Nepal – the high mountain dream

Nepal - the high mountain dream

Nepal has always been on my list of ’must dos’. 8-kilometer high peaks over the head and villages hidden in deep mountain valleys…
In reality, Nepal is becoming more and more popular destination for all kinds of people and it is not exclusive to high-mountain climbers expeditions anymore. Hikers, backpackers and tourists swarm over the mountains. The most popular hikes, like Annapurna circuit or Everest base camp are the mainstream touristic routes with all the infrastructure in place: hotels and restaurants are ready to serve thousands of people every year.

It is hard or even close to impossible to find peaceful and deserted trails. Only the highest and most unwelcoming peaks are free from the crowds. Attacking these summits is not something I am ready or keen on taking up though.

When planning my first trip to Nepal, I tried to aim for a trail that would take approximately 3 weeks and provide me with as authentic Himalayan experience as possible.
After digging through the endless list of hikes and trips, the choice for the first trip to the great mountains was made: Manaslu circuit with Tsum Valley extension.

Why Manaslu?

  • The views are fantastic! (but I guess this is the case for any Himalayan trip you choose)
  • Manaslu offers a trip long enough to be worth a fly to Nepal. Let's be honest - not many of us are willing to pay the expensive ticket and spend a week or less hiking 🙂
  • The highest passage goes through Larka Pass (5160m), which is high enough to get the feeling of high mountain adventure, but still well achievable
  • It is not TOO overcrowded with tourists
  • It gives you a more authentic experience than the most popular trails
  • Tsum Valley (it can be a separate trip or an extension to the Manaslu circuit) is a very special place, quite separated from the main route, which gives it a more spiritual touch and gives opportunity to experience the simplicity of small mountain villages with local tribes running simple lodges

 

Organizing the trip

Independent trekking is possible and very achievable on the most popular paths like Annapurna, Everest Base Camp trek or Langtang, as the paths are well marked and infrastructure in place. Other treks are more complicated to do on your own and may require a guide or porter-guide who will help sort out the permissions and work as a translator, where locals do not speak English. They can also become very nice companions on a long trip - just like ours did 🙂

  • You can book the trek via the Internet from your home if you want to save time in Kathmandu, but this is a more expensive option
  • Kathmandu is bursting with trekking companies, so if you can spare a day or two, you can find one that fits your purpose
  • Visas can be purchased at the airport upon arrival and this is the most convenient option, but check for any restrictions. Also, have an ID picture on hand in case it's requested for documents
  • Money. The local currency is Nepalese Rupee (Rs), the ATMs are common in Kathmandu, so it's easy to withdraw. However, you may expect a withdrawal fee to be charged. US Dollars are also accepted in some cases. Card payments are not very common though.

 

Equipment

  • No tent or camping equipment is necessary for this trip. There are enough lodges that provide both: place to sleep and food
  • Satellite phones are available in the villages, so if you really need/want, you can use them (I used twice). In the biggest villages there is even Internet! Both services are rather pricey and charge per started minute (just like old-times cards for public phones for those who remember:)). There is no mobile phone connection (besides first 1-2 days), but you didn't come here to stay connected at all times! 😉
  • Warm sleeping bag! Even tough the lodges have roofs, they sometimes lack windows or have holes in wooden walls, which makes the nights very chilly, especially at higher altitudes. Sometimes you can get an extra blanket, but don't count on any duvet! 😉 You may be hot at the beginning of the trip, but it will pay off later!
  • Good hiking shoes - take the shoes you can rely on, as you will be walking for many hours every day. Getting blisters several walking days from civilization may not sound dramatic now, but it really can destroy your trip
  • Sandals/flip-flops - believe me, you will want a rest from the hiking boots in the evenings! Also, useful for the 'bathrooms'
  • Comfortable backpack - just like with shoes, will be with it for the entire day, so you don't want to suffer
  • Hiking clothes - two pairs of trousers is more than enough. Also, do not exaggerate with T-shirts and underwear, as you can easily wash them on the way
  • Woolen underwear and socks - give heat and do not stink 😉
  • Waterproof jacket and trousers (should be super-light, as you may not need them)
  • Hat, scarf and gloves - very useful, especially in the mornings and evenings in the higher parts
  • Down jacket - recommended, as it's light and very warm
  • Sunglasses - especially useful when you reach snow. You don't want to get snow blindness on your dream trip (or any trip for this matter)
  • Sunscreen - although it may not be necessarily hot, the sun is dangerous in the mountains, especially at this latitude. Remember, you are reasonably close to the equator and have thinner atmosphere above you
  • Bathroom kit and washing wipes (in case you don't want to use ice-cold showers)
  • Hiking poles - useful equipment. It also seems to be a distinction between tourists and the locals, who give a s**t about the poles 🙂
  • Water bottle/camelback - good to have the bottle, as it's easier to refill than camelback, but use whatever you prefer, just remember to hydrate! A lot.
  • Water purifiers - you may think them not necessary, but better not get poisoned in the middle of the trip
  • High altitude medicines - everyone reacts differently to the high elevation. Again, better to be safe than sorry. Manaslu trip seems to be a very gentle in this matter, as you ascent from very low and quite slowly, so not many people suffer
  • Head lamp(s) - it gets dark early at this latitude and you cannot count on electricity for light. Make sure you have a good, working head lamp, as you will be using it a lot!
  • Extra batteries/solar charger - in the lower parts (first few days) it is possible to use electricity from generators, but the higher you go, the less electricity will be available. Solar chargers work well.
  • Books/playing cards/etc. - good for a post-dinner entertainment before going for a rest. Just make sure they are light

 

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