My Makalu Base Camp Trek report is prepared for Tejanath Pokharel and for the use of MSTS. The intent is to provide information about the lodging facilities available along the route from Khandbari to Makalu Base Camp (MBC). This information can hopefully be of some benefit to MSTS in designing and organizing treks for independent trekkers as well as for groups along this route. Photos will also be made available. It should be noted that the information provided in the latest trekking guide books, dated 2009, is NOT correct.
Previously camping treks (carrying your own food and tents etc.) were indicated as the only way to get to MBC due to the lack of food and sleeping accommodation. However, the situation has changed and now there are facilities, lodges, the entire way up to MBC, including at the base camp itself. This means that independent trekkers can now do the entire trek without camping support. Also small groups can use the lodges instead of camping—tea house trekking. This eliminates the need to carry food and tents, and the associated costs of porters and makes the trek available to many more people who otherwise would be unable to afford the cost of a supported trek. The facilities vary greatly from location to location and each person should carry their own water container and water sterilizer, mattress, and sleeping bag. MBC is just short of 5000 meters and will be cold, a good sleeping bag, -15C is recommended. At this time there are no facilities, shops, hotels etc. between sleeping destinations, you are on your own during each day from lodge to lodge. Trekkers may want to have snacks such as chapattis prepared the night before for eating on the trail the next day. (Chapattis generally cost about 50RS each.) Also some peanut butter and jam is certainly useful for mid-day snacks with the chapattis.
This trek is a difficult trek, demanding considerable physical exertion. Also some days along the route exceed recommended altitude gains for ideal acclimatization. Tea house trekking for the first few days provides some choice in lodging however, from Tashigaon up, all the lodges are owned and operated by two Sherpa families, based in Seduwa and Tashigaon, and the choices of lodging is limited. It is pretty much ‘take it or leave it’. Standards of cleanliness for sleeping and food that may seem appropriate or desirable in Khandbari will not be available the rest of the way up. Some sleeping conditions are primitive and crowded and food is limited. I must say though, that on my trek I always had good dal bhat—-even up at MBC. Standards and amenities that trekkers have come to expect while trekking in the Everest and Annapurna areas are not available. The MBC trek can be considered a remote area trek with only basic infrastructure. For trekkers who are up to the physical challenge, and are less concerned about niceties than doing a very worthwhile trek, this should not be a problem. In fact, the idea that the Arun Makalu area is not overrun with trekkers and overpriced fancy food can indeed be an attraction to some trekkers and I think this aspect of the trek should be promoted.
This trek was done between 23 Oct 2010 and 06 Nov 2010 by me and a trekking buddy, Paul, from Australia, as independent trekkers using only the tea houses and lodges along the route. We left Khandbari on 23 Oct and took a jeep from Manibhanjang to Deurali, walked to Num where we had snacks, then continued to a small teashop a little way up the hill towards Seduwa, after crossing the river. The next day we went only to Seduwa where we took a long bath and washed our cloths in the beautiful spring just below the town. As drying the clothes took most of the remaining day we stayed at Seduwa the rest of that day. We stayed at an excellent hotel, the New Makalu Restaurant and Lodge, with an extremely helpful owner, Mr. Nawang Pemba Sherpa, just next to the school. This is some distance away from the usual camping area. Both the food and sleeping accommodation were quite good. We actually ate our food at a neighbor’s home as the kitchen at the hotel was being updated. This turned out to be a lucky situation as we were able to enjoy the company of a Nepali home. The tongba as well the food were great. My trek partner and I had an enjoyable time.
· Food—excellent db. 100RS; chow chow 30RS; tongba 60RS; egg—20RS; tea—15RS; beer—260RS; chapattis—15RS
· Water—boiled, freely given
· Toilet—none at this time, hotel owner will be adding one
· Camping—in school yard
· Solar heating will be coming as hotel is remodelled;
· Sleeping—clean rooms and linen, mattresses; capacity about 15-16 in small and common rooms
Next day Tashigaon:
- Stayed at the Mount Summit Hotel, the last building at the upper end of the village. Very nice. There is another large hotel just down from this one. There were groups staying there, camping and inside. There are camping areas at both hotels and a helicopter rescue pad in the area.
· Room: large clean common room with solar light. Good beds and thick mattresses; shiracks provided. 20-22 beds. Sleeping 50-100RS.
