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Thursday, 17 May 2012

Trip report for Dhaulagiri Circuit (Nepal) led by Jill Lawson in April 2012

Our Dhaulagiri Circuit in April/May 2012 was the sixth time The Mountain Company has organised this trek.  Our western leader for our Spring 2012 trek was Jill Lawson for more information on her background and experience. Jill was working with our Nepalese sirdar Jire Rai who has done this trek fives times with our groups and also Sherpa guides Sonam and Lanka. The cook was Saila Rai who always does a fantastic job and certainly his food was appreciated and enjoyed by this group- see their testimonials at bottom of this Trip Report.

It was great to see that over half of this group were repeat trekkers with us with some having already walked to Everest Base Camp and for Paul it was his fourth trek having previously done K2 Base Camp (Pakistan) in July 2007, Manaslu Circuit in April 2008 and Stok Kangri (August 2010). We really appreciate it when people show their support and come back for more than trip with The Mountain Company, it shows we are doing something right!

Chonbarden Gorge
This group arrived to Kathmandu on April 22nd, and met up with Jill at Hotel Tibet in the afternoon for a detailed briefing on the trek and kit check. We carefully selected the date of the trek for Spring season as by end of April and into May the temperatures tend to be warmer and usually there is less snow on French and Dhampus passes so should increase the chances of successfully crossing over to Jomsom in the Kali Gandaki valley. However this Spring the conditions experienced by this group were rather different to normal with far more precipitation in the afternoons and evenings plus a lower snowline down to Italian Base camp. 

On Day 10 of the itinerary when the group was meant to walk up Chonbarden gorge to Glacier Camp there was quite a lot of overnight snow so wisely Jill and Jire made a good call to hold for a day to let the snow melt in order to minimise the risk of rockfall in the gorge. This worked well and everyone safely made it to Glacier camp and for the rest of the trek weather was more stable with sunny weather. In fact this often happens on Dhaulagiri Circuit as main Base Camp and Hidden Valley are protected to some degree by rain shadow effect of Dhaulagiri. 

The most challenging day of Dhaulagiri Circuit trek is crossing Dhampus Pass over to Yak Kharka camp (or Alu Bari camp lower down). The group experienced deep snow on the traverse from summit of Dhampus pass to the descent down to camp however there was a trail blazed by the porters for everyone to follow. On arriving to Jomsom at the end of the trek I gather there was a good party where the group and crew enjoyed drinking some of the local apple brandy together. Later on in the evening the group generously handed out tips to the Nepalese crew as a thank you for all of their hard work during the trek.

Descending French Pass into Hidden Valley

Traverse after Dhampus Pass
I would like to thank Jill very much for all of her help leading this trek, the feedback from the group on her leadership and organisation skills has been excellent- please some of their testimonials copied below. I would also like to thank Tom, Jill’s husband, who also helped out on this trek supporting Jill and I gather his discussions on the "Rock of the Day" collected along the trail was very popular (Tom is a geologist!). Thanks also to Simon one of the members of the group who being a doctor helped out several times with crew and the group, this shows really good teamwork where members with various skills are happy to pitch in and help out when required.

As ever our Nepalese crew worked hard throughout the trek and did a great job of course without porters, Sherpa guides, cooks and helpers and Sirdar this trip would not be possible for the group. This is one of the advantages of having organised Dhaulagiri Circuit a number of times over last five years as we have built up a regular and reliable crew with good knowledge of the trail, expected conditions and the best campsites along the way

I have copied below some testimonials received so far from this group:

“I had a fantastic time I have so many brilliant memories and photos of the Dhaulagiri Circuit. The trek was challenging but the support of your team was fantastic, and Jill was a brilliant leader. She was thoughtful, caring and supportive. I had confidence in Jill, and she was a good teacher. I feel I have learnt so much this trek. The Nepal crew were great. Jire was an excellent sirdar, and Sonam was a very hard worker, and deserves special mention. Saila and his team deserve a medal for the quality and variety of food they turned out of that cook tent, I've never tasted such good pizza! I have already been looking at The Mountain Company website and dreaming of my next trek...” Jenny Fifield (UK)

“Dhaulagiri Circuit trek in April was awesome, had a fantastic time! The porters were amazing and the food the cooks prepared was great especially under such challenging conditions for the crew. Jill's leadership was great as well. She had great tips and was very thoughtful regarding people's health and safety.  Thank you for such a great opportunity” Jim Carmichael (USA)

The Mountain Company is organising our next Dhaulagiri Circuit trek in October 2012, this trek will be led by Paul Burditt for more information on his background and experience. This departure is now confirmed so please get in touch with us soon if you would like to join this group.

Roland Hunter

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