IMG Custom Nepal and Tibet Treks Frequently Asked Questions
This information should answer many of your initial questions and also guide you through the next stages of preparing for the expedition. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us: email@example.com
The Trek and Prerequisites
Why should I trek Nepal or Tibet with IMG?
We know we're not the cheapest deal around, and we don't want to be. We spend more providing the best personnel, equipment, logistics and safety measures things that many lower-cost programs cannot afford and do not have. We don't cut corners. As you shop around, consider the following:
- IMG leaders are professionals and are great teachers as well as strong climbers. All have done numerous high-altitude expeditions, including the Himalaya. Our clients enjoy the immense benefit of a core group that has climbed together extensively, producing a team that knows how to work well together.
- IMG always complies with all local, state, federal, and international regulations for the countries in which we climb. This includes proper visas and climbing permits, full insurance and equipment for our employees and Sherpa support teams, and complete adherence to all environmental regulations. Our great safety record allows us to operate with full liability insurance. All client funds are deposited in a regulated trust account. We take our business seriously!
- IMG Sherpas are top-notch. We hire the same great Sherpas every year, we treat them with respect, we pay them well and they like working with our teams. Most of them have been on many climbs with us over the years and many of them have multiple Everest summits. Our enthusiastic cooks do a great job and our menus are well considered. It makes a difference!
- IMG trek itineraries are longer than most others offered on the market. We know how to acclimatize properly, and we don't rush.
- IMG treks are supported by satellite communications, allowing us to maintain excellent emergency contact capabilities and keep friends and family informed of our progress during the long weeks away from home.
How much climbing experience do I need?
For most Nepal and Tibet treks, no previous climbing experience or technical climbing skills are required. The hiking is on rough trail. A small amount of snow or mud may be encountered, so good hiking boots and gaiters are recommended, but the terrain does not necessitate the use of crampons or an ice ax. Trekking or ski poles can be very useful. Some very short and relatively easy sections of rock scrambling are also encountered, requiring "using of your hands" in a couple places.
How should I train for a Himalayan Trek?
Good conditioning is the primary requirement for trekking in Nepal and Tibet. These are strenuous trips. Participants must be in sound "hiking shape" and capable of traveling for a full day with a modest pack (clothing, lunch, water, camera, etc). Don't underestimate these mountains, we're going high! Follow a conditioning program that will strengthen your lungs, legs and heart. Any hiking you can do before the trip will be of the most value. At home, we recommend stair climbing, bike riding and running hills. Conditioning is a process that should continue throughout the year.
What is shortest Everest BC trek possible?
Due to the significant altitude of Everest Base Camp and the duration of time spent at altitude, 16 days (Kathmandu to Everest Base Camp and back to Kathmandu using a helicopter) is the shortest trek we're comfortable running. If trekking both ways, figure three weeks to be on the safe side for any Everest Base Camp Trek. Please contact us for more information.
When is the best time to trek in the Khumbu Valley?
The peak season for trekking in the Khumbu Valley for Spring is the first two weeks of April and for Autumn is the last two weeks of October. These are normally very good weather periods, and the fixed wing flights Kathmandu-Lukla-Kathmandu normally will go every day without disruption. The trekking is excellent, but it is very busy in the lodges and on flights during these periods.
For people with date flexibility and the financial capability to fly by helicopter, we suggest that they consider trekking slightly earlier in the respective seasons. For example, start your Spring trek in early or mid-March or your Autumn trek in late September or early October. This way you will be ahead of the big wave of trekkers and still have a good chance of staying on schedule with your trek. The weather is normally very good higher up in Khumbu during these time periods, and if you are flying by helicopter you have much better chance of getting in/out of Khumbu during these slightly off peak times. It is also possible to go later in the respective seasons (May and November) which achieves the same result (missing the high season wave of trekkers).
Please contact us to discuss your options in more detail!
Why use helicopters?
