Makalu, a stunning 4-sided pyramid, stands isolated on the Nepali-Tibetan border, close to and easily visible from Mt. Everest and the Khumbu Valley, but far away from the common tourist treks and climbs.
For years, Makalu has seen few ascents and only non-commercial teams. The difficult and long trek into Makalu base camp was one reason for this. With the aid of pre-acclimatization and helicopters, we now avoid this trek and immediately access the stellar climbing on Makalu itself. From Advanced Base Camp at the foot of Makalu’s glaciers, we progressively place camps and ascend on Makalu’s slopes. The other exciting aspect of climbing Makalu is the lack of crowds. While we expect to share the mountain with other teams, they will generally be small and strong. This gives us support on the mountain in establishing the route and ropes, but avoids any overcrowding common on other 8,000 meter peaks.
Makalu Expedition Itinerary
- Day 1
Arrive in Kathmandu, Nepal
Today you’ll arrive in Kathmandu and transfer to our hotel, and begin the process of getting over jet lag.
- Day 2
After settling in from our travels, we explore some of Kathmandu’s most famous sites. These include Swayambhu (the Monkey Temple), Pashupati (Nepal’s largest Hindu temple), Boudhanath (Kathmandu’s most important Buddhist temple) and the old city’s original central square, Durbar. We also have our first team meeting, and organize our equipment.
- Day 3
Fly to Pheriche
Today we’ll make our way into the Khumbu, taking a heli flight from Kathmandu to the village of Pheriche. After settling in, we’ll make a quick trek in the afternoon for some fitness and added acclimatization.
- Day 4
Trek to Chukkung
We’ll continue working our way deeper into the mountains, trekking up the Chukkung Valley to the small village of Chukhung. At 15,400’, Chukhung will serve as our last stop before we fly to the Advanced Base Camp on Makalu. After finishing our trek, we’ll rest and prepare for our hike up Chukhung Ri (18,238’) in the morning.
- Day 5
Climb Chukhung Ri
An early morning will see us trek to the summit of Chukhung Ri, a 18,238’ peak above the village of Chukhung. The non-technical peak will give us a chance to touch 18k and recover by sleeping low before heading to Makalu tomorrow. After finishing up the trek, we’ll pack and prepare for our Heli flight to Advanced Base Camp in the morning.
- Day 6
Fly to Advanced Base Camp
The time has come to reach our objective. A quick and stunning Heli flight from Chukhung will see us arrive to ABC at 18,600’. We’ll spend the day settling into our new home for the next 29 days.
- Day 7 & 8
Rest/Acclimatize in ABC
We’ll spend the next two days acclimatizing while we take in the magnitude and beauty of the mountain that we are about to attempt.
- Day 9
Climb to Camp 1
After completing our Puja Ceremony asking the mountain for permission to climb its slopes, we’ll start our first acclimatization rotation by making our way up to Camp 1 at 20,300’, 6,300m. After departing ABC, we make our way up a rocky moraine before reaching the start of the glacier. The glacier here is low-angle and makes for easy climbing.
Climbing Makalu, however, is no easy feat, as proven by the steeper ice and snow wall that we’ll climb via fixed lines just before reaching C1. We’ll reach camp shortly after climbing the steep ice and snow section. It will take us 4-6 hours to climb the +1,700′ to C1 today
- Day 10
Acclimatize in C1
We’ll spend the day resting and acclimatizing in C1.
- Day 11
Touch C2 & Descend to ABC
After spending two nights acclimatizing in C1, we’ll cross a gentle sloping glacier and touch Camp 2 at 21,650’ before descending back down to ABC, marking the end of our first acclimatization rotation. The day will see us climb +1,350′ and descend nearly 3,000′.
- Day 12 & 13
Rest in ABC
We’ll spend the next two days resting and preparing to make our second acclimatization rotation
- Day 14
Climb to C1
Today we’ll start our second and final acclimatization rotation as we make our way back up the low angle glacier before once again climbing the steep ice and snow section to C1. We’ll move quicker this time around having made the same climb only a few days prior.
- Day 15
Climb to C2
We’ll spend the day retracing our steps towards Camp 2, as we cross the broad glaciated slopes before reaching camp for the night at 21,650’.
- Day 16
Touch 23,300′ & Descend to C1
Following the age old technique of “climbing high and sleeping low”, today we’ll make our the high point of our acclimatization rotations before our final summit push. After a nights rest at C2, we’ll climb towards Makalu La and C3, climbing to at least 23,300’. Having reached 23,300’, we’ll turn around and descend to C1. We’ll climb for 6-8 hours climbing +1,650′ and descending over 3,000′.
