Notes on the Makalu Base Camp trek


This trek is my favourite out of the nine treks that I have done in Nepal (the first being the Annapurna circuit in 1995). Makalu is in Makalu-Barun National Park which is found between Sagarmatha National Park to the west and Kanchenjanga Park to the east. Within these three parks exist five of the worlds highest mountains; Everest 8848m, Kanchenjanga 8586m, Lhotse 8516m, Makalu 8468m, and Cho Oyu 8201m. Kathi and I spent three weeks in April 2018 tea house trekking the Makalu-Barun region.

The Barun valley is home to many unique animals and brilliant plants flourish in this undisturbed habitat. It is a sanctuary for wild animals like the red panda, musk deer, wild boar, lynx, fox and the elusive snow leopard. Herds of yak are found in the area and orchids are hidden throughout the forests.

The trek begins from Num where you walk down to the Arun river and then up past tiny rice fields, quaint mud houses, vegetable patches, creeks, and the über friendly Rai, Tamang, Gurung and Sherpa people. Once leaving the last settlement of Tashigaon there is a steep hike up and over the Shipton La Pass into the Barun valley. In this fairytale land we were dazzled by high waterfalls, huge granite cliffs, windswept forests, colourful flowers, massive rhododendron blossoms and always surrounded by white snowy peaks.

As we made our way to higher elevations things got drier, plant life smaller and the mountains more dramatic. The air was thinner and great sense of isolation came as there were no other trekkers around because most of the people making summit attempts were camped on the mountains. Once at the Base Camp Lodge (4800m) we were able to do day hikes to alpine lakes, glaciers, passes and various viewpoints high on the surrounding ridges. It was magical to see the enormity and timelessnness of these great mountains up close.

The name Makalu comes from the Sanskrit Maha Kala and to me it translated as one fantastic adventure in a pristine area, with great local people, diverse animal life, vibrant plants and breath-taking mountain scenery.

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