Days 1-10 Kathmandu to Kanchenjunga Base Camp (KBC) at Pangpema.
DAY 1: KATHMANDU – TAPLEJUNG/SUKETAR – DRIVE TO SUKATHUM 8-20HRS
The only scheduled flights to Suketar (2420m) from Kathmandu are on Sunday and Wednesday (Tara Air), for the rest of the week you either have to fly via Bhadrapur, or charter your own flight, or use a combination of flight and bus or jeep (8 to 12 hours) to the large Limbu settlement of Taplejung (1820m) via Illam. Flights can be delayed due to bad weather so it is wise to organise a second option, just in case. If you arrive late in the day at Suketar there are some simple teahouses next to the airport, alternatively it is an easy downhill walk for two hours to Taplejung. A regular jeep service heads from Taplejung to Sukethum (5 hours) throughout the day.
DAY 2: SUKATHUM – AMJILOSA 6HRS
Cross the suspension bridge at the Sukathum campsite to the true left bank of the Ghunsa Khola, and follow a trail through dense forest until the valley narrows into a deep gorge (2hrs). Waterfalls cascade down both sides of the valley; the sound of the river will make conversation difficult. It is essential you concentrate on the trail. Locals have built a stone walkway beneath a cliff-face along the river’s waterline, which makes for some great pictures but care is needed at all times. After negotiating this section, there is another hour of dense forest trail before you cross a bridge at the base of a steep climb. Switchbacks ascend 350m (2hrs) before the gradient eases, about one hour before Amjilosa (2308m).
DAY 3: AMJILOSA – GYABLA (KYAPRA) 5HRS
The trail leaving Amjilosa wastes no time in climbing a minor ridge to a sharp turn to the north (30 mins). The forest is dense and dark as you again descend towards the Ghunsa Khola at Thyanyani (2405m, 1hr) and the first of a few slippery log bridges across streams. There are a few small stone shelters here which are normally only used by herders in monsoon.
For the first time in a number of days the trail doesn’t seem to continually climb up and down, as the valley widens slightly and feels less claustrophobic. After the third bridge (2hrs) the trail climbs another steep track for roughly 300m (2hrs), the last section beside a stream can be slippery so care is needed. You crest the climb and find yourself on the outskirts of the picturesque village of Gyabla (Kyapra, 2730m). For those with time and energy there is a pleasant walk up behind the village with views of the Birdhungga Danda.
DAY 4: GYABLA (KYAPRA) – GHUNSA 4.5HRS
After the previous week this day marks a noticeable change in the flora and fauna along the trail. At first, the trail seems much like that of the previous afternoon; a broader valley bottom permits views of the river and hillsides, which continue for 1½ hours. Then the trail climbs for 200m (1hr) and suddenly you notice rhododendron, camellias and azaleas rather than bamboo and cardamom beside the trail. The village of Phale (Phere, 3140m) is spread over a large area. The first houses are the winter village for Ghunsa, before the village proper (30 mins). This is a Tibetan refugee settlement where it’s possible to buy handicrafts and homemade rugs from some of the locals, ask around when you arrive and potential sellers will soon find you! From Phale a pretty trail winds through dwarf conifer and pine forest before crossing a suspension bridge (to the true left bank) and arriving at Ghunsa (3595m, 1½hrs) in a broad section of valley. Waterfalls fall from the steep cliffs above this Sherpa village that feels like the edge of nowhere on a cloudy day.
DAY 5: GHUNSA ALL DAY
As you have now passed the 3000m mark, it is wise to take an acclimatisation rest day at Ghunsa. You can relax and explore the village. Sherpa hospitality is legendary and the local school is proud to show off its computer (you can charge iPods here for a donation).
Alternatively, explore the Yamtari Khola which boasts a fantastic view of Jannu (7711m) from the south – first follow the water pipe for the village hydro-generator and climb on the true right side of the river until you reach some herders’ huts, then cross boulders to reach the viewpoint. This valley is also the route to the disused and dangerous Lapsang La (5161m), as well as Sele La (4290m) and Sinion La (4440m) both of which offer interesting route variations to/from Yalung if you have camping gear (see Other Trails in the Kanchenjunga Region, p000).
DAY 6: GHUNSA – KHANGPACHEN (KHAMBACHEN) 5.5HRS
Deodar pine and rhododendron forest, grassy glades dotted with wild flowers, and increasingly spectacular mountain scenery combine into what is perhaps the most impressive section of trail along the entire trek. It will take about 1½ hours to reach a bridge that crosses to the true right bank of the Ghunsa Khola and Rampuk Kharka (3720m). Note that the bridge is often blocked with sticks to prevent yaks from wandering. The trail now climbs almost 400m past, and then through, a large landslide (beware of rockfall) beside the terminal moraine of the Kanchenjunga Glacier to 4100m (2½hrs). A brief traverse of the hillside offers a good view of Jannu before descending to the yak farming settlement of Khangpachen (Khambachen, 4050m, 1½hrs).
The Kanchenjunga School Project
The Kanchenjunga School Project (KSP) funded the building of the Ghunsa and Phale schools and medical clinics in 1990 and 1992. Since then the KSP has maintained these facilities, provided salaries and training for the health-care worker, a midwife and pre-school teachers. The Nepal government provides primary-school-level teachers and some support for the health posts. KSP always need additional support and donations, which can be made locally through businesses in the villages or through : www.kanchenjunga.org
DAY 7: KHANGPACHEN (KHAMBACHEN) ALL DAY
A day to acclimatise is normally taken at Khangpachen (Khambachen), where there are two great day walks to help you adjust to the 700m altitude gain tomorrow. One route is to explore the valley directly behind Khangpachen and walk up to the base of Tha Nagphu (5980m), a massive snow and rock dome that you can see from the village. Alternatively, for those feeling fit, cross the river and climb the true right (left-hand) side of the Kumbhakarna Glacier lateral moraine to the popular pilgrimage site beneath the massive vertical north face of Jannu – there is a large boulder and plenty of prayer flags to mark a viewpoint.
DAY 8: KHANGPACHEN (KHAMBACHEN) – LHONAK 5HRS
The trail away from Khangpachen is surprisingly easy as you gradually climb scrubby lateral moraine for one hour. Then comes perhaps the hardest and most dangerous section of the entire trek, a climb up a long section of landslide, mostly across large boulders, which takes about 2½ hours. It is wise to keep moving, however slowly, across this section and complete the climb as early as possible as the risk of rockfall increases throughout the day. Once across the stream from the waterfall section the trail climbs steeply (beware of rockfall) for a short section to the top of an ancient lateral moraine at 4670m (a popular lunch stop), where the gradient eases as you cross some scrubby and grass-covered moraine. On the far side is the Lhonak Khola, which you follow to a seasonal bridge and a few stone shelters at Lhonak (4780m, 2hrs).
DAY 9: LHONAK ALL DAY
The large sandy bed of the Lhonak Khola offers an inviting walk for an acclimatisation trip. It is important that you are prepared for and understand the hazards of river crossings if you want to fully explore this valley. It is possible to explore a rough track along the western edge of the Lhonak glacier to the confluence of the Chabuk and Chijima glaciers at 5080m, 5 hours’ return. Alternatively, you can enjoy the views of Gimmigela, Wedge Peak, Nepal Peak and Tent Peak (Tharpu Chuli) that line and head the valley to the east. Try to spot the rock pinnacle on the far side of the glacier, just at the point it turns south-west.
DAY 10: LHONAK – KANCHENGJUNGA BASE CAMP - LHONAK 7HRS
The trail from Lhonak climbs gently along the massive lateral moraine of the Kanchenjunga glacier for the first 2 hours. It’s hard not to stop and admire the views of the peaks and the glacier below. A short steep section of loose rock and landslide formed by a side river will take 40-60 minutes to cross. The trail then climbs more gently for another hour before you reach the few stone huts of Pangpema and Kanchenjunga Base Camp (5143m). Expedition groups will probably not have a permanent camp here as an advanced base camp across the glacier has become a preferred spot.
Now your GHT Nepal Trek begins! From this day you head west until you meet the border with Tibet.
Navigation is easy, simply retrace your steps to Lhonak (3hrs)
Days 11-18 KBC over the Nango La and Lumbha Sambha to Hongon
DAY 11: LHONAK – GHUNSA 7HRS
Your first full day on the GHT is an easy one to Ghunsa (6hrs).
DAY 12: GHUNSA – LANJONG KHARKA 5.5HRS
From Ghunsa, descend the main trail beside the Ghunsa Khola for 1½ hours to a trail junction, just before the Yangma Samba Khola (before Phale) that descends from the Nango La valley to your right. Ascend a small trail, first through scrubby pine forest and then grassy hillside for 3¼ hours to a series of kharka (summer grazing pasture), which offer some rough tent platforms.
The following morning get an early start for Nango La (4776m, 1¼hrs), as cloud often obscures the view. Once over the pass descend to a bowl-shaped valley to a dharamsala (emergency shelter) in 30 minutes. Livestock have made the ground around the dharamsala very muddy so only stay here if you have no other choice. Descend to the west on the true right (northern) bank of a stream, which rapidly grows in size and often involves some route finding through scrubby rhododendron.
There is an excellent grassy campsite at Lanjong Kharak (3734m, 3hrs from the dharamsala) towards the end of the valley before you descend through dense woodland to the Yangma Khola valley.
DAY 13: LANJONG KHARAK – OLANGCHUN GOLA 7HRS
Once beside the river, the trail swings north, upstream, for about one hour before descending to the Yangma Khola bridge (3430m, 2hrs), which you cross. There are many minor up and downs as you walk downstream on the true right (western) bank of the Yangma Khola and then turn west (right) into the Tamor Khola valley (2800m, 3½hrs). Do not cross the bridge over the Tamor Khola: you must stay on the true left (northern) bank following a broad trail to Olangchun Gola (3191m, 1½hrs).
DAY 14: OLANGCHUN GOLA – PASS CAMP 7.5HRS
There are some signs along this route now, they are accurate and should be followed. From Olangchun Gola head north-west for 3½ hours along the Tamor Khola, which brings you to a river confluence and bridge, which you cross to head up the Dingsamba Khola. There is a campsite at the confluence of the two rivers (3712m). A small trail through dense rhododendron forest climbs the true left side of the valley to a large, flat area used by herders (1½hrs).
At the end of the valley a trail climbs up and over a black rock band into another, smaller valley (4453m, 2½hrs), where you should camp.
DAY 15: PASS CAMP – THUDAM 8HRS
A stream cascades down a rocky slope on your left; climb the broken trail on the true left (north-west) side of the stream to exit the main valley. If snow covered, this can be a tricky starting place to find, so use the GPS reference: N 27°43’53” E 87°41’21” at approx. 4,470m. You then reach a plateau (1½hrs) with a lake and views of the Lumbha Sambha. Climb the ridge on your right (northern side of the small plateau), heading for the northernmost of three obvious saddles. There is a small trail to follow but snow often obscures your route. You should crest the saddle (5136m, 1hr; GPS ref: N 27°43’44” E 87°39’55”) after another hour.
Do not descend into the Palun Khola valley below! There is a small trail that traverses beneath a peak marked 5422m on the map to another saddle and the Lumbha Sambha La proper (5159m, 30 mins), with views of Kanchenjunga and Jannu to the east and Makalu to the west. An easy-to-follow trail descends to the north-west into a large valley and the source of the Lapsi Khola (1hr). This valley has many campsites and the following day you should reach the strongly Tibetan-influenced community of Thudam (3556m, 4hrs) where there is a basic teahouse.
DAY 16: THUDAM – KHARKA 8.5HRS
The trail gradually becomes overgrown and harder to follow as you descend the Medokchheje Khola, there are many minor trails in the area and you might appreciate the knowledge of a local guide for this section. Just before a large wood-cutting camp the trail climbs (3020m, 1½hrs) and splits again after 30 minutes of climbing, take the west (left) fork. A sometimes scrambly trail winds around ridges and climbs to a minor pass (3369m, 2hrs) before descending into dense forest beyond where you can camp in a small sloping kharka (1½hrs). The trail continues in much the same vein to another kharka (2hrs) dominated by a large rock
DAY 17: KHARKA – CHYAMTANG 4HRS
The trail goes to the right of the rock and climbs steeply to another minor pass (2820m, 1hr) before a long descent down countless switchbacks to a bridge over the Arun Nadi below (1850m, 2hrs). You are bound to receive a warm welcome from the Lhomi people in Chyamtang (2187m, 1hr), where you can now enjoy the luxury of a main trail!
From Chyamtang there is a direct route to Molun Pokhari by following a ridge-top trail along the Simbokpa and Pejung Danda. This route requires a local guide as it is rarely used and poses some very tricky navigation. However, although a very long day, it is still faster than going via Hongon.
DAY 18: CHYAMTANG – HONGON 5.5HRS
The more popular route is via Hongon as the local shops have more variety than in Chyamtang. It is an easy day to Hongon (2323m, 5½hrs) where you can easily stock up on food and fuel before embarking on the next section to the Makalu region.
Days 19-26 Hongon to Makalu Base Camp (MBC) via some wilderness trails
DAY 19: HONGON – BAKIM KHARKA 3.5HRS
From Hongon, climb a well-used trail that goes straight up to a ridge behind the village. There are some tall prayer flags beneath the ridge that mark a burial site. Avoid going there or taking photos of the site as it will only offend the locals and your crew will believe that any disrespect will bring bad luck. There are many small trails towards the top of the ridge, most of which are created by grazing animals, so it might take a little time to find the chorten that marks a minor pass (2710m, 1½hrs).
