Latest news from the Himalaya and Karakoram

Friday, 18 December 2009

Islamic Relief Everest Challenge successfully reach Base Camp

The Islamic Relief Everest Challenge team all arrived safely back to Kathmandu today. Congratulations to eleven members of the team who successfully trekked to Everest Base Camp on December 13th.

This group has raised a significant amount of sponsorship for various water projects in Africa, if you are interested in joining their Everest Challenges 2010 please take a look at http://islamic-relief.org.uk/EverestChallenge.aspx

Roland Hunter

Thursday, 3 December 2009

A few days in Bandipur

Between my Mera Peak group leaving Nepal last week and the Islamic Relief Everest Challenge arriving on December 5th I had a few spare days so decided to go visit the small town of Bandipur. Bandipur is located on a ridge above the Kathmandu to Pokhara road and has superb views of the Himalayan peaks to the north (Annapurna, Dhaulagiri, Manaslu and Ganesh Himal).

Bandipur has been considerately developed for tourists whereby some of the old houses have been carefully converted to hotels and there are thankfully few concrete buildings like elsewhere in Nepal. Compared to the hustle and bustle of Kathmandu Bandipur is very peaceful as vehicles are not allowed into the main square.

Photo: Bandipur town

The history behind Bandipur is that it was originally a Magar village then in early 19th century Newars moved in to take advantage of its location on the historical trading route from Kathmandu and also the absence of malaria due to its higher altitude. However once the road the Kathmandu to Pokhara road was built lower down in the valley below, Bandipur lost its importance as a trading centre and many people moved out. Since the arrival of tourism the town has been revived and fortunes reversed.

Photo: old library in town square

Bandipur would be a lovely place to visit after a trek or if you only planning on having a short tour of Nepal. By wandering around the town and nearby villages you will get a good feel for Nepalese village life. There are several places to visit including a number of temples and also Siddha caves the largest in Nepal.

Photo: entrance to Siddha cave

Photo: stalactites in Siddha cave

Photo: Gaun Ghar hotel

There are some good hotels in Bandipur, by far the best is Gaun Ghar off the main square. This hotel is an old village house that has been restored and renovated into a guest house while preserving the traditional architecture. Other hotels worth considering are Old Inn (next door to Gaun Ghar) as well as Bandipur Mountain Resort.

Roland Hunter

www.themountaincompany.co.uk

Friday, 27 November 2009

The Colonel arrives to Kathmandu!

Photo: KFC on Durbar Marg, Kathmandu

The big news in Kathmandu this week is the arrival to Nepal of KFC and Pizza Hut, the new restaurants opened their doors on Durbar Marg on November 25th for the first time. For purely research purposes I went to visit yesterday and can confirm that the chicken at KFC tastes very similar to the last one I had in Rawalpindi last year!

It seems that Kathmanduites are pleased with the new arrivals and there was a long queue out of the door onto the street. It looks like Pizza Hut will give the established pizza restaurants in Kathmandu like Fire and Ice, Dolce Vita and The Road House a run for their money.

Roland Hunter

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Narayanhiti Palace Museum in Kathmandu

Photo: Narayanhiti Palace Museum

I have just come back from an interesting afternoon visiting the old Royal Palace in Kathmandu. This was the scene of the royal massacre on June 1st 2001 and is now called the Narayanhiti Palace Museum.

The buildings where the killings took place have been knocked down however it is chilling to still see the bullet holes in the walls and markers showing where various members of the Royal family were shot. I remember that day well as I had just come back from an expedition to Everest and was shocked to read about the massacre in the Himalayan Times over breakfast in my hotel in Kathmandu.

The palace opened to visitors on February 26th, 2009 when Nepal became a Republic. The entrance fee for foreigners is 500 rupees and the ticket office is open from 11am to 2pm. It is not possible to take photographs in the museum so cameras and bags have to be left in the locker room near the entrance.

For an interesting article on the museum written by Ed Douglas for the Guardian website please take a look at http://www.guardian.co.uk/travel/2009/may/26/nepal-royal-palace-museum

The Mountain Company will include an option to visit the Narayanhiti Palace Museum during our sightseeing tour of Kathmandu before or after your trek in Nepal.

