Report from Makalu Base Camp and Amphu Labtsa trek completed in October/November 2007

The Trek from Makalu Base Camp via Sherpani Col to the Solo Khumbu region
One of the Best Challenging Treks that Nepal has to Offer” – Armandus Dirks

Explore Himalaya organized a trek to Makalu Base camp for Eveline Wessels, Armand Dirks and Frank Van Hulst, from the Netherlands. They did not follow our usual itinerary of 23 days but had an extended one of 26 days and they took a different route. After reaching the Makalu Base Camp, instead of making their descent, they climbed further up to the Upper & Lower Barun glacier till they reached Baruntse BC (6140m), the highest point on the trek. They made their way via the Sherpani Col (6135m) crossing the West Col & Amphu Labtsa pass to the Chukung valley. Eveline and Armand dropped in at our office on the morning of 20th November to share their experience. Both of them have visited Nepal before and this was their first trek to Makalu/Barun region.

The trek started on the 24th of November 2007 with a flight to Tumlingtar from Kathmandu. The group started their trek the same day they reached Tumlingtar. According to Armand this trek offers a very diverse experience, both culturally and naturally. He says, “It starts from a very low elevation of 460m and goes up to a height of about 6140m. On the way we met different groups of people: Rai, Tamang & Sherpa. The terrain also changed as we climbed higher, varying from rice terraces, jungle and wide rivers, to huge moraines, glaciers and impressive 7000 and 8000m peaks. One should be physically fit in order to do this trek, as one has to climb up above 6000m, traversing some difficult passes and steep ridges. The passes in this trek involve some basic, but technical climbing. So I would only advice the traverse from Makalu BC to the Khumbu to keen and experienced trekkers who like a challenge. Some basic mountaineering experience is preferred.”

Makalu base camp trek

Eveline added, “There were green forests and meadows in the lower regions but as soon as we crossed the 5000m mark the landscape changed completely. By the time we left the Makalu BC, we encountered a very desolate landscape of rocks, snow and ice. As we began the trek it was very warm and humid, above BC the temperatures dropped to -10C to -25C during several nights. Apart from a little drizzle at the beginning of the trek, the weather was stable with clear skies in the mornings”.

Describing the trail Armand said, “The first few days of the trek involved easy walking with some longer and steep descents and ascents. The walking hours varied from 5 to 7 hours a day, but as we got higher, there where some shorter and much longer days. After reaching the 4000m mark, we walked for just 3 or 4 hours a day. One porter got AMS before the Sherpani Col and was sent down with another porter. A second porter got sick just behind the West Col. He had severe cold stress with back ache and stomach cramps and could not carry on, so we had to help him get down again. I think the porter was not properly dressed for the cold at this altitude, and he had some problems acclimatizing properly. Clients and crew should be physically fit and should have proper equipment to climb to these heights (above 6000m).”

Makalu base camp trek

According to Armand there are some steep rock faces at the Sherpani Col, West Col & Amphu Labtsa which involves some technical climbing. So he says, “This trek cannot be classified as pure trekking: walking on paths and trails. Some rock and snow climbing is involved as well. At all high passes we had to fix ropes to get every body up or down. This trek is difficult because of the high passes and the cold in the higher regions, but its one of the best treks in Nepal”.

Talking about their climbing guide, both of them said, “We were lucky to have an experienced guide, Namgyal Sherpa. He was strong, able and came well equipped with down suit, climbing gear and sufficient rope. There was a difficult section after crossing Sherpani Col, where a porter unfortunately dropped the jerry can with kerosene. All kerosene was lost. Our supply was not enough as we needed kerosene not only to heat food but to melt ice for water as well. The only option to get kerosene was in Chukung, beyond the Amphu Labtsa pass, a long distance away. Namgyal and Nima offered to go across the Amphu Labsta to Chukung to get kerosene. It took them about 30 hours, very exhausting for them, but they succeeded.”

Makalu base camp trek

Armand and Eveline advice to the other trekkers wishing to do this trek is, “Come well equipped with suitable down clothes as the temperature drops well below freezing point at the higher altitudes. Some basic climbing equipment is necessary. A satellite phone is a must for emergencies. Some camps are situated in the middle of nowhere and it might take days to get help. Having a satellite phone will surely get help faster”.
Both of them rate the trek as one of the best. Though this trek had an extended itinerary of 26 days, Armand believes that this trek can be done in 24 days if nothing goes wrong , and provided that all the members (porters, cooks, guides and other members) are physically fit and strong enough. But as the whole team is responsible for each other, it’s better to have some extra spare days. This will give any party the possibility to deal with slower acclimatization, bad weather and other unforeseen difficulties.

Makalu base camp trek

Original itinerary (changed during trek)
24th Oct: Kathmandu-Tumlingtar-Khandbari By flight (460m)
25th Oct: Bhotebas (1700m)
26th Oct: Mure(1980m)
27th Oct: Seduwa (1460m)
28th Oct: Tashigaon (2200m)
29th Oct: Kauma Kharka (3470m
30th Oct: Shipton La (4250m) – Mumbuk (3570m)
31st Oct: Nehe Kharka (3670m)
1st Nov: Rest day (3670m)
2nd Nov; Merek (4340m)
3rd Nov: Makalu Base camp (4900m)
4th Nov: Rest day (4900m)
5th Nov: Rest day (4900m)
6th Nov: Sandy camp upper Barun Glacier (5250m)
7th Nov: Sherpani East Col BC (Below East Col) (5250m)
8th Nov: Rest Day (5720m)
9th Nov: Traverse East (6140m) – Baruntse BC (6140m)
10th Nov: Spare day (6140m)
11th Nov: West Col (6135m) – Panch Pokhari (5445m)
12th Nov: Spare Day (6140m)
13th Nov: Amphu Labtsa BC (5520m)
14th Nov: Amphu Labtsa (5520m) – Chukung (4730m)
15th Nov: Tengboche(3860m)
16th Nov: Namche (3600m)
17th Nov: Lukla (2970m)
18th Nov: Fly from Lukla to Kathmandu (1300m)

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