Just after the pass the trail forks: you must go right; do not descend to your left. The trail traverses a hillside, crosses a stream and then climbs a small ridge before meeting the Tojo Khola. You need to stay on the true left (east) bank of this river and follow a trail made by woodcutters through rhododendron forest covered in moss. Eventually the trail crosses the Tojo Khola to the true right bank and Bakim Kharka (3020m, 2hrs) is a good campsite
DAY 20: BAIKIM KHARKA – MOLUN POKHARI 4.5HRS
After another hour there is a smaller campsite at Khazakhani Kharka (3480m). The trail becomes steep and rocky but offers great views south of the Arun Nadi valley. Climb for nearly 500m (2½hrs), as you near the top of the plateau (3950m) there are some scrambling sections. A series of chortens mark the end of the climb and the edge of Molun Pokhari, a picturesque lake.
Wind around the north side of the lake to a large campsite in a valley to the west (3954m, 40 mins).
The trail to the Tibetan border, Popti La (4200m, 3hrs) can be seen heading north out of the valley.
DAY 21: MOLUN POKHARI – CAVE SHELTER 9HRS
A small trail climbs a ridge to the south of the campsite, before heading south-east, then east to a rocky ascent that climbs a minor pass (4201m, 1hr). Be careful not to take a small trail that heads south just before the pass. Just after the pass is a great view of Tin Pokhari and the eastern edge of the Makalu-Barun National Park.
An easy to follow trail descends a ridge to your left; there will probably be some yaks around the lake. At a small lake on your left is another trail junction (30 mins), head to your right and continue descending next to a small stream to the valley bottom. Cross the Dhunge Khola (the plank bridge is often washed away) to a large kharka on the far bank and continue down the valley on the true right bank to a drier campsite, which normally has a bamboo structure over a kharka (3590m, 1hr).
A small trail through dense forest continues to follow the true right (west) bank of the Dhunge Khola. After 1½ hours, and rounding a ridge that draws you away from the main river valley, the trail forks beneath cliffs in the middle of a small clearing. Either descend a steep stream bed to your left (which doesn’t look like a trail at all), or continue on a small trail that bears right and into the tributary valley of the Kholakharka Khola.
The streambed trail will take you to a large hollow tree used by locals as shelter before descending a couple of metres to the watercourse. A large tree has been felled creating a bridge across the river, but you will require a couple of safety lines as the log can be slippery (45 mins, note you only need to use the log if the stream is in spate). Cross the Kholakharka Khola, about 80m upstream of the confluence with the Dhunge Khola – after heavy rain this is a very difficult river crossing.
The right-hand trail goes to a point where the river crossing over the Kholakharka Khola is safer but will add up to 1½ hours to your day.
Either route will mean you cross to the true right (west) bank of the Dhunge Khola and then follow a small, overgrown trail to the Saldim Khola (2hrs). A-hard to-find trail in dense rhododendron forest then climbs briefly, heading parallel to the Saldim Khola. The trail gets lost in the gouged out river-bed (almost certainly caused by a GLOF, Glacial Lake Outburst Flood) and you will need to find your own way across a boulder-strewn and shifting route (for about an hour) until you can see a large slightly overhanging rock-face on your left. Scout around and you should find a small trail that leads to the base of the rock-face, which makes an acceptable campsite (3115m). Apparently, there is an alternative trail up the real Saldim Khola to another possible camping spot, but we didn’t see the trail junction.
DAY 22: CAVE SHELTER – KALO POKHARI 5HRS
Climb the watercourse a little further before exiting on the true right (left) on a small trail that ascends just to the left of a much steeper watercourse, which looks more like a cascade. Ascend steeply (for 350m) between two streams on a small trail (1½hrs) before the gradient begins to ease; you can then cross the stream to the true right (left) and head up a shrub-covered slope. Pass a small lake and continue to climb to a waterless kharka and on to the ridge top (3855m, 1hr), which you will follow before descending slightly to an east-facing kharka and possible campsite. You then climb a craggy trail around a ridge to a minor pass (4207m, 1hr), before dipping through a shallow valley and climbing another ridge (4253m, 1hr) to arrive at a black water lake (4192m, 30 mins), where there is enough room to camp.
DAY 23: KALO POKHARI – RHODODENDRON KHARKA 5HRS
Climb the next ridge to a pass (4624m, 1½hrs) before a steep, rocky descent, which is treacherous if snow-covered. From the valley bottom the trail climbs another ridge to a minor pass (4457m, 1½hrs), where you can see a large valley and campsite below, it will take another 1½ hours to descend through dense rhododendron shrubs and walk a little way up the valley to a kharka (4097m, 30mins).
DAY 24: RHODODENDRON KHARKA – LANGMALE 7HRS
The slight downhill to the lip of the valley gives you a moment to identify the blue-roofed Mumbuk teahouses on the far side of the valley before you enter a beautiful forest of fir, pine and large rhododendron, and the trail steepens. Before you reach the Barun Nadi the trail heads upstream (true left bank, northwest), past another rock overhang cave (3366m, 1½hrs), and then after crossing several streams, finally into the open valley bottom. You now follow the Barun Nadi along an easy trail broken by occasional landslides to Yangla (Yangri) Kharka (3557m, 2½hrs). There are a number of teahouses here, along with basic supplies and a large campsite.
The next section of trail is one of the most spectacular in the entire Himalaya as you wind through rhododendron, fir and pine forest. Yosemite-like cliffs form an enormous U-shaped valley crested with glaciers and a series of snowy peaks including Pyramid Peak, Peak 4, Peak 6, Chamlang and Peak 5 all show themselves. In one monstrous rock-face a massive cave contains a waterfall in freefall. Lumdar (strings of prayer flags) are suspended from poles to mark a pilgrimage site popular during the July/August full moon, when it is said that the waters here can cure many illnesses. For 3 hours you’ll keep stopping and absorbing the evolving panorama, before arriving in Langmale Kharka (4410m), which has a couple of teahouses and campsites spaced well apart.
DAY 25: SPARE DAY
DAY 26: LANGMALE – MAKALU BASE CAMP 4HRS
The avenue of mountains that line your route become ever more spectacular as Peak 3 and the snout of the West Barun Glacier appear. From Langmale Kharka the trail enters an ancient lateral moraine through which the infant Barun Nadi flows. A large glacial lake fills the valley to your left and an easy to follow trail leads to Shersong (4630m, 2½hrs), a large grassy area used by yak herders in the monsoon months. Turn right and follow an obvious trail that climbs more moraine, and, once on top, maintain your height; do not descend into the valley to your left. A number of small trails (formed by yak herds) stay about 100m above the valley floor before finally descending to a small bridge and the stone huts of Makalu Base Camp (4870m, 2hrs). Expeditions have left all sorts of supplies here over the years and it is possible to buy anything from wine to kerosene to apple jam and dehydrated meals. To the north, the massive bulk of Makalu rises about 3598m (11,824ft) to a pyramid summit; this is truly one of the most spectacular mountain viewpoints in Nepal!
Days 27-31 From MBC cross the High Passes to Chhukung in the Everest region
DAY 27: MAKALU BASE CAMP – SHERPANI COL BASE CAMP 6.5HRS
Those with mountaineering experience and equipment may choose to cross three passes of roughly 6000 metres (Sherpani Col, West Col and Amphu Labsta) into the Solu-Khumbu (Everest Region). If you want to attempt the high passes you should have a guide or climbing sherpa who knows the route well. Identifying the route and avoiding crevasses can be very difficult, especially if snow covers the trail.
From Makalu Base Camp follow the well-defined trail to Hillary Base Camp and then continue along a smaller trail on the south side of the Barun Glacier valley. Do not descend to the ablation valley (created by snow and/or ice melt from a glacier) beside the glacier until forced to do so, you could camp at a small area known as the Swiss Base Camp (3hrs). Just beyond the campsite the trail becomes hard to follow as it climbs towards a steep boulder-filled gully formed by a cascading stream that flows from a valley approximately opposite the one that leads to Makalu Advanced Base Camp. Identifying this valley can be difficult, especially in cloudy weather. Climb to boulders to the north (true left) of the watercourse for about 300m. The gradient then eases and ahead you will see a small trail ascending the northern side of a rocky valley. There is a small flat area (2.5hrs) before the trail climbs further. After another hour you reach the Sherpani Col Base Camp (5688m), at the snout of a glacier. There are two routes that climb either side of the glacier snout, so you will need to do some reconnaissance to decide on the appropriate route.
DAY 28: SHERPANI COL BASE CAMP – BARUNTSE HIGH CAMP / HONKU BASIN 7-11HRS
The first is to the south (true right) of the snout and climbs mixed rock and ice, before veering onto the glacier. Beware of rockfall and crevasses on this route. The second option is to climb the rocky slope and gully to the north (true left) of the glacier snout. Once the gradient levels, step across onto the glacier. On the glacier, head towards the base of a rock-face on the southern (true right-hand) side of the glacier, where it begins to rise towards the Col. Do not get too close to the rock-face as there is constant danger from rockfall. Traverse across the base of the rock-face to a point beneath some prayer flags, which are easily spotted on the rocky ridge above. Climb towards the prayer flags from rocks beside the glacier; this will require a handline (20m) for the first, loose scrambling section, and possibly another fixed rope for an easy 20m rockclimb to the top of the Sherpani Col (6180m, 3-4hrs from Base Camp).
You will need to abseil (35m) down to the West Barun Glacier, which you reach after crossing a snow-bridge over a bergschrund (a deep crevasse between a glacier and mountainside). Beware of rockfall while descending to the glacier! Cross the glacier (2-3 hours – beware of crevasses!) to Baruntse Advanced Base Camp and the only spot on the glacier with some shelter from constant wind. Most groups elect to camp here and prepare the abseil over the West Col for early the following morning. There are two routes over the West Col and they vary according to snow conditions each year. One route is over the snow bulge at the northern end of the West Col ridge, but this will involve crossing more crevasses at the bottom of the descent. Alternatively, take a route over the southern end of the West Col ridge (6190m). To reach the ridge cross another bergschrund and climb a loose rocky route at the far southern end of the distinct rockwall that forms the pass. From the summit there is a 200m abseil into the Honku Basin and some potential campsites (3hrs) if you are going to head to the Amphu Labsta, or Baruntse Base Camp (4hrs) if you are exiting via the Honku Khola route. The full traverse normally takes about 11 hours, as time is lost preparing the abseils and fixing a rope up and down the Sherpani and West cols. If you have a large group it is advisable to run two ropes, one for clients/porters and the other for equipment.
DAY 29: SPARE DAY FOR WEATHER
DAY 30: BARUNTSE HIGH CAMP / HONKU BASIN – AMPHU LABSTA BASE CAMP 5-9HRS
The route to, and over, Amphu Labsta (5845m) to Chukhung is now popular with groups who have climbed Mera Peak. However, this is still probably the most dangerous pass in Nepal and care needs to be taken on both the ascent and descent. Most groups that attempt the pass camp beside one of the Panch Pokhari lakes (5hrs)and get an early start.
DAY 31: AMPHU LABSTA BASE CAMP – CHHUKUNG 9 HRS
A collection of cairns are reached after about an hour, which mark the point where you have to choose one of two routes to the pass: the more popular is up a series of ice cliffs, while the other climbs an exposed, steep rocky and snow-covered section direct to the pass. Full climbing equipment is required for either route and it is wise to fix any ropes in the afternoon prior to crossing. The descent is a bottleneck as there is a short abseil (30m) to a ledge, which then leads down steep rocky ground to the Amphu Labsta Glacier and the trail to Chhukung (4730m, 11-15hrs from West Col base depending on group size).
Days 32-36 Cross the Everest Region via the Cho La and Renjo La
DAY 32: SPARE DAY FOR WEATHER
DAY 33: CHHUKUNG – DZONGLA 5.5HRS
The day begins with a very pleasant, easy walk down to Dingboche (4410m, 2.5hrs). Then climb the moraine hill behind the village and enjoy one of the best sections of the Everest Base Camp trek as you cross flat-ish yak grazing pastures. After 2.5hrs you need toc ross the outflow of the Khumbu Glacier at Dughla, which might involve some searching around to find the current crossing place. It’s then a quick 10mins up to the teahouses at Dughla.
The main trail to Dzongla (4830m, 3hrs) is both easy and dramatic, with Cholatse providing some inspiring views enroute.
DAY 34: DZONGLA – GOKYO 8HRS
An obvious trail loops over a grassy hill behind Dzongla and then gradually climbs a large meadow to a rocky bluff near the end of the valley. The trail switchbacks up to a rock-face and then climbs to the right, up a worn boulder-strewn trail to an area of smooth rock slabs covered in cairns, next to a glacier. Stick to the true right (south) side, rather than climbing onto the glacier immediately, on a track that is frequently covered in snow, before crossing the glacier just before Cho La (5420m, 2½hrs). There aren’t any views of the highest peaks but there are many lesser peaks that fill the western horizon. Beneath is a steep rocky trail that will be covered in parts with snow and ice. Take care on the descent but keep moving as the lower section is prone to rockfall from a craggy peak to your left. In less than an hour you should reach an easier gradient; cross a minor boulder-covered ridge, which leads to a good campsite in a trough. Climb the grassy hill on the far side of the campsite to a large obvious boulder and then a long steep descent brings you to the teahouses and campsites at Dragnag (Thangnak, 4700m, 1½hrs).
Of all the glaciers in the Everest region the most impressive is the Ngozumba, which you must cross on a trail to the west of Dragnag. Ask locals which route is currently recommended and take your time while crossing the glacier to catch mountain reflections in the turquoise lakes. Once on the far side of the glacier turn north (right) and join the main Gokyo trail just before a large lake (1hr from Dragnag). The trail to Gokyo (4790m), located on the east bank of another large lake, takes a further hour.
