May 6, 2016
So for the past three weeks I have been in Nepal trekking around the Goyko and Khumbu Valley region. The trek was amazing!!
We spent two weeks sojourning through the incredible Himalaya, with special highlights of hiking up Gokyo Ri, crossing the Cho La Pass and sleeping a night at Everest Base Camp with one of the climbing expeditions. Suffice to say it was the most incredible trekking experience I have had to date.
The culmination of the experience though was to be the ascent of the 6,192m Island Peak – a trekking peak in Nepal.
I had done quite a bit of research on the trek but nothing could have prepared me for the actual experience. The route prior to 2015’s devastating earthquake looked relatively straightforward – a crossing over a glacier with a 150m ice / snow headwall climb (at 40-50 degrees) followed by a knife edge summit ridge approach.
All of these characteristics remain, but since the earthquake the glacier has opened up to large and ominous crevasses, which necessitate a ladder crossing. Let’s just say this was frightening, but thanks to our awesome Kandoo Adventures team we managed to all get across safely.
But after the glacier crossing we were faced with a headwall that resembled a crazy patchwork of broken ice, similar to an icefall / not a smooth ice wall!
The change has occurred over the past 12 months due to the earthquake and climate change.
Ascending up this type of surface was extreme and really difficult. Descending was worse. Thankfully our experienced team of climbing sherpa were along each step of the way to make the experience safe. Without them I don’t know how we would have reached the summit ridge, which itself has been sheared and shaved by weather conditions that now mean climbers traverse along the ridge as opposed to walking along it.
All in all, our Island Peak experience was an epic, but very well worth it. We all agreed reaching the summit was the hardest thing we have ever done, but by far the most rewarding.
All I recommend to future trekkers is that they have some climbing experience before taking on Island Peak. It is most certainly not a trek. You need to be comfortable wearjng and walking in crampons and using a jumar to ascend a steep ice wall, that is completely broken in places. You also need to be able to abseil or rappel down a steep face.
We used the amazing Kandoo Adventures to get us to the top of Island Peak – check them out here: http://www.kandooadventures.com/himalaya-trekking/routes/everest-treks/island-peak/. This free guide site also gave me some great Island Peak information
So after a 10 year hiatus from playing golf, I recently got back into the game. And now I’m addicted again!
For some weird reason I started playing golf when I was 12 years old. If I recall correctly we had a student living with us at the time and he was really into golf. One day he invited me to the driving range and the rest is history. I was hooked!
I quickly became a decent golfer and by the age 15 I was playing in competitions for my province and had made the first team at my school … which was a big deal as most of the other players were 17 or 18 years old.
But when I turned 18 and discovered partying, girls and alcohol, I slowly lost interest in spending 5-6 hours of my saturday hitting a small white ball around a very big field. By the time I was 23 and left South Africa I had all but given up golf. In fact when I left SA I didn’t even take my golf clubs – they are still stored in my parents garage!
But recently I was invited on a golfing weekend with some colleagues. Initially I was apprehensive. “Would I still be able to hit the ball?” “Am I going to make a fool of myself?” “Would I still have the touch around the greens?”
I quickly got over myself and said Yes!
Well, the long and short of it was that it was an amazing weekend of golfing in Spain. What an incredible destination with awesome golf courses. From the moment I stepped up to the first tea and made contact with the ball I knew I was hooked again. Sure I was a little rusty, particularly around the greens, but I still had the ball striking and long game to carry me through.
On the last day I broke 80, which was a major surprise. My colleagues now think I’m a complete ringer.
So I’m back into the game! Now I need to get all the golf equipment, which ain’t cheap and sign up for a golf membership.
Off to the driving range I go!
August 28, 2015
Famous for its trekking, the mountains of Nepal attract thousands of hikers a year. The two most popular regions in Nepal to trek are, by far, the Everest region and the Annapurna region. Both regions offer several trekking route options that all offer something different and unique. This article is going to look briefly at each option and what you can expect on the trek.
Everest Base Camp
Drawing over 30,000 trekkers a year, the Everest Base Camp trek is by far the most popular trek in Nepal. Following in the footsteps of Hillary and Tenzing, you arrive in Lukla and follow the Khumbu valley trail towards Base Camp. Your trek takes you past Sherpa villagers, cultivated fields, stunning vistas and up onto the peak of Kala Patthar where you will get the best view of Everest in the region! The trek culminates at Base Camp where you can get some close up views of the infamous Khumbu Icefall.
