What to Expect about Makalu Base Camp Trek
Makalu Base Camp Trek is among the famous off-beat trekking in Nepal that takes you to the proximity of Mt. Makalu, the fifth-highest mountain in the world. Embarking on this trek takes you to the remote yet surreal landscape of lowlands, alpine meadows, high Himalayan pass, and mountains. Manaslu Base Camp is a long, arduous, and essential tea house trek, which is best for keen trekkers who prefer off-beat routes to established routes.
Makalu Base Camp Trek has everything one could get on a trek. It's still a fresh, least-hiked trek that offers a peaceful hiking experience throughout the year. The enriched bio-diversity of Makalu Barun National Park accompanies your peaceful trek. Moreover, you'll get the option of trekking to Everest Base Camp after crossing Sherpani Pass. You may not get the apple pie comfort during 19 trek days, but it rewards you uniquely. You'll live a life at Makalu Base Camp.
Makalu Base Camp Trek- An ultimate off-beat trek in Nepal
Inaccessibility and strenuous routes have made Makalu Base Camp Trek an off-beat trek. Being an off-beat trek, the landscape's and alpine terrain's magic remains intact. And still, in 2023, you can adventure hiking on the least hiked trail.
The ethnic groups and culture here are far from the contemporary world. You'll begin this trek from the steamy lowlands of Tumlingtar and culminate at the freezing base camp of Makalu. And in between, you'll barely find a handful of trekkers.
You'll hike on trails that barely see hundreds of trekkers each year. Hiking up on stone paved stairs for an entire day, down to some gorgeous cascading rivers, crossing wooden and suspension bridges, into the pine, oak, and rhododendron forest, through the meadows and glacier moraines, the Makalu Base Camp Tea house trek has every least explored elements of being an off-beat trek.
Enriched biodiversity of Makalu Barun National Park
The national park via which you reach Makalu Base Camp is home to rich biodiversity. Makalu Barun National Park has a vast number of flowering plants, around 3000. Due to this, you'll enjoy the serene rhododendron forest in Spring and other wild flowers for some additional months while trekking.
You'll hear 440 different kinds of birds chirp as it's a home to affluent bird species. The 75 species of mammal number seem low, but this includes the most elegant cat, the snow leopard. Red Pandas, Musk Deer, Tahr, wild boar, and wild Yak are the endangered species living tranquil within the national park. You may not see all these endangered species, but who knows if you're the luckiest to get a glimpse of these animals.
Makalu Base Camp Trek can be your photography trek as it combines green pasture lands, a village, forest, glacier, and rocky base camp surrounded by snow-capped mountains, peaks, and a Himalayan pass.
Mountain views like never before
Trekking to Makalu Base Camp offers the fantastic prospect of three 8,000 meters tall mountains. Makalu, at 8,481, is the fifth highest mountain and prominently visible from the base camp. You'll also get a picturesque glimpse of Everest, the world's highest mountain.
Alongside Everest, you'll also see the 4th highest Lhotse at 8,516 meters, Baruntse at 7,162 meters, Mera Peak at 6,476 meters, and Chamlang at 7,319 meters, sitting right to Makalu.
These mountains are visible from the base camp or the route. On a clear weather day, you'll see each of these mountains. Remarkably, the glimpse of Everest and Lhotse are unique from that of Kala Patthar.
Option of hiking to Everest region and Everest Base Camp
To extend your trek to the Everest region from Makalu Base Camp, you must cross two adventurous mountain passes. Sherpani Pass and Amphu Laptsa Pass are two high Himalayan pass bridges in the Everest region from Makalu.
From the Makalu region, you'll reach Baruntse Base Camp from Sherpani Pass, which is over 6,000 meters. You'll then cross West Col and trek to Panch Pokhari Lakes.
From Panchpokhari, you'll cross Amphu Lapcha Pass, at 5,850 meters, to the Everest region.
Please remember that this feat is incredibly challenging for novice hikers. The altitude of these passes is only for seasoned trekkers and mountain climbers.
Makalu Base Camp Trek Distance and Duration
The world's fifth highest base camp, Mt. Makalu is 100 km on the return trip from Tumlingtar to Tumlingtar. Compared to the Everest Base Camp Route length, the route to the base camp of Makalu is short, but itineraries are long.
Considering the 19 days Makalu Base Camp Itinerary, scaling this length each day sees you hiking around 5 km daily. The long itinerary allows you to acclimate gradually as you hike by. Also, it gives you room for ample rest with shorter hike days.
Altitude and elevation gain
There are various altitudes that you can hike upon reaching Makalu Base Camp. Some trekkers only hike to 4,870 meters. Most trekkers believe that the base camp of Makalu sits at 4,900 meters. However, you can hike up to 5,050 meters and even a tiny peak hike to 5,300 meters.
You'll start this trek from Tumlingtar, which is at 580 meters. From Tumlingtar, you'll drive to Chichila at 1,980 meters. In the coming days, you'll descend to Num and ascend to Seeduwa, around 1,500 meters. With a gradual hike on the 6th day, you'll acclimate to Kongma Danda at 3500 meters. You'll then gain altitudes of a few hundred meters each day.
