Our 2019 treks and expeditions
Remembering our incredible journeys
Here is a list of treks and expeditions we have previously advertised.
The links may lead to updated versions of the info pages.
* means these wonderful people have trekked multiple times with us.
+ means summitted the peak.
2021 Home haven
The beginning of the year seemed promising, and before being vaccinated against COVID-19, some trekkers slipped in however by May Nepal and India were overrun by the Indian/Delta variant and so shutting out any thought of trekking until there is widespread vaccination. Nepal had a bad monsoon and late-ish post-monsoon sting in the tail. My fears for the October season were wrong and it was a great time to trek with few other foreigner trekkers on the usually crowded trails. The shorter trails were filled with domestic (Nepali) trekkers.
Friends of Project Himalaya donated a much appreciated, invaluable $14k+ to assist our crew through this difficult period of no work and lockdowns - thank you!
Jamie and Esther spent six months travelling, trekking and house sitting in New Zealand's covid-free South Island!
Tsum is a sacred beyul, a "hidden valley of happiness" and simply wonderful trekking. We'll explore to the head of the valley then, after more adventurous trails, continue around the scenic Manaslu circuit taking a few special detours.
30 Sept-3 Nov, 35 days — camping — Jamie McGuinness — US$3480?
30 Sept-16 Nov, 48 days with Annapurna extension
Unspoilt and cultural, the Kanchenjunga region offers some of the best trekking in Nepal. We can arrange both private trips and a group trek - what suits you?
Mid Oct- early Nov, 24 days — lodges — Bire Tamang — US$2780
Join our unique Zanskar affair for mesmerizing views, adventurous canyons, stunning wild camping and pretty villages. Rugged, colourful rock contrasts with the azure rivers and green village oases, ancient monasteries cling to rock faces and Buddhist chortens dot the immense landscape on a trek where each and every day is scenically surprisingly different.
2020 The time of coronavirus
With Covid-19 rampant around the world, we took the year off and Jamie and Esther trekked in mostly covid-free New Zealand.
Cancelled Ladakh Skypacking - Tso High & Wild
Trails less trekked. Backpacking is trekking, carrying all your own gear and camping out in the most amazing wilderness camps but our twist is luxury resupplies by Lobsang. Refuel on his Asian fusion cooking and swap dirty for clean, far more satisfying and rewarding. Treat yourself!
Cancelled 2020 Zanskar Canyons
Join our unique end of season Zanskar affair for mesmerizing views, adventurous canyons, stunning wild camping and pretty villages. Rugged, colourful rock contrasts with the azure rivers and green village oases, ancient monasteries cling to rock faces and Buddhist chortens dot the immense landscape on a trek where each and every day is scenically surprisingly different.
Cancelled Middle Dolpo *exploratory
We trek the Schaller Trail, a unique, pioneering route named after the noted naturalist who trekked with author of The Snow Leopard, Peter Matthiessen. Our exploratory middle Dolpo route avoids the new high country roads and finishes with the Kagmara La, only repeating a day of our previous Dolpo treks!
9 Oct-8 Nov, 31 days — camping — Jamie McGuinness
2019 Nepal Autumn
Our flexibility ... the initial Kanchenjunga plan suddenly couldn't work for Christian and Jo so we arranged a unique Dolpo trek to suit. Thank you to Norbu (the guide) plus trek team and last but definitely not least, Jo & Christian.
I (Jamie) didn't lead the trip but did meet them part way through.
Jo, Norbu, Jamie and Christian
Unspoilt and cultural, the Kanchenjunga region offers some of the best trekking in Nepal.
The trek was GREAT! Bire and the team of porters were outstanding. I would/will trek with Bire again! ...
The lodges along the route were pretty decent (some much better than others - Gyabala, Ghunsa, Kambachen), and there are more being built/improved. It's still necessary to carry air mattresses/Thermarests as not all the beds had reasonable mattresses - some were like sleeping on concrete.
The food was pretty repetitive (as advertised), but there was plenty of it, and no one had any food-related health issues on trek. Bire and Tez kept an eye on the kitchens and sometimes helped with cooking when a lodge owner/cook was overwhelmed by the number of trekkers ordering dinner.
We had a bit of excitement at Sellele. Sometime in the night, a snow leopard attacked the yak herd that was up in the high pastures east of the lodge site. Apparently the leopard got a small yak, and also tore up an adult. That poor adult yak landed outside our lodge rooms at 01:30 clanging it's bell most of the rest of the night. We of course were cursing the yak for being so loud, until morning when Bire told us about the attack, and we could see the copious amounts of blood on the ground outside the lodge. We don't know if the adult survived its wounds.
