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MAKALU BASE CAMP TREK: ULTIMATE GUIDE

MAKALU BASE CAMP TREK: ULTIMATE GUIDE

The Makalu Base Camp Trek is an off-the-beaten-path expedition in the Himalayas of Nepal. It’s longer, more rugged, and presents an intense physical challenge compared to more established trekking routes in Nepal. The trek to Makalu Basecamp takes most trekkers at least 8 days to reach a top altitude of 5,050 meters. Trekkers then need to retrace their steps on the 5-6 day journey back out the same way they came in.

At the base camp, you truly sit at the base of Makalu and have a clear view of the mountain, unlike Everest Base Camp where the mountain is a little hidden from view. Each morning, you can watch the sunrise over the summit of the fifth tallest mountain in the world. A short walk up the slopes from basecamp reveals incredible views of Everest and Lhotse. The Makalu Base Camp Trek is perfect for adventurers who are looking to avoid the crowded trekking routes of Nepal and want an authentic experience trekking amongst the giants of the Himalayas.

A GUIDE TO THE MAKALU BASE CAMP TREK

In this guide, you will find all of the valuable information you need to plan your trek as well as my personal experience on the entire expedition. I did this trek with Seven Summit Treks as a leadu-up to our climb of Makalu.

MAKALU BASE CAMP TREK DETAILS

  • Distance: 100km return trip
  • Days required: 16 days return trip
  • Total Incline: 5000 meters +
  • The highest point on the trek: The highest point of the trek is Makalu Base Camp at 5,050m but a small hike up to 5,300m above the base camp gives you views of Lhotse and Everest.
  • Difficulty: The Makalu Base Camp Trek is slightly more difficult than Everest Base Camp or the Annapurna Circuit due to the incline, remoteness, and rugged nature of the trails. You will reach an altitude of 5000m, which will challenge many. Altitude sickness can be common. The route has lots of undulation with several days purely walking up stairs on stairs. These days of ascent are tiring and also require the body to adjust quickly.
  • Permits: You will need a Makalu Barun National Park Conservation Area permit (USD $30 per person and a Trekkers’ Information Management Systems (TIMS) card (USD $20 per person)
  • Guide: A guide is not required on this trek. However, the guide manages all of the logistics, distances, directions, and tea houses for your group. You can use maps.me to navigate from tea-house to tea-house and the paths are relatively easy to follow. If it’s your first time trekking in Nepal, I would suggest having a guide.
  • Accommodation: Guest Houses, also known as Tea Houses, are available along the way where you will sleep in a comfortable bed and have access to hot bucket showers (extra charge) and restaurant facilities. The facilities were much less luxurious than on the Everest Base Camp trek but still comfortable.

MAKALU BASE CAMP TREK PACKING LIST

I packed pretty light and managed to wash most of my clothes each afternoon/night for the first half of the trip. In the latter stages of the trip, it was pretty cold so we weren’t sweating as much and we wore our warm gear basically nonstop while at the teahouses. There was no real need for multiple outfits.

This is just a guide and it worked quite well for me with no complaints from my set-up. You won’t need a sleeping bag as there are blankets in each guesthouse and when it got cold I just wore my down jacket to bed. This meant I didn’t have to carry a sleeping bag for the entire trek.

  • 1 pair of pants that maybe convert to shorts
  • 1 pair of shorts
  • 1 Warm or thicker pair of hiking pants
  • 1 Long sleeve quick-dry shirt
  • 1 Long-sleeve thermal shirt
  • 2 Short-sleeve t-shirts
  • 1 Thermal long underwear
  • 4 pairs of quick-dry underwear
  • 1 Lightweight down jacket
  • 1 Heavy-duty summit down jacket
  • 1 Beanie
  • 1 Cap
  • Sunglasses
  • 1 Neck Buff
  • Gloves
  • Hiking boots
  • Headtorch
  • 1 pair of warm summit socks
  • 2-3 pairs of regular socks
  • Sunscreen
  • Trekking poles
  • Water filter
  • Powerbank

All of this should fit into a backpack no bigger than 50L and should be less than 14kg.