Makalu Base Camp Trek Difficulty
If you compare Makalu Base Trek to several established trekking like Everest Base Camp Trek or Annapurna Circuit, it's slightly more complex than later ones. The route to the base camp of Makalu inclines steeper than any other trek.
Being the off-beat trekking route, the trails to Makalu are more rugged and remote. Like any other trekking, reaching 5000 meters in this trekking takes excellent endurance and often becomes challenging for many. You'll have to hike up the stairs for several days, which can be tiring.
Thus, those keen mountain trekkers and experienced hikers are the best fit for this trek. If it's your first trekking, you may have to train harder and work on your fitness level before joining the trek. If you want to join our fixed departure Makalu Base Camp Trek in 2023, we encourage you to train mainly for a few months before coming to this trek.
Physical fitness and training
Makalu Base Camp Trek is a strenuous graded trek that demands endurance and muscular fitness among trekkers. To complete this trek, you should be in proper fitness condition. Otherwise, you may end up getting fatigued and not continue the hike.
We request our valued clients to start training at least two months before joining this trek. The fitness training includes swimming, cardio, treadmill running, jogging, hiking, and cycling. Upon doing so, you'll gather fitness on your feet. And also, you'll start to breathe with more precision.
With proper fitness, you'll barely feel tired on your legs. Also, you'll get away from altitude sickness with improved breathing habits.
Ground Transportation and Flight, and possible delays
Upon your arrival at Kathmandu airport, we provide a complimentary airport pickup service. You'll get welcomed by our representative at the airport.
As we start this trek from Tumlingtar, we must first fly to Tumlingtar airport from Kathmandu. The flight time will be around 35-40 minutes. The two-way flight tickets get covered with the package cost you pay for us.
We may expect some flight delays on the day of departure. However, flight cancellations only happen during poor weather conditions. Thus, we request you allocate two extra days as buffer days for possible flight cancellations and delays caused by weather changes.
Makalu Base Camp Trek Permits
Upon booking this trek with us, we'll prepare your trek permits. And the cost of trek permits is all-inclusive of the package cost.
There are two essential Makalu Base Camp Trek Permits. One is the Makalu Barun National Park (Conservation Area) Permit and Trekkers Information Management System (TIMS) Card. The national park permit costs USD 30, and TIMS Card costs USD 20. To get these permits, it costs USD 50/NPR 5000.
These permits are accessible at Nepal Tourism Board in Kathmandu. Since independent trekkers can't ask for a TIMS card, you should book the trek with an agency first to get the TIMS Card.
Makalu Base Camp Solo Trek
Trekking individually to the base camp of Makalu is not possible from September 2023. With the new rules in strict implementation, trekkers can only trek solo in Nepal. And if found trekking solo, you'll get a hefty fine as punishment. And even the government has every right to cancel your visa and deport you from a country without further entry in the coming years.
Another reason why you can't trek solo to Makalu Base Camp is because you won't get a TIMS Card for individual trekking from September 1, 2023. With no TIMS Card, you can't trek anywhere, which limits your solo options, and you must go through with a trekking agency like us.
You'll be at more risk since the Makalu region is remote and more rugged than other established trek destinations. Thus, it would help if you trekked here with a licensed guide. Once you book your trek with us, we will provide a trekking guide with experience guiding you to Makalu.
With a trekking guide, you'll have a very comfortable trek experience. Notably, a trekking guide manages your trek logistics, accommodations, route navigations, etc. With a guide, you'll be in total safety.
Accommodation and meals
The Makalu Base Camp tea house trek is a very basic trek. There are guest houses and lodges, usually like tea houses, en route to the base camp, where you'll accommodate.
The facilities you'll get during this trek are significantly less luxurious than popular destinations like in EBC Trek and Annapurna region trek. However, you'll still be comfortable overnight.
Twin-sharing rooms are most common on the entire route. You'll have the comfort of attached bathrooms in very few places. Regarding hot water showers, hot bucket showers are the only available options on this route. Forget the availability of internet and electricity at higher altitudes.
Due to remoteness and off-beat, and as not many trekkers plan this trek, the amenities are minimal. You'll be away from the comfort of the crust of pizza and apple pies in the morning. But you'll get Dal Bhat with cooked vegetables and lentil soup.
Lower altitude places offer a few varieties of meals. However, tea houses in the upper regions barely offer different meals. But you'll get healthy meals.
Drinking water on Makalu Base Camp Trek
Running water taps, streams, and local village taps are the most common source of drinking water on this route. Usually, the drinking water in mountain regions is safe to drink without filtration. However, if you don't want to risk your bowel, you can also bring water filtration bottles. Purification tablets also work fine, but it takes 30 minutes for complete purification.
Don't bring plastic water bottles, particularly mineral water bottles. Instead, bring camel bags or hydration bags that fit in your backpack. Also, a thermos is highly recommended. It helps you drink warm water even at high altitudes.
Cold water is free to refill anywhere. However, the tea houses take a few hundred Nepali rupees for boiled drinking water.
