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Those on the group flight will be transferred to our central hotel. Those not flying with the group from London will join us at the hotel.
This morning there will be a full briefing and equipment check. Anybody who needs to buy or rent equipment will have time today, and your leader will help you with this. Those who have all the equipment will have time to explore Kathmandu. Chinese visas and the climbing permit allowing entry into Tibet will hopefully be issued today
Drive to Zhangmu
We leave Kathmandu this morning for the drive to the Tibetan border town of Zhangmu. The road takes us north of Kathmandu on the Arniko Highway past Bhaktapur, and then follows the Bhote Kosi (river) to Tatopani. Here we complete the border formalities and cross the Friendship Bridge into Tibet. We spend our first night at Zhangmu.
Drive to Nyalam and acclimatisation walks 3,700m
Leaving Zhangmu the road starts to wind up onto the Tibetan Plateau and we leave the green terraced hillsides behind us as we gain altitude. We spend two nights at Nyalam (3,700m) to allow for acclimatisation. On both days we will go out for acclimatisation walks. One day we walk up onto the steep ridge across from the town to approx 4,300m, where we have great views across to Langtang, Shishapangma and the Jugal Himal. It is important in these early stages not to push yourself too much and to turn back if you are feeling the altitude.
Second day Nyalam
Second day Nyalam
Drive to Tingri and acclimatisation walk 4,300m
Our drive today takes us up and over the Himalaya. The road climbs steadily for a couple of hours to the Tong La (5,100m) from where, on a clear day, we have superb views looking back over a whole host of snow capped peaks. Shishapangma can be seen off to the west. We are now well and truly on the Tibetan Plateau, a wild desolate landscape that has its own beauty. As we continue along the Friendship Highway a fantastic panorama of peaks, including Cho Oyu and Everest comes into view. We spend two nights at Tingri (4,300m) for acclimatisation. On our acclimatisation day we will hike up to approximately 4,950m with great views of Everest and Cho Oyu on a clear day (please note that there are many wild dogs in Old Tingri – please take care when walking round town – take a trekking pole when you go out of the hotel and walk in groups).
Second day Lao Tingri
Second day Lao Tingri
Drive to Rongbuk and trek to Everest Base Camp 5,200m
Today we leave the Friendship Highway and head south on a spectacular but very rough road towards Cho Oyu and then towards Rongbuk. As we reach Rongbuk, Everest comes into view, more impressive than ever. Rongbuk is the highest monastery in the world, and the site of the original base camp for the first British expeditions on Everest. From Rongbuk we start our trek; today is an easy 11km walk to the present day Everest Base Camp (5,200m), the views en route are amazing with the North Face of Everest so close you feel like you can touch it! We may spot herds of blue sheep along the roadside. Just past the army camp is Base Camp and our home for the next three nights.
Everest Base Camp 5,200m
These two days are spent at Base Camp to allow our bodies to get used to the altitude and environment. It’s important not to over exert yourself here and rest and drink plenty. One day we will hike to Japanese Camp One at 5,300m. The second day we will climb the hill behind Base Camp to approximately 5,500m. From Base Camp the whole of the North Face of Everest is visible and we get incredible sunset and sunrise views from camp. There will be time to see the memorial stones to Mallory and Irvine. Base Camp is fairly comfortable. As well as individual sleeping tents we have a comfortable dining tent and chairs, toilet tents and shower tent. Our cooks will provide good nutritious food and snacks and plenty of fluids so we stay well hydrated.
Second day Everest Basecamp
Second day Everest Basecamp
Trek to Interim Camp 1 5,766m
A tough day today as we leave Base Camp and trek to Interim Camp 1. Yaks will carry our main luggage so we will wait till they arrive. The walk starts fairly easily crossing the stony flood plain of the Rongbuk Glacier and then it winds easily along between the side of the valley and the glacier. After a couple of hours we pass Japanese Camp and then we leave the main valley and climb steeply into the East Rongbuk valley. The steep climb brings us onto a rocky moraine path which slowly ascends the valley. The trail undulates following the East Rongbuk Glacier. We stop for a packed lunch along the way. As we gain height the pinnacles of ice start to appear ahead. Finally we spot the tents at Interim Camp 1 and it seems to take forever to reach the small encampment. We take the walk very slowly today due to the altitude and it can get cold and windy in the late afternoon.
Changtse Base Camp 6,050m
We now follow the East Rongbuk Glacier, called the Magic Highway. As the trek up the valley we see the fantastic ice pinnacles of the glacier which was discovered in 1922 and provided the key to climbing Everest from the north. From camp we descend a little and then climb back up onto a moraine ridge. We now follow a river of moraine that flows through the pinnacles. The trail undulates through the middle of the Magic Highway and although the gradient is not steep the altitude makes the going hard. However the views today are some of the most spectacular on the whole trek as towering either side of us are huge pinnacles of blue ice. At one point we get a view of Everest before it disappears behind Changtse. Our camp today is in a spectacular location on a rocky site right next the river of ice pinnacles. We should get to camp for lunch and the afternoon is spent resting and getting used to the altitude.