Gokyo Lakes Trek
This is a great option for trekkers that want a slightly longer route. The Gokyo Lakes trek is far less crowded and really allows you to get off the beaten path. There are three holy lakes that are a beautiful emerald green and reflect the surrounding mountains like a mirror – beautiful. Not only do you get the stunning lakes but you also pass over the dramatic Cho La pass which gives you some incredible vistas.
Annapurna Circuit trek
Described as one of the best treks in the world, the Annapurna Circuit trek is a truly once in a life-time experience and should not be missed. Beginning at Besi Sahar the trek rambles along through meadows in sub-tropical conditions before rising into the higher alpine section and then passing over the famous Thorung La pass with its stunning vistas. You then descend down into the more arid region of Mustang before continuing back to your start point.
Poon Hill trek
The Poon Hill trek is an ideal option for beginner trekkers or trekkers that have less time on their hands. Poon Hill trek consists of a small circular rout that takes you to the summit of Poon Hill where you are rewarded with incredible views of the Annapurnas, Dhaulagiri and Machhapuchchre.
Annapurna Sanctuary trek
This beautiful lodge-based trek takes you up to the summit of Poon Hill on the same route as the Poon Hill trek where you get the amazing vista views of the surrounding landscape. It then takers you down into the deep valley where you follow the river along with towering mountain on either side of you forming the ‘sanctuary’.
August 1, 2015
The famous Inca Trail is one of the most iconic hiking routes in the world. However, this is not the only route up to Machu Picchu as we will discuss here.
Firstly, of course, is the Inca Trail itself. This route is so popular that it can only be completed with a licensed trekking company. There are a limited amount of permits each day and these book out fast – so make sure you book at least 4 months in advance!
There are three Inca Trail routes. The first is the ‘classic’ Inca Trail which takes 4 days and covers a distance of 45km.
The second is the ‘short’ Inca Trail route. This only takes two days and covers a distance of 13km.
The third is known as the ‘Salkantay’ or ‘combo’ route. This is the longest route and takes 6 days with a distance of 65km.
Read about the Inca and their trails here.
Alternative Machu Picchu Routes
Now that we have covered the most popular routes let’s look at the lesser known routes to Machu Picchu.
The little known ‘Lares’ trek is a 4 day long hike that covers a distance of 33km. This trek is a great way to meet the locals and immerse yourself in the local culture.
The most popular non-Inca route is probably the ‘Salkantay’ trek. This is a 5 day trek over 55km and offers up incredible scenery allowing you to get close and personal with Nevada Salkantay!
Another trek for the thrill seekers is the Inca ‘Junge’ trek. This is a great downhill cycle trek – incredibly fast (60km) and nice easy walking trek (15km).
The ‘Choquequirao’ trek is a very versatile hike and can be shortened or lengthened at will. At its longest it’s a 65km 9 day trek that runs past the impressive Choquequirao ruins.
The ‘Huchuy Qosko’ trek is a fairly short 3 day trek over 20km. This short trek has great scenery and passes by the Huchuy Qosko ruins which a worth a visit!
The last route is the ‘Vilcabamba’ trek. This particular trek would suit experienced hikers and is probably the toughest trek up to Machu Picchu. 62km over 5 days, the trail is beautiful and diverse.
Click here to find out more on Machu Picchu treks or check out this Machu Picchu online guide.
July 13, 2015
Are you travelling to Kilimanjaro to climb the Roof of Africa?
If so you are probably wondering what is the best way to get to Kilimanjaro. This question is obviously highly dependent on where you are coming from.
In this short article we have set out how you can get to Kilimanjaro from most of the main hubs around the world.
The most convenient and closest airport to the mountain for trekkers is Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO), which is situated just south-west of the National Park, and approx. 1 hour from Arusha and Moshi.
Unfortunately there are not many direct flights to Kilimanjaro airport, and none from the US or UK.
The most convenient way of getting to Kilimanjaro if you are flying from the UK, US or Europe is to go via Amsterdam, and then catch a direct flight to Kilimanjaro International Airport via KLM. This flight leaves Amsterdam in the mid morning and gets to Kili around 8pm.
