Nepal trekking advice
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Mary R
(pietimer) - MLife
Nepal trekking advice on 07/11/2013 07:41:59 MDT Print View

Hey all,

The place I work for has a perk where every 5 years they pay for you to travel anywhere in the world and take a month long vacation. My husband and I decided to go to Nepal.

My original plan was to go in October next year, but it looks like I can't because a couple of large customer events are taking place then. So, I won't be able to be absent for that time.

I thought--no problem, I 'll go in September. However, I just read a report (I think it was B.G.s) that said they went in September and it rained the entire time. Would late Sept to mid Oct be better or November? Or should I wait for spring?

I also just have general questions about trekking in Nepal:
1. Is water easy to come by and how do I purify it?
2. How close are tea huts? If we do the three passes route, will we be able to stay in a hut every night?
3. How do you shower--are there usually showers/buckets/sponges in tea huts?
4. Where can I get good topo maps for the three passes route?
5. What kind of insulating layers should I buy? Right now I just have a montbell down inner and I doubt that will cut it.

I'm also open for any other general advice about backpacking in Nepal.

Thanks!

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Nepal trekking advice on 07/11/2013 12:55:37 MDT Print View

1. Clean water can be a problem. Since there are many villages upstream, you have to expect viral and bacterial problems in raw water. If you don't know how to deal with this, then do not go to Nepal.
2. Tea huts are sometimes all over the place, but it depends on which region you are traveling in. Where there is the most tourist traffic is where you find the most tea houses. Note that some tea houses are little more than a very carefully built pile of rocks. I met a young Sherpa man in 1983 who was a guide. By 1997, I went back and found him in his home village, and he was a successful lodge owner. On the 1997 trek, another older Sherpa guide and his wife run another lodge in their home village, and it was pretty classy. They had a solar-heated shower and sun room, but that bore a price.
3. Shower? In Nepal? The first time that I trekked there, we had Sherpa guides and a cook. They boiled water every morning and brought us each a pan to wash in, sort of like you would sponge-bathe a baby.
4. Good maps? In Nepal?
5. It depends on when and where you go. If you get caught in the tail-end of monsoon season, then you need good rain protection. Otherwise, in mid-October we were out in windy weather at +10 or +15 F.

Casey Bowden
(clbowden) - MLife

Locale: Berkeley Hills
Re: Nepal trekking advice on 07/11/2013 13:04:35 MDT Print View

> The place I work for has a perk where every 5 years they pay for you to travel anywhere in the world and take a month long vacation.

Where do you work?

Cole Crawford
(CDC43339) - F

Locale: Omaha
Second ... on 07/11/2013 13:13:04 MDT Print View

Also interested in a reply to Casey's question - that's a great perk that I haven't really heard of before.

Mary R
(pietimer) - MLife
Re: Nepal trekking advice on 07/11/2013 14:11:38 MDT Print View

Thanks for the responses Bob. I suspected showers would not be a common thing in Nepal, but my husband wanted me to ask. He'll be sad to hear the report, but Nepal is as good a place as any to learn how to embrace being dirty.

The three passes route goes through the Everest region, so I suspect there will be tea houses all around. It would be nice though to get a general feel for how frequently they occur on the trail and if it would be worth bringing a shelter for emergencies.

If I just wanted to look over the region and get a feel for the route (where towns are, the elevation changes, etc.), do you have any recommendations for maps? Google searching returns a bunch of results, but I'm not sure which ones are worthwhile. The software that I usually use for scoping out routes (caltopo) only covers the US and Canada.

In your opinion, would it be better to leave in mid September or mid November?

@Casey & Cole, I work for Epic, a medical software company in Madison, WI. It is a pretty sweet perk--especially for a backpacker.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Nepal trekking advice on 07/11/2013 16:49:02 MDT Print View

Showers are kind of uncommon. You can learn to sponge-bathe.

In 1983, I was approaching a village in the Khumbu Region where our group was going to camp. I looked beyond the campsite and could see a waterfall on the hillside, so I thought that would be an excellent spot for a natural shower. I carried some clean clothes to the waterfall, got behind some bushes for privacy, had my shower, got dried off, and then put on the clean clothing. When I returned to camp, I had picked up two leaches on one ankle, and the bloody wounds were very difficult to get to stop bleeding. My point is that leaches like to wait in damp grass and wait for a new warmblooded victim to stroll by.

I don't know where the three passes are. Cho La (Pass of the Wolf) was pretty good, and a challenge for those who were not quite fit.

