TREKKING IN NEPAL
Desire to be greeted with spectacular scenes is only natural, and one obvious choice to go to would be any place in the country of the Himalayas. One such country is Nepal, known as a traveler's (specially a trekkers') paradise, situated on the lap of the majestic Himalayas!
There are several unique and amazing options for trekking in Nepal, one of which is slowly but steadily garnering much attention in recent years – Makalu Base Camp Trek.
Makalu Barun Valley in Nepal is one such place that has its own allure which makes it distinct from other regions in the country. For this uniqueness, many trekkers and adventure-seekers lace up their trekking boots every season.
Well, where do I start with the trek that is rapidly being popular as the new Annapurna Circuit Trek !? Let's just start from the basics.
Mt. Makalu, the 5th highest mountain in the world is located in eastern Nepal. It's one of the 8-thousanders that lie in the Khumbu region, where the world's highest – Everest, also lies.
It's an independent peak standing tall at 8463m. The peaks immediate to Makalu are Kangchungtse (Makalu II – 7640m) and Chomo Lonzo (7804m).
Mt. Makalu got its name from the Hindu god Maha Kala in Sanskrit, which is one of the forms of Lord Shiva, the destroyer. Maha Kala means 'Big Black' and thus, Makalu is referred as 'The Great Black' for its distinct big black rock face.
This mountain is quite challenging to climb and requires mountaineering expertise. Makalu was successfully climbed in 1955 AD by Lionel Terray and Jean Couzy of a French expedition team.
MAKALU BASE CAMP TREK
Makalu Base Camp trek, as the name suggests, is a trek to the base camp of the fifth highest point in the world – Mt. Makalu. It takes trekkers at the foot of this mountain and passes through one of the most magnificent landscapes on earth.
October – November and March – May is a great time to go for the trek. The base camp lies near the tranquil lake of Barun Pokhari at 4950m. The trek to base camp and back can be completed in around 18 days.
The highest elevation on this trek is 5250m, with a viewpoint on the lower slopes of Peak 3 (6477m) near Shersong (4660m).
This trek starts and ends at Tumlingtar, passing through several places on the trail as Chichila, Num, Sedua, Tashigaon, Khongma, Mumbuk, Yangle Kharka, Merek, Shersong and Khandbari.
There are strict rules and regulations that are there to protect and conserve both the natural environment and the unique culture of the region, which the trekkers need to follow. One of the rules is to only camp at designated camping sites for the trek.
On the trek, there are three passes – Ghungru La (4050m), Shipton La (4216m) and Keke La (4150m) en route from Khongma to Mumbuk. While crossing these passes, trekkers get to witness magnificent views of the Himalayas, which is also the reason why trekking in Nepal is so well-loved.
It has astounding views of Makalu, Chhamlang (7319m), Baruntse (7220m), Everest (8848m), Lhotse (8501m), Peak 3 (6477m), Peak 4 (6720m), Peak 5 (6404m), Peak 6 (6739m) , Peak 7 (6105m) and Hong Chuli (6833m).
Although in recent years, tea-houses and lodges have sprung up along the trail, the Makalu Base Camp trek is best experienced as a camping trek. However, these establishments provide very basic necessities in terms of food and lodging. So, trekkers need to rough it up when stopping in these tea-houses that are few and far between throughout the trail.
Do not hold any expectation on these lodges to offer luxurious facilities, like that of Everest and Annapurna tea-houses with hot showers, chocolate pies and what not. This trek throws all personal comfort out the window!
So, it's best that trekkers are self-sufficient to confront the harsh terrain and unpredictable weather conditions. Trekkers need to be prepared with the mindset of being safe rather than sorry on this particular trek.
Makalu Base Camp trek walks around one of the most remote parts of the country, into the vast wilderness, so, there has to be at least two trekkers venturing out in this land, at a given time.
This trek is definitely for the more experienced and hardy trekkers who can adjust to any kind of environment without any complaints, especially about how its facilities are not like that of Everest or Annapurna, and who can enjoy the basic lodges or even the lack thereof.
MAKALU BARUN NATIONAL PARK AND CONSERVATION AREA
Makalu Base Camp trek lies in the Makalu Barun National Park and Conservation Area. This national park is in Sankhuwasabha and Solukhumbu districts with an area of 1500 sq. km. in eastern Nepal.
The land is teeming with wildlife such as Lynx, Snow Leopard, Blue Sheep, Wild Boar, Red Panda, Musk Deer, Barking Deer, Flying Squirrel, Jackal, Clouded Leopard, Deep-blue Kingfisher, Blue-naped Pitta, Eagles, Raptors, White-naked Stork and many more.
The trek makes its way through the Himalayan glacier valley of Makalu Barun. The Barun River Valley is covered in lush green forests with colorful rhododendron blooms and refreshing waterfalls. The landscape drastically changes to alpine meadows and barren land of rocks and gravel as you move further up north on the trail.
The region is equally rich and diverse in culture with people from different sects like Sherpa, Rai, Gurung, Limbu and many more calling it home.
Even though there are tea-houses and other modern facilities springing up on the Makalu Base Camp trek, it still holds a high place for adventurous trekking in Nepal. So, strap on those trekking boots for this season of trekking in the Himalayas!