DAY 35: GOKYO – LUMDE 6.5HRS
From Gokyo head to the base of the Gokyo Ri climb, but instead of heading up the hill take the left-hand trail that heads around the lake. There are two trails, do not take the one by the lakeshore; instead, take the other which climbs slightly. In an hour you should reach the bottom of a steep switchback trail where the ground is loose and climbs an unrelenting gradient for another hour. At the top of the climb the gradient eases a little and heads across a rocky section, which can be icy from December to March. You now enter a broad valley, which can make an ideal high camp for those with tents. The trail heads due west across the valley and then climbs again around a rocky spur before heading up to Renjo La (5360m, 1½hrs) via a stone staircase. The trail is much easier to follow now that the people from Thame have completed a major reconstruction project. This is especially true on the western side of the pass, which is now a stone staircase in good repair. The view from the pass is one of the best in the entire Solu-Khumbu, and a terrific lunch spot. The trail down the western side of the pass rapidly brings you to the edge of a glacial lake, where the stone steps finish. Beyond is another lake, Relama Tsho (4905m, 2hrs), which is a popular camping spot for those approaching the pass from the Thame side. A broad trail now winds around the eastern side of a hill above the lake before descending to a large sandy kharka. At the very end of the kharka the trail descends rapidly into the Bhote Kosi valley and in one hour you should reach the few teahouses at Lumde (4368m).
DAY 36: LUMDE – THAME 3HRS
An easy trail descends from Lumde to a bridge at the village of Marulung (4210m, 1hr), where there are some more teahouses. You now cross the Bhote Khosi and descend the true right (western) bank along a broad and easy-to-follow trail to Thame (3820m, 1½hrs), where there are many teahouses beyond a large moraine with some stupas on top. If you have the time, it is worth climbing this moraine and following a trail through juniper and fir forest to Thame’s major gompa (at the entrance to small valley heading west from the main village); it is the site of a Mani Rimdu festival in May.
Days 37-43 From Thame, cross the Tashi Labsta and descend to Simi
DAY 37: THAME – PARCHEMUCHE TSHO OR DHARAMSALA 5.5-8HRS
The trail up to Thyangbo Kharka (4320m, 3hrs) first passes the famous gompa, and continues along the true right (northern) side of the valley and providing good views of a series of pinnacle-like peaks to the south. At the Kharka, there is a teahouse and good campsite.
Remain on the north side of the valley and gradually climb to a trail beneath a black cliff-face and that looks down on Parchemuche Tsho (4780m, 2.5hrs), where there is a campsite. Cross a shallow basin and climb the trail on the far side which becomes steep. In another 2.5 hours reach Ngole (5130m) where there is a small dharamsala shelter.
DAY 38: PARCHEMUCHE TSHO OR DHARAMSALA – PASS CAMP 4.5-7HRS
Locking up towards Agole Peack, you can see a distinctive V-shaped notch of snow about 70m high in a cliff line above. Metal chains have been placed to provide anchors bot for the climb through the notch and then up to a rocky ledge that heads west (right) from the top of the climb towards the Tashi Labsta Pass high camp (5665m, 4.5hrs). The camp site is beneath an overhanging rock-face on the north side of the approach to the pass and about 100m down from the summit. There are camping ledges in the overhang and try to camp as close to the main wall as possible as there is frequent rockfall.
If there is already a group camped here, head a little higher on the northern flank of Pachermo to a snowy plateau that is often used as a base camp for groups climbing Pachermo. The strong social and economic links between the Rolwaling and Thame valleys mean that you could even meet a wedding party camped up here during the summer months!
DAY 39: PASS CAMP – TRAKARDING GLACIER 7HRS
The top of the pass is a climb of 100m from the camp (5760m, 30mins), climate change has exposed the underlying rocky ridge that used to be covered by snow and ice. Depending on conditions, you might need to use a rope (about 30m) to descend the western side of the pass, but if snow and ice conditions are good, it is an easy glissade.
The descent down a small glacier is straightforward but beware of crevasses! At the snout of this glacier (5435m, 1.5hrs) you will need to scout around for an easy descent, but you might also need a handline of about 20m. Turn south to descend beside the true left of the Drolambu Glacier in a shallow ablation valley, which eventually turns into a stream bed. In 1.5hrs you should reach the snout of the Drolambu Glacier, which has exposed a rocky descent to the Trakarding Glacier. There are some campsite ledges at the end of the glacier (5350m), or you can scramble down (safety line might be necessary) a rocky ledge to more camp spots in the moraine below (5085m, 1 hour). Before descending to the Trakarding Glacier, take a little time to identify a potential route across it, with clear points of reference, for when you cross it tomorrow. It is also a good idea to identify Kabug across and further down the valley and the distinctive dark earth wall that you will need to climb to reach it.
Then turn west and stay on the true right (north) side of the Trakarding Glacier for 1.5hrs to yet another campsite called Noisy Knob (4880m), which is larger than the previous two.
DAY 40: TRAKARDING GLACIER – KABUG 4.5HRS
You need to cross the Trakarding Glacier as soon as possible, as the further you descend the north side of the valley the more prone to rockfall the trail becomes.
Unfortunately, the route is always changing and there are many cairn markers, some of which do not indicate good trails! As with all glacier crossings care should be taken at all times, and your party should remain together throughout the crossing.
To reach the far side of the glacier normally takes about 3 from camp, and you then continue descending the true left (south) side until you reach a steep dark earth section of moraine rising to your left in another 30 minutes (depending on your crossing point). The earth is on top of permafrost, so it can be a slow process climbing the relatively short 100m or so. Once at the top of the moraine climb, you cross to the Kabug campsite at the far-westerly side of the kharka (4820m, 1hr).
DAY 41: KABUG – BEDING 5.5HRS
A short climb up moraine behind the campsite brings you to a great viewpoint of Tsho Rolpa and surrounding peaks (4830m, 30mins). It is now a long and sometimes steep descent to Chhukyima (4580m, 1hr) where there are a couple of teashops and a campsite tucked into a small ablation valley about half way along Tsho Rolpa.
Continue down the ablation valley to the outflow of the lake, where the trail becomes very easy to follow all the way to Na (4180m, 2hrs) where there are campsites and teahouses that serve an excellent lunch.
The trail is now delightful as it slowly descends through a broad alpine valley. Note the frescos beside the trail of Padmasambhava (aka Guru Rinpoche, the Lotus Born, who first took Buddhism to Tibet in the 8th century) with a small shrine, and Om Mani Padmi Hum, carved on what must be one of the largest single mani stone anywhere. The trail begins to steepen as the valley narrows and you enter fir and pine forest. Arrive at Beding (3740m, 2hrs) where there are teahouses and a campiste.
Today has been a relatively short and easy trekking day, so take a little time to visit the gompa in the village. It is said that a Buddhist monk came and lived in a cave behind the gompa before the village was established. To mark the site, a chorten was built and to offer a khadag to the chorten is considered to bestow good luck on the giver for as long as the scarf remains attached. Please offer a donation to the gompa if you want to admire the wood-panel frescoes inside.
DAY 42: BEDING – DOKHANG 4.5HRS
From Beding the trail remains easy to Nyamare (3550m, 30mins) and tehn gradually steepens as you enter the V-shaped river-cut valley. A quick descent of a few hundred meters brings you to a bridge over the Themlung Khola (1.5hrs), which is surrounded by cairns. If you stand in the middle of the bridge and look up the steep ravine to the north you will see the holy peak of Gaurishankar looming overhead.
Do not cross this bridge! Instead remain on the true right (north) bank of the Rolwaling Khola for another 20mins before crossing to the true left (south) bank trail by another bridge. The character of the trail is changing again with rhododendron, pine and juniper shading wildflowers in mossy glades, and the river cascading beside the trail. There are a few small landslides to cross, which make ideal places to spot birds catching insects above the river. There is a teahouse and campsite at Dokhang (2791m), about 2hrs down.
DAY 43: DOKHANG – SIMIGAON 5.5HRS
From Dokhang, it’s an easy uphill for 1hr to Gyalche Kharka (2832m) where there is a teashop and campsite. A long descent now begins, first passing a large waterfall after 1.5hrs, where there is a pleasant pool to rinse feet and face. Another 1.5hrs of down brings you a kharka in the forest about 30m above the river (2060m). Be careful to take the left hand trail at a junction about 10mins after the kharka and begin a climb to a minor ridge in 1hr before descending to Simigaon (2036m, 30mins) where there are teahouses and campsites.
Days 44-48 Head through the lower Rolwaling to The Last Resort
DAY 44: SIMIGAON – ORANGDANDA 7HRS
It’s about a 650m descent, first through easy village paths and then stone steps, to Chetchet (1377m, 1.5hrs) beside the Tama Khosi river below, and where there is a campsite.
Sorry to say that for much of rest of today you will be on roads and small short-cuts between road sections. Head south on the road from Chetchet and ask for the trail to Purano or Orangdanda, which can be tricky to spot due to road works and rain runoff, but it isn’t far (about 1hr). Climb stone steps at first before the gradient eases on earth trails to Purano (1560m, 1hr). The trail now climbs hillside to Thare (aka Kebre) through which you continue up Deulang (1898m, 2hrs) where you will again meet the road. Orangdanda sits on a dominating ridge beyond (2029m, 1hr) and where there is a community-owned lodge, built by Eco-Himal, that has an excellent view of the Gaurishankar Himal
DAY 45: ORANGDANDA – LOTING 6.5HRS
You begin the day by following the road out of the village, passing through Yarsa for about 1hr before a short climb up to Goraicha and Khadkatol (2230m, less than 1hr). Again follow road Laduk (2050m, 1hr), where there is another Eco-Himal teahouse.
You now traverse srubby hillside and pass through small forested sections for 2.5hrs to Chyasarpa (2020m, aka Chyasrba), which you reach by climbing a small dry watercourse. Round the hillside and descend to a road that leads to Chilinggkha (1924m, 1hr). Continue following the road to Loting (1768m, 1hr) where there is an Eco-Himal teahouse.
DAY 46: LOTING – BIGU GOMPA 3.5HRS
Descend through scrubby forest to the Sangu Khola (1650m, 1 hr), which you cross and then turn right, and in 30mins cross the Kotheli Khola bridge (1732m). Climb a steep trail passing through Alampu and on to Bigu Gompa (2516m, 2hrs), where there are teahouses and the famous ani-gompa (nunnery) dedicated to the thousand-armed Buddha, Avalokitesh-wara (Compassion of all Buddhas), who is the all-seeing, all-knowing remover of obstacles. The nuns are happy for visitors to attend morning prayers; a donation is appropriate for even brief visits.
DAY 47: BIGU GOMPA – SANO JYANDAN 6HRS
Heading west, follow the road and any shortcuts that you can find, on a long climb to Rupthang (3400m, 4hrs) and shortly thereafter to the Tinsang La (3531m, 30mins). A small trail winds north away from the road and behind the teashops, crossing a grassy hillside to a ridge that heads due west (about 45mins). Cross steep, rocky hillside while remaining as close to the top of the ridge as possible to Marmin Jyandang (3250m, 1hr). The trial winds through old-growth rhododendron forest, with a couple of minor up and downs and then through a dry watercourse to arrive at Palati Jyandang (3210m, 30mins). A short downhill section through forest brings you to the large grazing area of Sano Jyandang (3127m), where there is permanent water in the rhododendron-forested gully to the north of the campsite.
DAY 48: SANO JYANDAN – THE LAST RESORT 4.5HRS
Follow the obvious trail west out of the kharka, descending through patches of forest and open, rocky sections. There are some excellent views down to the Khagdal Khola 700m below as you descend passing through Sindurche Kharka (2780m, 30mins). The trail then veers north-wards and away from the ridge, descending through mixed forest to Mandre (2180m, 2hrs). The trail heads straight down through the village to Cati (1520m, 45mins), where you stay to the right to by-pass the village, crossing terraces, to a trail that heads north to Sakhuwa village (1480m, 30mins). Pass the village school and follow an old road to Tyanthali (1390m, 20 mins) and Chaku before descending stone steps to the Last Resort bridge (1170m, 30mins).
The Last Resort is a popular rest stop for GHTers, so don’t be surprised if you meet someone else doing the trail here! You can always do a bungy jump too if you think the GHT isn’t thrilling enough!
Days 49-61 Cross Tilman’s Pass and descend through Langtang to Syabru Besi
DAY 49: SPARE DAY
DAY 50: KATHMANDU – Drive to THE LAST RESORT 5HRS
DAY 51: THE LAST RESORT – BAGAM 5HRS
Leave The Last Resort on the Arniko Highway from the main gate and pass through Panlan village immediately to the south. From here the trail climbs a steep hillside with little shade to Baldun (1890m, 1.5hrs), which the locals might refer to as Listi. However, the real Listi (2260m) is a Tamang community on a plateau further up the hill and is reached in another 60 minutes. As you approach the ridge above you will clearly see a Hindu Temple, beneath which is a community health post where you can camp.
Continue on the temple ridge to a series of chorten overlooking Listi and then swing north-east, keeping on the ridge. Do not traverse around the ridge (to your left, or more north). After 1.5 hours you reach the top of the ridge above Listi and a broad grassy place (2650m) where cremations occur, so treat the area with respect. From here you can see the trail traversing a hillside to your north to a minor pass where a Sherpa village called Bagam (2705m, 45 mins) is home to some of the three hundred nuns from Bagam Gompa, situated below the ridge. There is also a school here, which makes a good campsite.
