At the airport you will be met by a WE representative and transferred to the Radisson Hotel where you will meet your group leader. The hotel is centrally located and a short walk from shops, cafes and other features of interest. Your kitbag containing sleeping bag, down jacket will be issued upon arrival and individual equipment/gear checks will be held during the afternoon. A pre-trek briefing will be held at approx 6.00pm and is a great opportunity to get acquainted with your fellow group members before heading out to dinner.
This morning final gear checks will be held and afterwards we will depart for Thamel where any necessary items will be hired or purchased. A group sightseeing tour has been arranged, taking in the key attractions in and around Kathmandu. If time ds not permit, the tour can be taken after the expedition.
An early start to the airport to catch the 45 minute flight to Lukla. It is a memorable flight, with marvellous views of the Himalaya. Our crew and porters assemble, loads are sorted and after a cup of tea, we are soon on our way down a trail below the air strip to the river at Surke Khola, which brings us adjacent to the racing glacial waters of the Dudh Kosi. Our route takes a southerly direction along old trade routes, a trail of farm settlements growing crops such as millet, corn and buckwheat and then as we trek higher, into stands of oaks, maple and rhododendron.
We follow the main trail briefly before turning up a path that leads into the forest and traverses around many ridges to the valley of the Kari Khola. As we approach Pangum, set in the base of a small bowl like valley immediately below the Pangum La, we travel over undulating ridges of forests of rhododendron, pines and oaks. This is a little known trail used only by the local families and apart from a couple of small settlements along the way we see little evidence of human activity. Pangum is a very old settlement, with a new gompa and expansive views out over the valley.
We climb the half hour or so to the Pangum La (3175m) and our gateway toward the Hinku Valley, and now start to head eastward and then in a northerly direction. Today is a solid descent to the Hinku River of at least 900 metres depending on which path we take, and then a climb up to our camp high on the other side near the Surke La.
Climbing up to the Surke La (3085m) we now follow the spine of the Surke Danda ridge northwards towards the Hinku and camp at a yak herders clearing or 'kharka'. These next few days are far from teahouse and trekkers trails and offer a good warm-up for the wilderness and high alpine settings to come.
Continuing along the ridge, we climb higher over knolls of between 4000-4500m. The trail is now above the tree line and is grassy slopes and rocky outcrops and cliffs, where birds of prey may be seen flying overhead such as Griffon vulture, lammergeier or eagles. We then descend to a camp set near a series of five lakes, Panch Pokhari, set beside the river of the Chunbu Drangka.
This is a good location to have a rest day and a lovely natural setting to explore further.
Our route now contours around many ridges on the eastern side of the Hinku, descending lower into forests of rhododendron and scree. Near the valley floor we encounter the devastation caused by a natural damn at the head of the valley bursting in 1998. The valley has been destroyed, leaving boulders, dead trees and silt where once there were old growth forests and meadows. Our campsite is on a pleasant grassy patch, on the now much higher bank of the rocky riverbed.
We are now in the Hinku Valley proper, and cross over by way of a yak herders bridge and join the main trail. The first settlement we pass is the busy village of Kote, primarily servicing the trekking groups that come through this area. As a result of the tremendous washout of boulders and debris, the trail follows the riverbed mostly, a good trail among rounded stones and silt. We gain our first views of dramatic peaks of the valley; Kusum kanguru to our left and an unnamed peak over 6700m that stands directly before us. The path then weaves up on to the pastures on the left hand side and pleasant easy trails through to Tagnag.
Heading deeper into the mountains now, in a spectacular alpine setting. Giant Himalayan peaks rise up on all sides and our sleeping altitude increases to about 5000m this evening. Khare is a suitable place to pause for a couple of nights, with good hikes above our campsite. We'll spend two nights here, developing a solid base of acclimatisation, before heading over the Mera La.
Three days are set aside for the return trek to Lukla, back down through the Khumbu, via Namche Bazaar. It's virtually all downhill, except a few short stiff climbs, and you will appreciate the thicker and warmer air after a few weeks in the high mountains. If necessary, an additional day can be "borrowed" from the hike out if we need another day high on the mountain.
An alpine start for our pass crossing. Once again, ferrying across all our loads together with all party members, crew, porters and members takes time. The approach to the pass from the Hunku is deceptive. Facing east and southward there is much more sun and little snow, just a collection of rocks that gradually lead up to the gap we travel through. On the north facing side we find steep slopes of snow that we must take care to descend by fixed ropes to the snow basins below and subsequent moraine and alpine valley beyond. The views from this 5780m pass are outstanding.
Having established C1 at about 6100m and C2 further up the SE ridge at about 6400m we will wait for favourable weather conditions before attempting the summit. The route above C2 requires some fixed ropes and our sherpas will help set up the route. As always in an expedition to a big peak, the actual itinerary is flexible and depends upon the many factors that govern climbing in the high mountains.
Move higher up the ridge to a suitable site ready for our summit attempt tomorrow.
A big day today as we cross the Mera La, our high point thus far on the approach trek to Baruntse base camp.
A day set aside to rest and prepare for the upcoming climb to the summit
We spend the next few days establishing camps and load carrying. Our itinerary during this time is flexible. We ask that all members follow the advice of the expedition leader at all times and participate actively in the setting up of camps and preparing meals when required.
Two full days in base camp to rest, organise gear and prepare for the climb of the SE Ridge of Baruntse
Now in the Honku valley, we are hiking north up a drainage system towards Baruntse. The lower Himalayan peaks are now begind us, to the south, and we are walking in the direction of the highest mountain's on the planet. It's a great setting and reminds us of the challenge that awaits us.
All going well, we will fly out of this small mountain airstrip on a very spectacular flight back to Kathmandu. On arrival, we will be met and transferred to the Radisson Hotel where there is no fixed program for the rest of the day.
Camp and sleep just below the SE Ridge at about 6100m.
Trip concludes after breakfast, with a transfer to the airport or further arrangements as planned.