To us, trekking is a very personal experience, personal because it needs to match our own ability and exceptions for it to be enjoyable. Trekking too far is soul destroying and leg crushing; too short can be underwhelming and frustrating. We trek, and what we mean by that is that many of the team here at SA like to step out into the wild. Founder Nick sees it as his annual detox. But we all like to set our own pace, and we each crave something unique, albeit more often with common ground.
Whilst small group and expedition trekking are a great (at times even far superior) fit for certain regions, routes, and levels of difficulty, tailor-made trekking also has its place, and offers advantages on some of the shorter and mid-length routes.
We design the route, daily distance, standard of lodge and hotel around you and you alone (well - you and yours). The tailor-made approach also allows us to build in plenty of flexibility. For example, if the third hard day in a row becomes too much, then distances can often be shortened, and if the weather turns sour then adjustments can, more often than not, be made.
The focus of our trekking remains firmly on you, your experience, and the benefits you desire. It’s about creating enough structure to allow you to unclutter your mind and feel the enormity of this planet that is our home. While we take care of the details, you get to release the stress and forget about irrelevant distractions. This is your opportunity to immerse yourself in far (far) away cultures and meet people with a wholly different understanding of life compared to your own. There is something genuinely remarkable about meeting folk that live in such remote places, and it can leave you reflecting on your own lifestyle from an entirely new vantagepoint.
Nick's approach to Pikey Peak
4-5 nights, off the beaten track
'"Hillary’s favourite view of Everest" is how my trekking companion Mike had sold it to me, although in truth this trip didn’t need much in the way of hard selling! Four good days of trekking, in a far less visited corner of Nepal. Limited tea houses; the ones that are there are more basic, with little outside investment, meaning our visit would make a real difference, in comparison to the well-trodden trails in, say, Annapurna. Tick, tick, tick, for me...'
Day 1: Chagestan to Dhap (2850m)
We embarked on the 9-10 hour drive to Dap after a night in a cold-but-cute lodge at Chagestan, dining on delicious home-smoked buffalo noodle soup, and (of course!) a hearty portion of momos. The drive time is intimidating, but the journey is seriously impressive, taking you up & down dramatic mountainscapes and showing you the ever-changing scenery and cultural highlights east of Kathmandu, as you head into a little-visited corner of Nepal on the Bhutan border. Also... you will stop for breaks!
Day 2: Dhap – Jhapre (2815m)
Leaving the car behind, we set off on foot with a gentle start and (due to yesterday's late arrival) our first chance to appreciate the extraordinary natural beauty of this remote area. The trek was moderate, taking us along forested trails and along the tops of deep valleys, with paddy fields and hamlets running down the hillsides below us. We stopped for lunch at our guide's mother's home, before the final steep climb to Japre Monastery and its welcome guesthouse.
Day 3: Jhapre - Peake Base Camp (3640m)
The day starts perfectly, with the tips of Everest visible over the foothills that lie ahead - one of which is our destination. Today's moderate to hard trek takes us six hours plus breaks, and we have a really beautiful day walking over a very mixed terrain. We cross fields, work our way through valleys, and pass through woodland with some very picturesque viewpoints into the valleys below. The only big challenge comes at the end, as we climb the final 300-400m up to the Base Camp teahouse. The accommodation here is basic, and our rooms are cold, but the people are lovely, with a warm kitchen to gather in before bed.
Day 4: Peake Base Camp - Junbesi (2680m)
A pig! The climb up to the peak is tough, and - on the day we ascended - the total lack of visibility certainly didn't help! Having reached the top and either enjoyed the view or laughed at your own misfortune (there will be other climbs, after all) you drop down the other side. In many ways, this is where the hard work really starts, with a technical walk down amongst thick rhododendron. Although you don't necessarily need vast experience, you will need to stay focused. In total it's a seven hour undulation (my Garmin says Peake Base Camp-3800-4050-3500-3900-2675-Junbesi) through at times loose terrain... but your hard work is rewarded on arrial at genuinely delightful Junbesi, with amazing views down the valley.
Day 5: Junbesi to Phaplu
A four hour easy day today. Although it was disappointing to leave Junbesi so soon (I could have done with a recovery day!) I was fortunate enough to be there when a group of Australian volunteer medics were visiting for their annual 3-day surgery. The sight of perhaps 100 young monks flowing downhill from Thubdencholing Monastery for their annual dental check-up is one I won't forget in a hurry! The rough road down to Phaplu is uneventful - these days are often a necessity at either end of a great trek. We saw interesting innovative projects in development, which could deliver real benefit to the communities that struggle in extreme conditions. Finally we arrived at the dramatic airstrip, its single runway 2413 above sea level. This was a highlight for me - along with the nearby hospital built by Sir Edmund Hillary's Himalayan Trust.