Kathy and Mark's Langtang Trek • November 12 - 22, 2006

Back in the warmth and comfort of our little house in Bishop, and months before we actually left for Nepal, we thought "Let's do a climb after Kyajo Ri!". It sounded good at the time some 8000 miles away, and months in the future. But fortunately, the best laid plans are often revised to suit reality. With airline tickets that required we spend another two weeks in Nepal after the Kyajo Ri Expedition, we needed to do something, but more climbing just didn't appeal–the cold, the complications of hiring porters, the cold, the hassle of needing a "staff" to comply with the new "must-have-guide" regulations, the cold, the cost of permits and all, and, lest we forget, the cold.

As a reasonable, and hopefully less cold alternative, we decided to go trekking. We had never been to the Langtang, and being relatively close to Kathmandu, no expensive plane flights were needed. Logistics would be a snap. We mulled over route options, and ultimately decided that the only sporting itinerary included a traverse of the Ganja La, a high pass reputed to be one of the most difficult of the main trekking passes in Nepal. This route required that we actually camp out a night or two (more cold). The solution? Deny, deny, deny. We packed up a superlight tent (about a kilo) and a couple virtually non-existent Marmot Atom "sleeping bags" (rated to a whopping +40 F) each weighed about half a kilo and pack into a cantaloupe-sized bag. We figured that we could suffer for our hopefully only one night out. And we did.

For those interested, here is our itinerary:

  • Day 1 - Drive from Kathmandu to Dhunche, spend the night there
  • Day 2 - Trek to Tholu Shyabru
  • Day 3 - Trek to Ghoratabela
  • Day 4 - Trek to Kyangjin Gompa
  • Day 5 - Day hike up-valley, return to Kyangjin Gompa
  • Day 6 - Cross Ganja La (the pass) and descend down a long, long way (not sure where we camped)
  • Day 7 - Trek down to Tarkeghang
  • Day 8 - Trek to Tharepati
  • Day 9 - Trek to Thodhong
  • Day 10 - Trek to Chisopani
  • Day 11 - Trek down to Sundharijal and return to Kathmandu

There are some big days in this itinerary, and about Day 9 we were really looking for a bit of a break.

But it was a good trip an a great pleasure to see a "new" part of Nepal.

Other Recent Trips

Morning in Dhunche, just as we started our hike. Dhunche is the economic center of the area (being one of the few places you can actually drive to). Our hotel room had an attached bathroom, and even electrical outlets! Pictured here is some other building.


Another small town along the way, who's name escapes me just now.


Looking down on fields of rice and cabbage.


On the trail, not far from Tholu Shyabru.


We arrived in Tholu Shyabru early, and considered if we wanted to stay or continue on. Given that the next reasonable destination was too far away, we elected to stay. Also, there was a wedding party just getting started (that ultimately went on until 3 am) that looked fun.

Here a big circle line dance winds around a table of drinks.


I loved the big earrings that many of the local women wore. The red cord loops over the ear and bears the weight–I assume to prevent the lobe from getting stretched out to undesirable dimensions. Below, the wedding party gets started.


Fine wood carving and weaving in Tholu Shyabru.


Prayer flags and the Ganesh Himal from Tholu Shyabru.


On day 3 of the trek we descended down into the Langtang Khola (the river valley bottom) and hiked upstream next to miles of raging rapids and waterfalls.


We stopped for tea in Changtang. Here is a view of the kitchen with its beautiful mud stove.


Typical view in the Langtang Khola.


Sunset on Langtang Lirung from Ghoratabela, our stopping place for the night.


As we climbed higher, it became colder and drier, and more familiar. Hundreds of meters of mani stones line the path.


Om Mane Padme Hum. According to one source, His Holiness the Dalai Lama has said that having this simple prayer on one's computer hard drive is yet another effective way to send it out to the world. At 7200 revolutions per minute, it seems easier than carving it in stone, though less satisfying somehow.


On day 4 of our trek we reached Kyangjin Gompa. The vast majority of the big building down there are trekker lodges. Unfortunately, there were very few trekkers in town, certainly less than there are lodges. Though nice for the trekkers who come, it is not a god situation for the locals, who rely on trekker income.

It seems that with the Maoist movement, many trekkers are staying to the more familiar Khumbu (Everest Base Camp Trek) area, and not venturing into the Langtang, or other less visited areas. Now that the Maoists have agreed to lay down their arms, and join the government, hopefully the situation will improve. I must say, however, that after the crowds of the Khumbu, it was a pleasure to see far fewer tourists in the Langtang.


Peaks behind Kyangjin Gompa. looking through the prayer flags of the local monetary.


The scenic flight from Kathmandu. From Kathmandu, the closest big peaks are the Langtang. This helicopter seemed to arrive every day.


On our one day in Kyangjin Gompa (Mark's 50th birthday, as it turned out) we day hiked up-valley a way, just to look around. The river curves around to the left and shortly runs into glaciers flowing off the peaks of the Nepal-Tibet border.


Views above Kyangjin Gompa. Our next day's objective, the Ganja La, is up over the peaks on the right edge of this photo.


With a wickedly early, predawn start, we left Kyangjin Gompa, and made the trek over the high pass. We were a bit concerned about the route as we were not sure that other groups had been making the crossing and clearly there was too much snow for us to manage with our flimsy, lightweight hiking shoes. Also, rumor has it that "mountaineering equipment" is needed for the crossing.

Having none of these things, we thought "we'll take a look" as the Swiss guides often say.

As it turned out, we were hot on the heels of a party going up, and also met a large party coming over the pass from the other direction. Great luck for us with inadequate footwear!


Descending down the south side of the pass.


In order to stick to our hoped for itinerary (and also to get as low and warm as we could) we descended a long, long way. Here we finally found a flat spot to camp in an old hut site. We melted snow hiding on the shady side of the big boulder and made ourselves hot water bottles for the night.

Our soaking wet shoes, left outside, froze solid minutes after taking them off.


The following morning we rose early, and walked until the sun came up before stopping for breakfast. It was simply too cold to manage without the warmth of Mr. Sun. You can see the ingredients of a fine meal, coffee, peanut butter, tuna and crackers.


After too many hours of hiking we finally reach the thick rhododendron forests common to the mid-elevation hills of Nepal.


And, just before dark arrive in Tarkeghang. Here, in the comfort of the Hotel Tarkeghang, we enjoy the warmth of a fire and a hot cuppa tea. The Dalai Lama looks over all.


En Route to Tharepati, our next resting spot, Day 8 and we are getting tired.


Tharepati the following morning. Cold, again!


Sunrise, Day 9.


Rime covered thorns in Tharepati.


Before too long we are back down in the Rhododendron forests.


I love the advertising signs in Nepal. "Come as a Torist, go as a Frint". Or "Soping Shoping" and the complex formula of "Good=Food and Birds-Shee"

We came to call these trees "pipe-cleaner trees". As we descended to the south, the afternoon buildup of cloud became the late morning buildup, and finally the morning cloud.


Stopping for tea, and a look at the map on Day 9.


The fog was a pleasant relief from the relentless sun of the higher elevations. However it did occasionally make routefinding a bit of a challenge.


The Lama at Thodhong Lama Lodge.


Descending down into the land of rice fields.


I'm not sure what happens here.


Passing through a small town on Day 10


Morning light in Chisopani, on our last day of the trek.

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