6 to 9 September 2023 - Registrations open in January 2023!

Wild Kanchenjunga to Makalu Skydance

Starting 16th October 2022 from Kathmandu, Nepal.

Introduction

A wonderful and adventurous journey along part of the Great Himalaya Trail (GHT), through a still remote, still wild region of the Nepal Himalaya. 

We start in the far east of Nepal in a landscape of lush rain forest and traditional Rai villages, moving quickly north into another world of alpine forests, soaring summits and Tibetan settlements until we reach Kanchenjunga North Base Camp. Here the huge massif of Kanchenjunga (8598m) towers above us, rising up from the borders of Nepal and India. This the world’s third highest mountain is known in Tibetan as ‘the great treasure house of snow’. From the Tibetan village of Ghunsa we pass over the Nango La, which lead us to a series of minor passes to the village of Yangma tucked right in close to the Tibetan border, it will feel like the end of the world! A long day following the Yangma Khola and then eventually climbing along the Tamor river we’ll reach the cobbled village of Olanchungola. Once one of the most remote villages in the Kanchenjunga region it’s now nearly joined up to the south by road to Taplejung, and by road into Tibet (currently a closed border). But for the moment this Tibetan village gives us an incredible opportunity to experience life there as it has always been. Try the tongba (and keep warm by the fire)!! From here our route takes us over the remote Lumbha Sambha pass (5120m) from where we can see an incredible panorama including both Kanchenjunga and Makalu, giving us some idea of the scale of our journey! A magical descent along the Lapsi Khola brings us to the Tibetan village of Thudam. Before covid the village traded with Tibet over the Umbak La (5230m).

beyul, in Tibetan Buddhism, is a hidden valley providing a place of refuge. We’ve been to many places across the Nepal Himalaya but the higher reaches of the Barun valley below the imposing 8485m Makalu present something special that can’t be easily captured in words.

As a supported “fastpack” (see updated definition below!) we’ll carry our own personal gear, with support for the wild camps. We’ll guide you through every step of the way, we’ll organise all transport, food and accommodation, leaving you to focus on your own challenge and your own experience within this shared journey.

This journey offers you a very tangible physical and mental challenge, simply getting from A to B through some of the world’s highest mountains, but in this refuge from your everyday there will also space to reflect. You’ll see things from a different perspective, it will change you!

Trip information

Just click on the links below to jump to that section!

Skydance

Who are you?

Who are we?

Contact us

Dates and cost

Equipment list and joining info

Itinerary

Map

Gallery of photos

Skydance

What’s a “skydance“?

Well, this isn’t a race and this isn’t a traditional trek, it lies somewhere between. Outside of a traditional race format, and as a small group, we have total flexibility over our itinerary, and how far or fast we travel each day, and within the constraints of eventually getting from A to B, we have the freedom to explore. It’s likely we’ll compress several “traditional trekking camps” into one day, but at other times we might decide to stay longer in a village to explore for a day off the main route. We won’t be running but we will be moving fast, with some long days once we are acclimatised. Some might call this fastpacking, but this isn’t quite that either. Jamie McGuiness coined the term “Skypacking”, but it’s something a little different to that too.

And so, it seems, the best way to describe this is as a Skydance. This is how Lizzy termed her original attempt at the Great Himalaya Trail back in 2011. Her intention then was to keep as much as possible to the trails through the highest mountains (a pure route), moving fast and light, with minimal support.

We’ll have support, but the spirit of our journey is the same, to move fast and light through the high mountain terrain between Kanchenjunga and Makalus! Join us for this supported fastpack along Lizzy’s GHT route!

This. Whatever else it becomes, it will be a “beautiful, rough, hard and unforgettable journey”. Not sure yet where this will take me. It is not simply about the physical challenge. This is my ‘kora’, a point to point journey across a country, but circling back to where I start, which is here and now. A journey inward to the core, and a journey outward to the edge of what I know.

Lizzy Hawker, in a facebook post before the start of her 2016 journey along the Great Himalaya Trail crossing Nepal from East to West

Who are you?

You love the mountains and wild places. You’re looking for a beautiful experience and magical journey shared with a small group of like-minded souls. You’re comfortable with doing without luxuries for a while, and you’re excited to have an opportunity to experience the ‘real Nepal’ off the beaten track, and to immerse yourself briefly in the traditional culture of some remote and thriving communities. You’re a runner or a hiker or a mountaineer, and to put it simply you love moving on foot through high mountains.

Bring an adventurous spirit, a sense of humour and a willingness to be challenged. This will be a journey of the mind, heart and spirit as well as a journey for your physical body. You’ll experience life from a different perspective. Be prepared to be changed!

Who are we?

