Once I made the decision to trek in Nepal, I had to decide whether to trek independently, which might mean trekking alone since none of my friends could come, or use a guide, porter/guide, porter, or guide and porter; and if one of the latter whether to get the porter or guide through an agency or hire one myself. The place to start research was the web. The Kathmandu based company Mountain Sherpa Trekking & Expeditions came up high on a google search for “Nepal trekking reviews”; their web site seemed excellent, and the number of treks offered was unusually large, including many of the less popular treks. That is how I began emailing Pasang Sherpa with all my stupid questions, such as whether I would need to bring fully insulated winter boots on the Annapurna Circuit trek in January, and what would be the expected temperature on the Thorung La, the highest pass on the circuit. He answered all my many questions promptly and with authority, so I would have felt guilty not to use his services.

My friend Smulldog in his blog Smulldog in the Himalayas argues against a reasonably fit person hiring a guide or porter, because the solitary trekker would certainly meet other like minded trekkers to hook up with. But his Annapurna circuit trek was in late October, the busy season. In January there would be less people, and it would be colder, so I would have to carry extra clothes, and it would be more dangerous. As it turned out, there were far fewer people. From Besi Sahar to Manang I ran into at most two other groups of trekkers a day, and none of them would have been feasible to hook up with. Most of the lodges were completely empty, and my guide and I were often the only guests at a lodge.