- Day 17
Descend to ABC
Today we’ll make the descent to ABC, wrapping up our final acclimatization rotation.
- Day 18-21
Rest in ABC/Prepare for Summit Bid
We’ll spend the next four days resting and watching the weather as we prepare to start our bid for the summit of the 5th tallest peak in the world.
- Day 22
Climb to C1
After three weeks, the time to start our journey to the summit of Makalu. We’ll start by climbing the now familiar gentle slopes to the steep ice section that protects C1. We’ll climb this steep section for a third and final time, as we arrive at the first of three camps on our way to the summit.
- Day 23
Climb to C2
A quick and easy day will see us cross the glacier to C2 for the third time. Tomorrow we’ll push up to C3 and our new high point on the mountain.
- Day 24
Climb to C3
Utilizing oxygen from here on out to maximize success and safety, we’ll continue onward up the mountain. An early morning will see us start climbing the steep snow slopes as we make the long climb to the Makalu La and C3. The will be a long and hard day, but spectacular views of the summit and the rest of our route will give us the stoke to push on to C4 in the morning.
- Day 25
Today is the day, your years of preparation and hard work are about to pay off. An early alpine start will see us climbing well before the sun rises, as we charge towards the summit of Makalu. We’ll make a quick traverse to Camp 4, and continue on as we climb moderate glacial slopes to the French Couloir. The couloir is steep and entails crossing small rock bands interspersed with snow climbing. From the top of the couloir we follow the exposed ridge on rock past the false summit and to the top of the world’s fifth tallest mountain.Standing at 27,766’, 8,463m, the views from the summit are unparalleled. Kanchenjunga rises in the east, Shishapangma in the west, and the mighty Everest to the Northwest.
From the summit, we’ll descend back to C2. The summit day on Makalu is a big push, taking 14-18 hours and seeing us gain +3,300’ and lose another 6,000’.
- Day 26
Descend to ABC
From C2, we’ll descend the gradual slopes to C1 and past the steep snow and ice section for the final time on our way back down to ABC. Once in ABC we’ll celebrate our successful summit of the 5th tallest peak in the world.
- Day 27-32
These are extra days to use for weather delays, acclimatization, etc.
- Day 33
Pack Up Camp
After celebrating our summit and getting some much needed rest, we’ll spend the day preparing to catch our Heli out of camp tomorrow morning.
- Day 34
Fly to Kathmandu
Today we’ll say our goodbyes to the slopes on Makalu, as we catch a helicopter ride from ABC back to Kathmandu, marking the end of our adventure on the 5th tallest peak in the world.
- Day 35
Today you’ll depart Kathmandu for home.
We recommend a tight-fitting balaclava that is worn under your hat. Make sure that it covers as much skin as possible, but is comfortable enough to wear for hours.
Recommended: Black Diamond Coefficient LT Balaclava
A comfortable, warm well-fitting hat that covers your ears. Make sure that one of your hats fits under a helmet.
Recommended: Black Diamond Levels Beanie
These will be worn on stormy or windy days. Make sure you are getting a snug fit with lenses for bright sun. Ventilation and anti-fog features are desired.
Recommended: Vuarnet Everest Goggles
Bring your favorite baseball hat for shelter from the sun. No white under the brim – the reflection off of it from the sun is blinding.
Recommended: Alpenglow Hat
Neck Gaiter (Buff)
A multi-purpose neck gator that can also be worn under your hat. Make sure that it covers as much skin as possible and yet is still comfy.
Recommended: Alpenglow Buff
Must have dark lenses. Minimal light should come in below, above, or around the sides of the lenses.“Wrap” style is best. Ventilation is important and a retainer strap is very useful (Chums or Croakies).
Recommended: Vaurnet Ice Rounds
These gloves should be full GORE-TEX®, with a removable fleece liner (so you can take the liner out and dry it at night). These gloves are used at higher altitudes and are needed to keep your hands dry, and warm. Over the cuff style is desired.
Recommended: Black Diamond Guide Gloves
All-around gloves for mountaineering, backcountry skiing, and hiking. These gloves (and similar options) are warm, wind-resistant, durable and have a sure grip. You will rarely take these gloves off. They should be snug-fitting, and have some sort of reinforced palm.
Recommended: Black Diamond Tour Gloves
These gloves should be full GORE-TEX®, and insulated. These will be the workhorse glove for any expedition.