DAY 52: BAGAM – CHOGORMOGOR KHARKA 4HRS
To the north, you can see a steep forest-covered ridge and the trail from Bagam leading straight up to 3286m (1.5hrs) to a temporary dharamsala, which is just below the main ridge. At the top of the ridge there is a trail cross-roads, turn left and continue on the ridge proper. At first the trail looks like a watercourse and you are tempted to bear right, but don’t stray from the ridge and the trail soon becomes a pleasant flat walk through pine forest. Shotang Kharka (3379m) is reached in 20 minutes; you will need to ask herders to show you where the water source is located.
From Shotang the trail continues north, climbing a ridge with good views of mountains to the north-east in Rolwaling and Tibet, and north-west in Langtang. Pilgrims who come for the August festival have made the trail broad and easy to follow to Chogomogor Kharka (3924m, 2hrs), which is a major trail junction both north–south and east–west.
Side Trip: To reach the sacred lake of Bhairav Kund, climb a little to a chorten and then head north-east across the east-facing flanks of a rising series of craggy peaks; there is a dharamsala and campsite at the lake (4113m, 1.5hrs).
DAY 53: CHOGORMOGOR KHARKA – TEMBATHANG 8HRS
From Chogomogor Kharka take a trail that heads east-north-east to a kharka on the Paulan Dada (3812m, 1.5hrs). Be careful to stay on the west-ridge trail from this kharka as many tracks lead into the forest. Descend a trail, which gradually becomes very steep as you enter dense forest. In 2 hours, you reach a temporary dharamsala and series of chorten directly above Kyangsin village (2520m) to which you descend in 30 minutes. A trail then traverses a hillside to the north-east and once around the ridge descends steeply to the Nyasem Khola (1861m, 2hrs), where there is a camping place on the far side of a suspension bridge. Do not camp close to the bridge as there are quite a few ticks and lice in the area; instead pick an area about 20 or 30 meters upstream.
Climb a trail on the far side of the river for 300m to Nimatol village (2158m, 1hr) where there is a new trail that traverses the sometimes-steep hillside to Tembathang (2160m, 45 mins). You will need to employ a local guide from this village, as the trails ahead are frequently overgrown and rarely used.
DAY 54: TEMBATHANG – NEMACHUKPA KHARKA 8HRS
There are two options from Tembathang:
- A long route to Panch Pokhari via Hille Bhanjyang follows more substantial trails. A local guide is advisable for a confusing forested section before Hille Bhanjyang.
- A more direct route, described here, to Panch Pokhari heads upstream from Tembathang. Follow a flat trail north from the village to a wooden suspension bridge over a tributary but do not cross the bridge! Instead, follow a small trail that crosses the river about 10 metres downstream and then winds onto flat ground where there are some well-used kharkas. From the northern end of the kharka descend to the river. The trail now climbs the true right (eastern) side of the river course to the hamlet of Tegu where you continue to follow a trail along the bank. In 1.5hrs from Tembathang you will reach the remains of Thipu (aka Tharpu) village. There is a good campsite by the river before the village area.
Note: the enormous landslide area on the far bank destroyed Mahathan village and most of Thipu village but, incredibly, with no loss of life.
Do not cross the river at the village, instead continue on the true right (east) bank for one hour to a small bamboo and log bridge. Cross carefully to the true left bank and then continue north on a sometimes scrubby trail through forest to Chedupa Kharka (2513m, 1hr). From this large kharka a small trail heads north for about 50 metres before heading up the steep hillside to your left. You might need to ask a local to identify the trail. There are many ticks and leeches along this track so be vigilant. Climb for about 800m to Salingling Kharka (3323m, 3hrs 40 mins), where you might be able to find water in a gully to the south. If not, continue for another 45 minutes to Nemagchukpa Kharka (3578m), where there is permanent water.
DAY 55: NEMACHUKPA KHARKA – PANCH POKHARI 4HRS
Continue along the ridge through rhododendron forest to an intersecting ridge, which leads to Panch Pokhari. There is another, small kharka campsite at 4048m (2.5hrs) on the ridge. From here it is only 1.5 hours to the lakes of Panch Pokhari (4074m), which you reach by crossing the main north–south ridge at 4229m.
DAY 56: PANCH POKHARI – TIN POKHARI 7HRS
Directly to the east of the temple at Panch Pokhari is a short climb back to the ridgeline (4245m, 40 mins), which you should cross and descend to a broad kharka (4070m, 20 mins). Follow the obvious trail north as it rises to cross a hill spur into another shallow basin. For the next 1.5 hours continue north crossing similar spurs and basins between 4000m and 4200m. In the fourth basin you will see a trail junction where the left trail climbs towards a rocky outcrop and the right trail swings away to the north-east. You can take either trail, but if the north-facing slopes are covered in snow and/or ice you might find the longer, but lower, north-east trail safer. The higher route climbs to a small lake (Lingsing Kharka, 4450m, 1hr) whereas the north-east trail contours lower slopes at 4000m +/- 30m for 2 hours before climbing and rejoining the higher trail at a small basin with a well-built stone kharka (4273m). From this kharka continue north, climbing for about 100m before the trail levels and you then drop through a small valley to ascend a final ridge above Tin Pokhari (4255m, 1.5hrs), although the three lakes have dried up.
From the ridge above Tin Pokhari you have a clear view of both glacier approaches to Tilman Pass and Tilman East Pass. In clear weather it is even possible to see the rocky ridge of Tilman East Pass at the base of the west ridge of Dorje Lakpa peak. Your choice of which pass to attempt will depend on time available, weather conditions and skill level. The easier route is Tilman Pass (the western of the two glaciers), however Tilman East Pass is a spectacular option for experienced groups and is worth considering if you have time available.
DAY 57: TIN POKHARI – TILMAN’S SOUTH CAMP 5HRS
From Tin Pokhari follow a trail that drops into an ablation valley to the north-west, trek through some kharka and climb for 2.5 hours until you each a campsite (4646m) at the valley’s end, marked by a steep moraine wall. There are a few large boulders on top of the moraine wall, climb to the most northerly of them and descend beside a small glacial lake.
From the lake cross to the middle of the glacier and follow an indistinct trail marked by occasional cairns. In 2 hours, you will reach a campsite (4867m) on the glacier just as the valley narrows, and in a further 20 minutes you will reach the base of the pass (4848m).
DAY 58: TILMAN’S SUTH CAMP – TILMAN’S NORTH CAMP 6HRS
There appear to be two routes up the lower rocky section of the pass, but the right-hand rock-climbing option is exposed and prone to rockfall so it is better to ascend the loose scree to the right of the icefall (and to the left of the rock-climbing route). Once above the rock band, traverse around to your left and climb mixed ice and rock to the right of the icefall and beneath a steep rock-face. Once at the rock-face traverse left to the glacier and then climb directly onto the pass snowfield. Tilman Pass (5308m, 2hrs 40 mins) is through a narrow notch to the north-west of the snowfield. Beware of rockfall on both sides of your approach.
Once on the pass descend a steep snowy slope to the north-west. Beware of crevasses on your descent, it is wise to rope everyone because the descent becomes steeper as you approach a broad plateau covered in avalanche debris at 5130m (45 mins), where you could camp. Follow a snowmelt stream on the true left (western) side of the plateau to a steep drop to a glacial lake in a valley below. This section can be treacherous and care should be taken on the rock and ice-filled gullies; a handline may be needed in places. In less than 2 hours you should reach the lake, where you can camp on the northern shore (4756m). Alternatively, continue to the left (north-west) of a moraine wall to an indistinct campsite at 4720m (30 mins).
DAY 59: TILMAN’S NORTH CAMP – LANGSHISA KHARKA 4HRS
Continue to descend north-west to a small, level, sandy place (20 mins) about 200m above Langshisa Glacier. A landslide ahead along the old trail means that you must now descend to the glacier, the moraine here is very unstable, steep and prone to rockfall. Beware of patches of hard ice covered by loose moraine as you descend to the side of Langshisa Glacier (45 mins). Descend beside the true left bank of the glacier for 1.5hrs when the first patches of vegetation appear. Continue descending through prickly bush as directly as you can while following some not-so-obvious stone cairns towards Langshisa Kharka (4285m, 1.5hrs) and wade the river to a large campsite.
DAY 60: LANGSHISA KHARKA – LANGTANG 4.5HRS
The main trail to Kyangjin Gompa (3900m, 3hrs) feels like a highway compared to the previous days, and the coffee and cakes at the Himalaya Bakery are a real treat. It’s 1.5hrs to Langtang village where the scar of an enormous landslide from the 2015 earthquake remains. There are lodges on either side of the landslide area to choose from.
DAY 61: LANGTANG – SYABRU BESI 8.5HRS
It’s an easy cruise down the main trail through Ghoratabela (3030m, 2.5hrs), then Rimche (2399m, 2hrs), Bamboo (1970m, 1.5hrs) and finally to Syabrubesi (1503m, 2.5hrs)
Days 62-67 Trek through the Ruby Valley to Machhakhola
DAY 62: SPARE DAY
DAY 63: SYABRU BESI – GATLANG 4.5HRS
There are two trails to Gatlang (2300m) from Syabrubesi: the first option follows the new valley road to the Chilime Khola valley into which you turn west (left) and follow a good trail to Thambuchet and then to Gatlang.
The second, faster option from Syabrubesi is to climb a trail that begins beside Buddha Guest House. This is a direct route to the Rongga Bhanjyang (2187m, 2hrs) above Syabrubesi, and also sometimes coincides with the route of an old road to Somdang. From the pass it is an easy 2 hours and 20 minutes along the road to Gatlang (2238m).
DAY 64: GATLANG – SOMDANG 6HRS
From Gatlang the road is rarely used by motor traffic as landslides and fallen trees often block it. Follow a large track from Gatlang school up to Parvati Kund (45 mins). From the lake the trail intermittently cuts across the road as it winds through pine and rhododendron forest. At 3100m (1.5hrs) you come to a large kharka where you can camp. Not far above you re-join the road and follow it as it traverses a steep rocky hillside to another, smaller, kharka where the road does a U-turn. Here you take a small trail that climbs up and right, away from the road, into a gully filled with rhododendron to the Khurpu Dada Pass (3710m, 2hrs). For location reference, note a line of old powerlines (now only poles) that crosses the Khurpu Dada, small chautara and trail junction. To the north, along the ridge, is a small trail, which leads to Jaisuli Kund (aka Jageshwar Kund, side trip: 3hrs), from where you could head to Paldor Peak Base Camp. Instead, head west and descend quickly, cutting across the road a few times, before following it again as it gradually descends to Somdang (3258m, 1.5hrs), where there are some campsites and teahouses.
DAY 65: SOMDANG – SERTUN 9HRS
From Somdang, the dirt road climbs up through forest and in 2.5hrs you should reach a minor pass at 3780m, where the trail begins traversing steep, rocky hillside. If there has been recent snowfall care should be taken to avoid small avalanches along this section. The road traverses above a large kharka before arriving at the Pansan Pass (3830m, 1hr) where locals have built a small gompa and a small teahouse.
Descend through rhododendron forest for 1.5hrs, passing through a couple of kharkas, which are potential campsites. However, it is best to continue to the terraced fields of Lawadun or Tipling village (1890m, 1.5hrs), where there is a small teahouse in the centre of the village and camping is possible in the school. Nearly all the locals in this region of the Ganesh Himal are friendly Gurung Christians, who have decided to ban all alcohol from their communities. Then follow the main trail-cum-road to Sertun (1920m, 1.5hrs).
DAY 66: SERTUN – DHARAMSALA 9.5HRS
Continue on the easy main trail to Boran (1560m, 2hrs). As you enter Boran there is a stone house on the right-hand side of the trail. Next to this house is a stone staircase that cuts down through the northern edge of the village to the Akhu Khola below. Descend to the river, cross a suspension bridge and pass a campsite in a small grassy field beside the Lapa Khola (1285m, 30 mins). If you choose to camp by the river you will need to post a night guard on your camp as local thieves are not uncommon.
Note: it is possible to descend to the Dhading Besi roadhead in 3 days from Boran by following the main trail to the south.
From just beyond the riverside campsite, cross another suspension bridge to the true right bank and begin the long climb to Lapagaon (1850m, 2hrs), a large Tamang village, where there is a small teahouse towards the top of the village and the school grounds can make a good campsite. Unless someone in your group knows the trail ahead it is wise to employ a local guide from this village.
A new, steep trail climbs a hillside to the west of the village to a chautara with views back down the valley (2200m, 50 mins). You now enter a section of mixed forest with many trails. After 1hr you reach a kharka with a dharamsala (GPS: 2441m, N 28° 10.246’ E 084° 59.077’). The trail heads north-west up a gully with a rocky spur to the north. The gully steepens as it nears a ridge and the barely distinct Mangro Pass (2936m, 1.5hrs, GPS: 2882m, N 28° 10.102’ E 084° 58.726’), which leads to the first of a series of shallow basins that make the next two hours tricky to navigate.
Descend into and then climb out of the first basin to another minor forested ridge in 45 minutes (GPS: 2728m, N 28° 09.908’ E 084° 58.354’). The trail now heads north-west, first through forest and then across an exposed hillside to the large Myangmal Kharka (50 mins, GPS: 2936m, N 28° 09.468’ E 084° 57.656’), where there is a dharamsala.
