I was just wondering how you would go about planning you own Himalayan climbing expedition/trip for 3 or 4 people?
The reason I ask is that the commercial trips firstly are very expensive, I guess that is because they are so well supported and also the cost of the permits etc but any money saved is a bonus. Secondly I'm a bit childish but it seems that there is a little more adventure to be had in planning it all yourself but I don't doubt for one moment the massive level of commitment required to plan such a trip.
Is there a difference is cost between climbing in Nepal/Tibet/India/Pakistan? Are there tighter regulation is some than others? Will it work out significantly cheaper to plan the trip yourself rather than jumping on a commercial trip?
I'm asking at the moment more out of general interest but an info would be great!
I did it in the 1980s with a bunch of 8 friends. Logistically it is great fun but very hard work, fund raising, getting permits, buying supplies,liasing with an airline and shipping agent, arranging for transport and supplies to get from the airport to the mountain, arranging porters, and general liasing with the host country (you really need a local agent you can trust)etc etc.
You need to be self employed or have an understanding boss!
I don't know about the other countries, we went to India. As to whether it worked out significantly cheaper than jumping on a commercial trip I don't know, but it was certainly as much of an adventure planning it all as actually doing it! It's a lot of fun exploring and finding out the best sites for camps and the most likely route on the mountain, rather than have it handed to you on a plate by a commercial expedition. The downside is that you are more likely to make time consuming mistakes which reduces your chances of summiting. Even being responsible for hiring (through an agent), feeding, equipping and organising your porters is a logistical and human management challenge! And finding your way around with poor quality maps can be interesting.
I suggest your first ports of call should be the BMC, Mt Everest Foundation, RGS and Alpine Club for general research and to see what funds are available in the way of grants (if any) Chosing an objective or route that hasn't been attempted before increases the chances of getting grants. We chose an unclimbed ridge on a relatively remote 6300m mountain which had only had one previous ascent
First thing is to ask yourself about the expedition you want.
What constraints do you have regarding duration? Time of year? Money?
Then think about what you would like to experience. Climbing a peak? Getting away from the crowds? Exploration or following a well established route?
Have a look at the various brochures and websites of commercial companies to give you some ideas. What appeals to you? Read their trip reports. Look at where the various companies go. Think about the scale of the Himalayas, and then consider how often the same names come up time and again, names like Stok Kangri and Island Peak and Mera Peak.
> I suggest your first ports of call should be the BMC, Mt Everest Foundation, RGS and Alpine Club for general research and to see what funds are available in the way of grants (if any) Chosing an objective or route that hasn't been attempted before increases the chances of getting grants.
Nothing personal Trangia but this kind of advice really shits me. It's become a very British thing to, as soon as 'expedition' is mentioned, start talking about grants, sponsorship and, often, 'causes'. Why must someone else pay for your holiday? If it's so important to you, pay for it yourself.
BMC, RGS are fine as first ports of call to get info and contact details, but inexperienced people applying for 'grants' is another story. Most first expeditions to the (trumpets blare) Greater Ranges fail not because the route was too hard but because of logistics, personal issues, unfitness, weather and all sorts of things.
Learning to deal with all these things, without taking up a grant, and making mistakes along the way, without wasting other peoples' funds, is best done on a trip funded yourself. Peru, Bolivia etc are great places to learn the expedition trade without the red-tape and political issues of the Karakoram / Himalaya, and without the pressures of living up to external funding from grants or sponsors. You can actually have fun. You are free to focus on the climbing and the place itself without constantly thinking of what will go in the Expedition Report for the MEF/BMC/AC/FBI/R2D2 or whatever.
To the OP:
- Nepal is easy to organise via an agent, but costs add up, even for bare-bones trips. You don't have to go to the popular peaks, there are plenty of lesser visited areas that are very interesting and sometimes cheaper than the popular brands. Nepal is easy cos there is a tradition and infrastructure for expeditions, porters, travel etc.
- India has lots of good areas for exploratory trips and some good infrastructure but the red-tape issues can be a worry. Regulations are improving but will take time to get right. Logistics/access can be very good in many areas.
