There are 2 Great Himalaya Trails across Nepal. The Lower or Cultural Route which runs through the hill region, or Pahad, and the High Route which run through the mountains, or Himalaya. The route I intend to take is a slightly embellished version of the High Route. A map of the intended route and some information about the fundraising I hope to achieve are found under “About the Trip”
The Lower route takes about 100 days and it is nearly possible to do all of it staying in villages, hamlets and occasionally herding camps in the summer. If one can speak a bit of Nepali it is possible to do it alone seeking and paying for hospitality as you go, but you have to go south of the restricted area of Lower Dolpo. I did this route in three sections in 2012, 2013 and 2014, some alone and some with my usual guide Bharat KC. These 3 sections are written up as PDF’s on this website and accessed from the Home Page.
The High Route is much more demanding, not only physically but also bureaucratically and financially. Most of the areas it goes through are restricted areas. These areas are restricted because they are both politically sensitive regions close to the Tibetan border, and because the terrain is challenging with many high remote passes which the authorities don’t want people wandering through haphazardly.
Over the the last 10 years I have done some more remote trekking in Nepal often in restricted areas.Whenever the regulations demanded it took a guide and this guide was usually Bharat KC, an easy-going, good-humoured reliable guide. I am fortunate and he has agreed to do the whole of the High Great Himalaya Trail with me including some embellished route alternatives which we did before in the Mid West and Far West Regions of Nepal.
As there are long distances of 2 weeks between supplies sometimes with little accommodation on the route we have to be entirely self sufficient for long periods. We have to take enough food, essentially rice and lentils, kerosene for cooking, a pressure cooker, tents sleeping bags, batteries, first aid kit and much more. Possibly up to 80-100 kg each time we leave a supply point. For this we have to take at least 2 porter. Food, sleeping bag jackets for the porters will account for some of the 80-100 kg when we set off from each supply point.
It is my responsibility to make sure the porters have the right equipment, clothing and nutrition to carry their 25-30 kg over 5000 meter passes. To that end I have spent some $US 4,000 getting equipment for the trip which I will take out including 2 tents, 4 synthetic sleeping bags to -16 Centigrade, 4 Duvet jackets, 4 rain jackets for the start of the monsoon in June, for myself, Bharat and 2 Porters.
After about 5 weeks on the trail we get to the Makalu Section. This involves crossing 3 passes around 6,000 meters with some glacier crossings. Our team of 4 will be joined at this stage by Dawa, a climbing sherpa, and 2 more porters as the porter loads reduce to 20-22kg. Dawa and his porters will bring extra equipment for Bharat KC, the original 2 Porters and myself, like warm boots and crampons, some of which I have bought and some which can be hired in Kathmandu. The High Altitude Sherpa guides will take us over these passes to the relative luxury of the Everest region and then again over a high near 6000 m pass to Rolwaling. Thereafter they will return to Kathmandu leaving the original team of 4 to continue west.
The bureaucratic side is a challenge also. Just extending my 90 vias to 150 days took 2 visits, some tenacious explaining and a fistful of dollars at the Immigration department. Nepalis are tough and capable, but not infallible, so I also have provide injury or death insurance and helicopter evacuation insurance. This is in addition to my own insurance. I also have to configure communications channels with my emergency transponder device so the right people get any messages and can act on them by sending a helicopter if needed, Finally there are the restricted area permits. In the beginning Kanchenjunga, Rolwaling and Manaslu sections all require one and all the sections in the second half after require one.
To obtain the permit to pass through these restricted areas one has to pay a fee varying from $10 a week to $500 a week, One must have a government registered guide and be in a party of at least 2, For solo trekkers agencies often use details of a “ghost” trekker to make up a party, but this doubles the fees. If there were no regulations for the restricted areas strong, well-organized hikers, who could carry 10 days food at a time, might be able to manage most of the Upper Great Himalaya Trail alone. Solo hikers can in theory do this do this on the much easier 100-day Lower Great Himalaya Trail.
Wheels generally move very slowly in Kathmandu so I allowed a good week to get everything in place. it takes many meetings with the trekking agents before all the pieces of the jigsaw fall into place and only then one can start to think about buying kitchen utensils, like a pressure cooker, and food. While Kathmandu itself is a busy city without much to redeem it there are some great places nearby to explore while the plans fall into place; Bhaktapur, Patan, Boudhanath, Pashupatinath and Swayambhunath are a few of the highlights.
Bhaktapur is arguably the best of all with it’s fantastic largely unscathed temples, gatherings of its Newari folk sitting on shaded alcoves and vibrant market stalls in the squares and narrow lanes. Were it not necessary to oil the wheels in Kathmandu its genuine, tranquil lanes would be a much better place to be than the contrived, self-important, bustle of Thamel in Kathmandu.
Patan is much closer to Thamel and shares much of Bhaktapur’s ambience, but the chaos of Kathmandu is slowly enveloping this ancient Newari kingdom as it becomes a suburb. The temples in its Durbar Square, like Kathmandu, were badly rattled in the 2015 earthquake and are being restored under huge scaffoldings.
During my week of preparation I have also set aside time to visit 3 large religious complexes in the Kathmandu Valley. The first is Pashupatinath, the most important Hindu Temple in Nepal. It is vibrant, intense and full of local worshippers and and pilgrims from both Nepal’s Hill County, Pahad, and the Lowlands, Terai. Kathmandu’s main Ghats are located here also on the banks of the holy Bagmati River. The other two, Swayambhunath and Boudhanath are both ancient Buddhist centres. Swayambhunath (Monkey Temple) is within walking distance of Thamel on a hilltop and is revered by Hindus also. While Boudhanath is wholly Buddhist and has become the spiritual centre for the Tibetan populations in Nepal, both refugees and those who have always lived in the Mountains, Himalaya.