Roland Hunter

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Our November '09 group successfully reach Everest Base Camp

The Mountain Company's November '09 Everest Base Camp group arrived safely back to Kathmandu after a successful trek where seven people reached Base Camp.

I met the group yesterday in Kathmandu to hear more about the trek, I gather they experienced similar weather conditions as my group on Mera Peak however they had a sunny and clear day for the walk to Everest Base Camp. Many thanks to their Sirdar Jhire Rai for his help in leading this trek.

The Mountain Company has four Everest Base Camp treks scheduled for 2010 (March, April, October and November), please get in touch if you would like to join any of these groups. For more information please take a look on our website at http://www.themountaincompany.co.uk/nepal/walking-and-trekking/everest-base-camp/

Roland Hunter



Sunday, 22 November 2009

An evening with Ian Parnell at RGS, London

We have just received an email from Porters Progress about their annual lecture, this year it will be given by leading alpinist Ian Parnell. If you are in London on November 24th then I highly recommend attending. I have copied the details below:

British style mountaineering: from Ben Nevis to the Himalaya Mountaineer and photographer Ian Parnell is probably best known for accompanying Sir Ranulph Fiennes on his successful ascent of the North Face of the Eiger, but he is one of Britain's leading alpinists, whose own climbs have attracted international praise, including an impressive four nominations for the world's most coveted mountaineering award, the Piolet D'or.

At this year's PPUK annual lecture, Ian will share the idiosyncratic secrets of 'British style mountaineering' and tell tales of his adventures on some of the world's toughest peaks (and worst campsites) accompanied by video footage and his outstanding photographs.

Fellow alpinist Andy Kirkpatrick describes Ian's approach: "I've seen Ian trim his mountain gear to the minimum, chucking out his sleeping bag just to squeeze in extra camera equipment. The fact that he's will to suffer for his ar means he brings back photos that few others can achieve."

Date: Tuesday 24 November
Time: Exhibition Road Doors open at 6.00pm. Talk from 7.00-8.30pm.
Where: Royal Geographical Society, 1 Kensington Gore, London SW7 2AR (nearest tube: South Kensington)
Pay bar: Before and after the talk in the Map Room

Fundraising event in aid of Porters' Progress UK www.portersprogress.org
Tickets: £10 each from World Expeditions (£2 refunded on the door for PPUK members)

Friday, 20 November 2009

Our November '09 group successfully summit Mera Peak

The Mountain Company November '09 Mera Peak expedition arrived safely back to Kathmandu this morning. Congratulations to the five members of the team (Ian O, Greg, Ian H, Richard and Karen) who successfully climbed to the summit of Mera Peak while experiencing very strong winds and cold conditions. A full expedition report will follow in due course.

Roland will lead his fifth consecutive Mera Peak expedition in November '10, please get in touch if you would like to join the group. For more information take a look at our website at http://www.themountaincompany.co.uk/nepal/mountaineering/mera-peak-expedition/

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Our October '09 group successfully complete Manaslu Circuit

The Mountain Company's October '09 Manaslu Circuit group got back to Kathmandu yesterday after four members of the group successfully crossed the Larkya La pass and walked out to Besisahar (starting point of Annapurna Circuit).

I went for a meal with the group in Kathmandu last night to hear more about the trek and I gather they had great weather and good conditions while crossing the pass. Many thanks to their Sirdar Nurbu Tamang and the rest of the trek crew for looking after them so well.

We are organising two Manaslu Circuit treks for 2010, the first in April and second ater the monsoon in October. If you are interested in joining any of these departures please take a look at our website at http://www.themountaincompany.co.uk/nepal/walking-and-trekking/manaslu-circuit/

Roland Hunter


Thursday, 29 October 2009

Our October '09 group successfully complete Dhaulagiri Circuit

The Mountain Company's Dhaulagiri Circuit group safely arrived back to Kathmandu yesterday after successfully crossing both French and Dhampus passes from Dhaulagiri Base Camp over to Jomsom. Congratulations to all thirteen members of the group and thanks to the group leaders Gary Pfisterer and Jhire Rai. A full trek report will follow shortly.