Trip leader

Our journey will be led by Lizzy Hawker. On foot whenever possible, as an elite athlete Lizzy held the world record for 24 hours on the road and won the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc an unprecedented (and unmatched) 5 times. A National Geographic Adventurer of the Year and now race director of the Ultra Tour Monte Rosa her passion for exploring is taking her far beyond competition to high, wild places often alone, and often in Nepal. Lizzy completed the Great Himalaya Trail (GHT) from east to west across Nepal in 2016 and 2017, this route follows the easternmost part of her GHT journey. Her feet and heart know the lie of the land now, this will be her 5th crossing of the remote Lumbha Sambha pass between Kanchenjunga and the Makalu Barun regions (2011, 2016, 2017, 2021). She’ll be happy to guide you through these high mountains, to share her experiences, and to create new memories and new dreams with you on this journey.

The organisers

The journey will be organised by our local partner Hidden Trails Adventures and through Kora Explore GmbH (organiser of the Ultra Tour Monte Rosa and the Kora Explore training camps / running tours). Hidden Trails Adventure is a Nepal based travel company and notably a pioneer of tourism in the Manaslu region. The Hidden Trails team has successfully organised the Manaslu Trail Race since November 2012 and the Mustang Trail Race since April 2013. The team has a wealth of experience in creating beautiful experiences in the high mountains of Nepal and enabling guests to realise their dream journey.

The partnership

Neer Lalit Priya took over directorship of Hidden Trails Adventures in 2016, and Lizzy Hawker has been involved with the Mustang and Manaslu Trail Races first as a participant then as a volunteer since their inception. Neer and Lizzy have now worked together in the high mountains of Nepal for years and are excited for this chance to share some new trails with like-minded souls. To make it all happen they will be supported by the incomparable Ram Khatri (Sirdar), veteran of the war in Iraq and Sirdar for the Manaslu and Mustang races since the beginning, as well as other dedicated staff of the Hidden Trails Adventures team. Having worked together for many years the whole team is happy to welcome you on this new adventure!

Contact us

Write to us at info@koraexplore.com

Dates and cost

The basic trip is from Friday 14th October (arriving Kathmandu) until Wednesday 2nd November (leaving Kathmandu). If you opt for the extension to join Lizzy to Makalu Base Camp then we will reach Kathmandu on Sunday 6th November. If you have extra time before you need to leave we will be more than happy to suggest or organise another tour/excursion for you!

Cost on application, please contact us at info@koraexplore.com. The basic cost will be based on 5 guests, and a sliding scale will be applied for fewer guests. There will be an additional cost for the Makalu extension.

Cost includes: 3 nights accommodation in a quality hotel in Kathmandu on bed and breakfast basis, airport transfer to Kathmandu hotel, welcome dinner in Kathmandu on Saturday 15th October, Kanchenjunga & Makalu Barun Conservation Area Permits and restricted area permits, domestic flights, group transport by jeep, simple accommodation in lodges and homestays, food and group tent for the wild camps.

Cost excludes: International Flights, Medical and Travel Insurance, Nepal Visa, Helicopter evacuation (should be covered by individual medical insurance), while on trek; additional meals, alcohol and bottled drinks, while in Kathmandu; all meals, drinks additional to those provided, Monastery donations, Equipment rental, Tips.

Support: We’d love to invite one or two young Nepalis who dream of a life on the trails (whether running races, or eventually leading treks) to join us and increase their mountain experience. If this works out then part of your registration will fund this and you’ll get to share a lot of time together! Through Kora Explore we already support some families in Ghunsa with educational costs and are hoping to do the same after this trip with our young friend Yangla in the village of Thudam. The concept of sponsorship raises so many questions, but at the same time in certain circumstances a small financial contribution can make a huge difference to a child’s life. If, after your journey, you find you feel moved to help in some way then let us know and we can try to work out what could have the most lasting impact for a child/family/community. On a material level, good shoes and warm clothing (eg duvet jackets) are always in short supply, and if you have anything to bring or leave behind we’ll make sure it gets to someone who can use it!

Equipment list and joining info

Once you register we’ll send you a full list of gear/equipment that you will need to bring. We will also send you the “joining info” which will explain exactly how everything works once you reach Kathmandu airport, including orientating yourself to the craziness of Kathmandu, what happens while we are out in the mountains, and any useful tips that we can think of to tell you in advance!

Insurance

You must have a travel or medical insurance that covers you fully against the costs of helicopter evacuation, hospitalisation, repatriation as required in case of injury or sickness. We will need a copy of your insurance details before you arrive in Kathmandu. Please make sure your policy covers you for trekking up to altitudes of 5200m. Thank you!

