Makalu Base Camp trek is promoted as one of the most difficult treks of Nepal. Is it as difficult as the tour operators are promoting it to be? We break down everything you need to know before you hit the trail to Makalu Base Camp.
Considering the elevation gain, weather uncertainties, death and casualty rates Makalu Base Camp difficulty level is ranked 9/10.
If we have to rank the difficulty level of trekking to the base camp of Mt. Makalu, based on our experiences, we rank it 9/10. The actual distance of trekking (approximately 200km), elevation gain, weather uncertainties, death and casualty rates on the trek, availability of basic services, health facilities, safety and security services on the trail make this one of the most challenging treks.
Although Makalu Base Camp trek is challenging, it is definitely not an impossible one. Some preparation, discipline and precautions will make you a successful trekker in the Makalu region. Read on to know what you need to do to reduce the risk and make your ultimate trek as easy as a breeze.
- Trek Overview
- Challenging trek
- Difficult as Elevation gain and acclimatisation
- Difficult as Trekking service is limited
- Challenging as the weather
- Strenuous section of the trail
- Faint markings and fewer footfalls
- How to Deal with the Difficulty
Makalu Base Camp, a less trodden but beautiful trail that reaches up to the foothills of fifth highest mountain Mt. Makalu (8,481m), is challenging yet magnificent route situated between Mt. Everest (8,848m) and Mt. Kanchenjunga (8,586m). Makalu Base Camp Trek stands to offer you the best panoramic views of sky-piercing mountains in all directions. The trail, which snakes through Arun and Barun River valleys, reveals the zooming views of Makalu, Everest, Lhotse, Baruntse and Kanchenjunga among others.
Makalu Base Camp trek is yet to gain the same level of popularity as Everest Base Camp (EBC) and Annapurna Base Camp (ABC) trails. However, the route unfolds a striking similarity to other popular trails. Just like ABC and EBC, this trail leads you to follow up and down courses to the base camp.
Makalu Base Camp trek itinerary generally about 17 days, taking actual 14 days to complete trekking. In 17 days, you will come through to witness Nepal’s natural beauty, hopping towns, locals, their practices and culture as well as mountain grandeur. The onerous trail that takes you to Makalu Base Camp will force you to think of planning for next trek more exhilarating to look, feel and sound like it anywhere possible in the world.
If you have searched for most accurate and updated itinerary for Makalu Base Camp, you have stumbled upon the right stone here. Most of the itineraries begin from Tumlingtar or Chichira of Sankhuwasabha district. Having persistent experiences of leading treks to the foothills of Makalu, NEST Adventure can meet your expectations for experiencing updated and new path to the trailhead or on the trail itself. This Makalu Base Camp trek itinerary has been prepared considering the fact of road construction that has reduced the trekking trail by a day. Regular vehicles leave for Khandbari and Num village (1,560m) from Tumlingtar. These two points are new starting spots of the trail. The road to Khandbari has an asphalt path while off-road leads to Num from Khandbari.
If you have a plan to trek in the near future, you will begin to trek from Num village and end the trek in the same point. You need to take a 45-minute flight from Kathmandu to Tumlingtar and drive for about six hours through Khandbari to reach Num. You can either hire a private vehicle or get on any of public vehicles in order to experience the rural transport system of Nepal.
It’s our experience that Makalu Base Camp trek cannot be considered as the easiest hike. It is a hard trek to touch the natural paradise. The trail goes through remoteness, unpredictable weather, high altitude passes and few trekking amenities and changing terrain, making Makalu region an exclusive package of trekking destination with its natural splendidness.
Those who have prior trekking experience can hike to Makalu Base camp without much hurdles. Even if you are a novice trekker, you should not get discouraged. NEST Adventure will manage the trek assigning a well-experienced crew of guides and porters for your best experience. However, it is recommended to prepare well for fitness to complete the trek without fears. The trek can be successfully done with proper preparation, even if you are to experience the first high altitude trek in Nepal.
Difficult as Elevation gain and acclimatisation
The altitude changes going through 430 meters to over 4,870 meters at Makalu Base camp. You will cross the altitude within a span of a few days. The trail passes through either steep uphill or downhill gaining upto 1,500 meters elevation in a day. This is well above recommended 1000 metres of elevation gain on a single day of trek. Quick altitude gain significantly raises the risk of altitude sickness. Additionally, you have to walk as much as eight hours a day. Trekking for six to seven hours in a day is normal in the Makalu region. Long trekking hours attributes to the absence of trekking and hospitality services on the trail.
Ascend slowly and take plenty of rest and precautions to prevent and adapt with the altitude sickness. Climbing 1000 meters in a day can quickly deprive you of oxygen. Take rest and acclimatise properly as advised by our experienced crew to adapt with the thin air of the mountains. Take precautionary medicines if needed.
Difficult as Trekking service is limited
The services available along the route are quite basic with a few lodges and tea houses unlike in popular trekking trails. You need to walk up to eight hours in a day. No tea house or settlement is available to have accommodation or foods in between two camps following Tashigaon. So, you should carry enough food and sufficient water for the trail.
