Mt. Baruntse Expedition (7,129m.)

A stunning 7,000m snow peak between Everest and Makalu.
The potential for climbing "east of Everest" was first recognized by members of Shipton's 1951 Everest Reconnaissance expedition, which made a journey of exploration into the region. Three years later, in 1954, members of that team, including Edmund Hillary and George Lowe, returned to exploit the climbing potential to the full. Although their prime aim was to explore Makalu, in a concerted effort of peak bagging around the upper Barun Glacier, this team made no fewer than 20 first ascents, of which Baruntse was the most significant. The first ascent of Baruntse being made on 30 May 1954 by Colin Todd and Geoff Harrow. They climbed the mountain by the South-East Ridge, which will be the line of our ascent.

The South-East Ridge of Baruntse is a straightforward climb, mainly on snow but at high altitudes and crossing some steep sections of ice at 50°, with a prominent ice cliff at about 7,000 metres to be climbed on the way to the top. Sections of the upper summit ridge can be corniced, but there is little evidence of avalanche risk on the lower slopes of the mountain. The steeper sections of the climb are safeguarded by fixed rope, as are the obvious cornices that need to be traversed between the camps on the mountain.
Expedition Outline
After a day at leisure in Kathmandu, we head off by light aircraft to the airstrip at Tumlingtar. This marks the start of our journey, on foot, to Baruntse Base Camp.

Approach via the Arun valley
The trail to base camp takes us, in 12 days, from the lush green of the Arun Valley, through terraced farm land and spring crops to the barren mountainous realm of Makalu, which is Baruntse's high northern neighbour. The trek provides a wonderful lead in to the expedition and allows everyone to get to know one another better, in readiness for climbing together as a team.
The trek crosses several high passes en route to base camp which aids acclimatisation and builds up our fitness. As we will be getting used to the altitude, we do not carry heavy packs during the walk-in. All equipment is carried by porters except for the essentials for a nice walk: sunglasses, windproof, fleece jacket, sun cream, water bottle, camera and of course, an easy going nature.
Initially, we follow the Arun River above its east bank before dropping down almost 3,000 feet to cross the river. From here, we turn north-west to gain high ground and the Shipton Pass (4,127m) before descending to the Barun Khola, a tributary of the Arun. As we follow the Barun Khola towards base camp, glaciers, moraines, ice walls and towering mountains start to predominate, although alpine shrubs hang on in a defiant gesture of life.
We reach Makalu base camp on a grassy terrace at 4,900 metres near the snout of the Barun Glacier and opposite the 3,500m South Face of Makalu. We take a day here to acclimatise and to prepare for the climb. This includes a revision of climbing skills to make sure everyone is proficient in essential skills, such as abseiling and using fixed lines. The views across to Baruntse from Makalu Base Camp are spectacular!
The Climb
Once ready, we move to Baruntse Base Camp (5,250m), a few kilometres further up the glacier, at the entrance to the valley which gives access to East Col. From a camp set up immediately below the pass, we cross East Col (6,146m) to reach a large snowy plateau, on the Lower Barun Glacier. This places us immediately below the South-East Ridge of the mountain and provides us with a suitable Advanced Base Camp (ABC). This plateau could be reached directly up the Lower Barun Glacier but this approach is not recommended as an icefall at the toe of the glacier has made the route impassable in previous years. We place one more camp higher on the mountain, at about 6,450m from where the summit is attempted. To maintain communications with base camp, we carry VHF radios. We also carry a hyperbaric chamber (a Gamow Bag) in case of altitude sickness.
Our supporting porters wait for us in the Hongu Valley at 5,300m, having crossed the East Col with us and descended the West Col (6,142m) on the same day that we set up ABC. After the climb, the team descends the West Col and we rendezvous with our porters. From here, the adventure continues! The Hongu Valley is every bit as spectacular as the Barun Valley and the five lakes at its head (Panch Pokhari) hold a special enchantment as a sacred place for our Hindu and Sherpa team members.


