Makalu Base Camp Trek – 16 Days
A challenging trek to the Base Camp of Mount Makalu the world’s fifth highest mountain including crossing of Shipton La.
Makalu is the fifth highest mountain in the world (8481m), yet the trek to its base camp is a less-frequented route due to its relative inaccessibility. However, it’s not too hard to reach, as there are daily flights to Tumlingtar (which is a few hours’ drive from the trailhead) and basic lodges along the way.
The Makalu Base Camp trek is an ideal trek for nature-loving trekkers who want to experience a variety of landscapes and cultures, as well as uncommon views of some of the world’s tallest mountains, including Everest.
The trek starts in warm, terraced farmland inhabited by the Rai people, an ethnic group found predominantly in the hills of eastern Nepal. As the route ascends, you will pass through rhododendron forests (most impressive in the spring, when the flowers bloom amazing red, purple, pink and white) and cloud forests, through some of the last areas of pristine forest and alpine meadows in Nepal.
Deeper into the mountains, past the Barun River Valley, you will pass steep granite cliffs, glaciers, and spectacular waterfalls. At the higher elevations live the Sherpa people, an ethnically Tibetan group who predominantly reside near Everest.
From Makalu Base Camp there are spectacular views of the rarely seen Kangshung face of Everest, as well as Lhotse, Chamlang, and Kanchenjunga in the far east. The Makalu Barun National Park is the eighth largest in Nepal, covering 2,330 sq. km, and is home to some of the rarest flora and fauna in Nepal, including the Red Panda.
A rewarding alternative route is to continue from Makalu Base Camp towards Everest. After exploring around Makalu, cross the Sherpani Pass over to Baruntse Base Camp, then cross the West Col to Panch Pokhari, Amphu Laptsa and the Amphu Lapsta pass (5,850 m./19,192 ft.) into the Everest region.
From then, follow part of the traditional Everest Base Camp trekking route, passing through Pangboche, Namche Bazaar and Lukla, from where you would get a return flight to Kathmandu. This would add about a week onto the itinerary, and would mean seeing fresh landscapes the entire way, not repeating your steps.
Mountaineering experience is required for this variation, as ropes are necessary on some passes and glaciers.
The spring (March-May) and fall (September-November) trekking seasons are the best times for the Makalu Base Camp trek, as the weather is likely to be finest and the temperatures good (particularly at low and mid-elevations). It is possible to do this trek in the winter months, but the cold temperatures might be a drawback, especially as the lodges in this region aren’t especially well equipped.
Getting there & away
The Makalu Base Camp trek requires a one-hour flight from Kathmandu to the small airport at Tumlingtar, around 500 kilometers east of the capital. Buddha Air and Yeti Airlines operate one daily flight each.
If taking the alternative route from Makalu Base Camp onwards to Lukla, a return flight from Lukla to Kathmandu is required. Multiple flights operate daily.
A Makalu Barun National Park Conservation Area permit (US $30 per person)
A Trekkers’ Information Management Systems (TIMS) card (US $20 per person)
This is a challenging trek, best suited to experienced mountain trekkers. Comfort levels are more basic than on some popular Nepal treks, as the lodges in this area are of a lower standard than some other places. However, as a couple of rest/acclimatization days are built into the itinerary, this trek is not extremely challenging.
The alternative route from Makalu Base Camp onwards to Everest and Lukla requires mountaineering experience, so could be categorized as very challenging.
Day 01: Fly Kathmandu to Tumlingtar (50 minutes flight) and drive to Num (1,500m) – 4 hrs drive
After breakfast, we drive to Kathmandu Domestic Airport for flight to Tumlingtar ( About 50 minutes) in eastern region, the starting point of our trek through Arun Valley and landing on a steep mountain runway brings the village of Tumlingtar. During our flight, we can enjoy the panoramic sights of great Himalayas of Nepal including Mt. Everest (8,848m), Mt, Makalu (8,463m), Mt, Cho Oyu (8153m), Mt. Lhotse (8,501m) and Mt. Lhotse Shar (8,393m),Kanchenjunga, Gaurishanker, Ganesh, Langtang etc., terraced land field, hills, forests, beautiful traditional villages. Lowering down from the plane, we will take 4 hours of drive through gravel road and cross Chichila to reach Num where we will stay overnight.
Day 02: Trek to Seduwa (1,540m) -7 hrs walk
Today we continue along the trail descending steeply from Num village through the fields of Lumbang, the trail drops very steeply through a jungle to a suspension bridge over the Arun River (660 m). From the bridge we climb steeply to a primitive tea shop. Often quite hot – the forest on the valleys offer a bit of shade. Moving along the rocky path and tiny terraces planted with corn and barley, we make a long, steep, rough climb to Seduwa (1460m). This is where Makalu Barun National Park begins and where we register our permits.
Day 03: Trek to Tashi Gaon (2,070m) – 5 hrs walk
Leaving Seduwa, we will make a gradual climb high above the Kasuwa Khola to Gyang (1770m). It is a gentle walk through terraced fields and forested areas to Hindrungma village, and on to Rupisa. En route, we cross meadows and several streams, pass by small paddy fields and then climb to the Sherpa village of Tashi Gaon, the last permanent settlement in the valley. . Once there, we are surrounded by breathtaking Himalayan panorama. Overnight in Tashi Gaon.
