White Magic in Nepal

I am one very lucky woman.

Freely admit it 🙂

I have just returned from my 2nd Big Adventure in the hills this year, with the one and only White Magic Adventure Travels.

In June I did the Panpatia Col trek, where I was very below par, performance-wise, and it showed.

But my just-concluded climbing trip to Mera Peak in Nepal saw a re-energised me, and I loved every single moment of this tough, demanding trip.

Mera Peak, for all it is touted as a trekking peak, especially by Nepalese websites, is one tough, long trip, and it should not be underestimated.

An easy walk it is not.

We were 5 climbers (with 2 others sadly dropping out just a matter of weeks before) and of the 5, 3 of us were repeat WM clients.

The 2 who dropped out were also repeat clients, by the way.

We flew from Kathmandu to Lukla to start the trek/climb.

Actually, let me rephrase that.

We drove 5 hours in the middle of the night from Kathmandu to Ramechhap Airport, a place I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.

Ramechhap is a very small, provincial airport which now handles the many Lukla flights, and it is a dusty, disorganised, soulless place.

The flights were seriously backed up/cancelled/delayed – you name it, we had it…our pilot was sick, apparently.

So we wasted a precious day in this dustbowl, overnighted in a bit of a flea-pit (though, amazingly it did have wifi) and eventually flew the next morning to Lukla.

From Lukla onwards we camped, walking with our team of expert guides and sherpas, and a big crew of porters. Sanjeev Rai, with whom I climbed Banderpoonch last year, led the trip. We had a lovely local guide, a quiet, soft-spoken man called Chhewang Sherpa – a double Everest summiteer to boot!

Dorje Sherpa and Gumbu Sherpa were too wonderful. They would break camp after our slow departure, quickly overtake us, then shoot ahead to set up the next camp. And always with a smile and an encouraging word.

We slowly ascended and descended our way through stunning scenery, to the higher reaches of the mountain, and it was only after Khare (5000m) that we encountered snow, as we made our way to Base Camp.

From Base Camp, we inched our way up to High Camp (5800m) from where we were supposed to summit.

But it was not meant to be.

Blizzard-like conditions at High Camp, with ferocious winds tearing at our tents and heavy snowfall meant that not one single climber, from any of the groups there, even attempted the summit.

Dinner in my tent at High Camp, while the storm raged outside

Obviously we were all disappointed, but (as is always the case with White Magic) it was a case of safety first.

To have tried to summit in such dangerous conditions would have been beyond foolish, so when Sanjeev Rai, our WM guide, came to tell me at about 12.30 in the morning that things were going to be delayed, I guess I knew, realistically, that our summit was not happening. So I ignored the howling winds as best I could, and snuggled ever deeper into my sleeping bag, resigned to my fate.

The next morning, when I saw collapsed tent, brought down by the strong winds, I said a silent prayer of thanks.

Part of the appeal of the summit of Mera Peak is the amazing view of the surrounding 8,000m+ peaks, but the mountain was not ready to share this view with us, so we trudged back down to Khare, all feeling disappointed, but everyone received that we got out of such a dangerous situation safely.

Hot orange juice after a long day…luxury!

I absolutely love camping, so there were no grumbles from me about tents and sleeping bags, though I know some of the others would have preferred to stay in the ubiquitous tea houses that were there at every night’s halt, right up to Khare.

I never felt cold – I have THE best sleeping bag in the world, my friends – and our portable loo was probably cleaner than the teahouse loos, so I had no desire to change the sleeping arrangements.

Our food was cooked by our own kitchen staff and boy oh boy, did I luck out, with a cook who is quite clearly as much of a potato-holic as I am 🙂

Tea or coffee served in your tent to wake you up.

3 hot meals a day.

Afternoon tea and snacks.

Popcorn and soup before dinner – we were well fed, and Devi Ram even produced delicious pizzas. Too good.

Tent tea. View guaranteed.
Picnic lunch

Every single member of the crew was smashing and hard working and beyond kind and always cheerful.

Sanjeev led by example, fighting off a bout of fever, and constantly switching flawlessly from English to Nepali to Hindi.

As I did on Banderpoonch, I felt safe with this young man at the helm.

A summit would have been wonderful.

No point denying it.

But this whole trip was fab, and the views all along the way were absolutely stupendous.

I paid my own way, as always on WM trips.

