Latest news from the Himalaya and Karakoram

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Islamic Relief Everest Challenge successfully reach Base Camp on December 12th

Photo: Mount Everest

All fourteen members of of the Islamic Relief Everest team successfully reach Base Camp on December 12th 2010, so congratulations to everyone in this group for completing their challenge while raising significant funds for charity.

This is the fourth Everest Challenge trek that the Mountain Company has had the privilege of organising for Islamic Relief. Each of their Everest treks has been during the month of December, like previous years we experienced sunny and clear weather for thirteen days in a row.

In my view this is one of the best times of year to trek in the Khumbu as there are very few other trekkers so there is no problem getting rooms in the lodges for a larger group, easier to secure flights to/ from Lukla and the trail is much less busy than peak months of October and November.



Roland Hunter

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Trip report for Mera Peak expedition in November 2010

Photo: summit day on Mera Peak

Our Mera Peak group safely arrived back to Kathmandu yesterday, we were very fortunate to fly out of Lukla as planned as for the last five days the weather has been cloudy with only a limited number of flights operating to and from Kathmandu.

Yesterday there was a back log of over two thousand people waiting in Lukla to fly out to Kathmandu so our group was very happy to hear through our connections and ongoing relationship with Tara Airlines that we had confirmed seats for the first flight; we got back to Kathmandu around midday- for more information on the delays take a look at this article in Daily Mail.

In spite of the cloudy conditions in Lukla towards the end of the trek we had good weather for the rest of the time and experienced no precipitation during eighteen days of trekking. In fact for most of the days when Lukla was cloudy we were walking high above this level with the poor visibility confined to the lower valleys. My view is that November is the best time to climb Mera Peak, the weather is more stable at this time of year as by then well into the post monsoon period also far fewer other expeditions than during the month of October. Personally I would not want to climb Mera Peak in December as it would be too cold up high on the mountain and with fewer daylight hours resulting in more time walking in the dark before sunrise.

Our summit day was November 15th, we were very lucky to have clear weather with great views from Kanchenjunga in the east to Makalu, Lhotse, Everest and Cho Oyu further to the north. On leaving High Camp at 3.20am we experienced high winds with strong gusts however all twelve in our group carried on with admirable determination to successfully reach the summit of Mera Peak. Congratulations and well done to everyone.

Compared to last year the Mera glacier has clearly undergone a number of changes, firstly there are now more crevasses along the section to Mera La as well some large crevasses opening up before High Camp. However there is still an established trail on the glacier winding its way between these slots making the risk of glacial travel still quite low risk at this time of year. It will be interesting to see how the glacier changes over the next few years if these crevasses open up more then perhaps it might require ladders to cross over the snow bridges in the near future. The second change is the large amount of rock sitting on top of the ice on the entry ramp onto the glacier, there has been significant rockfall from the ridge above. The presence of these rocks on the ice makes it more challenging for climbers walking onto and off the glacier and of course especially awkward while wearing crampons.

This is the fifth year in row that I have led The Mountain Company’s Mera Peak expedition in November and our groups have successfully summitted every year. I have been very lucky to work with the same team of fantastic Sherpas for each of these expeditions; I would like to mention a very special thanks to our sirdar Pemba Tamang (double Everest summitter plus Manaslu and Shishapangma) and his brother Nurbu Tamang as well as Ngima Dorje Tamang and Rana Magar. Thanks also to Saila Tamang and Kumar who, as ever, worked very hard in the kitchen providing an endless supply of tasty meals.

The Mountain Company is organising two expeditions to climb Mera Peak in 2011, the dates for our first trip is from April 10th to May 1st 2011 and second one from October 30th to November 20th 2011. Lee Farmer will lead our April departure and I will lead our November departure. Please get in touch if you are interested in joining one of these expeditions to climb Mera Peak.

Roland Hunter

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Our October Everest Base Camp group successfully trek to Base Camp and Kalapatar

Photo: Mount Everest

On my return from Dhaulagiri Circuit on 27th I went over to Hotel Tibet to meet our Everest Base Camp group to hear how their trek went , I gather everyone made it successfully to Everest Base Camp and most went up Kalapatar on the next day. Similar to my group on Dhaulagiri Circuit they also experienced some unstable weather with precipitation at Pangboche village however by the time they reached Lobuche the skies cleared off and the views from Kalapatar were superb.