Recommend: Black Diamond Mission MX Gloves
Big Mountain Mitts
These mittens should be warm and worn over either a liner glove or a windstopper glove. Down mittens are not required. You should choose a pair that allows you to still operate locking carabiners.
Recommended: Black Diamond Absolute Mitts
A super-thin wicking sock that repels moisture. Liner socks help to reduce the likelihood of blisters. The socks should be thin wool, nylon, or Capilene®. NO COTTON
Recommended: Ice Breaker Merino Liner
A wool synthetic blend. Pure rag wool socks are not nearly as effective in wicking moisture or retaining their shape and reducing blisters. Bring a few pairs of these socks. NO COTTON.
Recommended: Darn Tough Mountaineering Sock
These light to mid-weight shoes are for everyday use. The ideal shoe is comfortable to wear for multiple days and scrambles decently on rock. A Gore-tex lined shoe stays drier when hiking in rain or snow.
Recommended: La Sportiva TX Guide
Mountaineering Boots (8,000m)
Fully insulated, double boots with an integrated gaiter. These boots are essential for 8000-meter peaks
Recommended: La Sportiva Olympus Mons
Mountaineering Boots (5,000 – 6,000m)
Should be warm single or double boots that have a stiff sole and accept a step-in crampon. The boots should be comfortable, have adequate wiggle room for your toes, and your heel should not lift more than 1/8th of an inch when walking. (If your feet run cold, we would recommend a double boot like the La Sportiva G2 Evo.) For our Introductory Climbing Schools, we have limited availability and sizes for free boot rentals. If you need rentals, please reach out to the office staff asap to ensure we have your size.
Recommended: La Sportiva G5 Evo
You’ll love having a warm, comfortable shoe to slip into when tent-bound. These are optional, but nice to have.
Recommended: Western Mountaineering Flash Down Booties
Your everyday sock, good for day hikes, trekking, and in-town. It’s good to bring several pairs of these socks. NO COTTON.
Recommended: Darn Tough Hiking Sock
Ultra-light base layer that effectively wicks moisture away from your body and is breathable. Quick-dry is important as well. One light-colored shirt is recommended for extremely sunny days.
Recommended Men’s: Black Diamond Lightwire Short Sleeve
Recommended Women’s: Black Diamond Lightwire Short Sleeve
Mid-Weight Puffy Jacket
Hard Shell Jacket
Expedition-Weight Base Layer
Fitted, light-weight and quick drying. The mid-weight will be a base- layer that will get you through a wide range of temperatures. Bring multiple changes of layers.
Recommended Men’s: Black Diamond Mens Solution 150 Merino Bottoms
Recommended Women’s: Black Diamond Women’s Solution 150 Merino Bottoms
Full-length side zippers are recommended, for throwing on top of all of your layers.
Recommended: Black Diamond Stance Belay Pant
Climbing Pack: 50-60L
Internal frame pack that is between 50 and 60 liters. Either purchase a matching pack cover, or use garbage bags as liners. Make sure the pack is fitted to YOUR body.
Recommended: Black Diamond Speed 50L Pack
Mid-size pack for city days and trekking. Streamlined, neat and lightweight (10-20 liters).
Recommended: Black Diamond Bullet 16 Pack
2 Duffle Bags – At least one bag should be extremely durable, waterproof, and big – between 90L and 120L. You should feel comfortable leaving it in a puddle for several hours. Remember dry clothes are hot commodities in the mountains! Large enough to fit everything you own, plus what you anticipate buying. Two duffel bags are necessary to fit all your equipment for travel (we don’t recommend checking your backpack, best is to put all gear and backpack into your duffle). Once in country, you can consolidate your gear into one duffel and your backpack. It’s common to leave the second duffel with city clothes and other non-necessary items behind in a locked and secure location that your guide will arrange for you.
Note: For ski expeditions such as the Ecuador Ring of Fire, you can replace one of these duffle bags with a ski/splitboard bag.
Recommended: Black Diamond Stonehauler 90L
Should carry 70-100 ounces. Must be durable and have a reliable closure system. Recommended: MSR Dromlite 2L with Hydration Tube
Inflatable Sleeping Pad
72-inch long inflatable pad required. Make sure you also purchase and bring a repair kit + bag for the sleeping pad.
Recommended: NeoAir Xtherm
L.E.D. headlamps are required. Make sure they have 3+ bulbs. Bring extra batteries. We highly recommend a tilting lamp.