DAY 67: DHARAMSALA – MACHHAKHOLA 7HRS
Descend a good trail through forest for 25 minutes to Nauban Kharka (GPS: 2750m, N 28° 09.732’ E 084° 56.900’), which is another campsite. The trail continues to descend, sometimes steeply, through dense forest for just over 2hrs to a bridge over the Richel Khola (GPS: 1555m, N 28° 10.729’ E 084° 55.522’) from where it is less than 1hr to Yarsa village (GPS: 1877m, N 28° 10.857’ E 084° 54.773’). As you leave the village, the trail swings north-west into the large Budhi Gandaki valley and in 30 minutes you reach a trail junction, right is to Kashigaon, but turn left and descend to the river. Do not go to Kashigaon. In 3 hours reach a bridge to Machhakhola (870m) and the main Manaslu Circuit trail.
Note: If you miss the descent to the Budhi Gandaki before Kashigaon you will probably have to continue to Kerauja/Rumchet and then make a very difficult descent to another bridge across the river to Tatopani. This route involves rock scrambling and should not be attempted with loaded porters. You should also consider taking a local guide from Rumchet for this section.
Days 68-76 Head around the Manaslu Circuit to Dharapani
DAY 68: MACHHAKHOLA – JAGAT 6.5HRS
A road is being constructed around the Manaslu Circuit that follows most of the trekking route, so for the next week you will frequently be following dirt road.
From Machhakhola it’s less than an hour to Khorlabesi (970m). Follow the broad track on the west bank of the river to Tatopani (990m, 1hr) where the waterspouts make a good washing stop. At the end of the village, cross a suspension bridge to the true left (east) bank and continue through sometimes dense forest to Dobhan (1070m, 80 mins), where there are teahouses.
Continue on a broad trail on the true left bank of the river to Yaruphant (1170m, 1hr), where there are a few teashops on a broad grassy slope. From here, the trail climbs about 200m up what was once an enormous landslide that blocked the Budhi Gandaki. The trail descends a little from the top of the climb to the broad riverbed. In the trekking seasons there are some temporary teashops (80 mins from Yaruphant) at the confluence of the Yara Khola.
Vertical cliffs rise on both sides of the valley as the trail continues on the true left (eastern) bank for 15 minutes to a bridge, which you cross to the true right bank and where the Budhi Gandaki has cut a narrow gorge. After a short climb and descent of 20 minutes you reach a flat area where there is a teashop and two grassy campsites signposted ‘Jagat’. The village is actually 10 minutes further up the trail, behind a rocky spur. As you enter Jagat (1340m) on a good stone-paved trail, there is a community-owned campsite on your left and some teahouses before the Manaslu Conservation Area Project (MCAP) and police checkpost. Jagat is a common village name in the high mountains as it means ‘customs post’ and is the traditional tax collection point for trade to and from Tibet.
DAY 69: JAGAT – DENG 6HRS
Beyond the village is the Pangaur Khola, which is crossed using stepping-stones and log bridges. The trail now climbs an easy gradient to a chautara (1hr), where there are good views of Shringi Himal to the north. Descend to Sirdibas (1420m, 40 mins) and turn a sharp left turn at the end of the village to ascend a stream for about 50m before turning sharp right for the main trail. Continue to a suspension bridge, which you cross to the true left bank of the Budhi Gandaki (there is a police checkpost at the bridge) and then climb 200m to the village of Phillim (1570m, 40 mins), another MCAP checkpost and teahouses.
This next section of trail is spectacular and well worth the effort of a long day’s walk. Ekla Bhatti (1650m) is about 45 minutes from Phillim, but take your time and admire the waterfalls on the west side of the valley. After the monsoon, there is a large waterfall beyond Ekla Bhatti, after which you enter scrubby forest that gives way to large pine trees. Forty minutes from Ekla Bhatti you reach a trail junction, where you turn left (the right-hand trail goes to Tsum, see pp000-00). Descend (5 mins) to and cross a bridge, where the trail begins a gradual climb as the valley turns westwards. After the initial climb away from the bridge there is a small trail junction where you turn right (the left trail climbs steeply to Nyak).
Another bridge across the Budhi Gandaki is reached in 45 minutes, which you cross to the true left (north) bank to avoid a steep cliff. In another 15 minutes you cross back to the true right (south) bank using a suspension bridge. In 20 minutes, you will reach Pewa and the junction with the high trail from Nyak (this is where you join the Circuit trail from Rupina La). It’s a good campsite and teahouses at Deng (1860m), which is now 30 minutes away along a pleasant trail with good views of the narrow gorge cut by the Budhi Gandaki.
DAY 70: DENG – NAMRUNG 5HRS
As the Manaslu Circuit trail turns westwards, the shape of the homes changes to squat, dry-stone structures to reflect the changing demands of climate, and the architectural influences of Tibet. Mani walls, chorten and kani are common along the trail. Rice and wheat are replaced by buckwheat, barley and maize in the fields. The trail descends to a suspension bridge, which you cross to the true left (north) bank of the Budhi Gandaki and then climbs roughly 100m to Rana (1910m, 35 mins).
The trail now climbs an easy gradient beneath the village of Umbaie (above which is Shringi Gompa) before winding through the Shringi Khola gorge to Bhi (1990m, 45 mins). Follow an undulating trail through sparse pine trees and hamlets to a large kani (1½hrs) that marks the entry to the Prok and Ghap communities. The paintings and mani stones on this kani are in good condition. The fierce blue and red characters on the kani ceiling and walls are protectors who are meant to stop evil spirits from entering the villages beyond. There is a teahouse and campsite at Prok, only 10 minutes further on.
The trail now gradually swings back to the river, which you cross to the true right bank via a suspension bridge. It’s a slight climb to Ghap, where there are a couple of teashops. The valley narrows and you pass through fine broad-leaf forest to a spectacular canyon carved by the river (45 mins), which you re-cross in another 15 minutes on a larger bridge.
Note: the Himal Chuli Base Camp trail veers left here and climbs the Sherang Khola valley.
From the second bridge, the trail climbs more steeply for almost an hour to Namrung (2630m), where there is a campsite and teahouses.
DAY 71: NAMRUNG – SAMA 5.5HRS
Leave Namrung by crossing Therang Khola along an easy trail that passes a waterfall on your left before entering the scattered village of Barchham (20 mins). The trail now climbs a bit less than 300m on an easy gradient to Lihi (2920m, 50 mins), where there is a campsite and teahouses. Descend and cross the Hinan Khola on the far side of the village and ascend an easy trail to Sho (2880m, 45 mins). It is now an easy up-hill gradient to Lho (3180m, 1hr), where there is a campsite and teashouses, but take your time and enjoy the evolving mountain panorama around you.
Manaslu dominates the skyline at Lho and if you have the time explore the village’s mani walls, kani and Ribang Gompa, which sits on a hill above the village. The trail descends to the Thusang Khola and then climbs a steady gradient for 300m to Shyala (80 mins), a community of mainly log cabins where there is another campsite and teahouses. Next, the trail dips through the Numla Khola before descending slightly and then becoming flat all the way to Sama (Ryo; 3520m, 70 mins), where there are a teahouses and campsites to choose from at the far end of the village.
SIDE TRIP: One of the most popular places to visit is the Pung Gyen Gumba beneath the east face of Manaslu. To get there, back track on the Shyala trail to a junction before the Numla Khola, where you turn right and begin a long and sometimes steep climb for 2 hours and 20 minutes. Once you have crested the ridge above the river the gradient eases and ahead you will see the small gompa. You will be expected to provide a donation to the gompa if you visit it. Higher still is a cave gompa and hot springs, but relaxing in the grassy kharka near the gompa and enjoying the view of Manaslu is a popular pastime before returning to Sama in 1½ hours. Alternatively, explore the village and gompas of Sama, or take a local guide to Birendra Kund for reflections of Manaslu and its northern icefall.
DAY 72: SAMA – SAMDO 2.5HRS
An easy day to Samdo can be combined with a side trip to Birendra Kund. Leave Sama on a broad trail that runs north from the village across grassy kharkas. Remain on the western side of the valley, following a trail that runs parallel to the Budhi Gandaki. After 45 minutes cross the outflow from Birendra Kund to the summer herding area of Kermo Kharka where there is an excellent view of Manaslu from the impressive mani wall.
The trail continues to climb an easy gradient for an hour before dropping to a bridge over the river. Climb to an impressive kani, which marks the entry to Samdo (3875m, 30 mins). This is a Tibetan refugee settlement of about 40 homes, created after the Chinese occupation of Tibet. The border runs along the top of the hills above Samdo and makes an ideal side-trip.
DAY 73: SPARE DAY
DAY 74: SAMDO – LARKYE BASE CAMP 3HRS
From Samdo the trail descends to a bridge across the Gyala Khola. Climb the trail on the far side to a large pile of mani stones (40 mins), where you can look down on Larkye Bazaar, a trading ground (there are no buildings as such) where Tibetans sell large herds of goats before the Nepali festival of Dashain in October/November. The trail now climbs an easy gradient with views of Larkye Peak and the north face of Manaslu for 2 hours and 20 minutes to Larkye La Dharamsala (4460m), where there is a teahouse. Take some time to check that you are well prepared to cross the pass tomorrow.
DAY 75: LARKEY BASE CAMP – BIMTANG 7HRS
The longest and toughest section of the Manaslu Circuit now awaits, but also the most magnificent views – Himalayan majesty and grandeur all around. It is wise to start before sunrise and climb an ablation valley to views of Cho Danda. Although there are some prayer flags at the top of the ablation valley (4690m, 80 mins) you are not at the top of the pass. The trail now crosses rough undulating moraines for 30 minutes to another dharamsala (4905m). From here the trail begins to climb more steeply to the top of Larkye La (5135m, 1¾hrs), where you will be greeted by magnificent views of the upper Bimtang valley and a roofless dharamsala. Views of Himlung and Cheo Himals, Gyagi Kang, Menjung, Kang Guru and Annapurna II fill the horizon. Descend from the pass down a steep slope, which is often snow covered and icy (and may require a handline), for 1½ hours. Beneath you are three glaciers spotted with numerous turquoise lakes; head for the ablation valley to the left of all the glaciers. An easy gradient then leads down to the campsite at Bimtang (3590m, 2hrs), which is serviced by four competing teashops staffed by pretty Gurung women.
DAY 76: BIMTANG – DHARAPANI 7HRS
Continue to follow the ablation valley south from Bimtang, which soon gives way to lateral moraine after 10 minutes. There are good views of the west face of Manaslu from here. Cross a branch of the glacial melt and then turn left, over some more moraine before crossing the main stream of glacial melt and then climbing a ridge of lateral moraine topped by some prayer flags (20 mins).
The trail descends a little steeply through pine and rhododendron forest for 15 minutes before levelling to a gentle downhill gradient. As you descend towards the Dudh Khola through forest the trail passes through a few kharka. There is a lone teashop at Yak Kharka (aka Sangure Kharka, 3020m, 80 mins) after a copse of mountain pepper trees. From here the trail can be a little difficult to follow across some large landslides and through scrubby forest to the scattered settlement of Kharche (1hr). The trail now climbs an imposing ridge that juts into the centre of the valley before a long descent to the many fields of Goa (2515m, 1½hrs), where there are two teahouses.
It is now a gentle downhill to the large Gurung village of Tilije (2300m, 50 mins), where you cross a bridge and pass a new school and begin road-trekking again. After 20 minutes you come to a trail junction; turn right and descend to Thonje (1965m, 50 mins), which you reach after crossing a long suspension bridge. Once at the village continue on the road to a T-junction in front of a teahouse. Turn left onto a dirt track and pass the school; after a short descent, cross a suspension bridge over the Marsyangdi river to Dharapani (1965m, 10 mins), where there is a police checkpost and many comfortable teahouses. Welcome to the Annapurna Circuit!
Days 77-82 Enjoy some easy trails on the Annapurna Circuit to Kagbeni
DAY 77: DHARAPANI – CHAME 5HRS
Follow the route of the new road to the outskirts of Bagarchhap (2160m, 1hr), which you cut through to rejoin the road on the far side of the village. There was a devastating landslide here in 1995; a memorial in the centre of the village only mentions the tourists who died. At the far end of the village there are good views of the Annapurnas and sections of the Lamjung Himal.
From Bagarchhap, continue along the route of the new road to Danakyu (2300m, 35 mins). This is also the main workers site for a Chinese-funded hydro project, so the character of the place has deteriorated in recent years. Beyond the sprawling village, the trail climbs steeply for about 400m through thick pine and fir forest – make sure to turn around regularly to check for views of the Manaslu Himal – before arriving at Timang (2750m, 1 hour and 20 minutes). There are a few teahouses in Timang, any of which make an ideal rest stop with great views of the Lamjung Himal.
Continue along a flat-ish trail to Latamro (2695m, 45 mins), where you descend to and then climb away from a gushing tributary before arriving at Thanchok (2670m, 20 mins). This is a large and often dirty village, but there is a nice teahouse beyond the main settlement, just before re-joining the road for a long and easy descent to Koto (2600m, 50 mins), where there are teahouses and campsites. It is now a short walk to Chame (2675m, 20 minutes) where there are many teahouses and tourist services.
DAY 78: CHAME – GHYARU 6HRS
Walk through the village on stone paving and cross a suspension bridge to the true left (north) bank of the Marsyangdi Nadi and there are another couple of teahouses near some hot springs. Continue to follow the road route to Talekhu (40 mins), where the valley narrows to steep cliffs on either side. In the middle of the next gorge section is a large apple juice factory and luxury lodge at Bratang (2850m, 1 hour), but there is no other accommodation.