Congratulations to everyone in this group, and of course a special thanks to Buddhi Rai who led this trip and looked after the team so well.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Trip report for Dhaulagiri Circuit in October 2010

Photo: Mount Dhaulagiri as seen from French Pass

Our Dhaulagiri Circuit group arrived back to Kathmandu yesterday with everyone successfully completing this trek known as one of the most challenging (non mountaineering) in Nepal. This is the third Dhaulagiri Circuit trek that the Mountain Company has organised and the second one that I have personally led. In October 2009 Gary Pfisterer led our Dhaulagiri Circuit trek and I first completed this trek with a group in May 2008.

It was interesting to see the differences in the conditions and weather between my two treks around Dhaulagiri one in late Spring season and the other in Autumn. As is typical in May one generally gets clear mornings then cloud tends to build from mid morning then clears off again in the evening. However in October once the stable post monsoon weather has set in with high pressure across the Himalaya then one can have blue skis and views all day, this is the weather we experienced this October crossing French and Dhampus Passes. Although the weather is more stable in October the advantage of going in May there is likely to be fewer other trekkers around and also you will see mountaineering expeditions at Dhaulagiri Base Camp.

However this year there was a heavy monsoon that extended into October, and as a result we had several rainy afternoons and evenings while walking up Myagdi valley. In fact this valley is known as being wet as the orientation is north to south with clouds travelling up from India then collide with Dhaulagiri at the top of the valley causing high levels of precipitation. The Myagdi valley is clearly a rainy place with sub tropical forest up to Sallighari camp.

Once crossing French Pass into Hidden Valley one enters an area affected by the rain shadow of Dhaulagiri with sparse vegetation comprising isolated patches of moss and grass. Like Dolpo further to the west it is only during the monsoon season from June to September that this area gets significant amounts of rain and at this time yaks are brought up to graze in Hidden Valley.

The condition of Dhampus Pass was far easier to cross this October compared to May with a well established trail in snow with no icey sections and in fact in the end most of the group did not need to use their crampons and ice axes. However when I crossed Dhampus Pass in May there were several icey sections on the traverse after descending from the summit of the pass and with these conditions crampons were essential for trekkers and of course for all of the crew.

The other main difference I noticed compared to May 2008 was the improvement in the trail, in particular the path before Boghara village has now cut into the rock whereas before there was just a fixed rope to help climb over a rock slab! Beyond this village there are several other sections of the path that have been widened making the walk easier than before. The other challenging section is the descent down the lateral moraine from Italian Camp down onto the glacier, for the first time a trail has been cut into the moraine however we still felt a rope was necessary to secure the safe passage of the group and porters. Also several of the old log bridges have been replaced with well constructed cantilever bridges, in fact it is now possible to use mules to carry loads all of the way to Italian Base Camp.

I was surprised that most other groups on the Dhaulagiri Circuit were still ascending way too fast and breaking all of the rules of acclimatisation with most other people we met complaining of headaches and other symptoms of altitude sickness. Of course one has to consider the entire trekking team including the health of all of the porters and kitchen crew as they are the ones working hard at these altitudes! The main consideration on this trek is the risk of someone getting serious altitude sickness in Hidden Valley, if this happens then one has to ascend either French or Dhampus pass in order to descend in altitude.

Our acclimatisation schedule seemed to well by spending two nights at Italian Camp (3,660m), two nights at Glacier Camp (4,200m) and two nights at Dhaulagiri Base Camp (4,700m) then we crossed French Pass into Hidden Valley where we also spent two nights. For most people the highlight of the trek was the day exploring Hidden Valley and spending two nights here would not have been possible if the group and crew were not sufficiently acclimatised- click here for photos of our day walk in Hidden Valley.

Our October 2010 group were very lucky as the weather cleared on the morning before we walked into Hidden Valley staying sunny and clear for the rest of the trek, we experienced classic Autumn trekking with superb views of Dhaulagiri, Annapurna, Nilgiri, Dhampus Peak and Tukuche- click here for photos of Dhaulagiri Circuit trek from October 2010

One of the group Piotr Zycki has also posted some excellent photos on Pbase.com

Congratulations and well done to everyone in our October group for completing this trek! My view is that in spite of the improvements in the trail and construction of new bridges Dhaulagiri Circuit is still one of the hardest treks in Nepal and careful planning and preparations are required to ensure the safety and well being of the group and trek crew.

The Mountain Company is organising two Dhaulagiri Circuit treks in 2011, one starting in late April and the second departure starting in mid October, please get in touch if you are interested in joining one of these groups.

