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Friday, 23 October 2015

Trip report for Dhaulagiri Circuit led by Allan Gibbs and Domi Sherpa in October 2015

Photo: summit shot on Dhampus Peak of Domi, Sona and team (credit: Allan Gibbs)
Our Dhaulagiri Circuit group arrived back to Kathmandu on October 21st and are flying home today. On their return I caught up for a debrief with the leaders, Allan Gibbs and Domi Sherpa, and then met the group at KToo steakhouse in Kathmandu for their feedback on the trip.

The Mountain Company has organised Dhaulagiri Circuit ten times since I went on our first recce trek back in May 2008. However for October 2015 we made a significant change to the itinerary as we included the option to climb Dhampus Peak (6,060m) from Hidden Valley. This addition makes a superb trip even better as not only does the group get the chance to complete one of the most challenging treks in Nepal crossing two high passes over 5,000m but also includes climbing a peak over 6,000m! We had eight people in this group and five people paid the supplement to cover the permit fees for Dhampus Peak.

The group arrived to Kathmandu on October 4th and as usual with our teams there was a mix of nationalities with people coming from UK, Ireland, Canada and Germany. The leaders for our Dhaulagiri Circuit with Dhampus trip were Allan Gibbs (UK) and Domi Sherpa (Nepal). The Sherpa guides supporting the group were Sonam and Tenzing and the cook was Parbat.

On 5th the group flew to Pokhara and took the bus to Beni then after lunch walked to their first camp at Tatopani. For the next three days the trail passes through attractive traditional villages (luckily no earthquake damage here) with views of Dhaulagiri and surrounding mountains to the north. These first few days of Dhaulagiri Circuit are always very hot and humid as Tatopani is at an altitude of only 870 metres.

After Boghara village on Day 5 the trail enters sub-tropical forest and as usual during this section of the trek there was some afternoon rain after the group had arrived to camp. The group reached Italian Base Camp as planned on October 11th and after an acclimatising day on 12th they walked up to Glacier camp on 13th. There was a change in the trail as previously one approached the glacier on left side of Chonbarden gorge however the glacier has melted back and now there is no longer a gentle ramp to access the glacier. Therefore the new trail crosses the river below the glacier to access the right hand side of the glacier. Domi and Sonam rigged a Tyrolean traverse over the river and the lighter members of the group were hauled across whereas the heavier members (no names!) crossed the river on foot.

Throughout this expedition we received weather forecasts from Michael Fagin at everestweather.com and we sent these onto Allan by text to his satellite phone as well as discussed during our regular phone conversations. Overall the weather for this trek was excellent with sunny and stable conditions apart from one cloudy day walking up to Dhaulagiri Base Camp. This group was very lucky as had superb sunny day on crossing French Pass into Hidden Valley. This period of fine weather carried on until the end of the trip so the conditions for climbing Dhampus Peak and crossing Dhampus were very favourable- see photos below.

On October 18th three members of the group plus Allan left the camp in Hidden Valley at 5am to ascend to Dhampus pass, from there they started up lower scree slopes of Dhampus Peak. Above here the route joins the ridge and this is followed to the summit. I gather this year there was no snow on the pass and only a small amount towards the top of Dhampus.

Photo: summit ridge on Dhampus Peak (credit: Allan Gibbs) 
Photo: view from summit of Dhampus Peak (credit: Allan Gibbs)
It was a clear day with wonderful views from the summit of Dhampus Peak over to Annapurnas and Nilgiri to the east and over to Dolpo to the west. The climbers took a different way down from the top descending on Kali Gandaki side of the mountain and meeting the rest of the group at a camp over from Dhampus pass. The next day everyone descended all of the way down to Marpha instead of staying at Alu Bari camp, I think the draw of apple juice, apple pie (and apple schnaps?) was too tempting for everyone. Marpha is a traditional village and everyone enjoyed their time exploring the next morning before walking onto Jomsom.

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

After arriving to Jomsom that evening the group had a good party thanking the local crew and handing out their tips. On the next morning most of the group flew out from Jomsom back to Kathmandu via Pokhara however three of the group hired mountain bikes to cycle down the Kali Gandaki valley to Pokhara. I look forward to hearing how their cycling trip went on their return to Kathmandu in a few days time.

Congratulations to the group for completing Dhaulagiri Circuit and well done to the climbers who summited Dhampus Peak! As mentioned this is the first summit of Dhampus Peak by a TMC group and hopefully not the last. I would like thank Allan, Domi, Sonam, Tenzing and Parbat plus the rest of the team for their help and hard work in making this trip work so well. Great job!

Photo: Sona and Allan Gibbs on summit of Dhampus Peak (credit Allan Gibbs)
The Mountain Company organise our Dhaulagiri Circuit trek and Dhampus Peak expedition twice a year in April and October, please get in touch if you like to join one of these departures. By the way our Dhaulagiri Circuit group in October 2016 is already guaranteed to run.

Roland Hunter

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