Advance Base Camp 6400m
A short but very tough day due to the altitude. The trail today starts along the edge of the East Rongbuk Glacier and then we get onto the glacier for a while before walking back onto the vast moraines. The river of ice pinnacles gets even more spectacular than yesterday as they tower above us and appear to march down the valley like an army of ice soldiers. Finally we turn the corner and ahead we can spot the first tents of Advanced Base Camp (ABC). However at this altitude reaching our camp will seem to take forever. But we can enjoy the view of Everest ahead of us as the immense North Face of Everest towers above us and stays with us all the time (weather permitting) at ABC. On reaching camp we have lunch and the rest of the day is spent resting and adjusting to the extreme altitude.
Rest and acclimatisation
This will be our last day together as a whole group as the trekkers will leave us tomorrow. We will be sleeping at 6,400m and need to acclimatise to this height and it is quite normal to feel the initial symptoms of altitude sickness. We will get up late and drink and eat as much as we can force down and once we are comfortable with the altitude we can take a walk up the moraine through the long sprawling camp. We get amazing views of the summit of Everest and ahead we can see the whole face of the steep North Col – we may even be able to spot Sherpas or climbers as they inch their way up the fixed ropes on the face.
Acclimitisation climb towards North Col
After saying goodbye to our trekkers we make an initial climb towards the North Col as part of our acclimatisation. The moraine continues up the side of the glacier, close to the flank of Changtse for two hours to crampon point where we break out onto the glacier. From here we walk gradually up the glacier with crampons on for another two hours to the very foot of the slopes leading to the col. From there the trail climbs very steeply on fixed ropes. If we are feeling good we make an initial foray onto the North Col route and have a practice using the fixed ropes to ascend and descend.
A final rest and preparation day. We pack all our gear for tomorrow and make sure we rest, drink and eat as much as we can.
Climb to the North Col (7,066m)
A long, hard day today as we leave early under supervision of the leader and our climbing sherpas. We trek for two hours to the edge of the glacier where we put our crampons on. From here we continue for another two hours across the wind swept glacier to the base of the fixed rope (at about 6,600m). The route is fixed in late March each year by the teams attempting Everest and provides security and assistance as we weave up between the ice seracs. Most of the route is 30–40 degrees steep with some steeper sections and there is one part that is almost vertical. There may be some crevasses spanned by ladders. It will be hard work as we inch our way up the fixed ropes with a jumar. It usually takes at least four hours on the fixed ropes from the base of the col to the col. All the effort is worth it and once at the North Col we will be rewarded on a clear day with incredible views across the North Face of Everest, up the north ridge to the summit. We walk along to the fixed North Col campsite for photos a rest and a drink before descending carefully to ABC. Today will be at least a 12 -14 hour round trip.
A spare day in case of bad weather or we need more time to acclimatise. Group members will acclimatise at different speeds and it is important to allow contingency days to allow all clients maximum chance of achieving their goal. If all has gone well this day will be used as a rest day at ABC.
Return to Base Camp 5,200m
We have a long but spectacular return walk to Base Camp on day 19 and day 20 is a well deserved free day at Base Camp for washing/showering and packing.
Second day return to Base Camp 5,200m
Second day return to Base Camp 5,200m
Drive to Nyalam or Zhangmu
The landcruisers will arrive at Base Camp this morning and we drive back to the Friendship Highway again. Turning west and then south we drive back over the Himalaya. As Everest recedes from view we have a splendid panorama of Shishapangma, the only 8,000m peak entirely in Tibet, the views are spectacular - to the north is a vast open landscape with range upon range of mountains beyond, while ahead of us to the south there is an amazing panorama of snow-capped peaks of the main Himalaya chain. A steady climb brings us to the summit of the Lalung La (5,000m) and then the Tong La (5,100m) as we leave Tibet - from the pass the road drops into a gorge between snow-capped peaks. A long and sometimes steep descent brings us down to Nyalam. If there is time we continue on down the gorge, which narrows considerably - the road is a tremendous feat of engineering - and in less than an hour we leave the stark scenery and pass into an altogether different world, descending dramatically into a forested gorge until we arrive at Zhangmu and our final night in Tibet.
Drive to Kathmandu
We drive or walk down to the Friendship Bridge. This depends on the amount of traffic and road conditions. Usually we can drive most of the way and just have a short walk along the road. After completing the Chinese border formalities we cross the Friendship Bridge and we are back in Nepal. As soon as the Nepalese border formalities are complete, we board our bus. The road follows the Bhote Kosi Valley down to its junction with the Sun Kosi at Barabise. We continue down the Sun Kosi past rice terraces, small villages and scrub woodland to Dolalghat where we leave the river and complete our journey to Kathmandu, stopping for lunch en route. We should arrive in Kathmandu late afternoon.
For those on group flights, these depart early morning and will arrive in the UK the same day. For those not flying on the group flight back to London they will leave us after breakfast.