Roland Hunter

Photos of day walk in Hidden Valley on Dhaulagiri Circuit trek

Our 2010 Dhaulagiri Circuit group spent two nights camping in Hidden Valley and luckily there was far less snow compared to when Gary's group stayed there in October last year. As a result there were a number of options for day walks to explore the area, most of the group decided to walk down Hidden Valley whereas I had my eye on a ridge overlooking camp on the western side (see red arrow indicating this ridge in photos below).

As hopefully the photos show, this is a really good walk with superb views over to the Nilgiri and Annapurna ranges also back to Dhaulagiri and French Pass as well as looking down Hidden Valley. I highly recommend this for anyone wanting to find an easily walkable viewpoint in Hidden Valley, we plan to incorporate this walk into our Dhaulagiri Circuit itinerary for April and May 2011 departures.

Photo: ridge on western side of Hidden Valley

Photo: as above

Photo: Hidden Valley camp

Photo: Mount Dhaulagiri and French Pass

Photo: Mount Tukuche

Photo: view from top of ridge looking down Hidden Valley

Photo: view from top of ridge over to Nilgiris and Annapurna

Photo: view down into Hidden Valley

Photo: top of the ridge

Photo: view east from the ridge

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Photos of Dhaulagiri Circuit trek in October 2010

I have just got back to Kathmandu after leading our Dhaulagiri Circuit trek, as you can see from the photos below we had good weather and superb views for the days crossing both French and Dhampus passes. I will write a full Trip Report shortly on this blog with more details about the trek and changes experienced since I first walked this route in May 2008.

Photo: View of Sibang village with Dhaulagiri range behind

Photo: Farmhouse in Muri village

Photo: Nepali boy near Boghara village

Photo: trail along Myagdi valley

Photo: walking in Chonbarden gorge

Photo: Chonbarden gorge

Photo: group near Glacier camp on Chonbarden glacier

Photo: icefall on Tukuche Peak

Photo: lateral moraine ridge leading to French Pass

Photo: Mount Dhaulagiri as seen from French Pass

Photo: Prayer flags on French Pass

Photo: descending French Pass

Photo: Hidden Valley

Photo: Hidden Valley camp with Dhampus Peak and Pass behind

Photo: summit of Dhampus Pass

Photo: Tukuche Peak from Dhampus Pass

Photo: snow traverse after Dhampus Pass

Photo: further along traverse with Nilgiris range behind

Photo: looking down to Kali Gandaki valley after traverse

Photo: view of Nilgiri range from Alu Bari camp

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Snow leopard cub filmed for first time by BBC Natural History Unit

A wild snow leopard cub has been caught on camera for the first time in the Bhutan Himalaya. The cub was filmed investigating a camera trap set up by BBC Natural History film crew, they believe that the cub had been left near the camera while its mother snow leopard went hunting. To view some of this video please click on link below:

Baby snow leopard filmed in wild mountains of Bhutan

The same BBC film crew also found tigers living high in the Himalaya for the first time. The hope is that it may be possible to use the Himalaya mountain range as a wildlife corridor to link up the fragmented populations across South Asia. To view some of this video please click on link below:

Lost tiger population discovered in Bhutan mountain

The Mountain Company is organising the Lunana Snowman trek in Bhutan during September/ October 2011. This trail traverses the Bhutan Himalaya crossing many high passes including the area near where this footage was filmed, for more information on our Lunana Snowman trek

Roland Hunter

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Autumn 2010 newsletter from The Mountain Company

I have just finished writing The Mountain Company's Autumn newsletter, please click here if you would like to read it

If you have not yet signed up to our quarterly newsletter, please click here to sign up and register for our newsletter

Roland Hunter

Severe flooding in Baltistan during August 2010

Photo:landslides at Talis village


Photo: Talis village

On August 7th, I was at Islamabad airport with The Mountain Company’s K2 & Gondogoro La group waiting for our flight to Skardu. By midday we were informed this flight was cancelled due to bad weather in Skardu, we were of course disappointed by this delay however little did we know at the time the amount of devastation this weather had caused in the Baltistan region of Pakistan.