Recommended: Black Diamond Storm 450
Sleeping Bag (-30°)
Rated to -30º F to -40º F. Choose an 800+ Fill Premium Goose Down bag. Make certain that the sleeping bag is the right length. DON’T FORGET A COMPRESSION SACK FOR THE SLEEPING BAG. Many climbers also like a silk liner.
Granite Gear Compression Sack is desired.
Recommended: Eddie Bauer Kara Koram with Compression Sack
These gloves keep the inside of your mitts or other gloves from accumulating sweat on the inside and turning inside out when you take them off, as well as provide additional insulation.
Recommended: Black Diamond Lightweight Wooltech Gloves
Plastic Bowl, Mug, and Spoon
A lightweight and compact cookware setup. You’ll want a plastic bowl, mug and spoon.
Recommended Kit: MSR 2-Person Mess Kit
Two 1L Nalgene Bottles
Two 1 Liter Wide Mouth Nalgene bottles.
Recommended: Nalgene 1 L wide mouth
Compressible 1-1.5L Bottle
Wide mouth compressible 1-1.5 liter bottle. Optional but strongly recommended. Often used as a designated pee bottle.
Recommended: Nalgene Flexible Cantene
While Alpenglow provides hot drink options every morning, it can be nice to have your own on hand any time you need a boost. With hot water always readily available, having instant coffee packets can give you the energy you need after a long day in the mountains!
Recommended: Alpine Start Original Blend Instant Coffee
2 BIC Lighters
A fully insulated thermos is optional but recommended for warm drinks that help with comfort, hydration, and safety on cold days in the mountains.
Recommended: Thermos STAINLESS KING™ DRINK BOTTLE 24OZ
An easily adjustable lightweight helmet that fits with hat and Balaclava. Make sure this is a climbing-specific helmet. *Climbing helmets are also available to rent (for our introductory climbing courses) at no charge from Alpenglow Expeditions on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Recommended: Black Diamond Vision Helmet – MIPS
Must have belay loop, gear loops and adjustable leg loops so that you can layer up underneath it. Easy to pack, lightweight + comfortable. *Harnesses are also available to rent (for our introductory climbing courses) at no charge from Alpenglow expeditions on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Recommended: Black Diamond Couloir
Steel crampons with anti-balling plates are required (so that snow does not build-up in the base of your foot). Make sure that crampons have a heel bail and that they fit snugly on your ski or snowboard boots. Crampons are available to rent (for our introductory climbing courses) at no charge from Alpenglow Expeditions on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Recommended: Black Diamond Sabretooth Crampons
General Mountaineering Axe
One non-technical climbing axe. The tool should be approx. 55cm- 65cm long and comfortable to hold. *Ice axes are also available to rent (for our introductory climbing courses) at no charge from Alpenglow expeditions on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Recommended: Black Diamond Raven Pro Ice Axe
Locking Carabiner (2)
Small, lightweight locking carabiners are best.
Recommended: Black Diamond LiteForge Screwgate
Non-locking Carabiner (2)
Small, lightweight small carabiners are best, wire-gates are fine.
Recommended: Black diamond HotForge Carabiner
Light, easy to use + simple. Should have teeth/grooves for skinny ropes.
Recommended: Black Diamond ATC Alpine Belay Device
25’ of 6mm nylon accessory cord. This will be used to make prusiks and cordalettes.
Recommended: Sterling Ropes
Should have a large opening for gloved hands, and an easy thumb trigger.
Recommended: Black Diamond Index Ascender
A digital transceiver that is simple to use or that you are extremely comfortable using.
Recommended: Black Diamond Recon Avalanche X Beacon
- Passport (with visa, if necessary)
- 2 luggage locks (TSA compliant)
- Non-cotton underwear
- Wag bags, 1 per night camping as to leave no trace
- Stuffsacks: assorted sizes, for organizing your clothes and gear
- Sunscreen: SPF 30 (or higher)
- Lip balm with SPF 15 (or higher)
- Personal first-aid kit (Band-aids, Ibuprofen, Cough Drops, Moleskin, Pepto-bismol, Imodium, Personal Medications)
- 3-4lbs of Snack food (a variety of snack food, some whole food, some bars, some gels)
- Hand Warmers
- Face Mask
- Hand Sanitizer
Alpenglow is the best
“I’ve been climbing with Alpenglow for over ten years. After my first expedition, I knew I’d found the best team. I feel like I’m a member of the Alpenglow family, and have come to know and love many of their guides, office staff, and programs. Alpenglow is truly the best!”