Return via the Hongu Valley
Once in the Hongu Valley, we turn south for 2 days to reach the Mera La (5,415m). We are now in more familiar trekking territory as we come across expeditions camped on the La in readiness for climbing the highest of the "trekking" peaks, Mera. Those members of our team who would like to climb Mera Peak (6,476m) have the option to do so. We then head off to enter the next valley west, the Hinku Valley, where we camp at Tangnag. Now back in the land of beer and coca cola, we can start to celebrate our achievements, although the local rice beer "chang" will prove far more cost effective in inducing the desired effect. From Tangnag, we join the normal route over the Zatrwala and arrive in Lukla two days later to meet the throng of trekkers doing the Everest Trail. From Lukla, we take a Twin Otter flight back to Kathmandu. The expedition culminates with a day in the capital city and a chance to celebrate in a style befitting a hard won summit.
Environmental Considerations
The expedition takes place in The Makalu-Barun National Park and Conservation Area, a place of outstanding natural beauty, recognised internationally for the diversity of its flora and fauna. Due to its relative inaccessibility, it is little known to tourists. The route of the trek is also populated by a wide cross-section of Nepali peoples with a diverse cultural background. Nearer the terai, these include Rais, Limbus and Newars whilst higher into the mountains, Bhotias, Tamangs and, of course, the Sherpas constitute the hill tribes. These people live in isolated villages and rely mainly on subsistence farming for their livelihoods. Although culturally rich, they are economically very poor. Farming alone can not support most families and so there is a seasonal migration in search of additional work, which includes porterage for merchant traders and for the few expeditions visiting the region. The park has some of the richest pockets of plant and animal life in the Kingdom. As an expedition, it is our duty to respect this natural heritage and to do our utmost to limit our impact upon it.
For those interested in flora and fauna, the Makalu-Barun National Park provides opportunities to photograph a wide variety of native plants and even wildlife. In the early part of the expedition, the Arun Valley, which we follow for the first 3 days, has plenty of plant varieties including hibiscus, poinsettia and frangipani. These are in greater abundance on the walk out as spring will have taken hold and outside every house marigolds, sacred to both the Hindu and Buddhist religions, will be in bloom.
As the expedition moves into the higher mountains, we traverse distinct vegetation zones; from pristine forests of fir, birch and rhododendron in the sub-alpine zone, to the herbs, grasses and juniper shrubs of the alpine pastures. For those with a keen eye, there is a large variety of orchid, aromatic plants, oak, primrose and not least of all, 19 species of bamboo!
The fauna is equally varied. With red panda, musk deer, Himalayan black bear, clouded leopard, wild boar, marmot, langur monkey and over 400 species of birds, there should be plenty of distractions during the walk-in, although the mammals are not likely to pose for photographs (especially the yeti)! However, even at the higher elevations, we can not expect to be alone; wolf tracks have often been seen at dawn as evidence of nightly foraging around base camps areas. So a pee bottle is definitely advisable!

Expedition Itinerary


Day 01: Arrive Kathmandu
We will come to Kathmandu International Airport to pick you up. You will be transferred to the hotel. Overnight at hotel.

Day 02: Expedition briefing in Kathmandu
You need a full day to take care of permits associated with the expedition and to have a briefing at the Ministry of Tourism.

Day 03: Fly to Tumlingtar
You leave very early for the airport to catch our internal flight to the airstrip at Tumlingtar, which takes about 50 minutes. On arrival, you meet your Sherpa crew and the local porters who will carry the main expedition stores all the way to base camp. You set off after a light lunch for the first part of our trek. Travelling eastwards at first, the trail climbs to reach Khandbari where our permits are checked for entry to the park. You continue walking and camp overnight in Manebhanjang (1,040m). 3 hours.

Day 04: Trek to Chichira (2,000m)
Leaving your overnight camp, you continue on well-travelled paths to the village of Botebas (1,740m), where teahouses provide a welcome stop amid the smiling children that gather to entice us to part with "one rupee, one rupee". 9 hours.

Day 05:Trek to Num (1,560m)
Beyond Chichira, the cultivated fields begin to dwindle and the scenery of Chamlang and Makalu comes in to view. You now descend towards the Arun River and drop down through Mure to reach your overnight stop at Num. 7 hours.

Day 06: Trek to Runruma (1,730m)
From your campsite, the trail continues to drop even further to cross the Arun River at only 660 metres (and Everest at 8,848 metres is less than 60 Kilometres away!) Once across the river, the trail climbs steeply following a rocky track to Runruma where you spend the night. 5 hours.

Day 07: Trek to Tashigoan (2,200m)
Following terraced fields and walking through meadows, you arrive at the Sherpa Village of Tashigoan after approximately 5 hours.

Day 08: Trek to Kaurna (3,620m)
Today is a hard day, as you have to make just over 1,400m of ascent. You start early to allow the porters plenty of time to make the journey, although the hills barely seem to slow their relentless and determined rhythm. While it might not ease their burden, it would cheer them to share a smile as we pass by or, even better, to share cup of tea if we catch them at a rest stop. You can expect to walk for 7 hours today.