People are busier than ever these days. Vacations are all too often squeezed into windows tighter than we'd all prefer; it's an unfortunate reality of the times. The good news is that we are often able to accommodate these tighter schedules by utilizing helicopters, which minimize the possibility of delays in Kathmandu or Lukla due to weather. Helicopters also create some much-needed flexibility within shortened itineraries. What can take 4 days to walk, can take as little as 30 minutes by helicopter. Likewise, helicopters can shorten itineraries by not having to retrace your steps back, allowing you to maximize your time on the trail.
While helicopter flights aren't cheap, they are highly efficient and can be relatively economical when used strategically. We don't mark-up the helicopter costs and build them into the program. Instead, we'll arrange the flight and have you pay the helicopter company directly. Please see our Custom Treks PDF for current prices.
How does IMG treat their local staff?
We take great pride in the long term relationships we have built with our local staff. They do a great job, we pay and tip them well, and they enjoy working for IMG. We make sure that the IMG porters have adequate clothing, equipment, shelter, sleeping arrangements, food, cooking equipment and water. Sick or injured porters are properly cared for. All loads are weighed to ensure that porters are carrying loads that don't exceed their physical ability or legal limits. Porters are paid a fair wage for their work and are paid tip money directly from the tip pool at the end of the expedition (no middleman taking a cut).
What is the policy on Leave No Trace?
IMG is committed to Leave No Trace. All human waste is properly disposed of and garbage is sorted into burnable and recyclables (taken back to Kathmandu). All gas cylinders are taken back to Nepal and recycled, and all oxygen cylinders are returned to the USA.
Travel and Insurance
How do I get there?
International Mountain Guides has worked for many years with Ms. Pirjo Dehart and her staff at CTT Destinations to provide professional travel service for participants in our programs. We urge you to contact CTT Destinations: 800-909-6647 or firstname.lastname@example.org
What kind of insurance do I need?
IMG requires that all participants on International programs purchase Travel Insurance that includes coverage for medical evacuation, repatriation and medical expenses for the duration of their IMG program. We strongly recommend that you add Trip Cancellation coverage to your policy to cover cancellation (before trip starts) or interruption (after trip starts). For more info, please see our page on Trip Cancellation and Travel Insurance.
If you need assistance with the various insurance options, give Becky Kjorvestad a call in the IMG Office (360-569-2609) or email email@example.com
Note on end dates: Please extend your insurance policy to cover your trip until you return to your home country.
What kind of visas do I need?
Your passport must be valid for 6 months after the trip and have empty pages. Advanced visas are not required for entry into Nepal; we will simply get our visa on arrival at the airport in Kathmandu, where you will need to purchase a short term Nepal tourist visa ($50 for trekkers and $125 for climbers, plus you will need to bring a 2x2" passport photo).
Gear and Packing
What gear will I need?
The equipment list is meant to help you compile your personal gear for a high altitude trekking trip. Most items are required, while a few are optional. Please consider each item carefully and be sure you understand the function of each piece of equipment before you substitute or delete items from your duffle. Keep in mind that this list has been carefully compiled by Eric Simonson, the expedition organizer. Don't cut corners on the quality of your gear.
Should I bring a jacket?
Spring and autumn season are normally very stable weather periods. That said, it is always difficult to predict the exact weather conditions we will encounter during our treks. Warm rain can occur down low and we can experience cold and windy conditions higher up, with the possibility of snowfall. It is not unusual for the temperatures to be well below freezing at Everest Base Camp or Thorung La, before the sun comes up. A down jacket (or equivalent) is required. We expect that the weather will be perfectly reasonable, but it is important to prepare for all possibilities.
What food do I need to bring?
All meals on the climb and treks are included. You will be responsible for your bottled drinks and alcoholic beverages. You may want to bring powdered drink mixes for flavor in your water bottles. We recommend you bring a modest personal stash of your favorite trail and snack foods. There is a grocery store in Kathmandu near the hotel which has many snack items available (candy, crackers, nuts, etc). Not available in Kathmandu are things like Power Bars, Gu, or electrolyte replacement drink mix.