Roland Hunter will lead our Dhaulagiri Circuit group in October 2010 please get in touch if you are interested in coming along. For further information take a look at the Dhaulagiri Circuit webpage at http://www.themountaincompany.co.uk/nepal/walking-and-trekking/dhaulagiri-circuit/


Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Garden of Dreams at Keshar Mahal in Kathmandu

The Garden of Dreams at Keshar Mahal is located on the edge of the busy Thamel tourist area, however once you walk through the door into these gardens you are taken to a calm oasis away from the mayhem of modern Kathmandu.

The gardens and six pavilions were constructed in 1920s by Field Marshal General Kaiser Shumsher Jung Bahadur Rana, however after his death in 1964 fell into decline and returned to jungle. In 1998 during the Visit Nepal year there were only two pavilions standing and at the last minute the decision was made to save the gardens and remaining pavilions. The project was taken on by an Austrian NGO Eco Himal and the gardens opened in 2006.

If you are visiting Kathmandu I recommend you take time to visit (the entrance fee is only 160 rupees), within the grounds there is also the Kaiser bar and restaurant operated by Dwarikas hotel group.

Photo: Entrance on Tridevi Marg

Photo: view of Basanta pavilion

Photo: view of Basanta pavilion with pond

Photo: statue of Laxshmi

Photo: statue of elephants

Photo: Kaiser restaurant

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

New website for The Mountain Company

If you have checked our website recently you will no doubt have noticed that there has been a lot of changes!! On October 15th the new website for The Mountain Company was launched.

Our aim was to design a site with increased search functionality to help you choose an appropriate trek as well as incorporating improved information and a clearer layout. We have also included our favourite photos taken from our treks to give you an idea of what to expect, hopefully you will find our selection of images inspiring!

We would be very interested to hear what you think about the new website, please get in touch if you have any comments or feedback. We are planning a second phase of the website's development shortly, so please check in regularly to see the changes and updates.

Roland Hunter

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Ninth edition of Lonely Planet's Trekking in Nepal Himalaya


The latest edition (ninth edition August 2009) of the Lonely Planet's Trekking in Nepal Himalaya has now been released. The classic guidebook has been updated for new treks and also for changes to existing itineraries resulting from road construction in the hills of Nepal.

At The Mountain Company we are delighted to be included under UK Travel Operators on page 26 for the first time. We are also listed in the excellent TrailBlazer guidebooks to the Everest and Annapurna regions.

Click on the link below if you would like to purchase Lonely Planet's Ninth edition Trekking in Nepal Himalaya:

Roland Hunter

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

WWF Report reveals that 353 new species discovered in the Eastern Himalayas

A World Wildlife Report published today reveals that more than 353 new species have been discovered in the Eastern Himalayas between 1998 and 2008. The Eastern Himalayas region includes Bhutan, northeast India, Myanmar, Nepal and southern parts of the Tibet Autonomous Region (China).

However, the report also highlighted the fact that only 25% of the original habitats remain intact due to population growth and rapidly increasing demands for commodities by global and regional markets.

The WWF Report is a very interesting read, click here to download

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Climbers turn back on K2 summit day

All climbers have turned back on a recent summit attempt on K2. Deep snow above the Bottleneck slowed them down when late in the day the decision was made to descend back to High Camp.

The climbers are on their way descending back to Base Camp except the Kazakhs, Maxut Zhunmayev and Vassiliy Pivtsov, who with characteristic determination have stayed in Camp Four preparing for a possible new attempt today. I wish the best of luck to Maxut and Vassiliy!

Roland Hunter

Thursday, 30 July 2009

K2 Summit push coming soon...

