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 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 an 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 8000-meter peaks.
Rapid Ascent Approach
Alpenglow Expeditions’ Rapid Ascent™ climbs are an entirely new way to approach big-mountain expeditions. After 15 years of guiding expeditions all over the world, including more than a dozen 8,000-meter peak expeditions, we have refined and distilled the acclimatization and climbing process to maximize safety, health, success, and enjoyment. Please contact us to discuss exactly what these shorter climbs entail.
Expedition Leader – Esteban “Topo” Mena
The Makalu Rapid Ascent Expedition is organized and led by IFMGA Guide, Esteban “Topo” Mena. Topo is an extremely talented high-altitude mountain guide, having made ten 8,000m summits. He has summited Everest four times, once without supplemental oxygen, and in 2019 he summited K2 alongside Alpenglow Expeditions Founder Adrian Ballinger and fellow Alpenglow guide Carla Perez. Topo has extensive experience organizing complicated logistics for high altitude teams, and has spent countless hours on the mountain rope-fixing with Sherpa, guiding members, and assisting and organizing rescues.
Alpenglow Expeditions offers a small team, low ratio, high-end approach to 8,000 meter peak guiding. We are also the leader in offering Rapid Ascent™ trips to 8,000 meter peaks, utilizing pre-acclimatization and more Sherpa and guide support than anyone else in the industry. This allows you to climb and summit Makalu quickly and safely.
The Alpenglow Difference
Rapid Ascent™ Strategy
First developed by Adrian Ballinger, Rapid Ascent™ is a unique approach to climbing big mountains across the world. This innovative program combines hypoxic training at home with precise logistics and small team sizes to reduce the overall time spent away from home, all while greatly increasing the chance of success on your international climbing expedition. By pre-acclimatizing for 6 weeks at home, we’re able to reduce the overall expedition time to 35 days.
1:4 maximum guide to climber ratio
All guides are IFMGA qualified or aspirants working towards finishing their certification. We guarantee our guides are the best in the business, drawing upon years spent guiding in the mountains to give you the best and safest experience possible.
3:2 Sherpa to climber ratio
Having three Sherpa per every two climbers ensures we have the strength necessary to carry loads, set camps, and assist climbers. All of our Sherpa on Gasherbrum II have worked with us on many expeditions.
Expedition doctor on call
Dr. Monica Piris, has been on fourteen 8,000-meter peak expeditions. She is in daily communication with our teams during the entirety of the expedition and is available for client consultation at any time.
Swiss weather forecasts
Having a quality forecast for Makalu maximizes both our safety and our summit success. These weather forecasts were originally developed for aircraft traveling at the altitudes that we climb at.
5 bottles of oxygen per climber
This allows us to use high-flow oxygen moving from C2 to C3 , sleeping at Camp 3, and our summit bid day. The use of supplemental oxygen maximizing safety and success. Our Sherpa also climb and sleep on oxygen, which means they have more strength to focus on you and your ascent.
Imported and local foods of the highest quality, combined with a Western-trained cook staff; Alpenglow has the best food on the mountain, ensuring your strength and health throughout the expedition.
Unlimited WiFi internet in Base Camp
We understand the modern need for technology, and this allows you to stay in touch with home and office via email, text message, and phone at no additional expense.
Our climb of Makalu begins with a helicopter flight from Kathmandu to Chukkung Valley, where we will spend a few days acclimatizing before flying into Advanced Base Camp. The views and mountain scenery from the flight are incredible. Our use of helicopters avoids a difficult and wet low-altitude trek and allows us to immediately begin acclimatization and work on the mountain itself.
ABC is where we spend most of our time on Makalu, and our comfortable and sunny camp, perched on a rocky dome at 18,370’ / 5600m, is home to our full Alpenglow infrastructure – heated dining tents, fully stocked kitchen, heated communications and hangout tent, internet access, and much more. After a few days at ABC, we’ll start making our acclimatization rotations up the peak.
After some necessary rest and training days around ABC we begin to move on the mountain itself. From ABC we climb a rocky moraine and then continue onto low-angle glacier. Just before reaching Camp 1 (20,650’ / 6,300m) we ascend a steeper ice and snow wall with fixed lines. On this first rotation we spend at least a night in Camp 1, and make an acclimatization trip across easy glacier to Camp 2 (21,650’ / 6,600m).
Our second acclimatization climb takes us for another night at Camp 1, and then across broad glaciated slopes to Camp 2. We spend a few nights Camp 2, and during that time climb to at least 23,000’ / 7000m on the steep slopes that lead to the Makalu La and Camp 3.
After sufficient acclimatization time, we descend to ABC for rest and to prepare for our summit push.
Our summit push begins with a climb directly to Camp 2. After a possible rest day, we put on oxygen and climb to the Makalu La and Camp 3 (24,600’ / 7500m). This is a long and steep climb, and utilizing supplemental oxygen makes it significantly easier and more comfortable.
After a night utilizing oxygen at Camp 3 we make an easy traverse to Camp 4 (25,600’ / 7800m) on oxygen. We’ll pass through Camp 4 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. The views from the summit are unparalleled, and range from Kanchenjunga in the east to Shishapangma in the west, with countless smaller peaks in between.
From the summit we descend to Camp 2 where we spend the night, and then continue down to ABC to celebrate our summit, rest, and prepare for our return by helicopter and fixed-wing plane to Kathmandu and home.