Baltistan has suffered from floods and landslides in the past however according to Felix Baltistan Foundation this is the first time has turned into a severe catastrophic situation. Monsoon rains do not usually affect this area in northern Pakistan, this is because of the rain shadow effect of the Himalaya range making a natural barrier to the rain clouds coming from the south and east. However on morning of August 7th heavy monsoon arrived to Baltistan resulting in widespread damage caused by landslides and flooding. In the villages of Talis and Qumran sadly fifty one people were killed and throughout the region many animals were killed, trees fallen and crops lost.

The Felix Baltistan Foundation is a non govermental organisation ("NGO") set up by a group of Basque mountaineers in memory of Felix IƱurrategi who died in 2000 while climbing on Gasherbrum II. The Foundation's aim is to help villages in the Hushe valley by improving their living conditions with projects directed towards the basic aspects of life such as education, agriculture and infrastructure.

Shortly after the floods on August 7th several members of Felix Baltistan Foundation provided emergency relief to people of Talis village. They gave out hot meals to families that had been left homeless and in coordination with local authorities and the Red Cross tents were distributed to affected families.

Going forward the Foundation’s objective is to continue their support by helping the villagers face the upcoming winter. The three basic areas in which they will be working on are: food support for next six months; recovery of agricultural lands; and reconstruction of their houses to help protect people against the elements (temperatures can drop to -20 Celsius during the winter).

To find out more about the Felix Baltistan Foundation take a look at their website. Please get in contact with the Foundation if you would like to contribute to their good work in the region.

Roland Hunter

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Trip Report for Stok Kangri expedition led by Alan Ward in July 2010

Photo: view from summit of Stok Kangri

This year Alan Ward led The Mountain Company’s expedition to Stok Kangri (6,123m) in Ladakh northern India, he was helped by our Ladakhi guide Angchok and also our Nepalese climbing guide Shera. Overall the expedition went well with two members of the group summiting and the rest successfully reaching high up on the mountain.

After flying to Leh at 3,505m the team spent three days acclimatising to this high altitude while spending time to explore Leh and the surrounding area. On their second day they visited Leh Palace then climbed to the hilltop gompa and the ruined fort. Next day the team took jeeps to Khardung La, at 5,359m this pass is known as the highest motorable road in the world. Not only is the view impressive but driving up here is helpful for acclimatisation before starting the trek.

Our Stok Kangri itinerary starts from the village of Chilling located on the Zanskar river before entering the Markha Valley, then after crossing Ganda La at 4,983m we make the approach Stok Kangri Base Camp.

On arrival to Base Camp, Alan was informed by the Indian Mountaineering Federation (IMF) representative that it was no longer possible to use the High Camp on the mountain. The reason given was that villagers from Stok were unhappy with the rubbish left at this camp and were worried about pollution of their water supply. While I respect their view on this matter the issue is without using High Camp makes climbing Stok Kangri far more difficult and risky in terms of lack of acclimatisation and forcing a very long summit day. Hopefully in the future a solution will be found to satisfy everyone involved, perhaps by more stringent monitoring of expeditions on the mountain?

Luckily after much discussion IMF granted our group approval to use High Camp due to the fact we had a blind climber in our group however as it turned out the pack animals were unable to proceed to the “higher” High Camp due to snow on the trail.

The team set off for the summit at 4am, on leaving camp they headed up to the glacier which was very wet and slushy underfoot. After making progress climbing the mountain three of the group decided to turn back then two carried on with Shera to the summit. Alan thought that this year the conditions were much more challenging compared to his last visit to Stok Kangri. The view of our summiteers Ian and Paul was that Stok Kangri was more difficult than their previous trips to Mera Peak and Aconcagua.

Congratulations to the whole team it was a great effort given the conditions, I think everyone succeeded in making their own personal altitude records on this mountain.

The Mountain Company is organising an expedition to Stok Kangri in July 2011, please get in touch with us if you would like to join this group.

Roland Hunter

Monday, 30 August 2010

Trip Report for K2 & Gondogoro La led by Roland Hunter in August '10

Photo: K2 seen from Concordia

I arrived back to UK this afternoon after leading The Mountain Company’s K2 & Gondogoro La trek in Pakistan. This year we had a full group of fourteen people and as often with our groups this was an international team with trekkers coming from UK, US, Australia, Greece and Mexico.

The group arrived to Islamabad on August 6th, this was shortly after the heaviest monsoon rains in Pakistan for last 50 years causing widespread flooding throughout the country. In fact shortly before departure we were seriously considering whether to cancel however after researching the current situation and discussions with our contacts in Pakistan we were confident we could operate this trek as planned. As it turned out we made the right decision as we enjoyed good weather with fine views of K2 and other mountains around Concordia, we even had a beautifully clear day on crossing Gondogoro La.