If this flight doesn’t work for you there are two more direct flights from the Northern Hemisphere – one departs from Doha, using Qatar Airways and the other from Istanbul on Turkish Airlines. The latter doesn’t leave everyday and departs and arrives at unsociable hours – 2am and 3am respectively.
If you are willing to fly to Kilimanjaro International Airport indirectly then you could look at flights via Nairobi in Kenya or Addis Adaba in Ethiopia. There are flights with Kenya Airways and Ethiopian Airways that fly from many of the world’s major hub airports to these destinations. Once here you can catch a connecting flight using Precision Air of Kanya Airways to Kilimanjaro.
From the United Kingdom, you can also get a British Airways flight to Nairobi.
Please be aware though that flights via Nairobi and Addis Adaba often suffer from delays, which can mean you miss your Kilimanjaro trek date. Also there are frequent reports of lost or delayed baggage so make sure you wear your key equipment, like your hiking boots and jacket, and carry some of your key information in your carry on luggage.
You can find complete information on how to get to Kilimanjaro on this page.
If you are still looking for a tour operator, I recommend Kandoo Adventures.
March 31, 2015
When pondering what to pack for a trek to Everest Base Canp or on the Annapurna Circuit, clothing should be addressed separately. Your possessions, all told, should amount to no more than 33-and-a-bit lbs when flying to Lukla or Pokhara. When you see the planes and the airport, you will appreciate why. So avoid overpacking. This is recommended by TAAN.
Inevitably, you will go for days between showers and you will perspire (horses sweat, gentlemen perspire and ladies glow). You must accept that you will smell somewhat “fruity,” which is easier considering that everybody else will, too. The necessary toiletries are hand sanitiser, shampoo, soap, toothbrush and toothpaste, a razor for males, deodorant, SPF50 sun cream, wet wipes because water will be too cold for washing, a generous supply of toilet paper considering that there is little chance of finding any at a tea house, and a small medical kit. This latter should include ibuprofen, imodium, nail clippers, neosporin, plasters, surgical tape and diamox for altitude sickness. 12 diamox tablets can be purchased in Kathmandu for around $4, which is rather less than the cost of a prescription in the United Kingdom. When performing your ablutions, you will of course require a towel, which should be quick-dry.
In the way of electronics, you are likely to feel the need for an iPad for uploading photos, an iPhone which will function periodically, headphones, a camera and chargers. You will save yourself some money if you have a solar-powered battery pack rather than a charger.
A Steripen for water purification is a very good idea, as water purification tablets usually take half an hour and have such a lovely taste. You will need a small bag which will be carried by your porter, a daypack with cover you will carry and two water bottles of which one is Nalgene style for easy Steripen purification and one Swix style which is metal and can be taken to bed, heated. It is also wise to bring a Camelbak that fits inside your daypack and enables hands-free hydration. A sleeping bag liner or silk sleep sheet will prevent blankets or a sleeping bag from reeking to excess. Undertaking a mid-night bathroom run and reading after lights-out are occasions when you will feel the need for a headlamp, and the former will surely come to pass owing to that confection of mountain air and diamox tablets. A book and playing cards will keep you occupied of an evening. You will wish to have a written record of your doings, so bring a journal and pen.
On a final note, chocolate, granola or energy bars will provide a mid-hike power boost. Trekking poles will be a lifesaver during steep ascents. A face mask will be useful – the trek can be dusty.
Here is a link to a brilliant Annapurna Circuit Packing List, and here is another link to a great Everest Base Camp Packing List.
December 24, 2014
Ray Jardine is the famed and highly-opinionated US rock climber who, with his companion, was the first to free climb the West Face of El Capitan in Yosemite Valley and designed and produced a kind of spring-loaded camming device that revolutionised rock climbing in the late 1970s. He is against the use of trekking poles, considering them unnecessary given correct training and exercise and less important than an umbrella.
Many Inca Trail guides, however, disagree, as do innumerable books. You may start out regarding hiking poles as goofy, but once converted, you would probably take them with you to the supermarket if only your spouse would allow it. Purchasing poles can be injurious to your pocket if you opt for sophisticated, height-adjustable poles constructed from lightweight (= costly) composite substances.