I had requested a personal porter, for whom I paid (obviously) and the wonderfully kind Pemba Sherpa certainly made my trip way easier, since I only carried the lightest of daypacks.

We 5 climbers ended up taking a chopper down from Khare to Lukla, which was brilliant – we all paid our way.

7.5 minutes vs a 2 day hike…

Then 3 of us – all senior citizens – managed to snag a 2nd chopper ride in as many days, down from Lulka to Kathmandu, thus avoiding even more delays and the awful 5 hour drive from Ramechhap.

Great end to the trip.

This was my first experience of travelling with WM outside India and despite a few hiccups, I would 100% recommend this trip.

Just pray to the weather gods to be kind, that’s all.

White Magic Adventure Travel does it again!

It is almost 5 years since I was introduced to the best climbing and trekking company in India – there you go, colours nailed firmly to the mast! – and the high standards of WM never cease to amaze.  And impress.  And reassure.

I just returned a few days ago from climbing Banderpoonch, a 6316m peak in the north Indian state of Uttarakhand.  We made it to 6120m, before Avilash Bisht, one of the owners & founders of WM & our leader on this climb, made the decision to turn us all round, since the remaining approx 200 vertical metres were, in his expert opinion, just too difficult and risky for us.

And it is for moments like that – when Avilash, in consultation with his brilliant team of Sherpas makes a tough call – that I love and respect White Magic Adventure Travel.

Safety is their undisputed #1 priority.

There was absolutely nothing to fault about our expedition.

Nothing at all.

WM carried out another perfectly organised trip, despite potential obstacles.  Like Avilash having a serious family emergency a couple of days before departure.  Sanjeev Rai seamlessly  took over the reins, and it was a joy to meet such a serious and competent young man.  Sanjeev guided us from Dehra Dun to Uttarkashi to Forest Camp to Base Camp to Camp One, when Avilash finally joined us, after a mammoth trek up the mountain.  Now THAT is called devotion to duty.

We were a team of 7 climbers + a Liasion Officer from the IMF + Sanjeev, Avilash, the one and only Mohan, a cook & an assistant cook, and  4 sherpas.  Plus teams of porters to ferry our luggage and supplies to and from Base Camp.

Everything was flawless.

No sooner arrived in camp, than our tents would be up in a jiffy, along with a mess tent and toilet tents  – ladies & gents –  such luxury.

Every need was catered for, from loads of good, nutritious food, to twice daily monitoring of our oxygen saturation levels, from clean water for drinking to warm water to wash our hands in before meals.  WM runs an efficient set up, with every member of their staff pitching in for any and every job, and always with a smile.  Imagine the luxury of being woken up every morning in your tent with a cup of “bed tea” –  though, actually, I suppose “sleeping bag tea” is a more accurate name. Even at Summit Camp, sleeping on the ice, we were woken up with tea and a smile.

We were treated to a delicious birthday cake, carried up from Base Camp to Camp One, for Vandana, one of the climbers.

We had a celebration cake on our last night under canvas.  Don’t miss Banderpoonch iced onto the cake!

We had pakoras and endless cups of tea, soup to keep us warm, popcorn, Maggi – the cooks kept producing delicious food, regardless of the altitude. Heck, Avilash & Sanjeev even made us a thermos of coffee in the dark and cold of summit night, to give us all that extra kick to keep on going.

I am a diehard White Magic Adventure Travel fan, and cannot envisage travelling with any other climbing or trekking company.  Ever.

Our climbing party of 7 stands testament to the loyalty WM engenders.  We were all repeat clients and we spent most of the descent planning and discussing our next climb –  a discussion that has continued on our WhatsApp group since we all, reluctantly, got back to our daily city lives

I cannot recommend White Magic Adventure Travel too highly.

Safety, skilled staff, the kindest team of Sherpas going, good equipment – I have nothing but praise for this company.

Would I use them again?

Of course!

As I said, we’re already planning our next climb…

I paid my own way, and even though the guys at WM know I blog, they have never, ever once made mention of the fact.  Total class act.

Here are just a few moments from a lifetime of memories:

Waking up to a view like this from your tent (above & below) is too, too fabulous.

Forest Camp (below)

Picnic lunch on the go (above).

Sanjeev checking the route (& looking pretty damned impressive as he does so!)

Mohan (below) the heart and soul of every climb I have done with WM.