- Pakistan has the most amazing big peaks but they are hard, the approaches alone tax most people, and you may have security concerns, more with getting to the mountains rather than in the mountains. The red tape situation is currently pretty cheap and *relatively* good, but porter costs will add up for longer trips.
- Tibet is expensive and currently hard, if not impossible, to get into for remote areas, despite what some people may tell you
- the rest of China can be interesting but access can be sporadic due to govt 'security' issues, but if that's not a problem the access can be good
- in general, get familiar with Google Earth, the AC's Himalayan Index and the free online archives of the AC and AAC and Himalayan Club. All fantastic resources. Work out where the popular commercial peaks are, then look to the side.
Exped as in to an established area/peak, or exped as in somewhere new.
Either way, in most places with big mountains you will use some form of organizer, even if just as transport and translation. If anything is saves time.
It may be easier to just use the same connections for permits, resources etc.
In many places connections are needed to get what you want.
When it comes to outfitting, all the bulk gear is usually cheaper hired than bought, and the process of moving it all, even just a weeks worth needs organization. Without ideas of accepted costs that will be a landmine.
In some places you simply cant go without a local representative, if not a govt liason.
That seems harsh and unrealistic. These grants exist to encourage small groups and individuals to get out there and explore the greater ranges where others have not been before. Those adminisering them are not fools and they vet applications, if they think the expedition has merit they'll give a grant if not they don't. Your response reads elitist in that you are suggesting that only experienced people should apply. That's hardly in the spirit of the grant system?
As for getting someone to pay for your holiday, that's stretching the imagination somewhat.In our case we paid for the trip out of our own pockets, the grants we got accounted for a very small proportion of the total cost, but were still very welcome and as I said above those giving them to us didn't have to.
As for experience we all had significant UK summer and winter, as well as Alpine, experience. The only experience we lacked was Himalayan. Yes, of course we made mistakes, the main one being putting too much trust in our Indian agent to come up with porter manpower and base camp tents which we had requested which seriously delayed our program when tents we had brought out with us for higher up, had to be used and transported too often, reducing our ability to carry enough fuel and food to remain high for long, but we overcame the problems learning a lot on the way. Due to avalanche activity and becoming involved in rescuing a climber with a broken leg from an other expedition camped a couple of miles from us, we had to revise our intended approach to get established on the ridge, which in the event proved to be almost too far from our Base Camp, and an Advanced Base Camp, established without the help of porters. And the final straw was severe dysentry which affected everyone and which in spite of stringent hygene precautions had been picked up during our journey up from Delhi. At one stage 50% of us were down with it at any one time. In spite of everything we did get two members to within 150m of the summit, and they only turned back due to appallingly unstable snow.
No not a successful expedition so far as our objective had been concerned, but we filled in some blanks on the map, including a side glacier when trying to find a more avalanche free way onto the ridge and importantly for us we all survived and came home friends even with one of our members breaking a leg in a non climbing related accident at Base Camp. One of our team was a doctor who also treated a woman member of an Indian expedition with respiratory problems, which arrived and camped half a mile from us during the week preceding our departure. They too were attempting an unclimbed route.
In reply to Alex90:
Another thought about a climbing expedition: it depends upon what you mean by "climbing."
There can be a big difference between getting to the summit of a peak, and doing some rock climbing. Getting to a big peak usually has a legal requirement to get permits, which take effort and money. Rock climbing in a valley may be completely unregulated, and your access may be a lot easier, cutting down on costs and effort. Of course, you can do some REALLY REMOTE rock climbing, taking you right into the wilds but not requiring peak permits. But be aware - there are some very sensitive borders running through the Himalayas, and getting to some places even by road might require a permit.
First thing is to get clear in your mind what it is you want to do. Spend time dreaming. Don't be put off too soon by thinking some ideas are beyond you. Some things might be easier than they appear, or you can improve step by step until you are able to do the really wild stuff.
Don't think of it as doing one Himalayan trip. Think of it in terms of your first big expedition, the next step in growing your skills. You can do something Really Big on your next trip, or the trip after that
you should always have a local operator in my opinion. Especially if there are problems with local flights, permit, permissions and emergency. You need "your guy" to be there for you. YOu will also get fleeced when trying to hire porters or other local staff while dealing with weeks of useless meetings and hundreds of cups of terrible tea. The agent does all of this and in the end you will be able to focus on climbing. This might be the difference between success and failure for your climb.