Photo: K2 seen from Concordia

Today a meeting was held at K2 Base Camp with the remaining climbers to plan a coordinated summit attempt on K2 taking advantage of the good weather forecast for early next week. For more information I suggest taking a look at Jake Meyer's Blog

If you are interested in seeing K2 and the other beautiful mountains of Pakistan then consider coming with The Mountain Company to K2 Base Camp in August 2010, for more information on K2 & Gondogoro La trek

Roland Hunter

Monday, 27 July 2009

Congratulations to Veikka Gustafsson

Congratulations to Veikka Gustafsson of Finland who has now climbed all fourteen of the world’s highest peaks over 8,000m without supplementary oxygen. Veikka’s last peak was Gasherbrum 1 in Pakistan summitted on July 25th 2009, for further information http://tammisuo.wordpress.com/


Ghurkas welcome Joanna Lumley to Nepal

Actress Joanna Lumley arrived to Kathmandu yesterday on her first visit to Nepal after her recent campaign demanding UK settlement rights for Gurkha soldiers. Her father, a Gurkha officer in 6th Ghurka Rifles regiment, was saved by a Ghurka soldier during the 2nd World War.

On her arrival to Kathmandu airport Joanna was mobbed by many Ghurka veterans and press. She will meet the President Ram Baran Yadav and Prime Minister Ram Baran Yadav followed by visiting the towns of Jhapa and Dharan to meet Ghurka veterans.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Photos of Sherpani Pass linking Makalu BC with the Khumbu

After my recent expedition to climb Mt Makalu I was hoping to walk out over the Sherpani Pass and into the Khumbu, however after my late summit I ran out of time so had go back the same way we trekked in over the Shipton La and back to the airstrip at Tumlingtar.

For a number of years it has been an ambition of mine to walk from Makalu Base Camp over the Sherpani Pass, West Col and Amphu Laptsa and into the Khumbu near Everest Base Camp. In my mind this is one of the most impressive and challenging treks in the Himalayas.

This is a truly adventurous expedition passing through a remote and wild region of the Himalayas. The altitude of the Sherpani Pass is at 6,135m so it is very important to spend time around Makalu BC in order to sufficiently acclimatise. Clearly there are logistical challenges in supplying an expedition to this area so it is important to have a strong Sherpa team to undertake this journey.

The Mountain Company is planning on organising the Makalu Base Camp to Khumbu via Sherpani Pass in April 2011, for further information take a look at our website. Please get in touch if you are interested in joining Roland on this expedition.

Take a look at the superb photos of Sherpani Pass and Baruntse Base Camp below, I would like to thank José Mª López "Ramoni" for very kindly sending these photos. He was also on an expedition to Makalu earlier this year and afterwards walked out over the Sherpani Pass and climbed Baruntse on his way home.

Photo: Sherpani Pass from Camp 1 on Makalu

Photos: Approaching Sherpani Pass
Credit: José Mª López "Ramoni"

Photo: Sherpani Pass at end of valley
Credit: José Mª López "Ramoni"

Photo: Makalu from glacier near Sherpani
Credit: José Mª López "Ramoni"

Photo: North side of Sherpani Pass
Credit: José Mª López "Ramoni"

Photo: On top of Sherpani Pass
Credit: José Mª López "Ramoni"

Photo: Abseiling down Sherpani Pass
Credit: José Mª López "Ramoni"

Photo: Descending down Sherpani Pass
Credit: José Mª López "Ramoni"

Photo: Baruntse Base Camp
Credit: José Mª López "Ramoni"


Roland Hunter

Afghan climbers summit Afghanistan's highest mountain Mt Noshaq at 7,492m

Two mountaineers from Afghanistan, Malang Jan Darya and Amruddin Sanjar, have summitted Mt Noshaq at 7,492m the highest mountain in Afghanistan. This is the first time that Noshaq has been climbed by Afghans.

For more information take a look at BBC’s website

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Indefinite strike called in Darjeeling

Photo: View of Kanchenjunga from Darjeeling

On July 13th the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha party (GJM) called an indefinite strike in Darjeeling which will no doubt affect both tourism and tea production. The strike is to support GJM's demands for a separate state and more influence for the local Nepali speaking Gorkha community.

The Mountain Company will carefully monitor this situation before making a decision on how this will affect our post monsoon treks in Darjeeling and Sikkim.

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Part 2: Review of gear and equipment used on a recent expedition to an 8,000m peak (Mt Makalu)

Following my recent expedition to Mt Makalu I thought that it might be useful to review some of the gear and equipment used in order to help others planning similar expeditions in the future.

