Daniella and I have finally locked in our honeymoon plans, and we’ve decided on a truly memorable, once-in-a-lifetime trip.  Straight after the wedding weekend in Mexico we’ll hop on a plane and fly to Kathmandu (via Istanbul) where we’ll disappear into the Nepal Himalaya for three weeks of exploration, trekking and even a spot of high-altitude mountaineering around Manaslu, the eighth highest mountain in the world.

We’re especially looking forward to being outdoors and active every day, immersing ourselves in the local culture, and spending some time together completely off-the-grid and without distraction – which will be especially important and enjoyable after all the wedding chaos.


The Plan

Our plan is to trek around Manaslu over a 21-day private expedition.  Starting at Arughat, our anti-clockwise circuit around the mountain we’ll take a side-trip into the remote, culturally Tibetan region of the Tsum Valley, which was only opened to foreigners less than a decade ago. When we get to Larkya La pass around 5,100m the plan is to take a few days to ascend rarely-climbed 6,249m Larkya Peak.  The climb will require us to set up base camp, ascend the glacier and spend the night at a 5,700m high camp at the col before going for the summit the next morning. After the climb we’ll cross over Larkya La and begin the long descent to join the Annapurna Circuit at Dharapani and further on to the trailhead where we’ll drive back to Kathmandu for a well-earned celebration before flying out to Istanbul the next day.


Trip Itinerary

I took a lot of time to develop and refine the itinerary for this trip, as there is a lot we want to accomplish in a finite amount of time.  We wanted to do a trek in combination with an NMA trekking peak, manaslu-circuit-tsum-valley-route-map-largehopefully complete a circuit (rather than an out-and-back route), and experience the local mountain communities and Tibetan Buddhist culture.  We also hoped to explore a less-frequented part of the Nepal Himalaya so that excluded the busy and popular Annapurna Circuit, and I had previously trekked the Everest Region with Dad back in 2004.  The Manaslu region, in combination with remote Tsum Valley which was just opened to foreigners in 2007, checked all of those boxes.  Adding to that, the Manaslu and Tsum regions were hit especially hard by the April 2015 earthquake, and we were keen to support the local economy which relies on trekkers for their income.

I researched the options online, by reading some trekking guides and through discussions with various trekking companies.  Here’s the full itinerary for our 21-day trek and climb:

  • Day 01/ 6th Apr – Arrive in Kathmandu and transfer to hotel
  • Day 02/ 7th Apr – Preparation day and sightseeing in Kathmandu
  • Day 03/ 8th Apr – Drive to Arughat (7-8 hours)
  • Day 04/ 9th Apr – Trek to Sotikhola (5-6 hours)
  • Day 05/ 10th Apr – Trek to Machhakhola (5-6 hours)
  • Day 06/ 11th Apr – Trek to Thulodhunga (4-5 hours)
  • Day 07/ 12th Apr – Trek to Philim (5-6 hours)
  • Day 08/ 13th Apr – Trek to Chumling in Tsum Valley (7-8 hours)
  • Day 09/ 14th Apr – Trek to Chhokang Paro (6-7 hours)
  • Day 10/ 15th Apr – Trek to Mu Gompa @ 3,700m (6-7 hours)
  • Day 11/ 16th Apr – Trek to Lar (3-4 hours)
  • Day 12/ 17th Apr – Trek to Chumling (8-9 hours)
  • Day 13/ 18th Apr – Trek to Pewa (5-6 hours)
  • Day 14/ 19th Apr – Trek to Ghap (5-6 hours)
  • Day 15/ 20th Apr – Trek to Lho (5-6 hours)
  • Day 16/ 21st Apr – Trek to Samagaon (3-4 hours)
  • Day 17/ 22nd Apr – Rest day in Samagaon with possible acclimatization hike to
    Manaslu Base Camp @ 4,900m (6-8 hours)
  • Day 18/ 23rd Apr – Trek to Dharmasala (5-6 hours)
  • Day 19/ 24th Apr- Trek to Larkya base camp near Larkya La @ 5,100m (3-4 hours)
  • Day 20/ 25th Apr – Climb to high camp of Larkya Peak (6-7 hours)
  • Day 21/ 26th Apr – Climb to summit of Larkya Peak @ 6,249m, descend to base camp, cross Larkya La @ 5,160m and trek down to Bimtang (9-10 hours)
  • Day 22/ 27th Apr – Trek to Dharapani (7-8 hours)
  • Day 23/ 28th Apr – Drive to Kathmandu via Besisahar (10 hours)
  • Day 24/ 29th Apr – Depart Kathmandu