Rather than being just another way to sell more gear, hiking poles have been used by travellers for centuries. They were “multi-tools” before the term was invented. They can be used to pitch a shelter, probe stream crossings or defend against wild animals and bandits (perhaps not an issue on the Inca Trail). No woodsman would ever be without one. They can be hired, although in such a case, they will not be in an immaculate state. Trekkers often concede that they will use poles when their back, knees, legs or whatever gets worse, but prevention in such a key respect is massively better than cure.
There are downsides to sticks. Firstly, they represent extra weight. Ski poles are on the US Transportation Security Agency’s list of items prohibited as carry-on luggage. Also, umbrellas are indispensable on the Inca Trail, but it would be awkward to combine the use of one and a stick and no umbrella will last long if used as a stick. Similarly, you may wish to keep your hands free to use a camera and you will certainly need to do so to use handholds on rockfaces or a map. At least you will have no need for an ice axe. You should devote some attention to walking technique when using poles, as detailed at Peter Clinch’s Hiking Poles Page. Failure to do so could reduce the poles’ effectiveness.
One factor concerning poles that is oft-neglected is they they require more kundlini, or energy, if you can’t speak Sanskrit. Yours arms were not designed to prop you up, so they perform this task inefficiently. But while more energy is used, by creating more contact points, the load is more evenly spread around your body and your legs are not doing all the work. It all depends on whether you have more concern for your knees or your whole body.
The upside of sticks is that they improve your balance and reduce the load on your knees by as much as 25 percent. They are indispensable for people with knee problems. The steeper a hill, the more welcome will be poles, as they will put you into 4×4 mode to work against gravity. They greatly assist in tackling vast sets of Incan stairs, and will be 1,500 of those along the way. They help you to balance on climbs and water crossings. They are like having a handrail all along the trail. They are a godsend when the terrain is wet, rocky or slippery and guides speak of “ankle-breakers” and “knee-destroyers.” The terrain of the Inca Trail is sufficiently rugged to make hiking poles or merely a stick close to a necessity.
On a final note, trekking poles with metal tips are not permitted on the Inca Trail because they damage it. They loosen the soil, and farmers have long known that loosened soil erodes faster than compacted soil, which is why farmers often prefer “no till” or at least a minimum of it. Rubber tips can be purchased from any camping shop. This is an important point: poles are the first thing inspected at checkpoints after your permit and passport.
For a complete packing list see: http://www.machupicchutrek.net/inca-trail-packing-list-machu-picchu/
September 19, 2014
The Incas built Machu Picchu in the 1450s. Archaeologists believe the site was built as an estate for the Inca Emperor of that time, Pachacuti, but was almost certainly abandoned a century later due to the Spanish Conquest.
The conquistadors never discovered the city and it was only 4 centuries later that an American Historian, Hiram Bingham, discovered the site in 1911.
Since then the site has grown in popularity and today is the most visited tourist destination in Peru.
There are a number of trekking options to Machu Picchu. The most popular is the Inca Trail which in fact consists of three overlapping trails – the Mollepata, Classic and One Day. Mollepata is the longest of the treks, followed by the Classic. They start either at the 82 km or 88 km mark (distance from Cusco) and follow either a 4 or 5 day itinerary to Machu Picchu, ending at the Sun Gate. The shorter trek begins at the 104 km mark. Altitudes on the trek exceed 4,200 meters, which is considered to be very high and can result trekkers experiencing altitude sickness symptoms.
The Salkantay is fast becoming a popular route due to its diverse and beautiful setting. The Route traverses the Salkantay Mountain (20,500 feet high) and continues along the Mollepata Valley to Aguas Callientes. From here trekkers catch an early bus to Machu Picchu (before non-trekking tourists arrive).
The Lares Trail is great for the rugged trekker that wants to avoid the crowds on the Inca trail and get a good feel of the local communities that inhabit this region of the Andes. The route is relatively tough so not for the faint hearted.
The Vilcabamba is a fantastic, but tough trek. It follows a path to the real ‘Lost City of the Incas’, Vilcambaba, crossing a number of high passes (the highest being 4,500 meters) before descending to Aguas Callientes where trekkers sleep the night before an earlier departure to Machu Picchu.
For more information on the Machu Picchu Trek click here or read this great information site.
August 2, 2014
Trekking Kilimanjaro soon? Here I suggest using our list below to gather all the Kilimanjaro gear you needs. It is totally based on my experience on Kilimanjaro, as well as some online research.