The trek from Ghunsa to Cheram was probably the prettiest part of the trek. I added prayer flags at each of the pass crossings. The lodge we stayed in at Sellele was OK (rooms were a bit small), but the new dining room was very nice, and the lodge owner knows how to run a wood/dung stove - NO smoke! There is a new lodge being constructed about 15 minutes past the older one. We spoke with some trekkers who stayed there and they said it's still a work in progress, but should be a good option when actually complete. The place we stayed was totally adequate, but the rooms could be improved a bit (a bit more room and better insulation). Very photogenic location (see sunset with prayer flags and night shot with prayer flags).
- Mike Timpson, Kanchenjunga North-South 2019
Epic, powerful beauty on a route few dare, we link Nepal's two trekking Shangri-las over breathless mountain passes and along meandering alpine valleys for a visual feast of gorgeous trans-Himalayan panoramas and some trademark mountaineering exploration. This is a journey through flat-roofed villages and sacred monasteries including Shyamling and Bhijer, Shey and the enchanting, oh-so-turquoise Phoksundo.
15 Sept-26 Oct, 42 days — camping — Jamie McGuinness — US$5680 — full
Team: +Bruce Utsey***, +Holly and +Brad M, +David Wright**, Mary W, Paul K***** and +Jim Twiss*
Crew: Bal Bahadur Lopchan, Aiteram, Sanjay Tamang, Dawa (Da Gelje; cook), Tashi, Ang (Phura) Kami, Pasang and Dorje
Horsemen: Bhim Bahadur Roka, Amar Bahadur Magar and Raju Rana with 2 horses and 14 incredible mules
With half a dozen deeply appreciative trekkers, we savoured Upper Mustang and Upper Dolpo spending time chatting with locals and taking in the endless vistas (and photographing them).
Beyond a simply incredible experience, this was a memorable farewell to Upper Dolpo's Panzang Valley as we knew it as motorbike and tractor roads are changing the region forever. The locals will certainly appreciate cheaper supplies and more variety and the trekking impact, in truth, is fairly limited (see the last newsletter and a web page is in the works). However, the contrast between walking motobike roads and some of the smaller trails was striking.
With Lo Manthang's no climbing before the buckwheat harvest edict now nullified in Upper Mustang, we started almost two weeks earlier and so the trek was far warmer and more comfortable than previous journeys and we pitied all the late October into November trekkers heading into very cold Upper Dolpo. When debating which trek is the best in Nepal, Upper Mustang must be top of the landscapes list for its stark, raw beauty, driven home by the number of photos to sort out.
A few stats from David:
approx distance walked including group day trips: 425km
approx ascent (vertical gain, and descent is the same +300m): 17,000m !
days above 3650m/12,000ft: 31 days
Paul Krijnen has a beautifully composed set of photos on Flickr
Jamie has two albums covering the trek on Flickr:
Sanjay, Dorje, Tashi, Bali, Dawa, Jim, Bruce, David, Mary, Brad & Holly, Paul and Jamie
(missing: Ang Kami and Pasang and the horsemen)
2019 Indian Summer
With climate change, Ladakh and surrounds are one of the few places on the planet that show up on heat change maps as unchanged compared to 25 or 50 years ago. This season, we certainly experienced cooler than expected weather. We have a weather day built in to most itineraries - and we used them this season. We had an absolutely wonderful series of treks though, thank you to everyone who joined!
Elaine and friend's private group.
18-31 Aug, 14 days — Leh to Leh — +Jamie McGuinness — full
Team: Elaine & Antonia, +Doug & Lavendar, Denvy, +Carina, +Maytinee, PY and Esther
Crew: Lobsang (cook and guide), +Stanzin Kungha, Stanzin Chombel, Pema with 8 horses; Ram Lal and Ajay with 10 horses-mules
A trek with sparkling, outsized personalities, this was a high energy team and a more intense experience packed into this shorter timeframe than our usual relaxed longer journeys. The August warmth was a delight (eating outside!), even though the trek was cooler than in previous years. Snow lingered on Dzo Jongo Ri but didn't cause problems. Rather, everyone acclimatizes at a different pace and on a tight itinerary, that is the trade off.
New on this trip, we made two fantastic detours from the main Markha trek route proving it is still possible to get of the beaten track even on Ladakh's most popular trail (but still not busy compared with Nepal). These detours really enhanced the trek and we didn't meet a soul on either. The first was a wildlife delight, blue sheep coming up to graze near our camp while the second was oh-so scenic and added to our acclimatization with little additional effort.