Continue following the road and cross a suspension bridge to the true right bank (south) of the Marsyangdi Nadi ion 45 minutes. The trekking trail switchbacks up about 200m through forest, which is badly littered with rubbish, before the trail straightens and you then rejoin the road to Dhikur Pokhari (3060m, 1 hour). You have now walked through a massive bend in the Marsyangdi river and an enormous concave rock wall rises to your right.
At the end of the community there is a broken mani wall and a sign indicating to the right, the trekking route to Upper Pisang (3300m, 1 hour), which is on the true left (north) side of the river. There is lots of teahouses here but check the water quality as the local source isn’t good quality for much of the year.
From Upper Pisang, follow a very easy trail through pine forest to the bottom of a steep switchback climb to Ghyaru (3670m, 1½hrs), where there are some teahouses and excellent views of Annapurna II and IV.
DAY 79: PISANG – MANANG 4.5HRS
The trail is again easy all the way to Ngawal (3600m, 1½hrs) but consider stopping for a cup of tea at the viewpoint teashop – the earlier you arrive, the longer you will want to stay to soak-up the view! There are plenty of teahouses in Ngawal, including a luxury lodge!
Follow the main trail through the upper section of the Ngawal community, do not head down through the village. An easy trail leads to the Lopheling Monastry before descending steeply for about 200m into a pretty pine-forested valley. The very small community of Julu (3500m, 1 hour) has two small teashops where you can also have a simple lunch if you had a late start.
Head down the valley, first following a rough dirt road, but then on clearly marked trail into the main Marsyangdi valley. The trail gradually turns right (west) and joins the road that leads to Munchi (Mugji, 3330m, 1½hrs). The 600-year-old village of Braga (3467m, 30 mins), which is not far and has good teahouses and a fabulous gompa. Manang (3540m, 20 mins), is very close ahead, where there are many teahouses and campsites, as well as a maze-like village that dates back hundreds of years. For trekkers on the Annapurna Circuit, Manang is a popular acclimatisation stop so there are many more services, restaurants and teahouses than you will have come across so far.
DAY 80: MANANG – THORONG PHEDI 5.5HRS
Just beyond Manang is the village of Tangki (3530m, 20 mins), which overlooks the entire community. The trail now swings north and climbs gently to a stone wall with a gate that stops livestock from leaving the high pastures. Do not allow any animals to pass through the gate; if it is locked, use the stone steps to your right. Not much further is Ghusang (3950m, 1hr from Tangki), where you can enjoy some great views of the Chulu Himal, Annapurna III, Gangapurna, Tare Kang (Glacier Dome), Khangsar Kang (Roc Noir) and Tilicho Peak. An easy gradient leads to a suspension bridge over the Ghyanchang Khola, where there are a couple of small teashops (40 mins). In another hour you will reach Yak Kharka (4050m), where there are a few teahouses beneath a slight rise to another teahouse. The trail now climbs fairly constantly at an easy gradient to Ledar (4200m, 40 mins), where there are some simple teahouses, and continues across a hillside covered with many trails. At the first major trail junction take the right, straight route rather than descending to the river. At the next trail junction, take the left-hand straight route, rather than climbing. After 50 minutes from Ledar the trail descends to a wooden bridge over the Kone Khola, which you cross before climbing to a teashop that is expensive (20 mins). It’s now an easy 35 minutes to Thorung Phedi (4450m) where there are extensive teahouses and services.
DAY 81: THORONG PHEDI – MUKTINATH 9HRS
It is a good idea to get a pre-dawn start from Thorung Phedi to avoid the strong winds that often affect the pass after 11am. There are 4 large ‘steps’ up to Thorung La (5415m); the first is a steep climb up scree to Thorung ‘Base Camp’, a decrepit and expensive teahouse and dirty campsite (4830m, 1hr). The trail now winds through a watercourse before climbing through another, larger gully formed by the melt from a glacier on the eastern side of Thorung Peak. In one hour from ‘Base Camp’ you reach a well-built dharamsala at 5100m, which also offers a campsite for those wanting a genuine high camp (ensure you are well acclimatised). From here it’s 1½ hours across undulating moraine to the top of Thorung La, where there is a teashop in peak trekking season, but expect to pay handsomely for a drink! On a clear day you should be able to see some of the Annapurna range to the south and Mukut Himal bordering Dolpo to the west.
From the pass the trail descends steeply over scree, which gives way to grassy meadows before reaching Muktinath (3760m, 3hrs). This large village is a very important pilgrimage site for Hindus and Buddhists, who live in a sacred compound around an eternal flame-from-water. Take some time to visit the famous Hindu temple with 108 carved spouts from which holy water flows, making a cold shower for the brave!
DAY 82: MUKTINATH – KAGBENI 3.5HRS
The valley around and beneath Muktinath has five Buddhist gompas and many Hindu shrines. The trail is broad and busy with four-wheel-drive cars and motorcycles ferrying Hindu pilgrims from Jomsom. From Muktinath, take a trail that descends towards and then through Jharkot (3550m, 30 mins). From here you can avoid the motor road (a 60-min jeep trip to Jomsom, or 40 mins to Kagbeni) by following a small irrigation stream to Khingar (3280m, 20 mins) but from here you will have to take the road route. Make sure you have a scarf or similar to cover your face against dust kicked up by jeeps, or the fierce afternoon wind. Once you reach a broad, flat plateau as you enter the main Kali Gandaki valley there is a shortcut track to Kagbeni (2810m, 70 mins), which avoids the road.
Kagbeni is a delightful village that used to be the Nepal/Tibet border and lies in the bottom of the windswept valley floor of the Kali Gandaki, said to be the deepest river gorge in the world because of the twin 8000m peaks of Annapurna and Dhaulagiri above. The gompa in the middle of the old village is in good condition, and look for the male and female protectors at either end of old boundary wall. The airstrip at Jomsom is 2½ hours (or a 20-minute drive by jeep) to the south, where there are many teahouses and services. There are regular morning flights from Jomsom to Pokhara; the later flights have more potential to be delayed.
Days 83-93 Enter Upper Dolpo and cross to Ringmo at Phoksumdo Lake
DAY 83: SPARE DAY
DAY 82: SPARE DAY
DAY 83: KAGBENI – SANTA 9HRS
Wind through the southern end of Kagbeni (2810m) village to a suspension bridge behind the school. From the far bank there are two trail options, a steep switchback climb or the longer, easier route up the Kali Gandaki valley to Tirigaon (1hr). If you take the steep route take the right fork after about 250m, which leads to a grassy plateau (40 mins). The trail from Tirigaon forks just before the village, take the left trail and climb an easier gradient to a small gully where there is a slight scramble up to the grassy plateau (1hr). Once on the plateau there is a road that leads to a kharka (3478m, 1hr), where there is a water source in a deep gully to your left.
From the kharka, follow the road that ascends a saddle to the north (3810m, 50 mins), where you then climb the hillside to the west; do not descend. At 4050m you meet the trail from Phalyak but continue on the road west (right) to a ridgetop pass (4306m, 1½hrs) and then to Bhima Lojun La (4460m, 1hr). Now make an undulating traverse for the next 1½ hours to a small spur before beginning the long descent to the compact village of Santa (3777m, 1hrs) where there are some stone-walled fields to camp in that belong to an old man called Wangyel.
DAY 84: SANTA – GHALDEN GHULDEN KHOLA 5HRS
From the western end of the village follow a trail that heads through two gullies before reaching a switchback climb to Jhansye (4195m, 2hrs). The trail now stays relatively flat as it crosses steep hillside for an hour before a steep and loose descent to the Kyalunpa Khola (25 mins). There used to be a river trail to the west but it has been cut by landslides and the locals no longer use it. Instead, cross a bridge to the true left (north) bank and climb the trail to Ghok, but when you reach a grassy plateau before the village turn west (left) and continue to climb towards a narrow gully. Do not go to Ghok.
The trail climbs up though the steep gully made by the Ghalden Ghuldun Khola before reaching a teahouse, porter shelter, campsite and good water source among juniper trees and scrub (110 mins, GPS: 4247m, N 28° 54.813’ E 083° 37.259’). There is another potential campsite in 20 minutes (4380m) but it has less shade and shelter from the afternoon winds.
DAY 85: GHALDEN GHULDEN KHOLA – NULUNGSUMDA KHOLA 7.5HRS
From the teahouse it is a continual climb to the Gharchak Chuksa Danda and Jungbenley La (5122m, 3hrs), which is finally reached via a rocky gully. Descend into a shallow valley on the far side of the pass before climbing very slightly to a porter shelter and campsite at 5140m beside the Lhanimar Khola (45 mins). Jungben La (5550m, 1½hrs) is on the ridge to your west and once at the top you’ll have excellent views of Hidden Valley (south) beyond which the summit of Dhaulagiri can be seen. The Annapurnas are on the horizon to the south-east, and to your west is the Kanjiroba range.
Descend on an easy trail from the pass to the large plateau of Niwas La (5120m), where a cairn marks the highpoint, in 80 minutes. From here it is an easy descent for 30 minutes to the Nulungsumda Kharka (4987m) campsite at the confluence of the Malun and Thasan Kholas.
Note: if you are trekking this route in the opposite direction, it is essential you do not descend into the valley on the eastern side of Niwas La plateaux. Instead follow the obvious trail that climbs a ridge extending north-east from the plateaux.
DAY 86: NULUNGSUMDA KHOLA – CHHARKA BHOT 7.5HRS
From the Nulungsumda Kharka, follow the Thasan Khola along the true right (northern) bank to another good camping spot, where a river joins from the north (right), in 40 minutes. There is another campsite, where the Yalku Khola joins from the south (left), in another 80 minutes. The trail does not cross the river at this point. Instead it climbs for 40 minutes to avoid a landslide area before a long descent to the end of the valley where it joins the Chharka Tulsi Khola (4380m, 2hrs and 20 mins). Walk along the top of the long peninsula that divides the two rivers. Continue to the very end and then descend to your left to a suspension bridge (15 mins), which you cross to the true left (south) bank of the river. Do not descend to the right on an old trail that crosses to the true right (north) bank of the Chharka Tulsi Khola.
Note: the true right (north) bank crossing of the Chharka Tulsi Khola is the route to Ghemi La and on to Ghemi in Upper Mustang (4 days).
Climb an easy gradient for about 15 minutes before following an easy trail for one hour to a rigid metal bridge to the true right (north) bank of the Chharka Tulsi Khola. The large village of Chharka Bhot (4302m) is now only 20 minutes away and has teahouses and some shops. Many trekkers take a rest day here and explore the ancient village and Bon gompas. It is also a good place to restock food staples such as rice and flour.
DAY 87: CHHARKA BHOT – CHAP CHU 3.5HRS
Take the main trail west out of Chharka Bhot to a few old chortens, which mark a trail junction (40 mins), turn left and descend an easy gradient to a small confluence with the Chuchen Khola (roughly 4300m, 20 mins). Descend the Chharka Tulsi Khola for 10 minutes on the true right (west) bank before wading to the true left (east) bank which you follow for 15 minutes before wading back to the true right bank.
In another 35 minutes cross again to the true left bank for 10 minutes before crossing back for the final time to the true right bank. Then climb for a short section before descending to a minor tributary from the west, which is crossed by stepping-stones. The trail then climbs for 45 minutes to a small lake, Chap Chu (4320m), where there is a campsite.
DAY 88: CHAP CHU – MARAN 5.5HRS
Continue up the valley on a trail that frequently crosses back and forth over a small watercourse for 2.5hrs to a gully that leads to a basin and an easy gradient to Chan La (5378m, 45 mins). The trail descends switchbacks to a small valley before ascending about 100m to follow a ridge above the Sheru Khola, which is to your south (left), and the Tarpi Khola to your north (right). At a chorten (50 mins) on the ridge, head down into the Tarpi Khola valley on the true left hillside, cross back and forth over the river a few times to eventually end up on the true right (east) to reach Maran (4350m, 110 mins), where you meet the northern main trail route.
DAY 89: MARAN – DHARAMSALA 3.5HRS
From Maran it is an easy 1hr to Dho Tarap (3944m), which is a large trading village and a good re-stocking point as well as having teahouses.
Note: you can descend the Tarap Khola to Laisicap (2 days) and thence to Juphal (2 days).
Above the village of Dho Tarap is the nunnery of Ribum Gompa and Regu Chorten, which is well worth a visit. The Tarap valley makes for an enjoyable and easy walk as you slowly climb past small villages to Tokyu (4209m, 1hr), where there is a major trail junction and a porter shelter. To the north (right) is the main trail to Saldang, whereas, this GHT route heads west (left) to Ringmo and Phoksumdo Lake.
Continue up the Tarap valley for another 1hr to a point where a valley enters from your south (left) and there is a monastery perched on the hillside to your north (right). Do not cross the small stream flowing out of the valley, instead climb into the valley’s mouth to a campsite marked by a small, roofless dharamsala (4440m, 25 mins), which can be used as a kitchen.
DAY 90: DHARAMSALA – DANIGAR 6HRS
Follow a trail on the true right (south-east) bank of the river to a point where the valley bends and climbs sharply to the south (left). Instead of following the river, cross it and climb a small stream from the west (right). The trail soon emerges onto grassy slopes and the gradient eases as it rounds into a basin dominated by snow-covered craggy peaks to the south (left). From the melt-water stream in the centre of the basin, ascend the north-western (right) side of a gully between two obvious peaks for about 300m to what the locals confusingly call Numala La/Numa La South (3.5hrs, GPS: 5309m, N 29° 10.542’ E 083° 05.965’). There are three points to cross the Numala ridge, including this southern pass, the other two are: a pass to the north which is an alternative route to Saldang, and a central pass that is marked on many tourist maps as the southerly route but is very rarely used.