Here is my super duper Kilimanjaro packing list
Don’t over-pack: Pack only what you actually require, and not anything else. Many people take way too much stuff – this makes your big heavy for porters and is unnecessary. Technically, you are only allowed to take 15 kilograms up the mountain anyway otherwise you will have to pay for an extra porter.
Many trekkers go to the beach or on Safari after trekking Kilimanjaro, don’t be tempted to take beach towels and other unrelated gear you brought for Zanzibar / Serengeti up on the mountain. Just the once it is soaked it would not dried out yet again in addition to you just do not require it. You can leave these items at your hotel and collect them after your trek / climb
Get some clothes pegs or extra strong clips. Then you can affix stuff to the outside of your pack throughout the daylight hours, to dry in the sun
Socks: you can clean them at nighttime as well as dried up them on the exterior of your pack throughout the day, or else by packaging them around a hot water bottle at nighttime
Water bottles: yet if you sketch to use a camel back while mountaineering, do get at least one bottle that can be able to twice as a hot water bottle. It is huge in the sleeping bag at nighttime all along with can also help out to get the moisture out of the clothes you have been wearing throughout the day. Just wrap them around the bottle and put the lot in the bottom of your sleeping bag.
Layering up your clothes: Confirm you can dress in all your clothes on top of each other: two pairs of thermals, next the thick fleece over the thin fleece in addition to your windbreaker or down jacket over the top of that. Similar with the pants… You will have to wear every piece of warm clothing on the summit night.
Do not expose your water bottle to the exterior throughout summit night – it will freeze. Protect the bottle by using clothing / socks as a insulator
Acquire high-quality batteries like Duracell for higher altitude. Duracell are the only batteries that will work at the summit temperature that you are bound to experience. Never use rechargeable batteries, as these do not work under freezing point.
Throughout the hike to the summit take your camera and batteries and keep them near to your body to so that they stay warm. I recommend using a GoPro camera. See here to know why: http://www.climbkilimanjaroguide.com/gopro-kilimanjaro/
You will require taking sufficient money for tipping your guides plus porters, other than leave all additional valuables in the hotel safe, and make sure to get a written receipt for it.
For more info, recommendations and reviews click here
Wiki Kilimanjaro info
August 1, 2014
Okay, so you are planning to trek Kilimanjaro. That’s awesome and an undeniably incredible and admirable pursuit. I mean, it is the highest mountain on the African continent and one of the Seven Summits.
But have you thought about your travel insurance needs for trekking Kilimanjaro. Probably not.
Don’t worry, lots of people forget that they should be insured, especially when travelling in a developing country like Tanzania and putting yourself at high altitude.
The latter should be your first concern.
In this brief article I have summarized key information you should know about getting the right insurance for Kilimanjaro. You can drive down into more detail on Kilimanjaro travel insurance here.
Kilimanjaro travel insurance – key info
1. Your insurance policy needs to cover your for hiking up to 6,000 meters. Yes, Kilimanjaro’s summit is at 5,895 meters, so your policy needs to cover you above that level. Most standard travel insurance does not include this unusual requirement. You should ask your insurance provider to confirm that your policy covers you up to that level.
2. Your insurance policy needs to cover you for theft, loss or damage to your valuables. As you will flying there is always a possibility that your baggage can get lost of damage. Moreover, travelling in a developing country like Tanzania comes with theft risks as well. Make sure you check with your insurance provider what your cover is like for lost, stolen or damage baggage. There will likely be some excess and a limit on the cover unless you have very expensive valuables, in which case your premium will increase
3. Your policy should also cover you for emergency medical or evacuation costs. If you get injured on the mountain you will need to be evacuated and this can be costly. Moreover proper treatment in Tanzania can come at a considerable cost. Make sure your policy includes emergency medical and evacuation cover
4. Finally cover for trip cancellation, delay, interruption and any tour operator financial default is important as these risks carry a moderate probability of occurring. Most standard travel insurance packages include cover for these elements, but always worth checking
That’s it for the key information on insurance for Kilimanjaro. the most important one to remember is that the policy needs to cover you up to 6,000 meters trekking (this usually doesn’t include mountaineering – so if you are planning to climb with ropes you will needs additional insurance cover).
Here are some useful links to further reading:
Detailed Kilimanjaro Insurance Information
Interesting forum discussion
Travel Insurance comparison