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Tuesday, 4 June 2019

Trip report for Saribung Expedition in Nepal led by Jo Clark (UK) in April 2019

Photo: on summit of Saribung Peak (6,328m) (credit: Shyam Krishnan)
In April 2019, The Mountain Company (UK) organised our first group Saribung Expedition to cross Saribung Pass (6,042m) and climb Saribung Peak (6,328m). These objectives are located in the remote and rarely visited Damodar Himal mountain range to east of Upper Mustang in Nepal. If you are looking for a traditional, full camping expedition away from the busier regions such as Everest and Annapurna then I suggest you take a look at Saribung Expedition.

This group was led by Jo Clark (UK) and the Nepali Sirdars for this group were Arjun Tamang and Galden Sherpa. The Sherpa guides were Chongba and Bhim. The cook was Suk who has worked with us for many years and always produces high quality and tasty food for our groups. Jo and Galden had already completed a reconnaissance trek in late October 2018, you can read her Trip report for Saribung Expedition Recce

Photo: on Saribung Pass (6,042m) (credit: Shyam Krishnan)
As Saribung is a classified as an expedition peak where there is a full climbing permit required to ascend to the summit whereas to cross the pass requires only a Restricted Area Permit. The group were given the choice after booking and an extra cost was charged for those wanting to attempt the summit. In practice the summit is only two hours ascent from the pass and the route follows moderate angled snow and ice that involves glacial travel as there are some crevasses on this section of the climb.

You can watch a video of the summit panorama taken by one of our climbers, Shyam, and uploaded onto our YouTube channel. Wow what a view, incredible!

Photo: view from summit of Saribung down to Japanese Camp (credit: Shyam Krishnan)
Jo has summarised her experience leading our Saribung Expedition as follows:

"The weather during the trip was consistently clear with blue skies and some small build-up of cloud in the afternoons. When we reached Upper Mustang, the weather held out but the winds picked up as is usual in this area.

The walk into Phu is one of the most magnificent and breathtaking of the himalaya. With the rock entrance, deep gorge ascent and finally the gates of Phu it really feels like you are entering another world. Above Phu the remote beauty continues to astound as the surrounding Peaks become bigger and the views greater. A tough few days on glacial moraine are rewarded by a spectacular pass day before descending into the remote Upper Mustang with diverse sandy colours and vast landscapes."


Throughout the course of Saribung Expedition we received bespoke weather forecasts from Michael Fagin at www.everestweather.com and this information was sent through to Jo on her satellite phone for the days before crossing Saribung La and climbing Saribung Peak. Having professional weather forecasts is essential for safety in crossing high passes and for decision making in the field. As it turned out the weather forecasts were accurate and the group enjoyed perfect weather conditions with blue sky and relatively low wind speeds on the pass.

Photo: view from summit of Saribung (credit: Shyam Krishnan)
We track all of our groups in the field with GPS check ins from Thuraya satellite phone and we use Google Maps in real time so friends and families can follow their progress - you can see the Google Maps for Saribung Expedition in April 2019

I have copied below feedback received from two members of Saribung Expedition group now published on AITO review site:

"This was an exceptional trek up through Manang over the beautiful glacier Saribung and then through Upper Mustang to Lo Mantang before completing the trek in Jomsom. From Koto onward the trek steadily gets more and more remote with absolutely stunning mountain scenery. On route we stopped at the fascinating and ancient village of Phu before entering a period of 11 days where totally alone. The snow conditions provided a wonderful dimension leading up to the pass, down the glacier on the far side to then trek through the beautiful and arid scenery of Upper Mustang ending up in the interesting village of Lo Mantang. An outstanding expedition.

This is the seventh trek I have completed with The Mountain Company, which I think makes the point. The Mountain Company provide excellent quality treks, well managed, equiped and with highly skilled and experienced leaders and guides."



"I trekked from Jagat across Saribung La to Upper Mustang, while also ascending Saribung Peak (6,328 m). I also extended the trek to Manang on the Annapurna circuit.

The Mountain Company runs very well organized trips. This was my second trip with them and I was very pleased. Roland Hunter and the primary guide for the trip, Jo Clark were both very prompt in addressing queries and concerns before the trip. Jo and assistant guides Bhim Bahadur Sunuwar, Arjun Tamang, Chongba Sherpa and Galden Sherpa did an excellent job during the trip. Food prepared by Suk Bahadur and Gyaljin Sherpa was excellent. Porters also went above and beyond their call of duty by assisting clients on the hard days."


You can read all of our AITO reviews received on AITO website

As discussed in Trip report for Saribung Expedition Recce we have designed our itinerary for Saribung Expedition for gradual acclimatisation and this works best by approaching Saribung from Phu side rather than the more common approach from Lo Manthang side. 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. The village of Phu  and the valley to north to Pokharang Base Camp is very beautiful and remote with very few trekkers exploring this region of the Himalayas.

Based on Jo's feedback we plan to make some changes to Saribung Expedition itinerary to make further improvements for future trips. The main changes are to have two nights at Pokharang Base Camp as this place is good for acclimatisating and there is also an interesting day walk to a nearby lake.

Also based on feedback from the group we will not visit Lo Manthang so for future groups we will take the trail from Yara village down the east bank of Kali Gandaki then drive by jeep to Jomsom. After seeing the beautiful and interesting village of Phu it seems that these days Lo Manthang is rather disappointing especially now that many of the older buildings have been destroyed and replaced by concrete structures. It sounds like after crossing Saribung pass and arriving to Yara everyone in the group was ready to get back to Kathmandu and not spend more time trekking up to Lo Manthang.

Thanks very much to Jo, Arjun and Galden and the rest of the team for their hard work leading and organising this trek.

Our next departure for Saribung Expedition is in October 2019 and followed by April 2020. There is currently availability if you are interested in joining this group, please get in touch with us soon.

Roland Hunter

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