Also, tea houses come in every state of cleanliness or lack thereof. In some of them, they do not wash dishes. When one hiker eats a plate of rice, the plate is merely wiped off and made ready for the next hiker. The same goes for tea cups.

Routes in Nepal do not necessarily have accurate mileages or other measurements. If you ask a Sherpa guide how far it is to the next village, he will probably say something like "one day's travel," but you won't know how many miles that is, or (more importantly) how much uphill or downhill. I have some of the really old blueline maps, maybe fifty years old, but they aren't off too much use now.

Theoretically, the summer weather is monsoon, which means wind and rain. That is supposed to stop by early September, but sometimes it continues until early October, and that varies with the distance from the ocean where the storms originate. The problem is that by early November, it might be getting very cold and windy. One friend of mine was there for an entire November, and he said that the cold weather was the worst part of the whole trek (and he was born in Scotland!).

Some important items. Get yourself a good first aid kit for blisters and leach bites. Get prescriptions for three things. One is Diamox (acetazolamide) for high altitude prevention. One is a good broad-spectrum antibiotic for internal use. One is a good painkiller for a possible serious injury. Additionally, you want plenty of aspirin or routine painkiller, some immodium, and similar medications. It would not be stupid to have Flagyl for waterborne parasite disease. There are relatively few clinics and western doctors up there, and what few there are tend to be used by the local people.

Oh, when you change currency at the airport, get lots of Rupee notes in small denominations.

When previous trekkers went into the Khumbu, they took candy along and gave it to the kids in each village. Since there was poor dental hygiene, that contributed to additional dental problems in those kids. I wanted to take something slightly better, so I took a pocketful of rubber bands. Whenever I would see three kids playing in the road, I would shoot a rubber band at one of them, and it was great to watch them deal with it. Some kids did not know how to shoot a rubber band, if you can imagine that. They are taught other things, like how to get a yak to move out of the way.

Good luck.

--B.G.--

Paul Mason
(dextersp1) - F
Leeches on 07/11/2013 17:31:18 MDT Print View

Read up on leeches and how to avoid them and take them off your body.

d k
(dkramalc) - MLife
Re: Re: Nepal trekking advice on 07/11/2013 19:34:21 MDT Print View

When we went in '87, I did manage to get a few "showers" in waterfalls and a good bath in a river once during the 19-day trek. Other than that, it was sponging off. Nowadays I would probably take a squirt bottle to use on my privates nightly (works better than a sponge/bandana).

We bought Tiniba (tinidazole) there instead of taking Flagyl (metronidazole) with us - one day treatment, worked like a charm on what we presumed (by the smell of emissions, pretty unmistakeable once you've smelled it) was Giardia.

+1 on researching ways to avoid leeches. I had some on the back of my pants one day after sitting down, but managed to avoid any actually attaching. Our friends were not as lucky...

P.S. I just remembered that as my friends and I finished our bathing in the river, we saw a group of schoolboys paying close attention from the other side...

Edited by dkramalc on 07/11/2013 19:36:14 MDT.

Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
Re: Nepal trekking advice on 07/11/2013 20:58:00 MDT Print View

I was in the Khumbu in October of 1999. The first two weeks of our month there was rain rain rain...never saw a mountain. Then one day in mid October it was sunny...and that was that. If you head to the Everest region I'd recommend going later, like November/December to avoid the leeches and such.

1. Water. Nasty nasty nasty. Apparently Nepal has the highest concentration of fecal contamination in their drinking water in the world. Bring Cipro. Be careful of the bottles you buy in the tea houses, as many of them can be discarded bottles simply filled up behind the TH and resealed with a lighter. Yuck.

2. Also don't know the three passes route. In Khumbu yes, you walk from village to village with several tea houses to choose from.

3. Showers? Bah! We were so cold at that altitude I didn't take my baselayer off for like 10 days.

4. Again...never heard of the three passes route. But loads of luck getting good topos. Third world travel is wonderful and awesome and all of that...but you have to be VERY careful. People publish, sell, hawk, etc all kinds of wares that may or may not have any bearing on reality or whatnot. In Kathmandu, we purposefully bought a fleece that said NOTH FARCE because it was awesomely hilarious. Honest...it was genuine! he said. Hmm hmm.

5. I'd go down myself. We had fleece and I desperately wished I had down. The temps weren't actually that bad, but along the Everest route you sleep as high as 17k and you just can't be warm at that altitude.