What's the best way to pack for the trip?
We usually carry a daypack/rucksack as carry-on luggage and check two lockable bags. One of those bags can stay at the hotel while climbing for storage of your travel clothes (it is OK to leave a bag with wheels at the hotel). The other bag will be used by the porters to carry your gear on the climb, and it should NOT have wheels. It does not have to be 100% waterproof, just stout nylon fabric is fine. You will want to put everything in plastic bags anyway, inside the duffel.
We suggest that you use a travel wallet that you can hang around your neck and place inside your shirt. This is a safer way to carry your money and travel documents. Leave expensive jewelry and watches at home. Experienced travelers will also carry a couple of extra passport photos with them as well as a photocopy of the first pages of your passport. These should be carried in a place separate from your passport. Having these available will greatly facilitate the replacement of your passport if you lose it. Carry a pen with you for completing travel forms. Get to the airport early and make sure your luggage gets checked through to the correct destination.
Money and Tips
How much money should I bring?
As soon as you get to Kathmandu you will need your visa fee ($50 for trekkers and $125 for climbers) and then at the hotel we will collect your Sherpa tip pool contribution ($300 for Lobuche climbers and $200 for 3x3 trekkers). We will collect this in Kathmandu and distribute this after the trip on behalf of the team as a thank you gift to the many unsung people that make the whole operation run smoothly including the porters, trek staff, cooks, helpers, hotel staff, Kathmandu staff, climbing Sherpas, and others. You may also wish to provide additional tip to your Sherpas and IMG staff (figure 5% if you are looking for a generous number).
In addition to the tip pool and visa, we suggest $500 more, plus a credit card. You are better to have extra cash money and not need it than to need it and not have it! For your cash, bring new style bills (with the big faces) including some $10's and $20's. You can get a limited number of rupees each day in Kathmandu at a cash machine with your credit card, but you won't get dollars. You can change cash money into rupees at the hotel, and there are numerous money changer shops nearby. NOTE: everybody checks your money for counterfeit and no one takes old bills (bring NEW style US bills, not old style). Merchants will often try to give you ripped bills (rupees) for change. Tell them you want an un-ripped one, otherwise you'll never be able to spend it. You will probably want to change $100 into rupees (get small bills) to carry on the trek for stopping at the tea houses, shopping in Namche, etc. You will probably want another $100 for spending in Kathmandu for food and gifts. It is difficult to change money once the trek starts. Bring the rest of the money with you in case of emergency. If you have extra left over rupees at the end of the trip that are unspent, change them back before you leave Nepal, otherwise you will not be able to change them once you leave the country.
Cash is preferred, but you will probably also want to bring a credit card, though remember that you will likely get hit by your bank with 3% fees on foreign credit card purchases. If you plan to use your credit card, you should call your bank and let them know you will be traveling abroad, otherwise using it might trigger a fraud alert on your account which results in your card getting turned off.
How does the tip pool work?
We will assist you to provide suitable tips in a seamless fashion, as a thank you gift to the many unsung people that make the whole operation run smoothly: the guides and sherpas, porters, trek staff, cooks and helpers, hotel staff, Kathmandu staff, and others.
What's included in the expedition fee?
Costs Included in Trip Fee:
- Transportation to and from airport in Kathmandu
- Double occupancy hotels with breakfast in Kathmandu for stated itinerary at beginning of expedition
- Fixed wing round-trip flight to Lukla
- Double occupancy rooms in Teahouse lodging on trek
- All meals while trekking
- Park fees
- Sherpa guides
- Camp staff
- Radio comms and satellite telephone equipment
- Yaks and porters
- Hyperbaric bag
- Emergency medical oxygen.
Costs Not Included in Trip Fee:
- International round-trip air fare and travel expenses to/from Nepal/KTM
- Meals in Kathmandu
- Hotels in Kathmandu after the trek/climb
- Personal gear
- Excess baggage charges
- Airport taxes and entry visas
- Sherpa tip pool
- Satellite telephone air charges
- Personal sundries and beverages
- Costs incurred as a result of delays or events beyond the control of IMG
- Required Travel Insurance (medical, evacuation, trip cancellation, etc.)