I also use most of this gear on trekking peaks like Mera Peak so this discussion should have wider interest (btw Roland is leading The Mountain Company's Mera Peak expedition in November 2009, it is now guaranteed to run and there is availability).

I have no sponsors so this is an impartial discussion of gear selected for this expedition and how it performed...click on the links below the photos and you will be directed to the manufacturer's website.

Rucsac
On previous 8,000m expeditions I used the excellent Berghaus Extrem Expedition pack, this is super lightweight with a large capacity so ideal for carrying loads on the mountain. I had to retire my Expedition pack after six years of sterling service and then sadly found out that Berghaus no longer sell this model.

Shortly before departure to Nepal I made a visit to expedition outfitters Peglers in Arundel to collect my La Sportiva Spantiks. While in the Pegler's shop I explained that I was also looking for an expedition pack and their recommendation was to try the X Pod by Pod Sacs.

At 2.36kg this is a heavier pack than the Extrem Expedition, however it is contructed from tough hardwearing materials so will probably last longer. The capacity is 80 litres plus overload of 20 litres so more than enough space for carrying loads between camps. Overall I thought the X Pod was an excellent pack on the Makalu expedition, very comfortable to wear and stable even when carrying heavier weights.


Gloves and mitts
Usually I take three types of gloves and mitts, firstly a fleece glove with Windstopper secondly a warmer mountaineering glove and lastly a super warm mitt.

I used my North Face Pamir fleece glove for 95% of the time on the Makalu expedition, I prefer this glove when not too cold as it provides better manual dexterity. It is important that the fleece glove has Windstopper fabric as this blocks the wind thus reducing wind chill and keeping the fingers much warmer.

When the conditions were too cold for the fleece gloves I used my Mountain Hardwear Cima gloves.On the mountain I always had Mountain Hardwear Absolute Zero mitts in my pack, in fact I did not use these during the expedition but good to have in reserve just in case.


Warm hat
I also recommend bringing along a warm hat again with Windstopper fabric. I like the Mountain Hardwear Micro Dome hat as fits well underneath a climbing helmet.


Sleeping mats
Following my discussion of sleeping bags in Part 1 of my review, the selection of sleeping mats is probably just as important for keeping warm while sleeping overnight. While on the mountain I prefer to use two mats, one a RidgeRest and the other a lightweight Thermarest.

From experience this combination provides adequate insulation from the snow and ice underneath the tent. I would not want to risk having two Thermarests just in case they both became punctured or failed to inflate. My Thermarest is a three quarter length Ultralite, however I do not think this model is still available so I think the equivalent is now the Prolite in a small size.

Food
Of course during a two month expedition eating good food is essential to avoid weight loss, maintaining energy reseves and keeping up morale. At Base Camp we had a kitchen crew who provided all our meals whereas on the mountain we cooked for ourselves. Our cook, Sonam, was excellent and produced a wide variety of tasty meals including a good supply of fresh vegetables and meat.

For evening meals on the mountain I always use Wayfarer Ready to Eat meals, it is possible to get a wide range of menus such as Beef Stew, Chilli Con Carni, Chicken Dopiaza curry and Lancashire Hot Pot, Beans and Sausage among others.

Eating "real" food helps nutrition and energy levels, Wayfarer meals taste far better than rehydrated meals. Also one does not have to wash any pans as Wayfarer meals are cooked in their sachet and then aftewards you can use the hot water for a brew.


A new find on my latest expedition is the excellent isotonic Go Gel from Science in Sport. Previously after eating a sport gel one had to drink at least 1/2 litre of water to derive any benefit, however Go Gels are isotonic so drinking water is not required for them to be effective. On summit day I ate Go Gels whenever I felt my energy levels dropping and immediately felt a real boost.

It is worth noting that one can purchase many imported food items in Kathmandu, at Bhat Bateni or Blue Bird supermarkets.On expedition I brought along a blue barrel containing food for the mountain and some luxury items such as cheese slices, salami, Ryvita crackers, tinned tuna, soups and hot chocolate drinks, assortment of nuts and dried fruit, chocolate and Haribo sweets.


