Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Trip report for Dhaulagiri Circuit led by Allan Gibbs and Domi Sherpa in October 2015

Photo: summit shot on Dhampus Peak of Domi, Sonam and team 
The Mountain Company has organised Dhaulagiri Circuit ten times before however for October 2015 we made a significant change to the itinerary as we included the option to climb Dhampus Peak (6,060m) from Hidden Valley. This addition makes a superb trip even better as not only does the group get the chance to complete one of the most challenging treks in Nepal crossing two high passes over 5,000m but also includes climbing a peak over 6,000m! We had eight people in this group and five people paid the supplement to cover the permit fees for Dhampus Peak.

The group arrived to Kathmandu on October 4th and as usual with our teams there was a mix of nationalities with people coming from UK, Ireland, Canada and Germany. The leaders for our Dhaulagiri Circuit with Dhampus trip were Allan Gibbs (UK) and Domi Sherpa (Nepal). The Sherpa guides supporting the group were Sonam and Tenzing and the cook was Parbat.

Photo: view from the summit of Dhampus peak
On 5th the group flew to Pokhara and took the bus to Beni then after lunch walked to their first camp at Tatopani. For the next three days the trail passes through attractive traditional villages (luckily no earthquake damage here) with views of Dhaulagiri and surrounding mountains to the north. These first few days of Dhaulagiri Circuit are always very hot and humid as Tatopani is at an altitude of only 870 metres.

After Boghara village on Day 5 the trail enters sub-tropical forest and as usual during this section of the trek there was some afternoon rain after the group had arrived to camp. The group reached Italian Base Camp as planned on October 11th and after an acclimatising day on 12th they walked up to Glacier camp on 13th. There was a change in the trail as previously one approached the glacier on left side of Chonbarden gorge however the glacier has melted back and now there is no longer a gentle ramp to access the glacier. Therefore the new trail crosses the river below the glacier to access the right hand side of the glacier. Domi and Sonam rigged a Tyrolean traverse over the river and the lighter members of the group were hauled across whereas the heavier members (no names!) crossed the river on foot.

Photo: summit ridge on Dhampus peak
Overall the weather for this trek was excellent with sunny and stable conditions apart from one cloudy day walking up to Dhaulagiri Base Camp. This group was very lucky as had superb sunny day on crossing French Pass into Hidden Valley. This period of fine weather carried on until the end of the trip so the conditions for climbing Dhampus Peak and crossing Dhampus were very favourable- see photos below.

On October 18th three members of the group plus Allan left the camp in Hidden Valley at 5am to ascend to Dhampus pass, from there they started up lower scree slopes of Dhampus Peak. Above here the route joins the ridge and this is followed to the summit. I gather this year there was no snow on the pass and only a small amount towards the top of Dhampus.

It was a clear day with wonderful views from the summit of Dhampus Peak over to Annapurnas and Nilgiri to the east and over to Dolpo to the west. The climbers took a different way down from the top descending on Kali Gandaki side of the mountain and meeting the rest of the group at a camp over from Dhampus pass. The next day everyone descended all of the way down to Marpha instead of staying at Alu Bari camp, I think the draw of apple juice, apple pie (and apple schnaps?) was too tempting for everyone. Marpha is a traditional village and everyone enjoyed their time exploring the next morning before walking onto Jomsom.

Congratulations to the group for completing Dhaulagiri Circuit and well done to the climbers who summited Dhampus Peak! As mentioned this is the first summit of Dhampus Peak by a TMC group and hopefully not the last. I would like thank Allan, Domi, Sonam, Tenzing and Parbat plus the rest of the team for their help and hard work in making this trip work so well. Great job!

The Mountain Company organise our Dhaulagiri Circuit trek and Dhampus Peak expedition twice a year in April and October, please get in touch if you like to join one of these departures. By the way our Dhaulagiri Circuit group in October 2016 is already guaranteed to run.

For more testimonials on Dhaulagiri Circuit and our other trips please take a look at AITO review section of their website

Roland Hunter

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Trip report for Dhaulagiri Circuit led by Almas Khan in April 2015

Photo: terraced field near Muri village
Our Dhaulagiri Circuit trek in April 2015 was led by Almas Khan. Almas led our successful October 2013 trek around Dhaulagiri Circuit and I know he was looking forward to going back again (read October 2013 Trip Report). The Sirdar for this trek was Domi Sherpa one of our most experienced climbing guides and the assistant guides were Sonam and Khumbu. The cook was Saila Tamang.

Our Dhaulagiri Circuit group arrived to Kathmandu on April 19th. During this Spring season the Nepal Himalayan region received high amounts of precipitation, this was much more than usually experienced at this time of year. However we carefully tracked the amount of snow that had fallen in Dhaulagiri region for the last month through our bespoke weather forecasts and hindcasts from everestweather.com. From this information we identified there was less snow in Dhaulagiri region compared to Annapurna. Therefore we were confident with our experienced crew led by Almas Khan that our group would have a good chance of safely crossing the high passes to Jomsom.

On 20th the group flew to Pokhara then drove by bus to Beni where they met the trek crew and then walked to their first camp at Tatopani. The trek progressed as planned and on 24th they arrived to Dobang camp. However this all changed at 11.56am on 25th as there was a 7.8 Richter earthquake in Nepal with epicentre located near Gorkha. I was in Kathmandu during the earthquake and shortly afterwards I called Almas on his satellite phone to find out if the group and crew were all ok. I heard from Almas there was some rockfall on the trail although there were luckily no injuries in our team as the tremors were not so strong in this area compared to other trekking regions of Nepal.