When our cook couldn't get to Leh on account of the broken Manali-Leh highway, Lobsang stepped in and again proved himself as an excellent cook.
Esther, PY, Lavender, Doug, May, Elaine, Denvy, Antonia, Carina and Jamie
The Markha Valley is a classic trek yet homestay trekkers have to skip the highlights. We know and love the area so explore and scramble Dzo Jongo Ri 6218m (!), in the domain of blue sheep, which we have seen on every trip, and wolves which we have seen on some. We end with a dramatic pass which drops us into an enchanting valley with sparkling streams for a refreshing wilderness end.
7-24 July, 18 days — Leh to Leh — caravan style — +Jamie McGuinness
with Tso Kar extension: 7-26 July, 20 days
Team: +Fred M*****, +Mike Timpson*, Kat White**; Laura and +Ahmed (short itinerary) and Esther
Crew: Lobsang, Surkie (cook), Stanzin Kunga, Stanzin Chombel, Pema with 8 horses; Ram Lal and Ajay with 10 horses-mules
Oh, the joys of warm trekking and camping; eating under the open skies, that natural change from day to twilight, no phone distractions, and so sleeping early and long. The winter theme reoccurred though with the weather changing at Nyimaling with monsoon squalls throwing rain, hail, grapel and snow at us. Diaries and Scrabble came out, with hair washing executed during the sunny periods.
This really is a wildlife trek, the highlight was wolves seen from our Nyimaling camp! Yes, busy Nyimaling and not for the first time either. Marmots and pikas were less in abundance than previous years probably from the particularly harsh winter; plenty still to be seen though.
At Nyimaling it was distressing to see that every other group had at least one person with real altitude sickness, at least four groups. Skipping even one day of our itinerary has real consequences and it is surprising that agencies will arrange however, it seems it comes down to $ and time, and clients really want to compromise.
Having said that though, Kat suddenly had altitude issues and headed down to Nyimaling with Lobsang, then returned a day later, feeling better.
The snowy theme continued on our climb of Dzo Jongo Ri East where a squall peppered us briefly, giving us a snowy backdrop, but luckily the threatening weather held off for our summit. The photos are dramatic though. For Mike this was his first real 6000m summit, for Fred it was an achievement to be proud of as he nears retirement age and Ahmed's first time trekking in the Himalaya the summit was particularly satisfying.
The continuing snow building up on the passes did prevent us from trekking our special Dat finish, which was a shame, especially as that route normally features more wildlife. Instead, we has a wild canyon finish down to Chokdo/Shang Sumdo, an afternoon of river crossings to remember (adding to Fred's memories with Luke and Lobsang in 2010 when the main trail was completely washed away in the damaging floods). All in all, it was a wonderfully memorable experience.
After the trek and a day's clean up in Leh, we headed to Tso Kar for some luxe jeep camping (which is actually the same as our trekking setup). Wildlife was significantly less than in previous years, the man collecting the camping fees said that many older kiang died over the harsh winter, however we still saw a variety of birds and animals, and had a real nomad experience with friends of Tashi's up at Rajan Karu. All in all, this was a most wonderful adventure holiday.
Lobsang, Ahmed, Mike T, Laura, Jamie, Kat, Esther, Fred
+Dzo Jongo Ri 6218m extension
With a shorter 21 day Zanskar trek, a few people stayed on to climb Dzo Jongo Ri East in less than a week.
With a week between trips, three of the Zanskar trekkers were keen on a mountaineering extension so, acclimatized, we took the quick route up the spectacular gorge up to the Konmaru La and to base camp of Dzo Jongo Ri then broke trail through the late spring snow to the summit. This proved to be a real bonus climb and we were almost certainly the first of the season, and perhaps the first 6000'er summit of the season in Ladakh as Stok Kangri had yet to be climbed (!! deep snow) at that time.
Sadly, Raj our cook found the altitude too much at the base camp and after self-evacuating and some recovery time plus doctor's visits he still didn't feel well enough to come on the next trek. He now has small restaurant in Manali that we msut visit. His ready smile, dedication and superb cooking will be missed. He really has worked so hard for Project Himalaya over there last few years - a sincere thank you.
Phil, Esther, Greg and Jamie
Across Zanskar has always been the classic trek; we avoid the new roads with an adventurous variation that few dare for mesmerizing views, epic canyons, stunning wild camping and pretty villages. Rugged, colourful rock contrasts with the azure rivers and green village oases. Ancient monasteries cling to rock faces and Buddhist chortens dot the immense landscape. This is our updated classic and still one of the very best adventure treks there is.
