Pure magic with Mactreks
Great Himalaya Trail (Nepal) – Trip Summary –Stuart Bilby
I developed a deep longing to walk the Great Himalaya Trail.
So starting 4 March 2014 I walked for 127 days from Darchula to Kanchenjunga Base Camp; crossing Nepal from east to west past many of the world’s tallest peaks. For the first 60 days I travelled with Lisa Lee-Johnson and for the next 67 by myself. It was wild, delightful and life-changing.
The route is dramatic and challenging – repeatedly rising to over 5000 metres into snow and glaciers then plunging to below 500 metres into the jungle. Temperatures fluctuated between -18 and +40°C and I covered over 1600 kilometres, starting in winter walking through spring and into the monsoon.
As the trip went on, I developed the emotional life of a three-year-old. Each day had moments of terrible anguish; like painful feet, becoming lost and having to retrace four hours of the hardest walking, but also moments of pure delight; an astonishing mountain view or drinking tea as neighbourhood children danced for me.
Nepalis were consistently gracious...
Despite five previous trips to Nepal I was surprised how difficult the navigation was, especially through the farms and forests of lower altitudes where the maze of trails and newly cut roads often led me in the wrong direction. The constant mental dance of watching faint trails, questioning every person I met and studying map, compass, GPS and guidebook required intense concentration.
Unseasonable snow and avalanches trapped us between high passes near Mugu and we lost three weeks retreating west then south into Dhorpatan to find a passable route to the Annapurna region. Learning to calmly adapt to the destruction of careful plans is one of the GHT’s gifts.
We trekked without porters or guides and without taking breaks away from the trail. For 127 days I didn’t use cars, buses, planes, donkeys or yaks for transport. I wanted to leave a continuous line of footsteps the length of Nepal. I had planned to take a guide for technical sections but in the end heavy snowfall at critical moments diverted me to lower routes.
I purchased nearly all my food as I went and found delight in foraging around villages – woohoo! oranges or chocolate, spring onions or fish. There was the odd hungry day and I finished 19 kg thinner. I travelled light – nearly always carrying less than 7 kg, including a light tent and sleeping bag. The trail is very physically and emotionally demanding with high levels of danger in some areas.
My trekking agent Mactrek to meet me every month or so to swap gear and deliver permits for the next section. Although permits were a challenge because it was impossible to predict which routes would be open and how fast I would move, and though there were some minor debates with police, because of the hard work of Mactrek I was never delayed or diverted by permit issues.
Nepalis were consistently gracious – strangers inviting me into their homes or walking with me for hours to ensure I found the right path. Crime was not an issue and when I carelessly left gear on the side of the trail it was returned to me.
Nepal is delightful and the trip never became boring. The variety is remarkable: from the Far West forests and rice paddies where people are astonished to see trekkers, to high Mugu passes, the remote grasslands of Dolpo, the crowded apple pie luxury of Annapurna, the jaw dropping ice faces of the Everest area to the jungles and glaciers of the Kanchenjunga area.
The Nepal GHT is the trip of a lifetime.
It was so good in fact we came back three years later to do the alternative finish to Hilsa via the remarkable Limi Valley!