Stoves and gas
We used Jet Boil Personal Cooking System (PCS) and Group Cooking System (GCS) stoves. I loved the PCS design, it is a super lightweight stove and worked fine at Camp 1. Higher up we used GCS, it worked well at Makalu La (7,300m) however we noticed that the performance declined at High Camp during the night when temperatures dropped.

Jet Boil have recently released a new stove called Helios designed for lower temperatures, I would definitely purchase this if I went back to another 8,000m mountain. There have been good reviews of Helios especially due to its innovative inverted canister system (see photo below):



As for gas, we purchased imported Primus gas (butane/propane mix) in Kathmandu however it is worth noting that this worked fine at Camp 1 at 6,500m but was completely useless at Camp 2 on Makalu La at 7,300m (we could not even light the stove). I recommend using Everest Adventure gas imported from Korea this worked very well at all camps (you can buy from Mountain Hardwear store or Shona's shop in Kathmandu).

Communications
Thuraya SO 2510 is the smallest satellite phone in the world weighing only 130g, I carry this phone in my pack throughout the entire trek and expedtition. The reception is good in the Himalayas & Karakoram, the only time I was unable to get a signal was a few years back when in a deep narrow gorge on a section of the Manaslu Circuit trek.

A top tip is to use FoneRecharge to recharge credits on the SIM, once you have registered your credit card via their website you can recharge by calling from the satellite phone itself. You will never run out of phone credits while on expedition if you use this system!

For communications on the mountain we used VHF radios for radio calls between Camps and Base Camp.



Duct tape
And of course do not forget Duct tape one of the most important items on any expedition kit list. This is an all purpose tape designed to fix, bond, repair, mount and seal anything under the sun. As the saying goes if it cannot be ducked then it must be f*cked!


Recommended gear shops
I purchased my gear from Cotswold Outdoor (where The Mountain Company clients are entitled to a 15% discount) and also Peglers based in Arundel.






If you enjoyed reading these articles why don't you sign up to The Mountain Company's quarterly e-Newsletter? Click here to sign up and here for our e-Newsletter archive.



Roland Hunter


Sunday, 28 June 2009

Part 1: Review of gear and equipment used on a recent expedition to an 8,000m peak (Mt Makalu)

Following my recent expedition to Mt Makalu I thought that it might be useful to review some of the gear and equipment used in order to help others planning a similar expeditions in the future.

I also use most of this gear on trekking peaks like Mera Peak so this discussion should have wider interest (btw Roland is leading The Mountain Company's Mera Peak expedition in November 2009, it is now guaranteed to run and there is still availablity).

I have no sponsors so this is an impartial discussion of gear selected for this expedition and how it performed....click on the links below the photos and you will be directed to the manufacturer's website.

Boots
I brought along two pairs of mountaineering boots: a new pair of La Sportiva Spantiks and an older pair of OneSport (now Millet) Everest.

For the Makalu expedition I was looking for a more technical boot than the pair of Everest boots that I had used on other 8000m expeditions to Everest, Broad Peak and Kanchenjunga. I researched a number of options and finally decided upon the Spantiks. I was certainly not disappointed as they are a superb boot. The Spantiks are very precise and work well on steeper more technical ground.

I was a little concerned that they may not be warm enough for summit day as designed more for a 7,000m peak rather than climbing above 8,000m (especially with no supplemental oxygen). In the end we left High Camp far later than expected and only climbed during daylight from 6am to 7pm. I suspect they may not have been warm enough if we had left camp at 2am as originally planned.



For the trek from Tumlingtar to Base Camp I used a pair of trail shoes called Salomon Elios.

Tents
Our main tents for the expedition were Mountain Hardwear Trango 3.1s purchased from the Mountain Hardwear store in Kathmandu. These are not the lightest tents at 5.28kg however are spacious and very strong. We left two Trangos at Camp 1 for 5 weeks and they survived the battering from the wind. Inside there are lots of pockets on the sides and ceiling so good for stashing gear and also have a large vestibule for cooking.

The Mountain Company uses Mountain Hardwear Trango 3.1s for all of our treks and expeditions in Nepal.


On our summit push we used a lightweight tent, Black Diamond Firstlight. In fact we were orginally planning to use a Bibler although this was blown off the mountain at Makalu La and never seen again! The Firstlight tent has the same design as the classic Bibler (Black Diamond purchased Bibler a few years back) although the Firstlight is constructed from far lighter materials, the tent only weighs 1.22kg!

