Best of Nepal adventures – Labouche East – 2016

In October, Rosie, Mae and I took a tiny plane from Kathmandu to the Khumbu region of Nepal with the objective of climbing Labouche East (just over 6,000m). After trekking independently for 11 days, we met our climbing guide, Kancha, and headed to base camp where our AMAZING chef provided an endless supply of hot drinks, biscuits and yummy food (that’s why Rosie and Mae look so happy with the tea mugs!).

I’d brought some incense and the night before the climb Kancha led a very simple Puja ceremony.  This is a Buddhist tradition, usually led by a Lama who recites a traditional chant asking the mountain gods for permission to climb, forgiveness for damaging the mountain safe passage for all those involved.

The following morning we set off at 3am and arrived at the summit just before six to witness an amazing sunrise. We had the whole place to ourselves, quickly took some picture, did some press-ups (explanation and video to be covered in another post!) then headed down to escape the cold.

Route info will be added to UKC sometime soon.

In addition to the pics here’s some useful info for those considering the trip. Email if you’d like any extra info!

Our itinerary…

  1. Lukla – Phakding
  2. Padking – Namche
  3. Namche – Khumjung
  4. Khumjung – Dole
  5. Dole – Machermo
  6. Machermo – Gokyo lake
  7. Climb Gokyo Ri, then to Dragnag ( 4700m)
  8. Drangnag – Chola pass – Dzonga
  9. Dzonga- Gorekshep
  10. Kalapatthar-EBC-Gorekshep
  11. Gorekshep to Lobuche Base camp
  12. Climbing Period
  13. Climbing Period
  14. Pangboche
  15. Namche
  16. Lukla

Top tips…

  • Once over 3,000m, sleep a maximum of 400m higher each night
  • Take your own technical kit – we were told we could hire plastic boots (better for extreme cold weather) in Namche, Labouche and Pangboche. You can’t. What is available is too old to be safe and only comes in a limited size range. I ended up ringing our agency who amazingly picked up my own boots from my hostel in Kathmandu and got them flown and carried to our base camp! They are La Sportiva Nepal Extremes and I found them plenty warm enough. (We also heard you can hire boots in Dingboche – the base for Mera and Island peak – but we couldn’t test this)
  • We hired a porter to drop our climbing kit off at the base whilst we completed the circuit. Porters cost approx $15 per day. I would recommend Bisal! (+977 984 286-8189).
  • Most people spend two night acclimatising in Namche however the village of Khumjung is only slightly higher and has far fewer tourists, loads of yaks and a famed yeti skull.  We had a great night’s sleep in the Summiter Lodge, run by 5 times Everest summiter Pasang Sherpa (+977 9803 707 109).
  • Machermo has a medical post where doctors provide a free daily talk on how to acclimatise safely, problems to look out for and what to do if things go wrong. The post was set up by the International Porter Protection Group and uses revenue made from treating tourists to provide massively subsidised services for locals and porters. Click here for more info.
  • If you’re trying to save money pack chocolate, snacks and tea bags. Tea Houses will give free or reasonably prices sleeping only if you buy breakfast and dinner, so don’t even think about trying to carry everything unless you’re camping.

To hire a guide or not…

Guiding provides a much needed revenue source for the local economy. Most of the guides are also really friendly and can tell you a lot about the local culture. Additionally, qualified trekking guides are trained in first aid, should plan a route allowing appropriate time for acclimatise, will do all the navigating and look after accomodation.

Having said that, the paths are as big as the main track up Snowdon or any of the New Zealand Great Walks i.e. you only need pretty basic map and compass skills to manage it. Also, accommodation is really easy to organise on your own and there are loads of people to talk to all along the route. We chose not to get a trekking guide and it was the right decision for our group.If you do decide to hire a guide, make sure they are either from the region or at least fully acclimatised. Contrary to popular belief, Nepalise people also get altitude sickness and we did meet a couple of people who said they were much faster then their guides who were from Kathmandu!

For peaks you are required by law to hire a guide. I would caution that you may not experience the same kind of guiding than you might be used to in other places (i.e. where IFMGA guides are the norm)…

  • Everything is fixed ropes. This makes it much safer than alpine climbing for both the guide and clients (given that many who attempt the peaks have limited, if any previous experience). It also means you keep moving so keep warm. This can be frustrating if you’re used to the freedom of alpine climbing, but is part of climbing in this region. Alpine trips are possible, but far less common.
  • Guides don’t necessarily have any rescue training (or carry rescue equipment).
  • We didn’t see the same level of group management as you may expect at home (e.g. making sure the group stays together even on easier ground) so it’s a good idea to climb with a group who you already know and trust.

Basically, as with all climbing, make sure you only do thing’s you are comfortable with.

The bottom line…

We organised the trip through Himalayan Guides Nepal. Ishware, Rajan and the team provided a brilliant service and were happy for us to complete the trekking section independently, unlike other companies who wanted us to hire a trekking guide. $4,117 (just over £1,000 each) covered all permits, flights, transport to the airport, guide costs including their insurance and all food for the two day climb. We budgeted $20 a day for food and accommodation whilst trekking.

For insurance we all went with BMC. With any policy, watch out for the additional excess applied to calling out helicopters in Nepal.