On 26th we decided to allow the group to walk up to Italian Base Camp as this is a wide, open area with low risk of rockfall or avalanche so would be a safe place for them to stay for a while. After further discussions with Almas on satellite phone we decided to abort the trek as we were concerned about the risk of rockfall in the narrow Chonbarden gorge leading to Glacier Camp. All of the other groups descended from Italian Base Camp however we decided to keep the group at Italian Base camp for a further four days. We felt this was the safest option as it would be risky walking down the narrow Myagdi valley if there were further aftershocks.

The other consideration was the severe congestion at Kathmandu airport with many people trying to leave the country when at the same time many international aid flights were arriving. Therefore we decided to stick to their original return date to Kathmandu of May 6th. The group descended Myagdi valley and slept the night of May 5th in Beni then drove to Pokhara staying that evening at New Pokhara Lodge. On May 6th they all returned to Kathmandu as planned and then flew home on May 8th. By this time the airport was far less busy and was back to operating normal schedules so there were no delays or flight cancellations like a week earlier.

I was in Kathmandu when this group returned and spoke to each member of the group for a debrief. Everyone was supportive of our decisions and I gather they enjoyed their time exploring around Italian Base Camp and overall had a positive experience. Please see some of their comments below:

“There is no doubt that Almas is extremely experienced and there was no time on the entire trek where I felt like I was in danger including the earthquake. I believe the handling of the situation was very professional and in the interest of everyone in the party.” Eva (USA)

“I was of course concerned about the impact of the earthquake on the local people and our team - but I never had any concern that anything other than the best decision had been taken for the immediate safety of the group (both staff and clients).” Martin (UK)

Martin also went on to say “The Mountain Company specialises in its area of expertise and this showed through at every level - ability to communicate useful info; answer questions; provide the best best team for the trek and then take the best decisions re the earthquake. I was very happy to have chosen The Mountain Company. In addition one of my concerns on my first trip to Nepal was to ensure I traveled with a company who recognise the safety of the team (in particular porters) is equally important to that of tourists - I was very happy with The Mountain Company's approach to this.”

Thanks very much to Almas, Domi, Sonam, Khumbu, Saila and the rest of the crew for their help in organising this trek. Great job!

The Mountain Company has a guaranteed departure for our Dhaulagiri Circuit trek in October 2015 led by Allan Gibbs, please get in touch with us soon if you would like join this group.

Roland Hunter

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Our Dhaulagiri Circuit trek in April/ May 2015 is now guaranteed to run

Photo: ascending Dhampus Pass on Dhaulagiri Circuit
The Mountain Company's Dhaulagiri Circuit trek in Nepal during April/ May 2015 led by Almas Khan is now guaranteed to run and there is currently availability.

The Mountain Company has a long track record of organising treks in Nepal, our groups have successfully completed Dhaulagiri Circuit trek on eight previous occasions please click here to read the Trip Reports from our previous treks

Please get in contact with us soon if you would like to join our Dhaulagiri Circuit group in April 2015.

Roland Hunter

Friday, 16 January 2015

Trip report for Dhaulagiri Circuit led by Tom Lawson in October 2014

Photo: View to Dhaulagiri from Muri village
Our Dhaulagiri Circuit trek in October 2014 was led by Tom Lawson and Chandra Rai. Tom helped lead our DhaulagiriCircuit trek with his wife Jill Lawson for us back in April 2012 (read Trip Report). The Dhaulagiri Circuit group had all arrived to Kathmandu by October 5th and in the afternoon Tom gave his trek briefing at Hotel Ganjong.

On October 6th our Dhaulagiri Circuit group flew to Pokhara and drove by bus to Beni to start their trek, they arrived to their first camp in late afternoon. For the next week they trekked through the villages and up through the forest staying at Dobang and Sallaghari camps. They reached Italian Base Camp on October 12th.

On October 12th, I was on trek in the Makalu region and I received weather forecast from our office in London with an extreme weather warning as Cyclone Hudhud was tracking towards the Himalaya. A this stage Cyclone Hudhud was predicted to severely impact central Nepal especially Dhaulagiri region. I immediately contacted Tom via satellite phone to pass on this forecast and to warn him about venturing further beyond Italian Base Camp until the storm had passed through. The forecast was predicting 109cm of snow for Dhaulagiri region.

On October 13th the group went for a acclimatisation walk around Italian Base Camp and in the afternoon when everyone was back in camp the skies became cloudy and it started to rain. The next day on 14th the weather deteriorated as predicted and there was snow at Italian Base Camp and precipitation continued for 30 hours until 15th. As Italian Base Camp is at an altitude of 3,660m this was not too far above the snowline so there was less accumulation of snow however it was clear there was going to be a large amount settling on the ground higher up towards Dhaulagiri Base Camp and on French and Dhampus passes.

During the storm the group held at Italian Base Camp as this is located in a safe protected place. Whereas in the Chonbarden gorge on the way to main Dhaulagiri Base Camp there were many avalanches releasing the fresh snow that fell throughout this period. By the 17th, Tom and Chandra decided it was safe for the group to go for a foray to see if possible to move up to Glacier Camp however everyone was stopped from proceeding further due to the depth of the snow (up to chest level!). The group turned back and retraced their steps back to Italian Base Camp and walked to Beni then drove to Pokhara

For more information on Cyclone Hudhud I suggest you read The Mountain Company statement on Cyclone Hudhud and its impact on trekking in the Himalaya (October 2014)

The Mountain Company is planning to organise Dhaulagiri Circuit trek in April and October 2015 so please get in touch with us if you would like join one of these groups.

Roland Hunter