9-29 June, 21 days — Leh to Leh — caravan style — Jamie McGuinness — USD2780 — full
Team: Pete C & Karen McC, Nick N & Philippa W, Greg W**, Phil W***, Mike P** and Esther (and Cheryl who had to cancel at the last minute)
Crew: Raj (cook), Stanzin Kungha, Sagar Sherpa, Nima; Jai Deb and Roshan Lal and 14 mules-horses; Ram Lal and Ajay with 10 mules-horses
Everything turned up to 11
- Pete C
That is 11 for the huge scale, the scenery, the trail adventures, the canyon descents, the great camp sites ... and even the meals and the crew. Everything - we were treated rather well!
With the late, heavy snow and cool weather, this could almost have been called Zanskar Winter, although it was just as scenic as always. The first challenge was the Leh-Manali highway was still not open when we arrived in Leh, so the crew less Lobsang came via Srinagar. Fewer Leh shops were open and Changspa was quiet, the newly paved sometimes one way road appreciated.
Our trek challenges were the multiple snowy pass crossings, no problem for us but very real for the horses and it was touch and go whether we might have to reroute. With the first pass, the Gotunda La, Ram Lal was not going to be stopped even after my words of caution so the crew unloaded the horses for the trickiest section and we trampled a trail for them, then they were reloaded lower down, quite an effort, but this got us over without endangering the horses. The Pangdang La in the middle of the trek also required creative thinking and and some minor trail rerouting. The locals at Shade didn't know if we could get through but said if we meet yaks on the way, they have come from Zangla and so the crossing might be possible with horses. We did meet them and for the most challenging section followed their route. The main canyon was a memorable and photogenic as ever, I never tire of trekking through here. With the late snow we opted for the Lingshed trek end rather than what would have been a snow-blocked Bear Valley route. I wonder if we will ever traverse that valley again?
It was memorable in other ways too. Kudos to Karen who partly overcame her fear of exposed trails, which was lucky as we were the first and probably only June trekkers and the already narrow trails had been washed away in sections. Some of Raj's curries made my all time favorite list and quite simply, every meal was a delight. And that fresh, perfect watermelon x11, whaa. When can we do this again?!
Greg, Pete, Phil, Nick, Philippa, Karen, Esther and Mike
Would I return to Everest? Only for something very special ...
+2019 Everest Expedition - Tibet
This was a private team for National Geographic and other several media projects.
Team: +Renan Ozturk, +Mark Synnott, Thom Pollard, Nick Kalisz, +Matt Irving, Jim Hurst and +Jamie McGuinness
Climbing sherpas: +Bal Bahadur Lopchan (Bali), Ngatemba Sherpa Taktok, +Lakpa Temba Sherpa, +Pasang Kaji Sherpa, +Lhakpa Tenji Sherpa, +Prakash Gurung Kemchay, Sanjay Tamang, Sonam Sherpa Taktok, +Kusang Sherpa ...
Crew: Da Pasang Sherpa, Bire Tamang and Da Gelje Sherpa as cooks
Summit: 30 May 2019
Summit success and storytelling!
We had rather more issues than I would have liked, however there are two outstanding documentaries out now, Lost on Everest which shows on the National Geographic channel and Sony Alpha's The Ghosts Above free on YouTube.
Check out the July 2020 National Geographic yellow border magazine for the magazine article and the internet version features another incredible photo feature.
A huge thumbs up to Renan Ozturk for putting the production together and a massive thank you to the incredible and talented team of Mark, Thom, Nick, Matt and Jim. Also, thank you to the awesome sponsors, The North Face, National Geographic and Sony Alpha especially.
In 2021, Mark Synnott's book came out, part an Everest skeptic's expedition tale and the other part, our additions to the fascinating Mallory and Irvine saga.
Dharma Peak trek
I was privileged to be a fly on the wall on a Dzi Foundation management brain storming trek thru the area they work in. Listening to the front line workers and understanding their professionalism was inspiring, and I have to give a huge shout out for the organization as it lives up to the ideas of how a development organization should work. No over-the-top Landcruisers, no managers getting fat in Kathmandu. Everyone is a front line manager/worker. And it was a pleasure to really connect with Ben Ayers again on a personal level but also to see that philosophical approach hasn't been dulled by his time in Nepal. He is still curious about everything we saw.