Nepal, the magic of Nepal! It truly is a remarkable place and if you are a trekker, fastpacker, runner or mountaineer, it is arguably THE best place in the world. Nepal changes people, it really does. I experienced the change on my first visit 7-years ago and I have been going back ever since. It’s not just the trails, the Himalayas or the stunning vistas; It is so much more! It’s the combination of all those elements for sure, but it is the Nepali people that often lure me back. They truly are the salt of the earth.
I have just returned from once again working on the ‘ETR’ – Everest Trail Race. It’s a 6-day running journey of 160km’s that starts at Jiri and traces a route that Hillary and Tenzing took when they first made their way to summit Everest. It’s a magical race and the structured format is a wonderful way to experience Nepal for the first time.
Home for 2-days and I was already missing the trails, views and the people, however, a stinking cold I picked up on the journey home was keeping me from sleeping. In the middle of the night, I laid a Nepal map on the floor and started to plan a journey that would take in the ‘Three High Passes’ on a circular route from Lukla.
It was as I stared at the map, I began to realise the options open and the possibility to do out and backs and add some serious additions to what is, an already very popular trek.
The high passes are:
- Renjo La 5338m
- Cho La 5380m
- Kongma La 5535m
Now of course, before undertaking any route like this you have to ask yourself some really sound questions and gain an understanding of trekking or running at altitude – you don’t just do it. You have to ease yourself in and acclimate to the demands.
For me, I am not overly worried at being circa 5500m. My job regularly takes me to high altitudes, for example this year alone I have been over 5000m in China, been at 4000m in Turkey, been at the summit of Mt. Teide in Tenerife, been at the summit of Monte Rosa and of course, just recently I have done Everest Trail Race. So, I am pretty well prepared to go to 5500m or higher. The big question is usually, can one stay there?
See the map below:
My route would follow the very clearly defined high pass trek, clockwise, finishing with the higher Kongma La at 5535m. For example, this is usually done in 16-18 days and often 21-days are recommended to allow for any issues or problems.
My idea, once again (I did a trek last December) was to avoid the noise and the frenzy of Christmas and travel to Nepal for an adventure.
Rough plan was to leave the UK for Dubai Dec 13th, arrive in Kathmandu on the 16th. Start my trek on the 18th and finish on the 30th. Return to Kathmandu on the 31st and then have some RnR time before returning to the UK.
That allowed me 13-days.
However, I know from experience that I can move considerably faster and cover more ground than a normal trek, so, it got me looking – what could I add?
The plan is to add ‘out and backs’ to my route that would add some spice and challenge:
- Gokyo RI
- Kala Pattar?
- Everest Base Camp
- Ama Dablam Base Camp
- Thamersku Base Camp
I am well connected with the guide / Sherpa community in Kathmandu and so I asked Pasang Sherpa and Lhakpa Rangdu (both who have summited Everest multiple times, Lkakpa, 11 times!) Was my schedule feasible? Pasang knows me well and he immediately said yes! He confirmed that I usually cover double what most trekkers do in a day, also, mt time on the ETR confirms this. So, the plan was turned into a reality.
Initially I was going to go alone, but December in Nepal is very cold and relatively quiet. Pasang did not insist, but highly recommended a fast Sherpa to join me. I didn’t need much persuading and I agreed. I was adamant though – no porter, we carry our own equipment for the duration moving fast and light.
Another factor to consider was the crossing of glaciers. I had already made the decision to carry mini-spikes and a light ice axe.
13th Dec leave UK
18th Depart for Lukla (early flight I guess) and then we hike to Namche.
20th RENJO PASS to Gokyo to include Gokyo RI
21st CHO LA PASS to Dzongla
22nd Gorak Shep w/ Kala Pattar?
23rd EBC and back to Lobuche
24th KONGMA LA PASS to Somare
25th Ama Dablam BC and back to Pangboche
26th Tabuche Peak and back to Pangboche
28th Thamersku BC
30th Spare day
31st Back to KTM
2nd Onward travel
It is very easy to look at a fastpack like this and lose perspective. Daily distances mean very little when climbing and descending at altitude and particularly in this environment – it is going to be very cold too, especially at night.
I recently wrote an article on equipment for fastpacking in Nepal, HERE. While much of what is in this article is correct, I am making some changes for December. First and foremost I am replacing my SPOT with a Garmin inReach MINI. I asked friends was the difference worth it and I have to say I am currently blown away with the device. User friendly, small, great battery life and perfect sync with the EARTHMATE App on iPhone. The map below is what I imported into the inReach as a ‘just in case’ scenario is needed.
However, the primary use for the inReach will be safety. It has a SOS button and that in a remote environment can be the difference between life and death. Also, I can send and receive messages – not essential but really great for letting the important people in my life know that I am ok. The other function will also allow anyone to follow me by using this link HERE – I must stress, I am going for no FKT’s, not looking to set records or do anything out of the ordinary, however, you may like to see where I am? I haven’t decided yet if I will turn the inReach on each morning and off each evening or leave it permanently on. The battery will last 20-days on 30-min tracking.
I am going to use the Montane Ultra Tour 40 backpack. It is light, super comfy and will allow me to carry all I need.
I have purchased a pair of RAB Endurance Down Gloves which are maybe overkill, but, I have had friends at EBC and in that area in December and it has been -25, so, I don’t want cold hands!
I am using the inov-8 ROCLITE 325 Gore-Tex fastpack boot.
I normally do not take waterproof clothing but I have decided to take the inov-8 AT/C Race Pant (170g) and AT/C Stormshell Jacket (175g).
Ice Axe – I am taking the amazingly super-light CAMP Corsa which is just 200g
YakTrax XTR cramp ons
The rest of my equipment will be as follows:
- inov-8 3/4 tights.
- inov-8 AT/C Merino Top
- inov-8 AT/C soft-shell Pro Top
- Plus inov-8 ROCLITE 325 Gore-Tex, inov-8 AT/C Race Pant (170g) and AT/C Stormshell Jacket
- RAB INFINITY 500 sleeping bag
- RAB NEUTRINO PRO Jacket
- RAB MICROLIGHT Jacket
- RAB SUPERFLUX HOODY
- RAB 120 long sleeve base layer
- RAB 120 pant
- PHD down socks
- RAB PROTON PANTS
- RAB gloves, hat and neck rolls
- Basic toiletries
- Headtorch and spare batteries
- Black Diamond Z Poles
- Waterproof bags
- Sony A7RIII with 35mm f2.8 prime lens and 4 batteries/ 2 spare SD cards.
Departure form the UK is Dec 13th and you can follow my tracker HERE
I will do iPhone posts during the trek, mainly on Facebook and Instagram Story. All the good images will come post the trek when I can download and edit.
Instagram – @iancorlessphotography
Twitter – @talkultra
Web – www.iancorless.com
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