Day 09: Acclimatisation day

Day 10: Shipton Pass (4,250m)
Cross the Shipton Pass (4,250m) to Mumbuk (3,630m). Moving on after a pleasant day's rest, you climb steeply through rhododendron to emerge on ridge tops and a pass strewn with Mani Walls and prayer flags. The labour of climbing up to the pass is rewarded with fine views of Kangchenjunga to the east and of Makalu. You descend quickly on the far side of Shipton Pass to reach Mumbuk, where you camp in the forest. 6 hours.

Day 11: Trek to Jark Kharka (4,180m)
The trail becomes markedly rugged today, as you descend through steep gullies to emerge in the Barun Valley. The trail is poorly defined in places and alternates between rock and mud. Just beyond Tematan Kharka, you cross to the north bank of the Barun Khola before arriving at our camp after about 8 hours.

Day 12: Acclimatisation day
You climb a nearby ridge (4,900 metres) and enjoy spectacular views of the surrounding area.

Day 13: Trek to Sherson (4,600m)
The valley is broader now and affords great views all around. You walk among birch and scrub rhododendron until you leave the forest and arrive in the true alpine zone, with moraines forged by the Barun Glacier in evidence. As you arrive in Shershon, the South Face of Makalu pops in to sharp focus. 5 hours.
Day 14:Trek to below "Sherpani Col" (5,180m)The fresh mountain air is invigorating as we awake to a day that leads to the heart of the Great Himalaya. As you follow the glacier, each step seems to alter the facet of every mountain that looms ahead. As you continue the walk to Makalu Base Camp (4,860m), the panorama becomes more staggering as the vista is enhanced by wonderful views of Everest, Lhotse and your own objective, Baruntse. It's no surprise that Hillary and Lowe felt compelled to return here after their reconnaissance with Shipton, to climb among these giants. You arrive just below "Sherpani Col" after about 7 hours of walking.

Day 15:Baruntse Base Camp (5,550m)
Up the Barun Glacier to Baruntse Base Camp (5,550m). You follow the true right bank of the glacier, among moraines to the site of Baruntse base camp, which is about 4 ½ kilometres further on. This camp is located on a small shelf at the foot of the valley that we follow westwards to East Col. There is a stream nearby which flows from the glacier. You only stay at Baruntse base camp for a couple of days, resting and practicing rope work on the route up to East Col. 5 hours.

Day 16-24: The Climb
You establish 2 camps above Baruntse Base Camp. The first (ABC) is placed on the flat expanses of the glacier and at the foot of the South East Ridge, at an altitude of 6,000m. In effect, this is our launch pad from which we set about climbing the mountain. Camp (C1) is on the South-East Ridge proper at a height of 6,450m. From this camp, we climb to the summit.
You have allowed plenty of time for the ascent in order to provide for additional acclimatisation and for some load carrying to stock ABC and Camp 1. With Sherpa support, the requirement for load carrying is kept to a minimum. It is important that everyone is well rested before going for the top in order to maximise everyone's chances of summiting.
Having rested at Baruntse Base Camp, we cross the East Col (6,050m) and set up ABC. Our porters traverse across the glacier and descend the West Col to the Hongu Valley to wait for us. You spend the next few days making acclimatisation climbs to C1 and then resting at ABC. The climb from ABC to C1 follows steepening slopes to a small col and the site of C1 at 6,450m (4 hours).
Above C1, we climb 45° snow slopes past a subsidiary summit at 6,745m from where the route becomes more involved. A series of short, steep steps of snow and ice are gained until you pass onto the west side of the ridge. Some short sections of rock scrambling lead back onto the ridge until it narrows at about 7,000m. This leads to a marked cleft and an ice cliff, which is surmounted to give access to easier, broader slopes above. These lead to the summit at 7,129m. (Approx 10 hours of ascent). Descent is by the same route (sleeping at C1 and ABC).

Day 25:Depart ABC, descend West Col
The main expedition group packs up and leaves ABC, crossing the West Col to rendezvous with your porters at the head of the Hongu Valley.

Day 26:Trek to Kongme Dingma (4,919m)
Walking due south, you trek to Kongme Dingma (4,919m). The trek down the Hongu Valley is very pleasant in a wide-open valley. To our backs, high over the top of the Amphu Labtsa, is the mighty South Face of Lhotse, which will force us, Medusa like, to gaze over our shoulders time and again. The walking in the Hongu is easy, as the paths are broad and sandy. There are many nice places to camp on level areas of grass with rivers ever present to provide plenty of water - the well hardened might even take to having a wash. (8 hours).

