Frequently Asked Questions
What must I bring?
See the link ‘Gear List and Useful Trekking Tips’.
How difficult is the trek?
Moderately difficult involving 4 to 6 hours a day on most days. The longest day is 8 hours. Although a few volunteers have not trained beforehand and managed to trek without incident, it is best to train, preferably in hilly terrain. The trail is at least 3 feet wide everywhere, and usually 5 to 6 feet or wider. There are occasional precipitous drop-offs. The suspension bridges are sturdy. That said, a fear of heights is prohibitive.
Must I carry my belongings?
Each porter carries 30 kg’s for two people. You are expected to carry your own day pack unless you have a musculoskeletal problem that mandates a lifting limit. See Gear List for advice on what to carry in your day pack. The porters walk in advance of the group so you do not have access to your belongings until arrival at the day’s destination.
What kind of power sources do I need?
An external battery pack is essential - around 50 USD on Amazon. Electricity is available in the tea houses but not always in your room so it’s best to power up multiple devices on the battery pack in a place like your room where you can power up securely. The tea houses are safe but petty theft cannot be ruled out (anywhere in the world.)
Describe the accommodations.
Rooms in a guest house in Bouda, Kathmandu are reserved. On the trek, we stay in tea houses, which are like motels with simple rooms without heat or bathroom. Electric outlets are sometimes present in the room; hall outlets are available otherwise. The rooms are not soundproof. There is usually one unisex bathroom for the entire tea house. Meals are taken in a communal room. Stairs between floors can be uneven. The place for washing hands and body is variable. A shower room that provides cold water is usual. The trekking team will heat buckets of water which can be mixed with cold water while we shower. Rooms are shared with one person.
The Westerners eat as a group according to a set meal, three meals a day. If you have food allergies, you can order food separately but will need to pay a higher trek fee to cover the cost. A nonalcoholic beverage is included with each meal. The portion size is large; sometimes we’ve even shared meals. Meals are vegetarian in the Tsum as Tsum is a “no kill” zone. One meal a day will have meat during the four days we spend trekking in Manaslu. Typical Nepali meals include momos, a Nepali pot sticker, or rice, and vegetables.
How safe is Nepal?
Very safe even in the urban areas. The Himalaya are earthquake prone, which is mainly a problem when surrounded by buildings. The trek itself is safe as long as you abide by the rule of hiking mountain side, especially when mule trains pass. You do need to sign an indemnity form that absolves mission fiscal sponsor, Empower Nepal Foundation, and me from responsibility should harm to yourself occur.
What must I do to obtain a Visa and what is the cost?
You purchase a visa on arrival at the airport in Kathmandu. Be sure to bring a pen to complete paperwork, your passport (which should not expire within 6 months of entry into the country) and cash USD — 50 USD if you plan to stay less than 30 days and 100 USD if you plan to stay longer, either before and/or after the 27 days you are scheduled to volunteer for the mission.
What is the altitude of the villages we visit? Do I need to take a medicine before climbing up?
We begin in Kathmandu at 4400 feet. We actually lose altitude initially to 2200 feet and then gradually gain altitude in Lower Tsum over four days to 6500 feet. We then climb to 8500 feet in one day. The next day we trek to 10,000 to the clinic in Upper Tsum. We spend 3 days providing patient care before ascending to Mu Gompa for an overnight at 11,400 feet. Altitude sickness is rarely a problem due to the gradual ascent. The prophylactic use of Diamox is up to each volunteer.
What kind of luggage should I bring?
One duffel bag Extra Large or Large, depending on your needs. I will likely ask you to carry mission-related items in a second bag, which can be any large case. The airlines usually charge if the bag weighs more than 50 pounds but you’ll need to check your airline’s baggage information.
Describe the trail conditions.
Moderate inclines in parts. Rocky in many places. Care must be taken when mule trains pass so that trekkers should stand mountain side.
What is the temperature range?
70’s and 80’s during the day with a rare 90 plus, and 40’s to 50’s at night with occasional low 30’s. Because of greater elevation, Upper Tsum can be chillier throughout the day and night, not exceeding 60 degrees with wind at times. Lower Tsum is more tropical.