|Saribung Peak (6328m)|
One reason for wanting to run the trip from the Phu side is that assuming we could find good campsites in gradually ascending locations, it allows for a slow ascent with a rapid, safe exit if necessary. Whereas approaching Saribung from Lo Mantang entails crossing three passes of around 5,000m early in the trek. This means ascending too high, too fast with risk of altitude sickness for both group and crew. If there is bad weather it raises the risk of not even getting near Saribung if the passes are blocked with snow.
|Valley of Phu|
|Village of Phu|
Our first day from Lo Mantang took us back to Yara Gaon - a trail we know from the Naar to Upper Mustang trek. After that we were in new territory. The three passes to cross between Saribung La and Yara take you away from the Upper Mustang region with its colourful arid terrain in varying formations and towards the high plateaus. The views from the three passes (4,950m, 5,300m and 5,400m) are as varied as the land you are trekking through, with Upper Mustang stretching out below, the majestic Dhaulagiri, the Tibetan plateau and the peaks of Damodar Himal.
|Ghuma Thanti with Upper Mustang in the distance|
|Trekking the plateau|
|Dhaulagiri from Kyumu Pass (5300m)|
Beyond this we find the glacier and the pass. There is significant glacial moraine to walk across - more on the Phu side than the Mustang side. For this reason and in order to acclimatise safely, I identified a number of camping options on the glacier. We will camp at three locations on the glacier - Bhrikuti Base Camp (5,070m) which is right at the beginning of moraine, Moraine Camp (5,339m) which is part way up - there are a number of locations which have been flattened out and are suitable for camping here and finally Saribung High Camp (5,684m) which will put us in position to cross the pass safely. On the Mustang side the section of moraine is shorter and we have decided to descend to Japanese base camp after crossing the pass.
We have the exact locations of these camps as throughout the recce, I was sending regular GPS checkins back to Roland from the satellite phone. He uploaded each location I sent him onto Google Maps set up for Saribung Expedition and we used these waypoints to help finalise our itinerary decisions.
|Views from the pass|
|Glacial moraine - looking towards Japanese Base Camp|
On this recce, after crossing the pass we descended to Bhrikuti Base Camp which is a long way down. From here I wanted to explore a small pass that looked like it could easily take us over to the next valley and Pokharkang Base Camp. The pass was easy to cross and the valley leading to Pokharkang Base Camp is beautiful and very peaceful.
|Pokharkang Base Camp from the pass|
From here, Galden and I joined back with the main trail just above Nagoru. This abandoned village has plenty of large flat areas and is a beautiful camping spot. If you look carefully there are caves above the village and we saw a herd of over twenty blue sheep grazing on the hill above the village. Despite being uninhabited, this remains the first village until Yara on the other side and it feels like civilisation.
Between Nagoru and Meta there are a few village like this and we will stay at Kyang on the way up to Phu as part of our acclimatisation process. As Kyang is down the valley from Phu, there are a number of trekkers wanting to stay and although the village is abandoned, teahouses are slowly being built.
Finally, many people come to this Valley just to visit Phu and it is worth a visit in itself. The medieval Tibetan village is perched on the hillside with narrow alleys twisting and winding between houses which were built closely together. I am looking forward to spending an acclimatisation day here when I return in the Spring as I didn't have time to visit the Tashi La Kong Gompa or do any of the numerous acclimatisation walks possible.
We are running small recce for up to six clients in the Spring 2019. Here is more information and a full itinerary which has been put together based on this recce.