Three Passes in January - not your usual questions
Replies: 4 - Last Post: Aug 7, 2012 11:36 PM Last Post By: BruceForeman
Aug 7, 2012 9:42 AM
Three Passes in January - not your usual questionsNamaste to all!
What a great little resources this Thorn Tree is, I've been reading on here all evening, how wonderful the search function is!
After much reading, I have several questions unanswered, and I'm hoping there are a few posters on here who might be able to help me out.
Myself and a close group of friends will be trekking in the everest region this January. We have a month from arrival in KTM to departure.
With the exception of 2, our group is comprised of outdoor guides from Australia with plenty of experience and a diverse skill set between us. I say this not out of ego, but to show we're not numpties. However, we've never been to Nepal! Although, I live in Uttaranchal in India which is getting there :)
Our intended trek is the three passes, heading east to west. Flying in and out of Lukla.
What we really want to do is a trek where we are independent and self sufficient for the most part and do not need technical gear.
We intend to camp for about 1/2 the time, using tea houses to thaw out, take refuge from poor weather, and save us carrying too much weight in food. We intend on doing it without a guide or porters - please, don't get started on this debate we've read it and had it already. We have our reasons, and are open to changing our minds depending on how things pan out in the planning.
Some specific questions that I haven't been able to find answers on:
1) What is the availability of food stuffs from Lukla onwards? Is Namche Bazzar our last chance? Is there somewhere further on we can restock? can something be arranged through a lodge, they obviously cook with something, even if it is dal bhat... are fresh food drops possible if we bring non-perisables from KTM? We are not expecting gourmet ingredients, just whatever is available locally!
2) Is there any issue at Customs bringing dehydrated food in? Should we just get it in KTM? Any recommendations?
2) Water availability in January - is it all frozen or are sources available? What filtration is necessary?
3) Comms? Is a nepalse sim card sufficient, or do we hire a sat phone (from KTM)?
4) Winter... I've read rdccomments' great post about mid-winter trekking. Anyone else with experience, specifically on the three passes trek, could you please check my questions on his thread?
Many humble thanks,
Aug 7, 2012 1:05 PM
1Owen - I have repeated below my reply to your post under the "mid winter" trekking thread - this is so it is more visible to other readers coming across this tread.
I think that it is the fear of snow which puts many people off trekking in mid winter. However in my experience, as detailed in my post above, and as reflected in the weather statistics for the Everest, Langtang and Annapurna regions, there is very little snowfall in mid winter. Obviously there will be exceptions to this, especially as global weather seems to be going through a more unsettled period. The 3 high passes, which I have done twice now in mid winter, should therefore be "open". I think that the pass in Manaslu oftenn gets blocked in the winter - but that is in a different area.
If a pass was effectively closed due to snow, you could still do most, or even all, of your trek, as it is quite possible to visit most of the areas without using the passes - for example you could go from Chhukung to Lobuche via Khongma La pass or via Pheriche - Dugla then Lobuche. The 3 passes is quite a flexible trek in this regard. BTW you can clearly see the eastern side of the top of Khongma La from Chhukung Ri or Hill (the hill is higher at 5,833m), and so can see if there is any snow on it. If there is some snow, the passes may well still be passable, though route finding will be more difficult, especially the approaches to Khongma La. The guide that I now trek with, who has done the 3 passes at least 9 times so far, has done them twice in quite deep snow (including once with a Canadian couple who were well used to deep snow). So be prepared, but you should be fine.
Cho La you cannot see (from the east side) until you get quite near it, but if it was really bad you should have enough time to go back to Dzongla (which is a bit of a dump), before it gets dark. Ask at the lodges, and any other trekkers for any info on the passes - my guide was always able to get very good info, even in mid winter, though obviously it helps having a Nepali with you.
Renjo La you can see the east face of the top of the pass from Gokyo.
There will be some ice in mid winter on parts all 3 of the passes, but I just used my trekking poles and was careful, so no problems. On the top of Cho La you are always on thick ice for about 20 minutes (at the top) - it is a small glacier - do keep an eye out for crevasses. There should be a trail visible across the top, unless the wind has obscured it - which happened last time (3rd) I went over it (31 Dec 2010) - it took us 90 minutes to cross the top that time as we had to keep stopping to check the cracks etc in the ice.
I did not carry any special kit, apart from trekking poles which I think are essential for the steep descents - they make a huge difference to your knees. The only time I have had deep snow on a high pass was Thorung La (in Annapurna) in Oct 2005, when the snow at the top was waist deep - I just slogged through it, but it was very tough going for the last hour or so.
Food etc: see my reply to your other posting.
Aug 7, 2012 1:23 PM
2Camping and carrying your own food: each to their own, but personally I would not bother, as you will have to carry tents, food and cooking gear, which will add a lot to the weight and means that there are more things to worry about. Just about all the experienced, independent trekkers use the lodges. It gets very dusty high up in many parts of the Everest region - it is effectively a high desert in many places, and this will get into your tents and gear etc. Also as my mid winter post, it gets very cold at night at altitude - say down to minus 20C to minus 30C at 4,800m and above, so even unheated lodge bedrooms will be much less cold, for the reasons given in mid "mid winter trekking" post/thread. You should have no trouble at all buying cooked food from the lodges, or biscuits, tea, raksi etc - they make money on the food and drink, rather than the rooms. Quite a lot of the groups that I have seen camping, camp right next to the lodges, and eat in the lodges.
1. You should be able to re-stock from the various lodges - you may have to haggle a bit over prices, if you are not eating cooked food from the lodges. Water is not a problem when staying in the lodges - again you may need to bargain a bit. There are no food drops, so far as I am aware - all food, drink etc is carried up by human porters and/or yaks and mules, so it gets more expensive the higher you go.
2. Customs - dunno, but you should be able to easily get all that you need at the various shops in Ktm.
3. Comms - I think that most people use Nepali sims - I have not done so, as my guide has a phone with him. See what others say, but there is extensive mobile coverage in the Everest region, and many other parts of Nepal, nowadays.
Aug 7, 2012 10:26 PM
32. I've brought dehydrated food into Nepal on a couple different trips and there's never been an issue with it. I prefer to bring my own so I know what it is rather than get a Nepali or Chinese knock off.
rdccomments is the expert on this board about trekking the 3 passes during the winter. I'd trust his comments. Weather conditions can change at any time, especially on the 3 passes of your trek. You just need to inquire about local conditions and trust the judgement of the locals.
Aug 7, 2012 11:36 PM
4Bring chorizzo, salami, tuna, chocolate, sun dried tomatoes, nuts, dried fruit, and any other gourmet luxury dried, preserved foods you can as their value transforms into that of gold the higher up you get. No problem at all bringing them into Nepal. Bring iodine to treat water as well. This is the cheapest and lightest way to guarantee good water. Boiling can be unreliable due to lower boiling points at altitude. I imagine the tea houses near EBC could be deserted at this time of year. It would be great to hear your experience of a winter trek when you get back.
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