Itinerary

Friday 14 October

Arrival in Kathmandu. We will meet you from the airport and provide transport to your hotel in the Lazimpat district of Kathmandu. See the “joining” info on how to orientate yourself to the craziness of Kathmandu. We’ll meet for a group dinner to welcome you and answer any questions or concerns! Lodging: Hotel

Saturday 15 October

We’ll meet after breakfast for a briefing on the adventure ahead and to check kit, answer questions etc. Following this you are free to enjoy the day! We’ll give you some suggestions of how you might like to spend the day, whether that’s gear shopping in Thamel, enjoying a spa or massage, or exploring some of the heritage sites of Pashupatinath, Durbar Square and Swayambunath. We’ll suggest a group visit to Boudhanath in the early evening to make a few koras, set some intentions for the journey ahead, and enjoy a good meal together. Lodging: Hotel

Sunday 16 October

We’ll take an early morning flight from Kathmandu to Suketar (2420m) in the far east of Nepal, and then a jeep to reach Suketham (1660m) just inside the Kanchenjunga Conservation Area. Lodging: Teahouse

Monday 17 October

Suketham to Amjilosa (2510m). Lodging: Teahouse

7.5 km, +875m, -49m

Tuesday 18 October

Amjilosa to Ghunsa (3595m). Lodging: Lodge

17.8 km, + 1294m, -259m

Wednesday 19 October

Rest day in Ghunsa. Acclimatisation hike & monastery visit to Ghunsa Gompa. Lodging: Lodge

Thursday 20 October

Ghunsa to Kangpanchen (4100m) & acclimatisation hike to Jannu Base Camp (4500m). Lodging: Lodge

10.7 km, +750m, -76m; + Jannu hike 9.45 km, +541m, -541m

Friday 21 October

Acclimatisation hike to Lake (5000m). Lodging: Lodge (Kangpanchen)

Saturday 22 October

Kangpanchen to Kanchenjunga (North) Base Camp (5143m). Lodging: Teahouse

17.3 km, +1216m

Sunday 23 October

Kanchenjunga Base Camp to Ghunsa (3595m). Lodging: Lodge

28 km, +75m, -1966m

Monday 24 October

Ghunsa to wild camp (~4800m) via the Nango La (4775m). Lodging: Wild camp / Tent

~12 km, ~+1950m, -~400m

Tuesday 25 October

Wild camp to Yangma. Lodging: homestay

Wednesday 26 October

Yangma to Olanchungola (3191m). Lodging: Lodge

Thursday 27 October

Monastery visit to the Gompa of Olanchungola. Olanchungola to wild camp. Lodging: Wild camp / Tent

Friday 28 October

Wild camp to Thudam (3556m) via the Lumbha Sambha Pass (5195m). Lodging: homestay

Saturday 29 October

Thudam to Chyamtang (2187m). Lodging: Lodge

18 km, +737m, -2035m

Sunday 30 October

Basic: Chyamtang to Gola. Lodging: Tea-house

~30 km

Makalu extension: Chyamtang to Tin Pokhari (~3800m). Lodging: Wild camp / Tent

Monday 31 October

Basic: Jeep from Gola to Tumlingtar. Lodging: Hotel

Makalu extension: Tin Pokhari to Kalo Pokhari (4192m). Lodging: Wild camp / Tent

Tuesday 1 November

Basic: Flight back to Kathmandu. Lodging: Hotel

Makalu extension: Kalo Pokhari to Yangri Kharka (3557m). Lodging: Lodge

Wednesday 2 November

Basic: Transfers to Kathmandu Airport for your international flights.

Makalu extension: Yangri Kharka to Makalu Base Camp (4870m). Lodging: Lodge

The landscape here is impressive, firstly massive cliff walls rising directly from the river valley, but then the character totally changes, and the terrain opens out into high, open mountain land, and the “really” big peaks come into focus. . 

Thursday 3 November

Makalu extension: Spare day just in case! It’s good to keep a day in hand in case the high crossing from Chyamtang takes longer than expected. And otherwise we can take advantage of the opportunity to explore around Makalu Base Camp (how often are you going to be there!), or we just rest there and enjoy the sunshine, or we already can start the downward journey.

Friday 4 November

Makalu extension: Makalu Base Camp to Tashigaon (2100m). Lodging: Lodge

Here is your ultra! The locals walk this in one long and tough day, you can do it too! It will be tough, but full gas, this is our last long day, and good food (and a beer) will await us in Tashigaon!

Saturday 5 November

Makalu extension: Hike Tashigaon to Num (1560m). Num to Tumlingtar by Jeep. Lodging: Hotel

We have an easy half day walk to the Arun Khola (river) followed by a stiff 1-2 hour climb to Num. Here we can take lunch and our waiting jeeps will carry us easily over the about-four-hour-trip back to Tumlingtar. The warmth and thick air of low altitudes will make you feel like you are on holiday, time to relax, review and recover.

Sunday 6 November

Makalu extension: Flight to Kathmandu. Lodging: Hotel

We will take a morning flight to Kathmandu and you’ll have the afternoon to rest or explore some of the iconic sights. We will share a final dinner together at a local restaurant.

Monday 7 November

Departures! Of course if you are staying longer in Nepal then we are happy to give you suggestions or help to arrange a tour or excursion. So many wonderful things to do and we’d love to suggest some great ways to continue to explore this incredible country!

ADVICE: It’s always best to keep an extra “free” day in Kathmandu at the end of your trip in case of domestic flight delays or cancellations.

THANKS: we’d like to sincerely thank Kim Bannister of Kamazang Journeys and Jamie McGuiness of Project Himalaya for advice and sharing their knowledge of the area before, during and since Lizzy’s 2016 GHT journey!

Map