WIFI/ELECTRICITY AVAILABILITY ON THE MAKALU BASE CAMP TREK

  • Wifi: Unlike many treks in Nepal there is almost no WiFi on this route. NTC sim card worked for the first day and a half on the trek but once we reached Tasigaun, the connection was over.
  • Electricity: This was the least power I have experienced on a trek in Nepal so far. Once we left Tasigaun, most places ran off solar and didn’t have places to charge items for the clients. It was possible but not something offered for a fee like in other teahouses around Nepal.

MAKALU BASE CAMP TREK ITINERARY

Day 1Fly to Tumlingtar and drive to Num
Day 2Trek to Seduwa1,500m, 6-7 hours
Day 3Trek to Tashigaon2,100m, 4-5 hours
Day 4Trek to Khongma Danda3,500m, 6-7 hours
Day 5Acclimatization day in Khongma Danda 
Day 6Trek to Dobate via Shipton La (4,229 m)3,650m, 6-7 hours
Day 7Trek to Yangle Kharka3,557m, 6-7 hours
Day 8Trek to Langmale Kharka4,410m, 5-6 hours
Day 9Trek to Makalu Base Camp 5,000m, 4-5 hours
Day 10Hike up to Everest Viewpoint5,300m, 3 hours
Day 11Trek to Yangle Kharka3,600m, 6-7 hours
Day 12Trek to Dobate3,650m, 6-7 hours
Day 13Trek to Khongma Danda 3,500m, 5-6 hours 
Day 14Trek to Tashigaon2,100m, 4-5 hours
Day 15Trek to Seduwa1,500m, 4-5 hours
Day 16Trek to Num5-6 hours
Day 17Drive to Tumlingtar, fly to Kathmandu51 km./31 miles

INSURANCE FOR THE MAKALU BASE CAMP TREK

Nepal can be a dangerous place for trekking or hiking because the high altitude can lead to many illnesses, weakness in trekkers, and misjudgments. There is also a risk on trails for falls, avalanches, or other mishaps. Your regular travel insurance probably won’t cover you at high altitudes and won’t cover a helicopter evacuation. There is a solution though.

Need extra protection?

Regular travel insurance is great but won’t cover you for high altitude hikes or for helicopter evacuation. Each year, I purchase a Global Rescue Subscription.

For less than $500 per year or $100 per expedition, you can purchase a Global Rescue subscription and be covered no matter how extreme the hike or how high the climb is.

DRINKING WATER ON THE MAKALU BASE CAMP TREK

I use the Grayl Ultralight Water Purifier and it is a game-changer for hiking in Nepal, making this super easy and cheap. The Grayl Ultralight Water Purifier removes 99.9999% of viruses of disease-causing bacteria. The best thing about it is it only takes 15 seconds and one press to purify water from any freshwater source. You don’t need to buy bottled water at every tea house contributing to large amounts of plastic waste and costing you $4+ per day.

Along the Makalu Base Camp Trek, we filled up tea houses, rivers, and local village taps. Unlike aqua purification tablets which require you to wait 30 minutes before drinking, you can have rehydrated yourself immediately with the Grayl Ultralight Water Purifier.

GrayL Water Purifier

  • Never pay for water on the trek
  • Save 3-4 plastic water bottles a day
  • Turns any water into drinking water

BEST TIME AND SEASON FOR THE MAKALU BASE CAMP TREK

The peak season for the Makalu Base Camp Trek is March to April and October to November. The time to avoid this trek is during the rainy season from June to August.

During the winter from December to February, this region gets very cold and there will be snow cover in the higher parts of the trek. Many of the guesthouses actually close up for the winter and re-open in late February to March. However, it is possible to hike the Makalu Base Camp Trek on the fringe of the season in late February/early March and it can be quite beautiful with snow cover.

