visit due to the heavy rains associated with the monsoon. The timing and severity of the monsoon depends year on year, normally the rains start in July and carry on through to early September. The heavy rain causes landslides on many trekking routes, avalanches on the high peaks and lower down there is likely to be leeches.

However, there are a few areas located in the Trans Himalaya which are in the rain shadow of the main himalayan range. In Nepal, it is possible to trek in Upper Mustang; in India Ladakh and in Pakistan Baltistan and K2.

Winter season
For most people it is too cold to trek at this time of year although it is definitely still possible if you are well prepared. There is a trek called Zanskar river trek (Chadar) in Ladakh that is only possible at this time of year! During the winter the Zanskar region of Ladakh is cut off from the outside world and can only be visited in by following the old trade route across the frozen Zanskar river.

Good luck on K2!

This summer Mike Farris is leading a private expedition to climb K2 via the Abruzzi spur. Mike is a Mountain Company trek leader along with another member of the team, Paul Walters. Paul was on expedition with Roland to Kanchenjunga (2003) and Broad Peak (2004). Mike was also climbing on Broad Peak in 2004.

The expedition has recently arrived in Pakistan and will be starting their trek to K2 Base Camp shortly. They plan to send back regular updates, you can follow their progress at The Altitude Experience blog. If their expedition is still at Base Camp in August then Roland's K2 & Gondogoro La trek will no doubt drop in a for a cuppa!

After Mike's return from this K2 expedition he will be heading back to the Himalayas in October to lead The Mountain Company's Manaslu Circuit trek, for further information

Good luck guys and climb safely!

Our new blog!

Welcome to the new Mountain Company blog! We intend to use this to post updates from our travels and communicate anything else that might be of interest to you. We also plan to use it is a forum to answer some frequently asked questions about trekking and travelling and hopefully over time this will become a useful resource people planning on visiting these areas.

There is already lots of general information on trekking in the Himalayas, Karakoram and Kilimanjaro published on our website at

“Once the travel bug bites there is no known antidote, and I know that I shall be happily infected until the end of my life” Michael Palin

The Mountain Company