Most of the camps including at Makalu Base Camp have three tea houses at most. You will see only one tea house at Mambuk. A teahouse can accommodate only up-to eight persons in a day. If you are in a larger group, the group either have to split between the tea houses or camp. It is the most comfortable choice to stay while you hit this trail. Therefore, we highly recommend you to book your rooms in advance. The team at NEST Adventure can help you secure a room before or during the trek.
As you stay at the tea houses, you will get the basic rooms with shared squat toilets and bathrooms. Tea houses will manage you a bucket of hot water for bathing.
Challenging as the weather
Unexpected weather conditions in the mountains can make the trek extra difficult. Closely abide by the instructions of our experienced guides who have trekked in the region frequently. Fifth and 11th day may be one of the most challenging days as you cross the Kauma La, Tutu La, and Keke La passes. If bad weather forces you to strand in-between, it will be difficult to either return to the previous camp or reach to the next one. Pay attention to the expert advice from your guide, lodge owners about the trail conditions before attempting to cross the high passes.
If you didn’t pay attention during snowbound Kauma La, Tutu La, and Keke La passes, might be challenging to either return to the previous camp or reach to the next one.
Since lodges are not well equipped, trekking to Makalu Base Camp during the extreme weather can be a bit difficult. You will need to prepare accordingly to cope with the set of challenges the weather brings. Read our article on the best weather to trek to Makalu Base Camp to get a sense of weather throughout the year. With some precautions and preparations, you will be perfectly fine to trek to base of Mt. Makalu on any weather.
Strenuous section of the trail
It is very challenging to traverse an alternative route to the Everest region from Makalu as it requires mountaineering experiences. The route goes via two high passes above 6,000 meters – Sherpani Col and West Col. You will make the base of Island Peak and join Everest Base Camp trail from here. In the Great Himalayan Trail, the trekkers usually cross these high passes.
Faint markings and fewer footfalls
Not all the stretches of Makalu Base Camp trail are properly marked. The trail is marked in early sections mostly in the lower altitude. As you ascend higher, the terrain gets more difficult and the markings get fainter. This could add extra challenges if you are trekking independently. There are very few people you may meet on the trail who can help navigate the route. However, you are at luck if you are looking for a trek with fewer people.
At times, treading the less frequented trails and not seeing another human for the whole trek could be daunting. This can be difficult if you need help finding your way or asking about the trail conditions. Therefore, it is highly recommended to trek with an experienced guide arranged permit for Makalu from a local agency before embarking on a trail.
How to Deal with the Difficulty
Makalu Base Camp trail is a difficult trek but not an impossible one. Some preparations with a touch of precautions easily makes you capable enough to successfully conquer the trail.
Be prepared for the long and arduous trek beforehand at your home. Take a jog, hit the gym, lap the swimming pool or complete preparatory local hikes, whichever suits you the most before starting the Makalu Base Camp trek.
How to deal with Altitude sickness
Altitude sickness is a real problem and can get fatal if not dealt properly. Acclimatise well, hydrate yourself or pop Diamox and paracetamol if you experience some signs of altitude sickness. Mountain sickness is common and can affect anyone regardless of fitness and experience level. Do not ignore any early signs and immediately seek help from medical professionals or your trek friends and guide. To be safe, buy travel insurance that covers high altitude adventures for any worst cases. If you need to be rescued out of the mountain, the insurance will be a life-saving measure.
Never ever eat uncooked, raw or spoilt food. Treat your water before drinking. Boiled water is the best water to drink. Do not let yourself dehydrated. Avoid meat, alcohol and smoking as much as possible while you are trekking. None of these are good for altitude sickness and can cause trouble if you fall sick in the remote mountains.
Hire a guide or a porter
Hire a guide! The experienced guides from NEST Adventure will be helping you navigate the treacherous trails. They are there with you as a friend and a professional service provider when you need helping hand the most. The sheer difficulty of the terrain and the trail demands you to be on the good hands. Safety always comes first for us, as much as we want your trek to be enjoyable pleasant and memorable.
Choose the right gear
Right gear can be lifesaving. While you are on the trail to Makalu Base Camp, food, water, first aid kits, warm layers of clothes are your savior. They keep you warm, supply you with energy and nutrients and keep you hydrated to tread the difficult trail. Although you do not need technical mountaineering gear to trek to base camp, do not compromise with the essential trekking gears. Read more about the packing list to pack for Makalu Base Camp trek.
Safety is always first
Do not panic if you ever meet with a difficult situation during the trek. Listen carefully to the instructions of our experienced crewmembers and professional guides. If you are trekking independently, seek advice from the local tea houses before embarking for the day. Best of all, hike Makalu during the best time of the year. Feel free to ask for help if you meet someone on the trail. Communicate with your friends and family at your home or anyone who can be reached for an emergency. In addition, never forget to prioritise safety before once in a lifetime adventure. As long as you are safe, you can complete the journey, even though you are delayed by few hours or a day.
Although trekking to Makalu Base Camp is rated strenuous, it is still not as tough as climbing to the peak of Makalu. You just need to prepare well in advance to conquer the trail. Once you complete the trek, you are rewarded with a lifetime experience of adventure and natural beauty. Those who have completed the Makalu Base Camp trek praise this as one of the best treks of their life and finest of Nepal.