That trip was the most awesome adventure I've ever had. I have done an incredible amount of traveling in my life into some amazing places, and honestly nothing has ever even come close to that. Granted, it was my first foray into a third world country, but wow it was a life changing month for me. I can't recommend it enough, even with all the PITA ness that is travel in Nepal.

I'm terribly envious...have a great time!!

stephan q
(khumbukat) - F
Khumbu on 07/11/2013 23:32:35 MDT Print View

Hi,

(I'm writing this for my husband, so this is my view of the area and our trip)

We went trekking in Nepal's Khumbu area end of October-November 2009 and the weather was perfect, dry, crystal clear mountain views during the day, and very cold at night. (Being so cold at night was the hardest for me, it was like snow camping...) We had just spent 3 months trekking and traveling around Northern India (Ladakh, Spiti Valley, Manali areas) and I definitely felt the elevation in the Khumbu vs Ladakh.

This was our Khumbu trip: flew into Lukla-tea house on river-Namche Bazar(2 nights)-Thyangboche-Pangboche (2 nights)-Chhukung (2 nights)-Dingboche-Lobuche-Gorak Shep (2 nights)-Periche-Lhabrama-Namche Bazar-Manjo-Lukla. I think I have these all right my husband can correct me if wrong...might of mixed them up, but you get the idea. I was happy with what we did and saw. Really enjoyed our extra night stays because I really felt I got to know that place better by staying longer. We were planning on also doing the Gokyo area, but I was done and ready to go back and be warm and rest in India. Have to save something for next time.

Here is a little bit of what I remember of the villages: Namche Bazar has everything you could need/want. Rooms with hot showers, bars, coffee shops, pizza, bakeries etc. and the villages up from there have less and less offered, but I was amazed what was there. Thyangboche monastery had a yummy bakery and a festival around the time we were there, we missed it but would of like to been there for it. Pangboche has nice views of Ama Dablam (my favorite up there) and we rested and stayed in a cozy home there when we did our day hike to Ama base camp. Chhukung, nice ridge to climb up with amazing views, and hike up to Island Lake and peak. Dingboche, yummy bakery and hot showers. Lobuche, feeling the elevation and getting crowed with big groups. Gorak Shep, not much there, few tea/restaurant/guest houses, hike down onto glacier and base camp, early morning hike up for better mountain views. Periche, hot showers, bakery, hospital.

We mostly stayed in the "tea houses" most are just thin wall shacks with one main dining area with a inclosed fire for heat in the middle. I liked staying in the family homes the best. They were a lot warmer, cozy and so interesting to meet locals. The tea houses are all over and you can easily plan and stay in one every night. We did not bring a tent, I only saw a few other solo hikers like ourselves (most everyone seemed to be with an organized group) and only once a couple who had their own tent and slept in it. The cost of a room was usually cheaper than a meal.

The National Geographic Khumbu area map is a nice start and all we needed for the Khumbu area. We also explored Island Peak valley area on our trip, and did a day hike up to Ama Dablam base camp since it was climbing season for Ama. So amazing to see the climbers up there.

We purified our own drinking water with Aquamira and found clear water everywhere no problem. Every guest and tea house sell hot water and I loved taking my metal drinking bottle and having it filled before bed and snuggling with it. We actually did not buy any plastic water bottles on our whole 6 month India and Nepal trip! I saw others using filters and lots of steripens, but we were happy with the aquamira.

I saw showers for sale all over and think they were around $5.00 and the two I had were amazing and very hot!

For clothing it gets very cold, but also can be warm in the lower area during the day. I loved my extra fill down sleeping bag, and would even sleep with my down jacket and thermals on at night when up high.

Talking with others when you get to Kathmandu for recent trail info and tips is easy. I really did not care for the city, there was way too much air pollution for me. But did love all the tasty places to eat (I eat everything especially after 3 months in India. And would not recommend to others this as I did hear of many foreigners getting sick from food in Kathmandu, I know I'm one of the lucky ones).

Tip: If you like the place you stay in the Khumbu ask for recommendations on where you should to stay next, seems like everyone knows everyone up there and can send you to a good spot, some places even called ahead to the next tea house or home and set it up for us (yes they all have phones up there now). It can get busy and crowed that time of year, and most of the group trekking organizations also stay at the tea huts instead of tents up higher.

And if you do end up going on a trip in September I recommend the Ladakh area in Northern India, so much to see and visit in the high mountains.

