Latest news from the Himalaya and Karakoram

Monday, 20 July 2015

Nepal is back in business! Support Nepal by visiting in Autumn 2015

Photo: Dhaulagiri Base Camp in Nepal
Nearly three months after The Big One(s!) there is no doubt Nepal is back in business. As discussed in our July newsletter, The Mountain Company is going ahead to run most of our Autumn trips in Nepal. Over the last few weeks we have seen an increase in bookings as people are now feeling more comfortable about the current risks with travelling in Nepal. 

On July 3rd, the day after our July newsletter went out, Foreign & Commonwealth Office (“FCO”) i.e British government downgraded their travel advice from only essential travel to the whole of Nepal to only essential travel to selected regions. These regions unfortunately include most of the mountainous areas in northern Nepal from western to eastern borders with India incorporating most of the trekking destinations.

We were rather disappointed with FCO as most of these areas were not badly affected by the earthquakes and we wonder why this level of advice finishes on border of India? Surely there is a risk in Indian Himalayas too plus Bhutan, Burma, Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, USA etc etc! It seems like an arbitrary line on the map and unfortunately us Brits have a long history of causing problems with our mapping! Of course there has always been and always will be a risk of earthquakes in the Himalayas however the chance of this happening while you are on holiday is quite low. The next large magnitude earthquake could happen in Nepal tomorrow or in 15 years time....

We understand FCO will review their level of advice after the monsoon has ended in September/ October time when risk of further shocks and landslides has decreased. We suggest for a balanced understanding of the current risk of travelling in Nepal you read New Zealand and USA travel advisories as both of these countries have gone further with downgrading their levels of advice.

At The Mountain Company we have completed internal risk assessments for our trips in Nepal. This process has involved discussions with our guides and partners in Nepal; contacting lodge and hotel owners in towns, cities and trekking regions as well as sharing information with other operators in UK through our membership of AITO and through our contacts and connections in Nepal. We have also read the results from  the report "Damage Assessment of Everest Region" by engineering firm Miyamoto International.

Following this process we have decided to go ahead with treks to the following regions: Kanchenjunga, Makalu, Everest including Mera Peak, Annapurna, Dhaulagiri, Upper Mustang and Dolpo.

In September, I will travel to Nepal to walk the trail to Everest Base Camp in order to carry out a final assessment before our groups arrive in October. As usual I will be in Nepal throughout the peak Autumn season and will meet you on your arrival to Kathmandu for your briefing. We send Thuraya satellite phones with all of our groups in Nepal therefore I will be contactable in Kathmandu to support our groups throughout their stay in the country.

Fortunately, British Mountaineering Council ("BMC") has confirmed will provide insurance cover for the popular trekking destinations and climbing areas of Nepal for Autumn season. It is refreshing to see an insurance company like BMC delinking their insurance policy coverage from FCO advice and making decisions based on their own assessments.

After a serious event like an earthquake everyone tends to focus on this only and forgets about other risks of travelling in the high mountains such as the cyclones that have impacted Himalayas in October 2014 and 2013. We perform our risk assessments in order to plan our trips to reduce the impact of a number of different events however of course there is always a residual level of risk with travelling in the mountains. It is important for groups trekking in the Himlayas to have reliable communications (Thuraya satellite phones), GPS trackers, bespoke forecasts from, PAC/ gamow bags, high quality tents (Mountain Hardwear Trango 3.1s) and most importantly good Nepali and international leaders.

If you are interested in coming to Nepal in Autumn season, please take a look at our list of guaranteed trips.

We suggest you carefully research the current risks of travelling in Nepal and make your own informed decision based on your own level of acceptable risk. There is no doubt the best way to help Nepal recover and rebuild from the earthquake is to come out on holiday. By visiting Nepal you will bring much needed income and reduce their reliance on international aid. Trade is far better than aid. You are guaranteed to get a very warm welcome!

Please get in contact by phone, email or LiveChat through our website if you have any questions or require further information.

Roland Hunter

The Mountain Company