When the group arrived to Islamabad we received reports that Karakoram Highway (KKH) was in poor condition with several landslides and a number of bridges washed away on the Besham to Islamabad section of the road. There is an alternative road for jeeps that passes through Naran and crosses the Babusar Pass although having checked the forecasts we felt it would be too risky to drive so we decided to rely on the flight to Skardu. On August 7th we went to Islamabad airport however by midday this flight was cancelled, luckily on 8th we finally boarded and successfully landed at Skardu airport.

On arrival to Skardu we heard that bad weather from 7th caused a number of landslides in the region and near to Skardu sadly killed 45 people and in Talis village 13 people perished in further landslides, for further information please take a look at this article

The group stayed at K2 Motel in Skardu, this is located in a safe area however we could clearly see that the Indus river was flowing at a far higher level compared to my last visit in 2008. The next day we planned to drive to Askole however we heard the road was blocked in a number of places so instead we took a rest day in Skardu and sent some of our porters ahead to help repair these broken sections of road. We spent an enjoyable morning at Sadpara Lake before driving back to Skardu in the afternoon.

The next day we left early in jeeps for the drive to Askole however shortly after Shigar village we encountered a new block on the road where overnight a mudslide had destroyed the road. Everyone in our team as well as several other trekking groups helped by collecting rocks to build the road through the mud slide area. After several hours the jeeps were able to clear the block (with some impressive driving!) and then the group crossed over the river. Further along the road there was one further landslide where we had to swap jeeps then continued our drive to Thongol where we camped for the night.

The next morning we started the trek and after an hour we arrived to Askole, this is the last village on the trek until Hushe on the other side of Gondogoro La. The weather was sunny and very hot so everyone was hopeful the monsoon rains were retreating back south again. We experienced mixed cloud and sun for the next few days and in fact this made the walking very pleasant as otherwise can be very hot at this altitude.

The trek progressed as planned and after our rest day at Urdukas the weather starting to improve further and we enjoyed a memorable lunch at Goro 1 as the clouds dissipated over Masherbrum and by the evening we had clear views of this impressive mountain. We were very lucky as we had clear weather for the next six days while at Concordia and also for the crossing of the Gondogoro La.

After arrival to Concordia on 19th we discussed the options for the next day, five people decided to make the long walk to K2 Base Camp and Gilkey memorial while the others opted for the shorter walk to Broad Base Camp. As ever it was an emotional visit to Gilkey especially seeing the new memorial and a broken ski from Fredrik Ericsson who died earlier this summer, for further information please see his blog

On 21st the group enjoyed a rest day at Concordia and were blessed with perfect weather and incredibly views of K2 visible from the mess tent. On that day myself and our local Pakistan guide Monin from Shimshall village walked up to Ali Camp, then early the next morning we climbed up Gondogoro La to check the condition before the group arrived the next day. We decided to fix an extra 200m of fixed rope on the ascent of the pass to secure the section crossing a crevasse half way up the snow slope. As in 2008 we decided to donate this rope to Hushe Rescue Team.

Shortly after Monin and I got back to Ali Camp the group arrived after their walk up from Concordia, everyone enjoyed this trek as is one of the best days with superb views back to K2, Broad Peak, Gasherbrum group as well as Mustagh Tower. On approach to Ali Camp the glacial ice underfoot is easy to walk on with few rocks and Vigne Peaks high above look impressive with their ice and snow flutings

We decided to leave Ali Camp at 1am in order to ensure we had enough time to cross the pass and descend the other side. It was a beautiful morning with starry skies and nearly full moon illuminating the peaks around. The group made good progress to the base of the pass and by 7am everyone had summited Gondogoro La at 5,550m. As ever the descent is more challenging than ascent and we made steady progress however the unseasonal snow from week before started to melt releasing some rockfall, it was a good thing everyone had helmets for this descent! The recent snow made the rapel down the ropes easier than previous years however on reaching the bottom of the ropes the trail was less established than in 2008.

At The Mountain Company we believe strongly in looking after our porters, we are the only trekking company operating on the Baltoro that provides waterproof jackets and trousers plus walking shoes to our porters. We follow International Porter Protection Group five guidelines in Pakistan. We do not think it is appropriate for porters to cross Gondogoro La in plastic shoes and cotton shalwar kameez! Please take a look at this YouTube video that shows this gear being given out to our Balti Porters.