· Dal bhat 150RS w/meat, 100RS w/o. Quality that day just ok.
· Excellent new toilet and shower area, cement. Hot water can be arranged for shower.
· The other hotel in the area was slightly more expensive. It also had a small store selling snacks, supplies. There was a large grassy area outside for sunning and good toilet facilities.
· Kongma has only one hotel. Also a camping area. Upstairs sleeping rooms, two common rooms, about 15 capacity. 200RS/person. Bed with thin mattress, need your own mattress. Excellent dal bhat 250RS; plate of potatoes 150RS; rakshie 70RS; cup of hot water 50RS, water is difficult to obtain here, far away and has to be carried. Primitive toilet, bring the water you need!
· Hotel Do Baato’, single small lodge only, limited capacity of about 8 people, very basic. Friendly owner.
· Good food: dal bhat 250RS, chow chow 50RS, pancake/chapattis 50RS, potatoes with yak cheese 150RS; black tea 40RS; rakshie 50-70RS
· Hot water/liter 50RS. Lots of cold water available nearby.
· Sleeping was very basic, large benches and tables, crowded and ‘beds’ were short. 200RS.
· No toilet, lots of jungle for your needs; owner said maybe toilet next year.
Yangle Kharka: Two lodges though only one was open. Also small home/lodge available too for very basic living. We stayed at Chopal Sherpa’s lodge. Upstairs large common room, very smoky from cooking fire. Solar lighting. Camping area. Dawa Sherpa lodge closed.
· Sleeping: good beds, no linen, mattresses, very smoky. Capacity about 10. 200RS.
· Good dal bhat: hot water free with food. Chow chow and snacks available, small store for snacks and supplies. Tongba available. Dal bhat 250RS
· Cold water easily available, no charge.
· Toilet, very primitive.
· Just one lodge, owned by Pasang and Pasang.
· Very friendly owners, small supply/snack store. Camping area.
· Sleeping: about 6-8 beds, more can be arranged. Thick mattresses. Some beds difficult for taller trekkers. No linen. 200RS.
· Good dal bhat though we ate with the family and not at the hotel. 250RS. Also available tongba 150RS; chapattis 40-50RS; black tea 30RS
· Toilet primitive, most people walked off to hidden areas.
· Water difficult to get but can be had from stream.
· Two to three lodges; small, crowded but were clean. Very cold location when no sun. Our lodge only made a fire for cooking, not for heating lodge or warming trekkers because wood was scarce and difficult to obtain. Camping areas, separate ‘tent/huts’ for porters.
· Food: good dal bhat, again. Other food available and snacks. Dal bhat 250RS. Chow chow 50RS; hot water one cup 50RS; tea 40-50RS.
· Sleeping: good mattresses and beds, some short, no linen; limited capacity in each lodge (ours was about 6).
· Water is available nearby in stream.
· Toilets: each hotel has a toilet—basic.
Considering the isolation of the area, the long distances between each day’s trek destinations, demanding terrain, and the number of days required to porter food supplies as well as equipment to serve the trekkers in the lodges up to MBC, I feel that the prices charged were fair. It is a difficult trek and some accommodations reflected the conditions mentioned above, that is they were basic to even occasionally primitive. However, I feel that anyone who is willing and capable to undertake this physically demanding trek can certainly tolerate some of the ‘basic’ conditions along the route. This is more of an adventure trek and less like the over commercialized treks to Everest and Annapurna. Current conditions are certainly suitable for independent trekkers as well as small groups. Planning, foresight and flexibility are required. Expectations of fancy lodges and European ‘cuisine’ such as has become popular (for some reason) on other treks should be discouraged.
“Tea house trekking” is in a general sense an accurate description but it really only applies prior to Tashigaun. From Tashigaun to MBC Sherpa ‘lodges’ more accurately reflect conditions along the route. Facilities will not be as clean as those on the lower elevations of the trek nor will there be as much care taken to provide those levels of personal comfort. However, this should not dissuade healthy adventurous trekkers from doing this trek either as independent trekkers or in a small group. Indeed, the lack of over-commercialized facilities and the fewer numbers of people on the trek as compared to the more popular treks should be emphasized as a positive in advertising so as to appeal to the type of trekkers who would consider this type of trek in the first place. (Note: minimum of two trekkers for independent trekkers for safety reasons as this trek is too isolated for one person.)