Located in the Mahalangur Himalayas, 19 km south-east of Mount Everest and standing on the border between Nepal and Tibet, Makalu, 8,485 metres (27,838 ft), is the fifth highest mountain in the world. Makalu could have been included in the Khumbu Himalaya section of this library of which it is essentially a part, but such is the significance of this striking and isolated mountain that is merits mention in its own right. Furthermore, unlike Everest and the other mountains of the Khumbu Himalaya that are reached by routes through the valley of the Dudh Khosi River and its tributaries, the best approach to Makalu is from the Arun Valley to the east. This lengthy route also requires a crossing of the 4,127 metre Shipton Pass followed by the steady ascent of the remote and isolated Barun Valley to the foot of the Barun Glacier.
This approach to Makalu starts at Tumlingtar in the heart of the fertile, if not somehwat hot and humid, Arun Valley. It follows an elevated ridge above the east bank of the river through the towns of Khandbari and Muri before descending to cross the Arun River on a now much improved wire bridge at Num. Thereafter a steady ascent through forest and open mountainsides leads to the multiple summited Shipton Pass with its tiny lakes and striking views along the Barun Valley towards Makalu. The Barun Valley is blessed with several high waterfalls that cascade into deep gorges, craggy rocks rise from lush green forests, and colorful flowers bloom beneath white snow peaks. This unique landscape shelters some of the last pristine mountain ecosystems on earth; rare species of animals and plants flourish in diverse climates and habitats, relatively undisturbed by the passage of the limited number of climbers who pass this way.
The approach to Makalu reaches its climax as one leaves the shepherds' hut at Nebe Kharka and heads for Shershon and the moraines of the Lower Barun Glacier. High mountains rise up in all directions. In addition to the main peak, Makalu has two notable subsidiary peaks and several striking neighbours of either 7,000 or 6,000 metres. Kangchungtse, or Makalu 2, 7,678 metres (25,192ft) stands about 3 km north-northwest of the main summit, and Chomo Lonzo, 7,804 metres (25,604ft) 5 km (3.1 mi) north-east across a broad plateau, but sadly out of sight from the glacier below. Other notable peaks that are visible from the Lower Barun Glacier and worthy of interest include Baruntse, 7,220 metres (23,689ft), Chamlang, 7,290 metres (23,918ft) and Tutse (aka Peak 6), 6,739 metres (22,111ft).