I’m looking for some advice. In November, barring an untenable surge of the COVID, I’m going to be trekking in Nepal. Now, I have very lightweight rain gear since most of my backpacking is in the drier mountains (like the Sierra). But will something like a Marmot Precip really be adequate in the Himalaya? GaliWalker, I know you’ve been in those mountains—any thoughts? I’m also wondering if I’m going to need heavier boots than my Merril Moabs (and if so, how I’m going to find any that don’t abuse my feet).
Firstly, I should point out that my two previous trips, as well as the one I will be embarking on in 2wks time - so psyched! - were in the Karakoram Range of northern Pakistan, and not the Himalayas of Nepal. (My trip to the basecamp of Nanga Parbat, which is in the western Himalayas, was a much simpler affair, and not a multiday backpacking trek.) The Karakoram Range sits to the northwest of the Himalayas and is a little dryer because it gets protection from the Himalayas. The summer monsoons are caused by the hot humid air of the Indian subcontinent hitting the Himalayas and then dropping its precipitation on the subcontinent. I have never hiked in the Himalayas to the north of India, but this doesn't mean that I'm not going to offer up an opinion!
The Karakorams are the big white blob northwest of the thin line of the Himalayas. The marker sits atop K2.
The summer monsoon season in southeastern Asia ends in August. There is a winter monsoon season but that should start in December or so. This means that your intended trip during November should be rain free. Expect cold temperatures at night! Even for my August trip it will be hovering around freezing overnight. Your jacket should be sufficient, although I doubt it will work if you were caught in a proper monsoonal downpour. I've always taken a poncho with me, because my Marmot Precip jacket doesn't go over the huge camera that I have belted around my waist. I'm toying with taking an umbrella but I think I can't afford the weight.
Regarding your choice of footwear... Once again, my experience might be a bit tangential, because Karakoram treks are mostly on glaciers (as is somewhat apparent from the satellite view above), whereas I've heard that Nepal treks are mostly on trail, with glacier crossings. (I don't know how true this is.) The glaciers in that part of the world are more like those in Alaska, and not like those you might have experienced in the Washington Cascades. Some part is exposed ice, but large portions involve travel on a thin veneer of talus and scree atop the ice. This layer of rock is unlike talus piles you may be used to, because it moves. And if it slides you may want to try and 'surf' it, because it's quite difficult to try and stop yourself without getting scraped. Essentially, the layer is too thin for it to be wedged in tight amongst the rocks below. My advice is to try and step on a rock in such a way that it pushes in to any other rocks below it, in the hopes that it wedges in.
With this description out of the way, I think your boots are probably less optimal for the Karakorams - maybe a bit too lightweight - but should be fine for the Nepal Himalayas (based on my assumption that it will be mostly trail and less glacier travel). Personally, I'm on my second pair of Asolo TPS 520 GV boots. I love these. My first pair lasted me 5yrs, where something like your Merrils would be done in 1-2yrs.
A word about crampons: I think you might want to take microspikes at a minimum - that's what I'm taking (our trekking company will provide crampons as needed) - especially for November, where there might be more exposed ice than during summer.
Feel free to ask any questions. I will try and answer as best as I can.
GaliWalker, thanks for the input. I did remember your Karakoram trip, but thought you’d also done Nepal. Still, sounds like you have some insights. The suggestion about the poncho is a good one—I used one to reasonably good effect in New Zealand (not perfect, but the kind of rain you get in Fjordland will go through anything), and I like keeping the whole rig dry.
They do suggest microspikes, and the trekking company says we can get them in Lukla, so I will probably wait—the weight limits for the flight on that segment are strict, so anything helps.
I’m going to run the boot question past the trip leader, just to be sure. If I need something sturdier, I’m going to have to start looking now.
I did remember your Karakoram trip, but thought you’d also done Nepal.
A Nepal trek was what I'd originally thought I'd do next, after my very first Karakoram trek. But then I saw the Karakorams, and couldn't think of going any other place until I was too old to withstand the rigors. This would be my third trip in there, basically to take care of some unfinished business, and almost certainly the final one. I have too many other (less risky) spots in the World to see.