Descend steeply from the pass for roughly 800m of altitude to the Gyampo Khola, which you follow to a trail junction (1.5hrs), where you should take the left fork.
Note: the right fork is a long route to both the central and northern Numala passes.
The trail now climbs 200m as it rounds a craggy ridge and then descends to the picturesque campsite at Danigar (4512m, 1hr), which is dominated by Norbung Kang (6085m) at the head of the valley.
DAY 91: DANIGAR – TEMCHE 4.5HRS
From the campsite, cross the Panklanga Khola and climb a switchback trail for 1.5hrs before the gradient eases to a long traversing ascent to Bagala La (5210m, 1hr).
On the far side of the pass is a steep rocky descent to a flat-bottomed valley (4686m, 1hr), which is the high camp for groups coming the other way. Another steep descent brings you to Temche (3995m, 50 mins), a large grassy kharka that trekking companies refer to as the Bagala La Base Camp.
DAY 92: TEMCHE – RINGMO 3HRS
In another 40 minutes is the even larger Yak Kharka (3860m). As many animals are kept here it is frequently dirty. The trail now traverses a steep and craggy hillside for 70 minutes on the true right (north) bank of the Maduwa Khola before a couple of short climbs high above the confluence with the Phoksumdo Khola. The views down the valley from here are very pretty. The trail now swings north into pine forest, where you should look for views of a spectacular cascade on the far hillside, and in 40 minutes reach the village of Ringmo (3640m), where there are a few teahouses and campsites. One of the most beautiful places in Nepal, Phoksumdo Lake, is a few minutes beyond the village. There is a National Park office on the foreshore where you should register.
DAY 93: SPARE DAY
Days 94-103 The Upper Dolpo to Upper Mugu wild traverse
DAY 94: RINGMO – WATERFALL CAMP 6.5HRS
This day begins with one of the most spectacular sections of trail in Nepal: from the western side of the lake outflow, head towards the cliffs to your west (left), which you traverse along a precipitous trail. For the first 40 minutes the trail doesn’t climb very much but does feel exposed in places, and there are excellent views of the lake and village. After crossing a small stream, the track climbs about 400m steeply before contouring around a rock-face at roughly 4140m (1.5hrs). It is amazing to think that yaks frequently use this trail!
After 80 minutes the trail descends to the floodplain of the Phoksumdo Khola at the northern end of the lake (3630m), where there is an excellent grassy lunch place or campsite. This valley is overgrown in the lower reaches with black caragana bushes, which have needle-like thorns. After 35 minutes cross the river and enter patchy pine forest which is soon replaced by silver birch (the bark of which is often used by Tibetans for writing prayers to leave on passes and important chorten) as the valley narrows. Cross the river via stepping-stones several times as you ascend the valley. After 70 minutes the valley begins to narrow to a cliff-lined gorge and the trail remains on the true left (northern) bank.
You will pass through a few copses of silver birch, which could make a campsite, but continue for 30 minutes to a large copse at the mouth of a tributary gorge of the Tuk Kyaksar Khola (3750m) with a red-pink western (left) cliff line and a dark grey eastern (right) cliff. There are also some cairns beside the small river that flows from this gorge, which mark a rough trail. There is a trail that continues up the main valley at this point so you will need to be vigilant not to miss the gorge and campsite.
From here there are two routes to Shey Gompa: the first, which initially continues up the Phoksumdo Khola, is used by pack animals and takes a little longer. The second route is more direct but rougher and not suitable for pack animals. From the campsite it is only a few minutes to the mouth of the gorge, which is more safely ascended in the morning when the river is lower. The trail winds up the gorge, crossing the river many times. There are many animal tracks in the gorge so take care when routefinding. The sound of the river reverberating from the cliffs makes conversation difficult, so make sure to keep your group together.
The gradient eases after 1½ hours as the gorge widens. In another hour there is a small campsite (4435m) of about eight flat plots scraped out of rocky ground on the true right (western) side of the valley. However, there is a far better camp at the head of the valley where a small waterfall has carved a gully (4717m, 30 mins).
From here you have two choices. If the flow of water through the waterfall is low you should probably camp at this spot, as there will be little or no water higher up. If the flow is strong, such that it fills the bottom of the gully (you might need to climb for about 100m to check), then continue to the higher camp above.
DAY 95: WATERFALL CAMP – SHEY GOMPA 6.5HRS
Climb the switchback trail to the true left (east) of the waterfall and after about 100m the gradient eases. You now ascend the upper reaches of the river valley, which gradually broadens, to a large basin. A large scree slope rises on the true right (west) side of the basin and Nangdala La is on the above ridgeline, which is called Churan Lekh. Do not be tempted towards either of the easier-looking saddles to the north and north-east. There are plenty of flat areas in the basin (4810m, 2.5hrs from the previous camp), the most popular is at the base of the long curving trail that leads up to the pass.
The trail to the pass is over loose slate-scree up an unrelenting gradient for 2 hours and 20 minutes. From the top of Nangdala La (5350m) you can see a broad valley descending to the north carved by a substantial stream, which you should reach in an hour from the pass.
The trail now follows an easy gradient down the valley, crossing the stream a few times depending on your chosen route. This valley is popular with yak and sheep herders so try to buy some fresh yoghurt, butter, or milk as you descend.
In 1.5 hours, you will reach the red-painted walls of Shey Gompa (4343m), ringed with mani walls and chorten, set amid a large pasture.
DAY 96: SHEY GOMPA – BHIJER 8HRS
From Shey Gompa, take a trail that climbs up from the campsite for about 400m (70 mins) before swinging into a small valley. The trail descends slightly to the stream, which you cross, before climbing the far hillside for another 100m or so (35 mins) to a ridge (4860m) with views of the Tartan Khola and Tsankang Gompa opposite. Traverse the broad hillside before dropping into the Den Khola valley, where there is a kharka of the same name (4553m, 1hr).
The trail then heads back up to a minor ridge (1hr) before traversing past some monsoon kharkas to another ridge (4810m, 30 mins). A final undulating traverse brings you to the last minor pass of the day (4840m, 25 mins), which is decorated with prayer flags and chorten.
An easy descent leads to the large kharka of Tora (1hr) where there are three trails. The most northerly (right) trail climbs rapidly to the ridge above, the middle takes an easier gradient to a point further along the ridge and the more westerly (left) descends to the village of Tata and on to Shyamling (aka Samling). Do not take the path on your right. If you have the time, visit Shyamling Gompa (2hrs) and then take the round-about trail to Bhijer (1½hrs).
The direct route to Bhijer (3850m, 1¾hrs) is the middle trail that makes an easy ascent of the ridge before a sometimes steep descent to the village where there is a campsite. The lama at the gompa in Bhijer is also an amchi (a Tibetan medicine doctor) and he tells an intriguing tale of the first settlement of the village. There is also a cheese factory in Bhijer that’s worth checking out, and to buy some cheese!
DAY 97: BHIJER – PHO 8.5HRS
Wind through the village to a trail that climbs to some chorten to the north. Switchbacks ascend a ridge, where there is a cairn and some prayer flags (4605m, 2.5hrs). You now enter a basin beneath the rocky Yambur Peak. Traverse the rocky trail for 40 minutes to the base of the final steep climb to Yambur La (4813m, 30 mins). Descend a steep trail on the far side of the pass to a large kharka, which makes a good lunch spot (4030m, 1.5hrs). The next section of trail has had some extensive maintenance but is still steep and slippery in places. Descend into the Tora Khola canyon on a trail carved from cliff-faces to a large wooden cantilever bridge (roughly 3400m, 1hr). The crisp, clear water here makes it an excellent site for a cool swim! The trail winds around some craggy cliffs before ascending a steep gully via switchbacks to the terraces of Pho (4087m, 3hrs), where there are a couple of campsites.
If you haven’t already employed a local guide you will definitely need to get one here at Pho. The next section to Mugu is one of the toughest parts of the GHT.
DAY 98: PHO – PUNG KHARKA 7.5HRS
From the top of the village climb to a painted chorten (10 mins) where the northern and southern trails diverge. Take the right fork and climb switchbacks across scrubby slopes to the first ridgeline at 4645m (1.5hrs), from where there are good views back down to Pho. The trail then climbs at an easy gradient though a basin to a major ridge, the Gyallo Raud Lekh, that descends from the large rocky peak above you to the south (left). The ridge has a large cairn and prayer flags at which you should turn north (right) and follow a gradually ascending ridgeline.
The trail rounds a rocky hill to then follow a sharp and craggy ridgeline, which steepens considerably to Nyingma Gyanzen La (5563m, 3hrs). This pass sits in the very centre of the Great Himalaya Range, with Kanjiroba Himal to your south and a line of slightly lower snowy peaks along the Tibet border to your north. It is like no other place in the Himalaya and makes you feel as if you are walking along the spine of the planet.
Descend a steep trail that continues to follow the craggy ridgeline down to a notch marked by a triangular rock and prayer flags (5450m, 20 mins). Cross through the notch and continue to descend steep ground into the valley to the north-east of the pass. The trail winds down the centre of the valley, but stays in the central scrubby vegetation rather than on the left or right side. After about 900m of descent you will reach the end of the valley (100 mins) but do not continue to the river confluence. Instead, follow a track that winds beneath a cliff line to your north (left).
Note: if you are trekking this route in reverse, it is critical that you do not head further downstream than 4440m. Beyond this point the river valley becomes extremely dangerous.
The trail then slowly descends to the Swaksa Khola (4440m), where there are a few tent platforms scraped out by nomads. However, there is a far better site on the eastern (right) side of the valley on the grassy Pung Kharka (4650m, 1hr).
DAY 99: PUNG KHARKA – CHYANDI KHOLA 6HRS
Continue up the valley for 1hr, passing a river that flows down from the west (left) through a huge kharka area of grassy hillocks. There are some small caves on the east (right) bank opposite the river confluence; just beyond them cross to the west bank. Continue to follow the Swaksa Khola up a valley that becomes flatter as you reach another large kharka and potential campsite (4820m, 50 mins).
Note: Locals have established two Yala pass options, the safer one of which is not marked on the Finaid map but is marked correctly on the GHT maps. The not-so-safe Yala La is prone to rockfall and no longer used by locals, so should be avoided.
The Yala La (5414m, 2.5hrs from the kharka) is an obvious saddle to the north of the Yala La marked on the map and is reached by climbing a trail up steep grassy hillside to the right of a glacial snout. The trail then traverses beneath a rock band to a small basin of red and orange rocks. Climb through the basin towards the rocky ridge above, where a series of large cairns and chorten can easily be seen from below. There is a steep descent on the far side to a shallow basin before another steep descent into the large grass-covered valley of the Chyandi Khola (4830m, 1.5hrs). Snowy mountains surround you; as there are no settlements for miles around, the sense of wilderness is palpable.
DAY 100: CHYANDI KHOLA – TAKLA KHOLA 7.5HRS
There are many potential campsites in the valley for the next 40 minutes. The trail follows the northern bank of the river before moving right next to the water’s edge. You may need a 20m hand line in places as the trail can be a bit tricky. This section involves some tricky navigation. Approaching some forest, the trail suddenly starts to climb the true right (northern) side of the valley and includes some short, steep descents steeply to avoid a series of landslides. A final slippery descent brings you to a confluence with a small river entering from the north (3995m, 3hrs).
Cross the simple log bridge over the river and climb a steep switchback trail straight up a shallow gully to a ridgeline at 4365m (1.5hrs), which is marked by a chorten. The trail now traverses a broad hillside, with great views of the valleys to the south. A final rocky scramble brings you to a last ridge marked by four large cairns (4495m, 1hr), before a steep descent through silver birch forest to the Takla Khola (3785m, 2hrs), where a few small logs to act as a bridge. There is a good campsite on the far bank in a grove of silver birch.
DAY 101: TAKLA KHOLA – THAJUCHAUR 6.5HRS
Leave camp by following a trail up the forested river valley to your west (rather than the larger river to your north). After 40 minutes pass a tributary that flows down from the north (aka Chhyugulden Khola). Continue on an easy gradient ascending ancient moraine and landslide debris for about an hour to a small lake, after which the trail slowly crosses a boulder-filled watercourse to the beginning of the pass-climb (4410m, 15 mins from the lake). Follow switchbacks that climb a grass- and wildflower-covered slope to a scree-filled basin. The trail climbs the left-hand side of the basin across rocky ground to the cairn-covered Chyargo La (5150m, 2.5hrs).
A good trail descends from the top of the pass and at roughly 4600m (1.5hrs) there is a potential campsite. Follow the ancient moraine on the north (right) side of the valley down to an enormous flat-bottomed valley called Thajuchaur (4050m, 1.5hrs).
Note: if you are trekking this route in reverse look for a black rock with a large white cairn that marks the route up to the moraine.
DAY 102: THAJUCHAUR – SHILENCHAURA KHARKA 3.5HRS
The trail now descends into a V-shaped valley and frequently climbs away from and descends back to the Chham Khola. There are many trail junctions, at each one follow the largest or freshest route. After 30 minutes the trail crosses to the middle of the river and then back to the northern (right-hand) bank to avoid a landslide.
In another 1hr you reach a large flat, pine-forested area that makes an excellent campsite (roughly 3500m). From here, cliffs rise on both sides but a good trail leads down to the end of the valley. There used to be a both a cantilever and log bridge to the south bank of the Chham Khola but ignore them all. Instead, scramble over some boulders to the very end of the valley along the northern bank. Once you have reached the Mugu Khola (1hr), turn north (right) and follow an easy trail for 30 minutes to a bridge that crosses to the west bank of this much larger river, there is also a simple teahouse at the bridge. It is not necessary to go all the way to Mugu. Instead, turn south (left) and head downstream through the Shilenchaura Kharka (2945m, 20 mins), opposite the Chham Khola confluence and a good campsite. In fact, for the next 3 hours there is a series of riverside glades that would all make a good campsite.