Unless you have a lot of experience in a given country i highly recommend getting a good local outfitter to handle things for you. If you do the accounting you will quickly realize how little the locals charge compared to the relative savings. When you need to take taxis all over town, stay in hotels for a week before and after the trip, the savings go right out the window.
Thanks for all the great replies. It's really helped to put things in prospective a bit.
I've got so many idea's it's almost impossible for me to come up with a comprehensive plan at this stage. Certainly Pakistan is the country which draws me towards wanting to go there. The climbing there looks challenging and spectacular. From what I've read in the above posts it does sound like a bit of a logistical nightmare though and again as mention the security there woukd be a bit of a concern. Having said that though I would be going there to climb which in itself has a certain element of danger.
I'm not even sure myself what I want to do when I get there. I like there idea of going just to climb rock and just going where the climbing takes me. Whether thats possible given how remote it is I'm not sure. I also like the idea of going there with the goal of summiting 1 major peak. I like the look of Laila Peak, Koyo Zom and Uli Biaho Peak which apparently is unclimbed - not sure whether it's within my skill set though!
There's a lot to think about (and dream about) but I'm not in any rush.
Good luck though. I think the issue with just wandering around is that you will need to wander around from a base camp (or ABC). If you try to wander in a straight line i.e. from east to west, you will need porters to bring your food and gear along with you. Normally you send these away once you have BC set up perhaps just keeping a cook and an assistant cook on.
Pakistan: Would actually say the least red tape and hassle provided you are prepared to climb in the open zone region and below 6500m. With this agenda there are no permits, guides, LOs mandatory. Just hire porters at the road head and off you go. On the other hand peaks above 6500m mean hiring a guide, and if in a restricted zone also a LO so the red tape is quickly stacking up. I would check the latest visa situation as last time I looked you now needed a LOI which might force you to use tour company services. Bare in the mind that you probably have double the chance of failure in getting something climbed vs Nepal due to generally tougher objectives and weather/conditions. Security risk: Don't worry you have more chance of dying from serac fall - Enjoy!
Nepal: I've limited experience but lots more amiable objectives for a first Himalayan trip. Also less planning due to better infrastructure in the popular trekking regions. More information available for planning. More reliable conditions.
China/Tibet: Expensive. Difficult to organise. Permits fees can be ridiculous for some areas. Sometimes easier just to arrange things out of Nepal as round trip as the operators are more reliable. Great potential still to explore though.
Have you considered Kyrgyzstan? It's largely red-tape free and no peak permits are required. Sometimes you need a border permit. Some peaks are easily accessible (or difficult to access - whatever you prefer). Some good info here:
> like the look of Laila Peak, Koyo Zom and Uli Biaho Peak which apparently is unclimbed.
We did Koyo Zom in 1974, normally the second ascent but we met someone after who told us that the previous team hadn't got to the top, so if this was true it might have been the first. Of course we'll never know for sure.
I wouldn't like to contradict the views given here as my information dates a bit now but in general I'd be on the side of those who say do it all yourself. I'd also suggest setting targets which avoid heavy weight logistical stuff, you'll probably need a few donkeys or locals to carry your stuff to base camp but doing it all Alpine style from then on makes life simpler, and in my opinion more rewarding - so the objectives need to take the style proposed into account.
On my same web site there are reports of two other lightweight expeditions, to the Hindu Kush, impossible now which is a great pity, and to Bolivia which was more expensive as we couldn't drive as for the other two, obviously! We got some help from the Imperial College exploration board but that's only for students of the university. For an non-university group,you'd find it difficult to get financial aid, it was hard back then already, but having the backing of the Mount Everest Foundation and the Royal Geographical Society helps when talking to companies for help in kind or discounts, they also have valuable documentary resources, access to the RGS map room was helpful back then although we always had to make our own climbing maps as we went along.
A group of four would be ideal for a lightweight overland expedition to somewhere out of the "getting kidnapped and coming on the telly" zone - maybe to Central Asia somewhere... It's nice to go to an little climbed area. Count on 3 months though, there and back.