The disadvantage of the Firstlight is that it does not come with a vestibule as standard. It is possible to buy a vestibule as an extra and I would recommend getting as makes cooking easier and provides extra space. It was just possible to squeeze two people into this tent with gear although it was tight.

We were lucky as the weather on our summit push was good with low winds so we did not put this tent to the test, being a lightweight tent I am not sure how well it would hold up to the strong winds such as normally experienced at the Makalu La.


Ice axe
I brought two ice axes: Black Diamond Venom (493g) and Camp Micro 2 (400g). I agree with the description of the Venom on Black Diamond's website "the choice for technical mountaineering routes where performance, light weight and durability are paramount". Overall a superb ice axe that can be used for general mountaineering and also with an agressive pick for steeper ice.



My second axe is a Camp Micro 2, often called a "third tool". This is a lightweight axe that can be used as a second tool on steeper ice or as a back up in case the main axe is breaks or is lost. My Camp Micro 2 has a hammer rather than an adze so can be used for hammering in pitons.


Crampons
Grivel G12 New matic crampons with antibotts. I have always used these crampons for general mountaineering, they fit securely and are reliable (several others on our expedition experienced issues with crampons falling off…). I strongly recommend getting the antibotts, without these snow that can ball underneath the crampons reducing their effectiveness and significantly increasing the weight.


Trekking poles
The only poles worth getting are the Black Diamond Expedition, these use the simple but effective FlipLocks rather than the unreliable twist mechanism that other companies use. The Expedition poles have two FlipLocks so the poles can be reduced to a size small enough to pack away if not being used.

Harness
I always use the Black Diamond Alpine Bod, this harness has a minimalist design and is super lightweight at 395g.


Duffel bags
Over the years I have used a number of different types of duffel bags, often I purchased cheaper bags however they would not last for more than one expedition then in 2003 I bit the bullet and bought the more expensive Base Camp Duffel by The North Face. Since then I have used and abused this duffel and is still holding up fine, overall a worthwhile investment.

Sleeping bags
I brought along two sleeping bags, my approach was to use a warmer (and heavier) bag at Base Camp then use a lightweight one on the mountain as I would also be wearing a down suit. I left my bag at Camp 1 so did not have to carry it up and down between Base Camp and Camp 1 during the course of the expedition thus saving a lot of effort.

Both of my sleeping bags are made by Peter Hutchison Designs (PHD), my Base Camp bag is the Xero 1000 Down Sleeping Bag:

And on the mountain I use the lightweight PHD Minim 400 Down Sleeping Bag in conjunction with my downsuit (shown below):

Down clothes
I used The North Face Nuptse jacket for the trek and also for time at Base Camp. I have never been cold while wearing this jacket and is not too heavy so often carry in my day pack.


While climbing above Camp 1 I used a PHD down suit Omega Down Suit. This is a super warm downsuit, in fact for most of our summit day I wrapped the arms around my waist as it was too warm!


Fleeces and soft shell
I use a fairly typical layering system starting with a long sleeved baselayer Berghaus LS Tech T, a long sleeved micro fleece Mountain Hardwear Microchill Zip T, a vest fleece Berghaus Spectrum Gilet IA and heavier fleece like Mountain Hardwear Monkey Man jacket.

At lower elevations on the trek into Base Camp I used a lightweight trekking trouser, however as it started cooling off I changed to soft shell Mountain Hardwear Navigation pant.

Recommended gear shops
I purchased my gear from Cotswold Outdoor (where The Mountain Company clients are entitled to a 15% discount) and also Peglers based in Arundel.

For Part Two of "Review of gear and equipment used on a recent expedition to an 8000m peak (Mt Makalu)" ...discussion of rucsacs, shell jacket & trousers, gloves & mitts, stoves, cooking gas, expedition food and communications.

If you enjoyed reading these articles why don't you sign up to The Mountain Company's quarterly e-Newsletter? Click here to sign up and here for our e-Newsletter archive.

Roland Hunter

The Mountain Company