Makalu Base Camp Trek Packing List
Since you'll get a trekking porter to carry your gear and backpack, you can bring a fair amount of body wear and equipment. However, for this trek, you can keep your pack medium-lightweight. Don't carry too many gears as you'll barely use most of them.
Here are some trekking gears you should bring for Makalu Trek.
- Few long sleeves (quick dry)
- Few Thermal t-shirts
- Windproof jacket
- Lightweight down jacket
- Heavy-duty down jacket
- Beanie, cap, gloves, neck buff
- One pair of hiking pants, convertible into shorts
- One pair of shorts
- Thick hiking pants
- Thermal underwear
- 5-6 Quick-drying underwear
- Hiking boots
- 5-6 pairs of woolen socks
- Trekking poles
- Powerbank charger
- Water filter
- Sunscreen and sunglasses
Particularly, nights at higher altitudes get colder even during the Spring and Autumn days. Even though you'll have options for multiple blankets, you still need to carry a decent sleeping bag. We usually recommend carrying a sleeping bag that endures a temperature of -20 ˚C. With this, your night passes warm and cozy.
Electricity and Internet on Makalu Base Camp Trek
Keep your expectations low for wifi and electricity while trekking on this route. En route, you'll need help finding wifi cards or internet at tea houses. Even NTC sim cards don't work after the second day on the trek.
You won't have the benefit of using electricity for this trek. Past Tashigaon, no tea houses offer electricity service. Tea houses use solar to power the lights for the evening but won't provide for trekkers. You will only get the power if you pay a few hundred for recharge. Even tea houses struggle to light up at night. Thus, it would help if you carried a well-powered power bank.
Makalu Base Camp is an arduous trek that comes with risks for trekkers. The extreme incline can cause altitude sickness to anyone. Plus, the rugged terrain could cause injuries and fractures even with a single slip from the trail.
For various safety reasons, we need your travel insurance policy proof. With a travel insurance policy, it becomes easier for us to send helicopter rescue right on time if you need it. Also, rapid descent during emergencies is possible only with travel insurance.
Furthermore, you'll cover your medical and hospitalization expenses with a travel insurance policy. And even during the damage to gears and loss of your stuff, you can recover the loss amount from the insurance. You can either purchase a subscription for a year or even for the duration of your trek.
We don't purchase insurance for you. And insurance is excluded from the cost you pay for us. We only insure our trekking guides and porters. But if you request us for suggestions, we'll suggest some insurance partners based on our previous experience.
Weather, temperature, and best time for Makalu Base Camp Trek
The ideal weather condition for this trek is from March to May in Spring. During these months, the lower landscape gets covered with multicolored rhododendrons. Also, you'll see the terrace farmlands in more melancholic landscapes during Spring. The surrounding gets lush, green and vibrant. The mountains get covered with winter snow as it barely melts in early Spring.
Autumn months, from September to November, are the best times. As these months are post-rainy, you'll see the green surrounding with gentle temperatures and clear weather. The early Autumn can be rainy, but from October, it becomes a dreamy time for this trek.
The weather in Spring and Autumn months favors the crystal-clear viewing of mountains and landscapes. The rain-free days let you hike all day without worrying about overcast and rain.
The gentle temperature during the daytime, around 15-16 degrees in lower regions, favors all-day hikes. And at higher prices, the temperature becomes quite chilly at noon. But with a few layers, you'll hike all day warm.
The baggage weight limit for trek porter and flight
You can only assign a backpack of just 10 kg to the trek porter. We provide one trek porter for two trekkers and carry a combined weight of 25 kg only. For backpack weight exceeding the limit, you can either pay additional money for the porter or hire another porter to carry the backpack.
For airlines, you can carry 15 kg in total, 10 kg of luggage and 5 kg on hand-carry. The airline asks for a fee for additional weights, which you should pay.
You can leave your backpacks in the lobby of the hotel you stay in Kathmandu. They'll charge a minimum fee to keep your stuff safe.
Our trek guides and porters
Since Makalu Base Camp Trek is an off-beat trek, we provide an experienced trekking guide. Based on group size, the number of trek guides may vary. Our trekking guides have years of experience guiding on established and off-beat trails of Nepal.
If you have specific language requirements, we provide you with a guide who speaks the language of your preference.
Regarding trek porters, they help you throughout the trek, carrying your backpack and even acting as a companion on the trail.
We employ trek guides and porters at a standard salary. Also, we take care of their meals, accommodation, transportation, flights, insurance, and more.
Leave no Trace
We try to offset carbon footprints on every trek. In doing so, we contribute to protecting the environment with minimal impact.
We request our clients join Makalu Base Camp Trek to practice leaving no trace while trekking. Since Makalu is off-beat, it's still far away from being impacted by human activity. We request you refrain from bringing plastic water bottles, music speakers, throw plastic wrappers, etc.
We also provide 1% of our annual profits to volunteering organizations to support their carbon offset campaigns.
Tips to trek guides and porters
In Nepal, at the end of every successful trek, the trekkers give a few hundred dollars of gratitude to the trekking guide and porter. In general terms, people call it tips. There's no standard fee as a tip to them, but trekkers usually provide 10% of the total trek cost as a tip. You can either tip them in USD or Nepali currency.