DAY 103: SHILENCHAURA KHARKA – TIYAR 4HRS
A new road is being constructed along this route so expect some slight route changes. The river performs a massive S-bend and on the second curve a tributary joins from the north (right) and is crossed by a rigid metal bridge. After 3 hours from Shilenchaura the valley narrows and in 45 minutes you reach another major confluence, at Tiyar, with the Namlan Khola, which the locals also call the Karnali Nadi. Just before the confluence, cross a wooden bridge to the west bank of the Mugu Khola and climb a dusty trail to some large chortens. Just beyond the chorten is a gompa with a grassy forecourt that makes an excellent campsite (2418m). Padma Dundul Choling Gompa was used as an ‘education’ camp by the Maoists but is now being restored by the resident lama
Days 104-117 Trek through Mugu and Humla to the border with Tibet at Hilsa
DAY 104: TIYAR – LHUMSA 5HRS
A new road is being constructed along this route so expect some slight route changes. Retrace your steps past the chorten and cross back to the north bank of the Mugu Karnali Nadi. Once on the far bank, turn west (left) and climb an easy gradient to the main trail, which you follow for 3.5hrs to a large blue suspension bridge.
Note: there is a small shop just before the bridge, which sells rice and flour.
Cross the bridge and continue heading west (right) for 30 minutes to a major bend in the river where there might be a small water source near a large bank of river stones. In another 1hr is a campsite in a small copse beside the Mugu Karnali Nadi (Lhumsa) and there is a small shop in another 1hr.
DAY 105: LHUMSA – RARA LAKE 6HRS
A new road is being constructed along this route so expect some slight route changes. Continue on the south (left-hand) bank all the way to the end of the valley, marked by a small school with a large stele in the forecourt (2hrs). There are more of them behind the school and they either declare land rights, or mark the old border between Tibet and the Khas Kingdom. The trail swings south (left) and descends into a smaller valley. At a large trail junction, take the left, higher fork, then descend to and cross the Gam Gad river via a small wooden bridge (15 mins). It is a 40-minute climb up a hillside where a few pine trees offer some shade to the large bazaar of Gamgadhi (2095m). There is a teahouse as you enter the village but no campsite.
Climb up through the town and follow a large trail to Rara Lake (3010m, 2.5hrs) where there is a campsite, teahouse and fabulous views of Nepal’s largest body of fresh water.
DAY 106: SPARE DAY
DAY 107: RARA LAKE – BAM 7.5 HRS
Walk to the eastern end of the lake and take the left fork, signposted Gamgadhi (2095m, 1.5hrs) and descend to the sprawling district centre of Mugu. The trail is easy to follow the entire way, the last section is on a road that links to Talcha.
Take the trail from the top of the bazaar at the western end of the town – you will have passed it on your way into Gamgadhi. Descend at a constant gradient for an hour to the Karnali Nadi, where there is a campsite (1740m, 1hr) before the suspension bridge.
Note that the constant passing traffic could pose a security issue for your group so don’t leave things lying around, or consider continuing to Bam.
Cross the suspension bridge and ascend a steep rocky trail, turning left at 1920m and again at 2046m to crest a ridge at 2180m (1.5hrs). Descend to a small river and then climb to Luma (2073m, 30 mins).
The trail climbs steadily from here through fields and then pine forest to another ridge (2600m, 2hrs). Take your time to look at the stele about 20 minutes from the top of the ridge, they are similar to those at Rara Lake.
It’s then an easy traverse to Bam (2700m, 40 mins) before a slight climb to the school where you can camp. There is also a simple dhaba (eating place) here.
DAY 108: BAM – JOGIMARA 6.5HRS
A contouring trail leads to a stream near Ghachaur (2650m, 1hr) where the climb to today’s pass begins.
First ascend steep switchbacks before entering forest; it will take about 3½ hours to reach Chankheli Lagna (3594m), where there are some good views of the Kanjiroba range to the south-east and endless hills to the north. It is then a very pleasant 10-minute descent to a great campsite beside the Rauli Khola (3005m) and another 15 minutes to the teashop at Jogimara, where you can sleep in their loft.
DAY 109: JOGIMARA – PIPLAN 6HRS
It is an easy ascent for about 100m to round a hill-spur at 3120m before descending about 500m to the Milchham Khola (110 mins). Then another small climb that involves crossing a landslide, which is still close to another ridge (2717m, 30 mins) with views of the lower valley and Rimi village, where there is a teashop (2552m, 1hr). If you are trekking this route in reverse, you might want to camp here to break this day into two stages and then continue to Jogimara tomorrow.
It is a long traverse to Deuri (70 mins), where you pass a large school before a slight descent to Darma (30 mins). Head through the village to the helipad on the far side and then descend steep switchbacks to the main riverside trail, which winds around to a suspension bridge over Humla Karnali.
Cross the bridge and then it’s a short climb to Piplan (1700m, 1hr) where you can camp in the school.
DAY 110: PIPLAN – APSIA LEKH 7HRS
Pass through the village to the helipad where a trail turns right and begins to climb slightly before steepening to switchbacks to Nimagaon (1980m, 1.5hrs).
Continue up through the village for another 1.5 hours to crest a ridge and where the rail starts to traverse through a shallow basin to another ridge (2724m, 15 mins) beneath Korka village. You do not need to enter Korka. An easy descent for 30 minutes brings you to a stream, which would make a good lunch spot.
The trail then climbs again but not as steeply to Puma (2805m, 70 mins) where you could camp in the small school grounds. Just beyond the school the trail forks, turn right and climb switchbacks through pine forest for 2 hours to Apsia Lekh (3195m), a broad grassy ridge makes a great campsite. There are great views of Saipal Himal towering over the depths of the Karnali Nadi valley. There is a good water source about 100m downhill on the eastern side of the ridge.
DAU 111: APSIA LEKH – PUNKHA KHOLA 5HRS
After yesterday’s strenuous walk, today is much easier so take your time and enjoy the morning views! The day begins with a lovely contouring trail and great views of Saipal Himal and the surrounding valleys to Kallas (45 mins) where there is a teashop. Then descend to Nunyapani Khola and ascend an easy trail to a ridge before another easy descent past Phuche to Rodikot Khola (2386m, 2hrs). The trail then climbs an easy gradient for the next 2 hours to a campsite beside Punkha Khola (3010m) and the base of tomorrow’s climb.
DAY 112: PUNKHA KHOLA – YANCHU KHOLA 7HRS
Ascend steep switchbacks through forest for roughly 500m before the gradient eases a little. There is a kharka at 3512m, which could be used as a campsite but water is another 30 minutes beyond. Steep switchbacks lead to the Margor Lekh Bhangjyang (4037m, 3.5hrs) with great views north to the Simikot valley, Saipal Himal and endless ranges to the south. The trail descends slightly as it traverses steep hillside to the Bhigauda Dada (30 mins) before becoming very steep and switchbacking down to the Yanchu Khola (2100m, 2hrs).
There are several campsite options in this valley, your choice will depend on the time taken to cross the pass and the number of herders and livestock at each place. There is a kharka about 10 minutes before the Yanchu Khola, or a site in a forest on the far bank or, if dry, one of the grassy sections beside the river a little further downstream (10 mins).
DAY 113: YANCHU KHOLA – SIMIKOT 7HRS
Descend the true right bank of the river for about 15 minutes before a gradual climb to Durpa village where the trail then contours past the school.
Beyond the village wind around open hillside and then begin the long, dusty descent to the pilgrimage site of Kharpunath (2100m, 3hrs) where there are a few teashops. This is not a very secure campsite and if you need to stay here you will have to be very careful of your possessions. A better option is to walk up the true left bank of the Humla Karnali for 30 minutes to another collection of teashops before turning right into the Kudila Khola valley, where there are more camping options.
If you have the energy, continue to the comfortable hotels and teahouses of Simikot. From the Kudila Khola, head upstream, crossing small tributaries for 45 minutes or so to a few teashops and a rigid metal bridge, which you cross and then start the long switchback trail to Simikot (2985m, 2hrs 20 mins). You enter the large bazaar town from the south and most of the teahouses and hotels are near the airport entry on the far side of the village, but the opportunity for a shower and a comfy bed are great motivators!
DAY 114: SIMIKOT – KERMI 8.5HRS
A new road is has been constructed along this route so expect some slight route changes.
A substantial trail winds westwards uphill and away from the village centre. It’s an easy climb for about 300m (3270m, 1hr from the airstrip) to the top where there are a couple of teashops. Then steep switchbacks down through pine forest and then more open hillside as you pass a few homes and another teashop (1hr).
From here continue down but do not go all the way to Dharaphaya, which you can see below. From above the village the main trail heads up the Humla Karnali valley on the true left bank and continues to descend towards the river. In an hour pass through Manjgaon, where there is a teashop and where the trail levels out somewhat about 150m above the Karnali. A final short descent to the campsites at Dharapori (2360m) is in another 1½ hours. There is a small campsite beside the trail as you pass a grove of walnut trees, and two larger, grassy sites after you cross a small bridge over the Hepka Khola. The main village is less than 10 minutes further along the trail.
Follow the main trail passing Dharapori village and in about 40 minutes come to a few large rocks at a trail junction, take the left fork where the route descends a little into a gorge section of valley. The Humla Karnali valley turns left into a steep-sided gorge where there is a series of waterfalls called Chaya Chahara (2hrs), which is a popular lunch spot. From here climb some switchbacks to Dhar Kermi (aka Dhad Kermi, 1hr) and then an easier gradient all the way to Sangrak Kermi (2860m). There are some good trailside campsites beneath the village of Sangrak Kermi which is about 1 hour above the main trail.
In the narrow valley beside the village is a hot spring (30 mins from campsites) that fills a knee-deep concrete pool. There is a short-cut trail which is best used on your return to camp as it is a little confusing in dense scrub at a few points. The main route to the hot springs goes through the village
DAY 115: KERMI – MUCHU 7HRS
Begin with a long easy ascent on a trail with little shade for an hour to Okharthala, then patchy pine forest for 1hr to Salli Kudh (3143m), a minor pass with prayer flags and views back down the valley. The pass is atop a peninsula around which massive cliffs rise from the turquoise Humla Karnali. Descend for 30 minutes (en route pass a flat area with an unreliable water supply) to the Salli Khola, which you cross on a long suspension bridge to a flat area that makes a good lunch spot. Follow the road/trail to a large flat area beside the river – a popular halt for mule trains – in another 1hr. Then it is a gradual climb to Taplun (Yalwang, 3060m, 1hr), a scattered community on a large south-facing hillside. On the far side of the village is a gompa and school where you can camp in the grounds.
The trail winds around a rocky ridge before descending to Yalbang village (30 mins), a pretty Buddhist settlement at the entrance to another gorge section of the Humla Karnali. Sheer rock walls rise from the rushing turquoise river that is said to pre-date the Himalaya. Occasional glimpses of snow-capped mountains dwarf the minor ups and downs as the trail undulates to avoid rocky bluffs.
In 2hrs from Yalbang reach a small copse near the end of the gorge section. In another 30 minutes cross a wooden bridge to the true right (south) bank then it’s a gradual climb to Muchu village (30 mins) where the valley is considerably wider.
DAY 116: MUCHU – YARI 5.5HRS
Cross a small watercourse to Chhuigan village and then descend gradually to Tumkot Khola and a good campsite (3073m, 45 mins). On the pointy hill above is a Sakya gompa, ask locals if the key holder is around before going. From the end of the campsite, the trail enters a small gorge and climbs switchbacks for about 400m (3467m, 1.5hrs) to a minor pass marked by a cairn and prayer flags called Pathalna by locals. Here the gradient eases and continues to follow the under-construction road to Palbang (3472m, 1hr) where there are a couple of shabby teashops. Then a gradual ascent to the Yari valley where the trail flattens to a cluster of homes (3663m, 2hrs) where there are normally fallow fields to camp on. Note the old village is in the valley below (10 mins) but campsites are very limited.
DAY 117: YARI – HILSA 7HRS
The trail descends a little past the main Yari village area (10 mins) before beginning the climb up an easy gradient to Jogi Odar (4052m, 1.5hrs) where there is a series of tent platforms carved beside the new road route and a couple of teashops.
The gradient steepens a little before entering a shallow valley called Shiv Shiv (aka Sip Sip) and has a couple of disused kharka and a potential campsite full of broken bottles. The last section is a steep ascent to Nara La (4560m, 2hrs) with views of Saipal and Muztagh Ata ranges. Descend crossing the road a few times before following it on a long gradual descent across barren hillside. Come to a point where the main trail descends rapidly down scree or you can continue on the longer road route. If you take the scree shortcut, you will arrive in Hilsa (Yulsa) (3647m) in 2.5hrs from the pass; the road route takes another 45 minutes. There are no good campsites in Hilsa (Yulsa), but there are two local teahouses and another new one is being built. The sealed road to Taklakot and the Chinese border post are on the far side of the river, so don’t be surprised if you see the occasional Chinese tourists in town!
NOW HAVE A PARTY! YOU JUST FINISHED THE GHT!!
Days 118-120 Return to Kathmandu
DAY 118: DRIVE TO SIMIKOT
There are plenty of jeeps plying the route between Hilsa and Simikot, a journey that will take most of the day.
DAY 119: SPARE DAY
DAY 120: FLY TO KATHMANDU