Latest news from the Himalaya and Karakoram

Friday, 23 April 2010

Summits of Island Peak!

Photo: climbing to summit of Island Peak

Well done to our Island Peak expedition: Sophie, Garnet and Jo all summited Island Peak on April 18th. Thanks to their climbing Sherpa, Nurbu, who led this trip. The Mountain Company has now organised successful expeditions to Island Peak every Spring for the last four years.

If you are interested in joining one of our expeditions please get in touch with us, you can read more about Island Peak on our website

Roland Hunter

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Trekking from Helambu into Langtang via Laurebina La pass and Gosainkund

Namaste and Happy New (Nepali) Year! It is now year 2067 in Nepal, there were big celebrations last night in Kathmandu. I just got back after a trek from Sundarijal on the outskirts of Kathmandu through Helambu over Laurebina La passing Gosainkund lakes and into the Langtang valley. Early April is a good time of year to do this trek as the rhododendrons are in full bloom with white, pink and red flowers covering the hills. Now I understand why laliguras (Nepalese for rhododendron) is their national flower!

The drawback of trekking in the middle hills of Nepal during this time of year is a the presence of a thick haze that obscures the views however once over 4,000m one rises above this and the mountain views from Laurebina La were superb (see photo). Certainly the views would be clearer during the period October to January although of course the rhododendrons would not be in flower at that time, as ever there are pros and cons of trekking for each month in Nepal.

Photo: terraced field in Helambu

We approached this trek in a reverse direction to most itineraries including The Mountain Company's Langtang and Laurebina La trek i.e most people start from Langtang then head over Laurebina La into Helambu and walk back to Kathmandu whereas this time we walked the other way from Kathmandu into Langtang. In fact I think both directions work well for this trek, of course either way it is important to be sufficiently acclimatised before crossing Laurebina La at 4,700m.

Our Kathmandu to Langtang itinerary seemed to work well as everyone felt strong going over Laurebina La and no-one had any headaches throughout the trek. I was conservative with the time acclimatising before the pass by spending one night at Magin Goth (3,200m), next at Tharepati (3,500m) followed by Phedi (3,700m) and then next day crossing Laurebina La.

Photo: rhododendrons in flower

On leaving Magin Goth on the trail to Tharepati we met a Sherpa family walking back to Kathmandu after having spent their easter holidays with relatives at Kutumsang village. We walked together chatting about how life differs living in Kathmandu compared to the village. On the way the father of the family pointed an interesting shaped rock and explained how this was formed when Guru Rinpoche kneeled on this spot and meditated. At this point they asked if I would like to join in their puja ceremony, the father chanted mantras and gave everyone some rice to throw over the rock. It was a lovely experience and without meeting this family we would have wandered past without knowing how important this particular rock is!

Photo: Guru Rinpoche's rock

In December 1991 James Scott a 22 year old Australian medical student attempted to cross Laurebina La however subsequently become lost for 43 days with only a couple of chocolate bars for sustenance. At this time of year sudden winter storms can happen at this altitude, and this is what happened as James approached the pass and at the time decided to turn back by himself. He followed the drainage hoping to get to Talu village however soon was unable to proceed due to a steep waterfall and after a while found shelter under a narrow rock ledge. For the full story take a look at this article on Explorersweb, you can also buy his book recounting what happened from our Amazon store take a look at "Lost in the Himalayas: James Scott's 43 day ordeal"

Another event occurred in this area on July 1992 when Thai International flight 311 crashed close to Phedi below Laurebina La sadly killing all 113 people on board. There is now a chorten next to the teahouse lodge at Phedi in remembrance of a Japanese passenger who was on this flight. For more information about this accident and what went wrong take a look at this page on Wikipedia

Our day crossing Laurebina La and walking past Gosainkund lakes was definitely the highlight of this trek, luckily the weather was good and at that altitude we were above the haze as mentioned earlier in this article. The Gosainkund lakes are a pilgrimmage site for Hindus during the summer months. The lakes are said to have been formed by the digging of Lord Shivas' holy three pointed sword known as a Trishul after he drank the poison from Samudramanthan in order to get some cold water to quench the heat of the burning poison. The Gosainkund lakes are the source of the Trishuli river that flows through Nepal.

Photo: Gosainkund lake and teahouse lodges

Photo: old chorten above Bharku village

Once we trekked past the Gosainkund lakes we walked into the Langtang valley, the villages here are inhabited by Tamangs whereas on the Helambu side the higher villages such as Kutumsang are Sherpa. Tamangs came from Tibet about 500 years ago and still follow Tibetan Buddhism. The villages in this area are well known for the intricately carved wooden window frames.

Photo: carved windows at Bharku village

If you are interested in seeing more photos of this trek please take a look at our Facebook photo Album "Helambu to Langtang".

Please get in touch with us if you are interested in joining this trek or would like any information, take a look at our website for our Langtang and Laurebina La itinerary and Trip Dossier

Roland Hunter

Monday, 5 April 2010

How to get your green TIMS trekking permit in Kathmandu

If you are planning to go on an independent trek in Nepal then you are required to have a green TIMS trekking permit valid for individual trekkers (group trekkers need a blue TIMS card).

I have just obtained my green TIMS card for a trek to Langtang so thought that I would explain what is required to help speed up the process for you. You need to go to Nepal Tourist Board (NTM) near Tundikel, you will find the TIMs counter inside this building. Get a TIMS form and complete, it is worth pointing out that you will need the followimg items and information:

- two passport photos
- one photocopy of your passport (you can get one in the library at NTB)
- US$20 (at current exchange rate I paid just under 1.500 rupees)
- your trekking route with start and end dates (it is a good idea to have a map or guidebook so that you can name the main villages and places on your route)
- telephone number for someone you know in Nepal
- telephone number for your next of kin from back home
- your insurance details (compamy name, policy number and emergency telephone number)

This afternoon I got my green TIMS card in about 15 minutes so it was pretty easy and surprisingly no queues! The green TIMS trekking permit is valid for 30 days from date of entry.

Roland Hunter

Spring 2010 newsletter from The Mountain Company

I have just finished writing our Spring 2010 newsletter for The Mountain Company, please click here if you would like to read it.

If you have not yet signed up to receive our quarterly newsletter then please click here to register and sign up to our mailing list

Roland Hunter

The Mountain Company