The Manaslu Circuit itinerary, along with other trekking options such as the Tsum Valley and Nar-Phu side-trips, can be viewed in Google Sheets here.


Expedition Services

We will be working with the trekking outfitter Climb High Himalaya for this trip, and they will provide all the trekking and climbing services for this trip.  We’ll be doing it as both a teahouse and camping trek with an entourage that will include our guide, a cook, and possibly 4-5 porters to carry all the personal and group gear.

A shout-out to Himalayan Trailblazer as well for all their help developing our plans for this trip.  I hope to use them on a future expedition or mountaineering trip in the Himalaya.  I first contacted them about the possibility of doing a first ascent expedition in Nepal, and they come highly recommended.

Manaslu (8,156m, 8th highest mountain in the world) and surrounding peaks from a mountain north of Larkya La pass. Larkya Peak (6,249m) is the smaller pyramid-shaped peak in front and to the right of Manaslu.

Larkya Peak from Larkya La. The route to high camp on the col is up the snow ramp in the centre of the photo.

Larkya Peak from Larkya La. The route to high camp on the col is up the snow ramp in the centre of the photo.

Not long now!!  Final prep is underway and I’m headed to Alaska in just a few days.  I’m excited, admittedly also a little nervous, but feel ready for the adventure and challenge to come.

Follow the Expedition

My updates

I’m planning to post to social media as we go using the DeLorme inReach Explorer satellite communicator and GPS device.  These updates will be posted to Facebook and Twitter, and my GPS location will be tracked and viewable on my MapShare page along with the messages I post.

Send me a message

I’ll also be able to send and receive messages through the inReach device, so drop me a line and say hi!  I should have a lot of downtime in the evenings to write back.

To send me a message, follow these easy steps:

  • Go to my MapShare page
  • Click on “Message”
  • Add your email address or mobile phone number
  • Type a short message (up to 160 characters)
  • Click “Send”
Updates from Alpine Ascents

My expedition company will be providing updates for all of their teams on the mountain through the Denali Cybercast blog at their website and on WordPress.com.  Look for references to the team I’m on: Alp Team 4, departing May 18th with Vern Tejas as lead guide.

I believe these posts will also be made available on AAI’s Facebook page.

Mountain conditions from NPS

Denali National Park & Preserve has set up a mountaineers blog with daily dispatches covering current conditions and status on the numbers of climbers on the mountain and how the season is progressing.

Denali West Buttress Route

While I’ve previously shared some information on the West Buttress route in an earlier post, I found the American Alpine Institute – another commercial expedition outfitter, not to be confused with Alpine Denali West Buttress RouteAscents International who I’ll be climbing with – has a great virtual tour of the route with descriptions, photos and even some video.  You can click on the links below to learn more about the West Buttress route as we climb the mountain:

They also have a great short video that really gives you a taste of what the Denali West Buttress expedition experience is like – looks like a big challenge and a lot of fun!

Well that’s all for now.  Back in a couple of weeks with – if Denali will let me – a summit of North America’s highest point to show for it!  While there is only a 50% probability of summit success (and it was even less last season), it’s sure to be a grand adventure nonetheless…

Denali National Park & Preserve have now started their mountaineers blog for the season ahead, with daily dispatches covering current weather and conditions as well as some figures on the numbers of climbers on the mountain.

Amazingly, a whopping 800+ climbers have registered for 2015, so while there’s just 5 climbers on the mountain as of today it will certainly get quite busy around the peak season (when I’ll be there)!  And weather-wise, it was a tropical 15F/-9C at 7,200ft base camp this morning…