Day 04: Trek to Khongma (3,560m) – 6 hrs walk
This will be a bit of a tough day as we have to walk on a steep escalating trail in higher elevation. We will ascend through forests to a stream and then onto a ridge. From here the trail gets even steeper and passes a Kharka (grazing land) and finally follows a series of rough stone stairs and small lakes ascending to the top of the ridge. From here it’s a short way down to Khongma Danda. From Khongma, the route stretches through the desolate Barun Valley. Khongma is located near to Ship ton La Pass. We will stay overnight at Khongma.
Day 05: Trek to Debotay (3,650m) via Ship ton La – 8 hrs walk
We will climb the difficult trail to reach the top of Ship ton La. Ship ton La offers the striking views of mountains and valleys. After the lake Kalo Pokhari (3930m), we pass over the Keke La at 4,170m. We can see the marvelous views of Chamlang (7321m), Peak 6 (6,524m) and Peak 7 (6,758m). After crossing the Keke La pass, we descend through the beautiful valley to Debotay. Overnight in Debotay.
Day 06: Trek to Yangri Kharka (3,600m) – 5 hrs walk
Early in the morning, we will traverse the colorful woods of blooming rhododendron forest which leads to the Barun River and the upper reaches of the valley. We should be very careful during the first two hours of trek as the trail is steep and arduous. We then take a pleasant walk, slowly gaining altitude until we arrive at Yangri Kharka. It is situated at the base of the valley.
Day 07: Trek to Lang Male
Following a steep walk to the valley, we pass through yak pastures, lush forests and boulder fields. The valley walls tower imposingly above us during the start of the trek. We pass Merek as we make our way further up and notice a significant rise in the scenic Himalayan views. The route continues through plain land before escalating uphill to Lang male. En route, we will enjoy the spectacular view of Makalu Base Camp.
Day 08: Trek to Makalu Base Camp
Today is the day we make it to the Base Camp. Today, we will be walking through the route that exists at 5000m height. So, possibility of High Altitude Sickness exists in Makalu Base Camp. From Lang male Kharka we make our way up to Shershon and eventually to Makalu Base Camp. The trail is flat with icy glaciers and snow clad mountains accompanying us. Mount Makalu comes into view as we approach Shershon. We will follow the rocky trail to Makalu Base Camp. As we make our way to the camp, we get to soak in the majestic Himalayan panorama surrounding us. Makalu Base Camp offers spectacular views of various mountains and peaks. Overnight at Makalu Base Camp.
Day 09: Explore Makalu Glacier and back to Base Camp
The Base Camp is a rocky barren place with the large Barun Glacier beyond it. From here we can see the magnificent south face of Makalu and the complete panorama of Everest and Lhotse. We can explore the surrounding lakes, glaciers and go for a short trek up. Be cautious while walking through the glacier as the path will be made slippery by melting snow. This viewpoint of Barun Valley of Everest, Lhotse and Barun Tse is approximately 5,500m and is a far superior spot for taking in the awesome vista of peaks, compared to lower down the valley. We will return back to base camp to stay where we may celebrate our accomplishment at the camp itself.
Day 10: Trek to Yangle Kharka – 8 hrs walk
We will leave Makalu Base Camp early in the morning. We descend down from the base camp and take our last glimpse of Makalu before turning the corner and heading back. On our way down, we pass through Shershon, Lang male Kharka, and Merek and descend down the valley finally stopping at Yangri Kharka. We will reach Yangle Kharka in about 8hrs of time where we will stay overnight.
Day 11: Trek to Mumbuk – 6 hrs walk
It takes six hours of easy trek descending trek to reach Mumbuk. The trail drops down through the rocky terrain. There will be change in topography from Mumbuk onwards as the sight shifts from barren moonscapes to lush green vegetation.
Day 12: Trek to Khongma – 6 hrs walk
We begin the trek with steep climb from Mumbuk. The route escalates a bit and traverses the woods of blooming rhododendrons. We then cross the Keke La, Tutu La (Ship ton’s Pass) and Kauma La en route. Next, we descend to Khongma Danda again. Overnight in Khongma Danda.
Day 13: Trek to Tashi Gaon – 6 hrs walk
Today we make a long steep descent back to Tashi Gaon. The trek continues with frequent long and steep descent cutting through the hillsides. The trail takes us through thick forests and finally making it to the indigenous Sherpa village of Tashi Gaon. Six hours of easy trek will take us to the culturally rich village of Tashi Gaon where we will stay overnight.
Day 14: Trek to Num – 5 hrs walk
We will not have forgotten this path from the way in, as we re-trace our footsteps all the way back down to the river, only to be rewarded with a climb back up the opposite side to Num. Our trail crosses the hillside and come across villages and settlements as we move further down finally reaching Seduwa. Further we leave Seduwa and trek through lush forests towards Num. The trail goes up and down and passes through dense forests and Sherpa villages as we move downwards. Overnight at num.
Day 15: Drive to Tumlingtar
We will take local jeep that will drive us from Num to Tumlingtar. We will stay overnight at Tumlingtar.
Day 16: Back to Kathmandu
After having breakfast we transfer to the airport to fly back to Kathmandu. 50minutes of scenic flight will take us back to Kathmandu. Arrive Kathmandu and transfer to hotel. In the evening you have free time for refreshment and shopping etc.