We were all struck by the awesome responsibility of the job and the range of leadership qualities and other skills it demands. We were a motley bunch of trekkers, aged 29-69, in a remote, unfamiliar and harsh environment. The leader doesn't know who he's going to have to deal with. He just knows that he's got to get them, whoever they are, round this most challenging of treks. Gum KC, our leader, was superb.
I also want to pay credit to our guides, Ganesh and Saroj, who not only escorted us cheerfully and informatively, but also waited on us at lodges and restaurants, brought us our morning tea and if necessary carried messages ahead, organised our laundry and even relieved us (if in extremis) of our back-packs.........also to our porters. They were the happiest bunch of guys I ever met.
This review must read like an Exodus plant, but I really mean everything I've written. To be so served by these Nepalese people was a humbling experience.
Given the range of climates one encounters on the Circuit, you will need to take a variety of clothes and this puts a premium on space and weight. The following advice should be read at reader's risk. It is what WE found.
Some things we were advised to take but DIDN'T need:
A big heavy, 4-season, sleeping bag? No. At high altitude without exception the lodges provided massive bedcovers. We were very happy with our light, highly compactable, "trekkers" sleeping bags. They were supposedly 3-season bags althougth we never had a chance to put them seriously to the test.
A big supply of toilet paper just in case? No. It is available everywhere. One roll will be fine.
Savoury snacks (nuts, biltong, jiffy beef)? No. These are great in theory but in practice what everyone craved for were sweet things. And you don't need to carry much of these, either. Biscuits, chocolate bars, muesli bars, etc, are available everywhere.
Down jacket? Not for us! This may be a good idea in the dead of winter but they were not needed on our trek. The down jackets on hire from Exodus are heavy and take up a lot of room. Several of us had them and they were a nuisance. It is better (I think) to have lots of layers: base layer, fleecy shirt, fleecy jumper, fleecy jacket, fleecy over-jacket and a shower-proof jacket to cover everything in an emergency. I had all five items, to mix and match as needed.
Items we DID need:
At least two water containers, of which one should be at least 2 litre capacity, plus water purification tablets. One drinks a huge amount of water at high altitude, so you need to be able to have one bottle of water in the process of being treated while the other bottle is available to drink from. Drink stations aren't always available when you want them and, high up, one is discouraged from buying bottled water (though it is widely available) on environmental grounds.
Medicines for altitude sickness and bacterial diarrhea. Our leader did have stocks of Diamox and Ciprofloxacin (in addition to a lot of other emergency kit) but he naturally expected what we consumed to be replaced. We brought our own and were glad we did.
A day bag that provides good ventilation for your sweaty back and has a super-comfortable waist strap that enables you to take some of the weight on your hips. You are going to have that damn thing on back for an awful long time!
Robust, clear, waterproof polybags to protect your stuff in transit. The Exodus kit bags are excellent but not rain-proof.
Small, self-sealing bags for toiletries, etc. We found that ziplock bags easily snag and get ripped. Self-sealing bags of the kind provided at airport security last longer.
Washing line and hooks with which to sling it across your bedroom, plus a few clothes pegs. We found this essential. Many lodges provide washing lines but stuff left outside overnight often ended up damper than it started.