Our wonderful cooks and kitchen crew crossed Gondogoro La arrived to our campsite at Khuspang early and then kindly sent up a cooked lunch for us at High Camp, this food was very welcome and gave everyone renewed energy in order to carry on down to Khuspang. The next day we opted to continue our trek down to Shaisho rather than take a rest day. We heard that the bridge below Shaisho had been washed out by the recent rains and instead an enterprising ex High Altitude Porter had rigged a “jhola” or bucket bridge, after carefully inspecting the anchors and the set up we felt confident the group could cross safely and everyone in the group seemed to enjoy this experience of crossing the raging river below!

The next day we walked to Hushe village and then after handing out tips to our fantastic crew we drove to Skardu. The next morning on 26th we tried to fly to Skardu although this flight was cancelled luckily on next day we fly back to Islamabad.

Overall we had a great trip with perfect weather at Concordia and for crossing Gondogoro La, as ever Pakistan is a true adventure destination and one needs to be flexible and be prepared for the unexpected! We certainly had our fair share of good luck on this trek and were fortunate weather improved when needed higher up. As ever I would like to thanks our superb Pakistan trek crew for looking after us so well, in particular our local guides Ghulam Hassan and Momin Shah as well as our cook Syed Jhan.

The Mountain Company plans to run our K2 & Gondogoro La trek again in August 2011 so please get in touch soon if you would like to join this group. We also plan to operate our Snow Lake Biafo Hispar trek in July 2011.

Roland Hunter

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Availability for our Autumn treks in Nepal

Photo: Mount Everest seen on Base Camp trek

The Mountain Company has a number of treks guaranteed to run in Nepal during the peak season of October and November, please get in touch with us soon if you would like to join any of these groups.

October

Dates: October 10th to 29th 2010
Availability: six places left

Dates: October 17th to November 7th 2010
Availability: two places left

Dates: October 10th to 28th 2010
Availability: four places left

Dates: October 23rd to November 7th 2010
Availability: seven places left

November

Dates: October 31st to November 21st 2010
Availability: one place left

Dates: November 7th to 25th 2010
Availability: ten places left

Dates: November 5th to 25th 2010
Availability: four places left

Dates: November 28th to December 15th 2010
Availability: 10 places left

April 2011

Dates: April 23rd to May 21st 2011
Availability: 6 places left

If you plan to visit Nepal in the Autumn you should book your international flights as availability and cost are likely to start changing soon, please see our website for information on recommended travel agents

Please get in touch with The Mountain Company if you have any questions or if you require further information on any of our treks.

Roland Hunter

Monday, 21 June 2010

Portable Altitude Chamber (PAC)


Photo: The Mountain Company's PAC bag

The Mountain Company took delivery of our second Portable Altitude Chamber ("PAC") last week. We have one PAC permanently based in Kathmandu for our Nepal treks and our second PAC will be stored in our London office for use on our western led treks in Pakistan, Ladakh and Kilimanjaro. We send a PAC bag on all of our western led treks in Nepal and the following treks in other countries: K2 & Gondogoro La, Snow Lake and Hispar La and Stok Kangri expedition.

So what is a PAC and what is it used for?
This equipment is used to treat altitude illnesses called Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE) and High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE). PAC works by increasing the pressure in the chamber using a foot pump, at high altitude the increased pressure simulates a descent in altitude by increasing the amount of oxygen to the victim.

If someone has HAPE or HACE the only treatment is immediate and rapid descent to a lower altitude however this is not always possible to do. PAC can be used to improves the person's condition before descending to safe altitude or to stabilise while waiting for helicopter evacuation. If a person has AMS the PAC can be used to abolish symptoms prior to further ascent.

Further information on PAC bags please take a look at Treksafe website

Photo: contents of PAC bag

We encourage anyone planning to trek at high altitude to read as much as possible about acclimatisation and high altitude illnesses before departure. I have copied links to several excellent internet resources below:


Roland Hunter

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Trip Report for Upper Dolpo to Jomsom trek in May 2010

Photo: Bon Po Gompa overlooking Phoksumdo Lake

Our May 2010 Dolpo recce group arrived back to Kathmandu last week after a superb trek. The Upper Dolpo to Jomsom itinerary visits a remote region of Nepal, instead of following the more popular Dolpo Circuit we headed further north to an area very close to the Tibet border and then walked out on the challenging trail to Jomsom thereby completing one section of The Great Himalaya Trail (“GHT”).

