Makalu is situated approximately 19km to the south east of Mt Everest in the Makalu-Barun National Park bordering Tibet, China. This mountain is the 5th highest mountain in the world and was first climbed in 1955. Only a small number of expeditions today climb this mountain due to its tough technical demands on the summit pyramid. The Makalu-Barun National Park is a remote wilderness with few comfort services available compared to neighbouring Sagarmatha National Park. Hence, this expedition has additional challenges and difficulties; attempting Makalu is a considerable undertaking amongst 8,000m peaks.
The route to the mountain begins with a flight into Tumlingtar (285m), a town at the base of the hills that climb into Makalu-Barun National park. We will then drive to our trailhead in Chichila. The journey from this point is a 9-day route on foot through villages and subtropical forests, descents ascents of the Arun valley, and hikes over a series of passes including Shipton La (4,200m) to finally reach Makalu base camp. Whilst some climbers may elect to fly into base camp or advanced base camp, we recommend the trek in (where possible) in order to get you mountain fit or conditioned on your way in, as additional preparation for this spectacular climb.
We will take a few days to rest and acclimatise at base camp before starting our rotation rounds on the mountain. Using the route of the first ascent, we will ascend via the north-west ridge. From Makalu base camp, we will place 4-5 camps on the mountain beginning with an advanced base camp (5,700m) located just across the glacier moraine. As Camp 3 and Camp4 are generally close together, we will make a call during the expedition, in discussion with team members as to whether we set a Camp 4.
The route from advance base camp is long and windy, sometimes on rock, sometimes snow. Between Camp 1 to Camp 3 we climb between seracs and crevasses with sections of steep mixed climbing. Camp 3 is a particularly long day and many climbers under-estimate this part of the climb – so leave advanced base camp early. Camp 4 to the summit is a significant day that involves negotiating a steep ice band, crevasses, a 300m gully (the French couloir) and an exposed summit ridge. There is a definite false summit as you come out of the French couloir, you climb up to the false summit and then traverse across and slightly up to the true summit. When you stand at the summit and look at the view, you will wonder why you did not attempt this climb sooner in order to see views that only a small, select group of people get to see. To see Mt Everest and Lhotse from Makalu is one of the most special memories you will take home with you.
This trip is for experienced mountaineers. The trip will involve challenging trekking, advanced mountaineering, moving on snow, rock and ice, with technical tools, at reasonably high altitudes up to around 8,848m, depending on the mountain. You can expect to experience some serious heights, some ledges, and exposure to steep terrain. For this trip, you want to have an advanced level of fitness, with cardiovascular exercise and own- body weight type exercises (or similar) at least 4-5 times per week for the period of around 6-12 months before this trip, building on your already sound fitness. Weight training is also strongly recommended. Training on uneven terrain is strongly recommended. By registering for this trip, you likely already know what you need to do but wherever we can help, we will.
View the printable version of the short itinerary and detailed trip notes here.
Day 1Arrive Kathmandu
Day 2-3In Kathmandu (Personal and team preparation, briefings)
Day 4Fly to Tumlingtar, drive to Chichila
Day 5Trek to Num
Day 6Trek to Seduwa
Day 7Trek to Tashi Gaon
Day 8-9Trek to Khongma and acclimatisation
Day 10Trek to Mumbak via Shipton La pass
Day 11Trek to Yangri Kharka
Day 12-13Trek to Shershong and acclimatisation
Day 14Trek to Makalu base camp
Day 15-16Acclimatisation in Makalu base camp
Day 17-19Trek to Advanced base camp, puja and acclimatisation
Day 20-47Climb and summit Makalu
Day 48-49Pack up camp
Day 50Helicopter to Kathmandu
Day 51In Kathmandu
Day 52Depart Kathmandu
Note: Daily walking hours include a lunch break, and regular rest breaks.