- Customary but optional tips for IMG staff.
What immunizations will I need?
- Tetanus/Diphtheria: You should already have. Do you need a booster?
- Polio: You should already have. Do you need a booster?
- MMR: You should already have. Do you need a booster?
- Meningitis: Recommended. Consult your physician.
- Hepatitis A: Recommended. Consult your physician.
- Hepatitis B: Not a bad idea. Ask your physician.
- Cholera: Ask your physician. Not usually recommended any more.
- Typhoid: Not a bad idea to be safe. The tablet form, Vivotif Berna, is good for five years.
- Rabies: The new vaccine is easy. Kathmandu and Nepal have rabid animals.
- Malaria: No problem in Kathmandu, since we are above the zone of malaria, but if you plan on traveling to lower elevations in Nepal, or to certain parts of Thailand before/after the trip then malaria chemoprophylaxis is highly recommended.
We recommend that you visit the travel clinic at a major University Hospital or your local Public Health Department for the most up to date info on travel requirements, or check the Center for Disease Control Website at www.cdc.gov.
What other medical info should I consider?
While it's always nice to have a doctor as a participant on our trips, we cannot guarantee a doctor's presence. We ask that you carefully complete the Medical Information form included in the registration materials. We need to be informed of any allergies you may have, medicines you are currently taking and any medical conditions that could possibly effect your ability to safely participate on a climbing expedition.
In addition to the first aid items listed on the equipment list, there are a few additional medications that you should consider. These should be discussed with your personal physician and some will require a prescription. We want everyone to bring two regimens of the antibiotic azithromycin ("Z-Pak") and some Immodium in case of bad traveler's diarrhea. A sleeping medication can be useful for napping on the international flights and for the first few days in Nepal (due to the big time change). We do not recommend the automatic use of Diamox while climbing but you might find a small dose (125mg) useful if altitude sickness symptoms appear. Discuss this and your other medication requirements with your physician. Any medication should be used only if necessary and use should be discussed thoroughly with your physician and with your guide before you take the medication.
Water purification is also very important. An effective and inexpensive method is the use of iodine crystals or tablets. These are available commercially at mountaineering stores as a product called 'Polar Pure' or 'Potable Agua'. Filters, such as the ones made by MSR, are also good. Either can be used or both can be used in combination. On the trek our recommendation is to plan on treating your water bottle water with an iodine tablet (Potable Aqua) or other purification method. You can buy bottled water in Kathmandu, but we do not encourage you to buy bottled water on the trek since the bottles are garbage and constitute an environmental issue. If you want to buy boiled water at the lodges for your water bottles, you should bring some extra money. We also recommend that each participant bring a small bottle of a hand disinfectant such as Purell. Anything that we can do to stay healthy is worthwhile. Health issues will be discussed during the expedition and we encourage you to contact us if you have any questions before or during the trip.
Do I really need to bring the high altitude medications Nifedipine and Dexamethasome?
Our IMG guides are very experienced with dealing with altitude illness, but we are not allowed to provide prescription drugs to our customers. For this reason we ask each climber to consult with their own physician and to bring their own emergency medications to use (while descending!) in case of onset of high altitude pulmonary or cerebral edema symptoms. These include Nifedipine and Dexamethasome, which will help to "buy some time" to get down to a lower altitude. The Nifedipine is useful for pulmonary edema (take one 30mg sustained release tablet every twelve hours) and the Dexamethasome is useful for cerebral edema (take one 4mg tablet every 6 hours). Our suggestion is that climbers each bring a few tablets of each medication (2 tabs of Nifedipine and 4 tabs of Dex is plenty) and that should be sufficient to provide one day of treatment so the patient can get down, if they start to get sick. For more information see this recent article in WILDERNESS & ENVIRONMENTAL MEDICINE, 21, 146-155 (2010).