Upper Dolpo is a culturally Tibetan region in West Nepal and during the course of the trek we visited many Buddhist and Bon Po (shamanistic pre Buddhist) monasteries. Up until 1996 foreigners were not allowed access to this region so the culture has largely been unchanged and unaffected by tourism. Of particular interest is Shey Gompa, this is revered as one of most important in Upper Dolpo where twice a year many pilgrims make a kora (or circuit) of Crystal Mountain this is known as a younger brother of Mount Kailash in Tibet.

Upper Dolpo to Jomsom trek is arguably one of the best treks in Nepal” and “better than Lunana Snowman trek in Bhutan!” These were several comments heard while our group discussed the trek on our return Kathmandu last week (and between them this group had done a lot of trekking in the Himalaya).

If this is one of the best treks in the Himalaya then it is worth asking the question, why did we see so few people on the trail? We only met a handful of trekkers during our 3 weeks trip. It is likely that others have been deterred by lack of maps and guidebooks as well as logistical challenges and of course the extra cost to obtain the Restricted Area Permit.

While in Kathmandu I got all of the maps for Upper Dolpo however found they were all out of date and inaccurate. There are no current itineraries with reliable trail descriptions available and even the basic description in the new edition of Lonely Planet “Trekking in Nepal Himalaya” describes the old, disused trail for several sections. During our recce trek we figured out the itinerary from daily discussions with our trek crew, therefore it is essential that the Sirdar and/or cook has visited this region on a previous occasion.

Organising the logistics for this trek are challenging, the Upper Dolpo region is very remote so all groups have to be self reliant in terms of provisions, medical supplies and communications, we used a Thuraya satellite phone that worked well throughout. All food should be brought in with the trekking group as it is not possible to purchase locally in the villages. Our porters and kitchen staff walked in with our supplies for 9 days from the road head near Surkhet to Juphal.

There is no doubt that the difficulties and challenges of trekking in Upper Dolpo are more than worth the effort. We enjoyed seeing a wide variety of landscapes from pine forests in the Suli Gad valley to the stunningly intense blue colour of Phoksumdo Lake. As the trail travels further north the climate becomes dryer as a result of the great Himalayan rain shadow effect. Upper Dolpo is mainly comprised of a high, arid plateau cut by deep gorges in a variety of colours of ochre, sable and tan covered with sporadic vegetation.

Our group saw a lot of wildlife during our trek in Upper Dolpo: many herds of blue sheep, marmots, eagles, lammergeyer, langur monkeys and large variety of birds. We were very close to seeing the ever elusive snow leopard...we passed a trek group coming the other way in a very remote valley in Upper Dolpo who had seen one an hour earlier (this was the only group we saw for 2 weeks), although of course no sight when we got there! We also met a yak herder who had one of his baby yaks snatched by a snow leopard. It is great to know that Snow Leopards are still around, one day, one day...

In terms of time of year my view is that the best time to do this trek is during the month of May, this gives one the best chance of crossing the high passes out to Jomsom. September is probably more popular with trekking groups however often the passes are icey making travel impossible for the pack animals. This year we started the trek from Juphal on April 28th and finished in Jomsom on May 19th. We experienced dry conditions over all passes apart from a few residual winter snow patches on Kang La to Shey however our mules still managed to cross this pass with their loads.

The Mountain Company is planning on organising another Upper Dolpo to Jomsom trek in May 2011, this group will be led by Gary Pfisterer for further information please see our website please get in touch with us soon if you are interested in joining the group.

Roland Hunter

Monday, 24 May 2010

Upper Dolpo to Jomsom photos: Part One

Photo: STOL airstrip at Juphal

Photo: Ringmo village

Photo: Ringmo Gompa (Bon Po)

Photo: Phoksumdo Lake

Photo: Phoksumdo Lake

Photo: "Daredevil's trail" around Phoksumdo Lake

Photo: Walking to Chunemba

Photo: Looking down valley to Lar Tsa Camp

Photo: Trail to Snowfields

Photo: View from Kang La

Photo: Mules crossing Kang La

Photo: Village boys

Photo: Shey Gompa and Crystal Mountain

Photo: Descending Saldang La

Photo: Mani wall

Photo: Walking to Chharka La

The Mountain Company is organising our Upper Dolpo to Jomsom trek in May 2011, please take a look here for further information.

Roland Hunter

The Mountain Company