Day 27: Mera La (5,400m) or ascent of Mera Peak (6,476m)
You gain height today and travel westwards as you climb up to the glacier covered Mera La. (Those members of the team who want to climb Mera Peak can do so today or tomorrow, before catching the rest of the group up at Tangnag). From the Mera La, you descend the Mera Glacier to arrive at Khare in the late afternoon. (9 hours).

Day 28: Trek to Tangnag (4,360m)
Leaving Khare, you have a short day, to arrive in Tangnag after 2 hours where you rest for the remainder of the day.

Day 29: Trek to Kharte
You follow the Hinku Valley as it swings south, for several kilometres before breaking off to follow a trail that gains height on the valley's western slopes. You camp overnight below the Zatrwala Pass at Kharte. (5 hours).

Day 30: Zatrwala La (4,600m)
You wake up for an early start to gain the remaining height to the pass. The ground is steep here but a well-worn sandy path leads easily to the summit (although this can be a tricky section if there is unseasonable snow cover). Leaving the top of the pass, a steep descent leads down rapidly into dense forest. Camp. (7 hours).

Day 31:Trek to Lukla (2,800m)
You follow your noses to arrive in the busy town of Lukla, the epicenter of trekking in the Khumbu. You settle into one of the better lodges for a welcome night, no longer under canvass. (7 hours).

Day 32:Fly Lukla to Kathmandu
You will be met at the airport and taken your hotel in Kathmandu.

Day 33: At leisure in Kathmandu
Time for some last minute shopping and sightseeing, or just relaxing by the swimming pool before your journey home.

Day 34:Depart Kathmandu
We will take you to the Kathmandu International Airport to catch your flight back home.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Every effort will be made to keep to the above itinerary, but as this is Adventure Travel in a remote mountain region, we cannot guarantee it. Weather conditions, road conditions, vehicle breakdowns and the health of climbers can all contribute to changes. The Expedition Leader and our local agent will try to ensure that the trip runs according to plan, but an easy going nature will be an asset!


Experience Required

  • The Baruntse expedition is a fantastic opportunity for those with previous experience of climbing in the Greater Ranges to take part in a full-blown expedition to a significant peak. To join this expedition and have a good chance of success, you need:
  • Good all-round climbing experience, having completed routes of at least Alpine climbing.
  • To be proficient on short steep sections of snow and ice of about 50°.
  • To have completed other expeditions to the greater ranges, graded at least 2B or equivalent.
  • To have a high level of fitness and be physically tough. You need to carry loads to high altitudes that could be as heavy as 15-25 Kg.
  • Porter Protection
  • Any trek or expedition to Nepal relies on the hard work of local porters. It is their carrying of our supplies and baggage that makes a journey into the mountains possible. Raj Bala Treks and Expeditions is therefore careful to ensure that they are well treated, not exploited and have good protection from the elements. We provide shelter, clothing and footwear that match the severity of the environment. Porters who become sick are treated with the same care and attention as team members, and we have used helicopters, at our expense, to rescue porters from hazardous situations.
  • Raj Bala Treks and Expeditions supports the work of the International Porter Protection Group (IPPG), and provides help and advice to those organisations to improve the working conditions of the porters on whom we depend. All trekkers are asked to provide feedback on porters' working conditions in post-trip questionnaires.

Equipment
To join the expedition to Baruntse, you need the following specialist equipment:

  • Ice Axe
  • Crampons.
  • Harness.
  • 2 x Tape slings.
  • 2 x Screwgate Karabiners.
  • Descender / Abseil Device.
  • Ascender (e.g. Jumar)
  • Prussic Loops.
  • Plastic mountaineering boots with Neoprene Overgaiters or 'System'
  • boots (for example, La Sportiva Olympus Mons).
  • 5 Season Sleeping Bag.

All other equipment is as needed on a normal high altitude trek. A complete climbing equipment and clothing list will be provided to you after your make a booking with us.

WHAT THE PRICE INCLUDES

  • All internal flights and hotel/airport transfers.
  • Accommodation at 3 star hotel in Kathmandu on breakfast basis
  • All road transport by private vehicles.
  • All camping facilities and meals during the expedition.
  • All porterage costs.
  • All costs for our accredited leader and Sherpa staff.
  • WHAT THE PRICE DOES NOT INCLUDE
  • Visa fees.
  • International Airlines tickets and airpor tax
  • Bar bills and laundry.
  • Travel insurance.
  • Lunch and evening meals in Kathmandu.
  • Optional trips and sightseeing tours.
  • Tips
  • Insurance