The trek to the base of Makalu, at 8485m the fifth highest mountain in the world, is an exuberant journey from the richness of a tropical rainforest to the harsh beauty of the alpine zone. Makalu lies 22 kilometers east of Everest at the head of the remote Barun Khola valley, which can only be reached by crossing a high pass. This valley is mostly unspoilt wilderness with little sign of human influence; a spectacular land of sub-alpine forests, waterfalls, cliffs and meadows, and the trek into it is both tough and committing, but the rewards are incalculable.

Makalu base camp is remote and little visited, though the journey to get there is magnificent and exhilarating. There are few facilities once the three 4000m cols that lead to the Barun Valley have been crossed, and supplies must be carried in.

Those high cols have to be recrossed on the return journey too as there is no way out for the non-mountaineer from the head of this valley. The highest pass is known as the Shipton La named after Eric Shipton who first came here in 1954, but its local name is Tuta La. The return journey takes about a week but although there is no new country, views are different from this perspective and the landscape is so engrossing that traversing it twice is not a hardship.