I hiked the Makalu Base Camp Trek in late April/early May and it was warm during the day and got pretty cold at night. The Shipton La had good snow cover but other than that the paths were clear. We did not need crampons.

MY EXPERIENCE ON THE MAKALU BASE CAMP TREK

Day one of the Makalu Base Camp Trek begins by immediately dropping down into the humid forest. A series of stone-pathed switchbacks lead us down through quiet villages until we meet the river. It’s here that we cross the suspension bridge draped in Tibetan prayer flags. This crossing marks the halfway point of the first day. The trail now heads uphill gaining 800m of elevation over just a few kilometers to reach Seduwa.

Day two of the trek is a much more timid trek although still gains 650 meters of incline. Through the forest, we continue on the beautifully crafted stone paths. Small villages are spotted along the route. It’s a glimpse into the mountain life of Nepal. Unspoiled by over-tourism, this region has kept much of its charm and traditional culture. The day ends with hundreds of stairs, leading us up to Tashigaon.

Day three of the trek was a rest day in Tashigaon where we charged our gear, washed ourselves and our clothes, and had some intense carD games. The view from the lodge at Tashigaon is incredible, situated on top of the village. This was a sunny day to get ready for a big day of trekking to come.

Day four of the Makalu Basecamp Trek was the toughest. We climbed 1350m of the incline in just seven kilometers. The entire trail was stairway after stairway. Rarely did we find a stretch of flat path. Despite the incline, the trail began to open up with mountain views. The Rhododendron (national flower of Nepal) was in full bloom with white, red, and pink flowers surrounding the trail. It was a tough day on the legs but a nice lodge with a big dining room made for a comfortable end to the day.


Day five brought us into the snow. The trail made its way across three passes, as we entered the mountains. We traversed snow ridges, frozen lakes, and steep downhills as we crossed Chungru La, Shipton La, and Keke La. With clear weather, the first glimpse of Makalu was a morning surprise. We sleep tonight in Dobate, lower than the previous night after a steep descent after the passes.

Day six began with a downhill track into the forest. Rhododendrons surrounded shone in the morning light as we descended down to the Barun River. The path was quite snowy and slippery at times on the steep descent. Once we reached the river, it was a steady incline alongside its raging rapids. With no shade around amidst the dry dusty terrain, this is a hot and exposed section of the trek. The trail began to open up with magnificent views of peaks on the horizon. The highlight to end the day was the Makalu view as we reached Yangle Kharka.

Day seven of the Makalu Base Camp Trek, began as we headed up the hill to Langmale Kharka. This was a shorter day with just 8km of distance and 500m to climb. The scenery becomes grand with towering cliffs on all sides. A magnificent, stone stairway leads trekkers up to the plateau to spend the night at the picturesque lodge.

Day eight is the day we reach Makalu Basecamp. The trail winds alongside the Barun River, often with a rocky path to navigate. 7000m peaks tower over the trail as we follow the glacier up towards our destination. Makalu Basecamp sits right below the mighty Makalu Mountain. A mix of lodging and camping makes it a comfortable place to acclimatize. Unlike some base camps, this has a great view of Mount Makalu and often in the morning, there’s a spectacular view of the clear summit (8,458m).

Day nine is spent at Makalu Base Camp. It can be a rest day our a day to go and hike up onto the nearby slopes. Here you can catch a glimpse of Everest, Lhotse and other surrounding peaks. The climb is slow and steep but very quickly, Everest and Lhotse appear down the end of the glacier. Back at base camp, card games are in full swing and it is a chance to rest the legs before turning around tomorrow to make the long journey back to Num.

I was on my way to climb Makalu, so we continued by trekking up to advanced Makalu Base Camp (5,750m) but for most, this is where the journey ends. Alternatively, you can continue up to the Sherpani Col and cross into the Khumbu region. This is an advanced trek reaching heights of 6000m and involving some basic mountaineering skills and gear.

I hope you enjoyed this guide to the Makalu Base Camp Trek and have a great expedition in Nepal.