Day 1: Kathmandu–Syabru Besi 8hrs drive
The drive from Kathmandu offers good views of Manaslu, Ganesh and Langtang Himals as well as brief glimpses of village life in the Himalaya.
The first section is a sealed road to Trisuli before the precipitous dirt road to Dhunche, where there is a National Park and police checkpost. Continue to Syabrubesi (1503m), where there are many teahouses and a campsite. As most of the day’s drive is on dirt roads, a light scarf to protect your face against dust may be useful.
Locals in Somdang love to tell the story of why the road exists. They say that the Nepal Army built the road to supply a security post at Somdang. The post was established to protect a nearby mine, which many believe mined precious gem stones including rubies. Others say it was a lead mine and the ensuing debate is always fun to watch!
However, there is some truth to the story. A seam of zinc and lead ore that runs through the Ganesh Himal (between 4000 and 5000m) was identified in 1981. A disused research mining facility sits beneath Paldor Peak at the head of the Somdang valley. The ore has traces of silver and some garnets and there are many stories of locals finding good-quality rubies in secret locations throughout the region. It is said that some of the jewels worn by the kings of Nepal came from here.
Day 2: Syabru Besi–Gatlang 5¾hrs
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 (see Tamang Heritage Trail, day 8, p000).
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 3: 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 (1¾hrs) 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; Finaid: Somdan, sheet: 2885 13, ref: 194 171). 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 (Jageshwar Kund on the Finaid map, 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, 1½hrs), where there are some campsites and teashops.
Day 4: Somdang–Tipling 6¾hrs
From Somdang, the trail climbs up through forest and occasionally follows road construction, which is expected to reach Tipling and be finished in early 2020. In 2¾ hours you should reach a small 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 of track. The trail traverses above a large kharka before arriving at the Pansan Pass (3830m, 1hr; Finaid: Somdan, sheet: 2885 13, ref: 153 165) where locals have built a small gompa and a small teahouse.
Descend through rhododendron forest for 1¾ hours, 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, 1¼hrs), 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.
Day 5: Tipling–Lapagaon 6¾hrs
From Tipling follow the main trail to Sertun (1920m, 100 mins) and on to Boran (1560m, 2½hrs). 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. Either camp in the school grounds at the centre of the village, or descend to the river, cross a suspension bridge and camp in a small grassy field beside the Lapa Khola (1285m, 30 mins; Finaid: Somdan, sheet: 2885 13, ref: 030 168). 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.
Day 6: Lapagaon–Nauban Kharka 6½hrs
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 70 minutes 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, 1¼hrs, GPS: 2782m, N 28° 10.102’ E 084° 58.726’), which leads to the first of a series of shallow basins that make the next few 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. However, rather than camp here, ascend an easy trail to a final forested ridge marked with a chorten (2975m, 10 mins, GPS: 2975m, N 28° 09.475’ E 084° 57.506’), which the locals call Myangmal Bhanjyang. Descend a good trail through forest for 25 minutes to Nauban Kharka (GPS: 2750m, N 28° 09.732’ E 084° 56.900’), which makes a better campsite.
Day 7: Nauban Kharka–Machhakhola 7½hrs
The trail continues to descend, sometimes steeply, through dense forest for 140 minutes to a bridge over the Richel Khola (GPS: 1555m, N 28° 10.729’ E 084° 55.522’) from where it is less than an hour 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, see pp000-00.
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.
Day 8: Machhakhola–Arughat–Kathmandu 7½hrs
The main trail south following the true right bank of the Budhi Gandaki feels like a super-highway compared the trails of the previous days! It is a short and easy walk to the road-head at Soti Khola (700m, 3hrs), where there are jeeps. The main bus station for Kathmandu and Pokhara is at Arughat (508m, 4½hrs).