Thursday, July 16, 2020

Covid 19 | Trekking Update from South Col Expeditions


 As some of you would have seen from our whats app messenger posts, we have cancelled our summer treks in Ladakh for the period July to September 2020.  We are very sorry to lose the summer season in Ladakh with some of the best short camping treks in the Himalaya, some of which have been pioneered by South Col. However, Ladakh is under fourteen days quarantine for new arrivals at present and Delhi, the jumping off point for Ladakh is a major covid 19 hotspot in India, so it would be advisable not to trek this summer in Ladakh. Further, international insurance companies are not providing insurance for visits and treks to India, Nepal and Bhutan so far and this rules out a lot of our international clients.

We are still open to conducting treks in the November – December season 2020, if possible, but as days go by and with rising covid 19 numbers both in India and to a lesser extent in Nepal, it does seem to be a long shot at present.  Nepal flights are still not open and like India they are following fourteen days quarantine for any of their passengers arriving on repatriation flights. We will be constantly reviewing the situation and advising you as we get updated information.

Following this cancellation of our Ladakh summer treks, I would like to thank everyone for their support and kind words. As an adventure trek and photography tour operator focusing on Himalayan countries we are probably more used to the risks of losing seasons than most other regular travel operators. In the past, we have also dealt with cyclones during Autumn 2013 & 2014 seasons in Nepal and Bhutan. After the 2015 earthquake in Nepal we had to cancel our entire Spring season and though we were back in autumn in a limited way, it took some time to rebuild the numbers of trekkers again.

Clearly the impact of Covid 19 is on a different scale of magnitude to these previous events. Since starting South Col Expeditions, we have followed a conservative business plan that has factored in the possibility of having to survive without any revenue for a year or two due to force majeure circumstances. We thank all our clients who have booked with us in 2020 and assure you that your advances/payments will be rolled over to future treks as soon as we are able to start.
I am very positive for the Himalayan trekking seasons in 2021 and 2022. From my discussions with many of you, it is clear that most of you are wanting to get back to trekking in the Himalaya as soon as it is safe and socially responsible to do so. We plan to run our largest ever portfolio of treks in 2021 with tea house and camping treks in Nepal, Bhutan, Ladakh and Kilimanjaro. The tentative list is here,  covid 19 permitting, including November-December 2020 treks which may be rolled over to 2021. Many of these treks will be personally led by me – others by experienced South Col senior guides.

During this pandemic,  I have been sitting at home and researching and planning a number of new routes and add ons  which we plan to introduce in 2021 and 2022 like Gurja Himal and Dhaulagiri, Tumlingtar to Namche, the historic Arun Valley route in Nepal, Ama Dablam BC,  Bhutan – Dagala Thousand  Lakes etc. 

We also have a custom treks section on our website   where if you are a group of four or more you may submit your request with your preferred dates and we will set up the trek for you in Nepal, Ladakh, Sikkim or Bhutan.

Over the last few months during Covid 19 lock down we have really appreciated all the help and support received from you. This support has ranged from donations to our Covid 19 fund for our trekking crew after cancellation of the Spring 2020 season to lots of comments and engagement on our Face book and whats app posts.

We do not know how the Covid 19 situation will pan out in the future and how fast the world will open up again, however at this point I am confident that it will be possible to trek in Spring 2021. We will only run treks again when it is safe enough to do so.  In order to mitigate the risk we will implement Covid 19 safety protocols and provide training to the trek crews as far as practicable.

I am available regular hours and would welcome calls, emails or whats app chats if you would like to discuss your next trip to the Himalaya. Please do not hesitate to get in touch with us. 

Dream now, trek later.     

Sujoy Das | South Col Expeditions   ATOAI Membership No 719   


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