Wow this is long, hope you find it useful and would love to answer anything else.

Have FUN!!! I'm dreaming and already planing our next trip when our toddler is ready for a Nepal/India trip in a few years...

-Nicole

Edited by khumbukat on 07/11/2013 23:41:57 MDT.

Mary R
(pietimer) - MLife
Re: Nepal trekking advice on 07/12/2013 06:28:23 MDT Print View

Thanks so much, everyone, for the detailed advice! I've been looking around for anyone to just give me some basic advice/stories about trekking in Nepal, but it has been hard to come by.
This community is great!

Wim Depondt
(wim_depondt) - F - MLife

Locale: The low countries
Re: Nepal trekking advice on 07/15/2013 13:34:24 MDT Print View

I’ll write my answers between the questions.

1. Is water easy to come by and how do I purify it?
You can ask for water in the teahouse. I use Micropur tablets just to be safe.In some villages there are public fountains to top up my bottle (but don’t count on them being present). I would normally head of with one or two liter and top up whenever I can.

2. How close are tea huts? If we do the three passes route, will we be able to stay in a hut every night?
Yes, at least when you don’t go during low season as the teahouse in the Bhote Valley might close (but then again, virtually nobody does the three passes route in low season due to possible snow at the passes. You could enquire in Gokyo Ri about the teahouse situation in the Bhote Valley before setting of for the Renjo La pass.
Get the Trailblazer ‘Trekking in the Everest Region’ for more information.

Although I have not done the three passes route, I have been told some teahouses are basic along the route.

3. How do you shower--are there usually showers/buckets/sponges in tea huts?
No, although a very small number of teahouses offer showers. Personally, I would forgo with showers. It will be just too cold.

4. Where can I get good topo maps for the three passes route?
There aren’t any good topo maps. The trailblazer guidebook provides the best maps (although not topo). I would also take my gps, just in case it fogs up and you’re walking alone (my Garming eTrex weight only 130g).

5. What kind of insulating layers should I buy? Right now I just have a montbell down inner and I doubt that will cut it.
Depends of the season but it’ll be normally very cold above 4500 to 5000 meter until – hopefully - the sun warms you up. When I trekked the Everest region in April, I took a merino baselayer, a wind resistant midlayer,, windshirt, windpants, microfleece pullover, microfleece beanie, 3-seson down pull over, down pants and down booties (supplemented with fleece socks). For hands fleece gloves, fleece over mitts and rain mitts (as windshell). Trailrunners were ok with thick wool socks I also took neoprene socks, just to be on the safe side.
I was mostly toasty warm. I will go back this December and will supplement my clothing with microfleece legging, a down vest (my down pullover provides ample space for layering) and a microfleece balaclava. Maybe I will buy a thick 4-season down jacket.
I don’t take rain protection as I would normally trek outside the monsoon season.

Remember that the altitude will make you feel colder, so that needs to be compensated. The common room of teahouse is normally heated though not efficiently at higher altitude as dry yak shit is used as fuel for a basic stove. Your room will normally have no heating at all, necessitating a good sleeping bag. Oh, I also bring a pee bottle for the Everest region, avoiding having to go outside during the night when nature call (but do know I travel solo and therefore have not to share my room :-))

edit: typo

Edited by wim_depondt on 07/16/2013 09:44:28 MDT.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Nepal trekking advice on 07/15/2013 14:10:00 MDT Print View

"I would also take my gps, just in case it fogs up and you’re walking alone (my Garming eTrex weight only 130g)."

This isn't a bad idea. I used my Garmin GPS on my second trip into the Khumbu Region, and it was helpful. Part of the problem is that the receiver probably won't have a very good base map. It may be tracking your route as you go forward, but you may not know where you are on the terrain. If you have a good paper map with lat/long scales, the GPS receiver would be most helpful.

Most of the time when you have good visibility, you don't need GPS. However, when it gets dark, foggy, or otherwise obscured, it helps.

I was leaving camp, scouting out ahead, and then returning to camp after dark. The GPS receiver let me make a position fix at the camp so that I couldn't get completely lost.

--B.G.--

Wim Depondt
(wim_depondt) - F - MLife

Locale: The low countries
Garmin base map for Nepal on 07/29/2013 12:00:15 MDT Print View

Re: base maps for Nepal trekking areas

http://www.nepalgpsmap.com/en/maps/topo/

I use it - recommended. Also plenty of gpx-files of the region on Wikiloc.com

Wim