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Trekking in Nepal

Areas and Permits for Trekking Nepal  

 Everest Base Camp Trek

     Everybody knows of Mt Everest and that's the simple reason why the Everest Base Camp Trek is so popular. The trek has a number of stunning attractions, but it also has some distinct drawbacks which might well deter potential trekkers were it not for the undeniable plus point of being able to say you've been to the base of the highest mountain in the world.

     The attractions include spectacular scenery and the outgoing Sherpa people of the Solu Khumbu, the region where Mt Everest and its attendant lesser peaks are located. The drawbacks include the long, hard slog to get there and the acclimatisation problems caused by the region's considerable altitude.

     It's not until you get right into the Solo Khumbu region that the Everest trek really gets interesting. The first part of the trek is not only a hard slog, but is also pretty sparse in the breathtaking views department. The hard slog comes about because the trek doesn't follow valleys - like the Annapurna treks - instead the Everest trek cuts across the valleys. So for day after day it's a tiring process of dropping down one side of a steep valley and climbing up again on the other. By the time you reach the base camp your ascents will total almost 9000m, the full height of Everest from sea level!

     The Everest trek starts in the Nepalispeaking Hindu lowlands and ends in the Tibetan-Buddhist highlands where the Sherpas are renowned for their enterprise, hard work, civic responsibility and devotion to the practice of Buddhism. In their often inhospitable land, the potato, a relatively recent introduction, is the main crop, but these days trekking and mountaineering is the backbone of the Sherpa economy. More than half the population in the region is now involved with tourism and Namche Bazaar looks more like an alpine resort than a Sherpa village.

     Most Everest trekkers opt to fly one way to avoid having to repeat all those ups and downs. This introduces its own problems as flights to Lukla are notorious for cancellations, waiting lists and short-tempered trekkers. If you have the time, walk in from Giri and fly out from Lukla. If you want to make a shorter trip you can fly in to Lukla, trek to Everest and then fly out, taking 15 days to trek to Kala Pattar or you can just visit Thami, Namche Bazaar and Tengpoche in a week or so.

     The Everest trek may not be quite as good as the Pokhara area for village-inn treks, but plenty of accommodation is available during the trekking season even in the normally uninhabited areas around the high peaks.

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Helambu Trek

    The Helambu Trek only takes seven days, starts from Sundarijal at the eastern end of the Kathmandu Valley and does not climb above 3500m. It makes a loop through the Sherpa-populated Helambu region to the north-east of Kathmandu and only the first day's walk is repeated on the return trip. The trek's main drawback is that it does not offer fine Himalayan views, like some other treks, but it can be trekked on a village-inn basis as there are guesthouses and lodges in many of the villages along the trail. The Sherpa people of the Helambu region are friendly and hospitable, just like their better known kinfolk of the Solu Khumbu region. As in Solu Khumbu, the potato is a vitally important crop and not only forms a large part of the local diet but is also exported to the Nepali lowland in exchange for rice and other produce.

Langtang Trek

     Langtang Larung (7246m) is visible to the north of Kathmandu on clear days. The Langtang trek takes up to two weeks and leads to the foot of glaciers high in the Lang-tang Valley. The trail passes through Tibetan and Tamang villages and offers fine views of the Ganesh Himal. Though the trek passes through comparatively lightly populated and undeveloped areas, it is still possible to stay at village inns along the route. Ascending from just 541m at Trisuli Bazaar to 3800m at Kyanjin Gompa the trail passes through an ever-changing climate and offers trekkers an exceptional diversity of scenery and culture.

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Jomsom Trek

    The Jomsom Trek is essentially the final third of the Annapurna Circuit. It follows the Kali Gandaki valley between the soaring peaks of Annapurna and Dhaulagiri and finally emerges to the north of the main Himalayan range, on the dry, desert-like Tibetan plateau. The final destination is the holy temple of Muktinath, a farther day's walk beyond Jomsom. The return to Pokhara can either be made by retracing your steps down the Kali Gandaki valley or by flying from Jomsom to Pokhara.

Around Annapurna Trek

     Since it opened to foreign trekkers in 1977, the three-week trek around Annapurna has become the most popular trek in Nepal. It passes through country inhabited by a wide diversity of peoples, it offers spectacular mountain scenery and it goes to the north of the main Himalayan range on to the high and dry Tibetan plateau. To many independent trekkers it also offers the considerable advantage of having accommodation available each night. The only drawback perhaps are the tedious checkpoints on this trek -between ACAP and the police there is a checkpoint to pass almost every day!

     The circuit is usually walked in a counterclockwise direction because of difficulties crossing the Thorung La. Travelling clockwise the longer ascent and shorter descent from west to east is too much for many people to manage in one day. The Thorung La at 54l6m is often closed by snow from midDecember to mid-March and bad weather can move in at any time. Trekkers should be prepared to turn back due to the weather or if they suffer from altitude sickness. If you take porters over this pass you must make sure they are adequately equipped for severe cold and snow.

     Most people start the circuit from Dumre, on the Kathmandu to Pokhara road. There are jeeps and buses that ply the miserably rough road north from Dumre as far as Besi Sahar.

     After you cross the Thorung La from Manang to Muktinath the final seven days of the circuit trek are the same as the Joinsom Trek from Pokhara, but in reverse.

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Annapurna Sanctuary Trek

     The walk up to the Annapurna base camp is a classic walk right into the heart of the mountains. The walk ends at a point where you are virtually surrounded by soaring Himalayan peaks. At one time this trek was a real expedition into an uninhabited wilderness area, but now there is a string of lodges that operate during the trekking season. The return trip can take as little as 10 or 11 days but usually takes a full 14 days, and the walk to the base camp can be tacked on as a side-trip from the Jomsom or Annapuma Circuit treks.

     There are several possible routes to the sanctuary, all meeting at Chhomrong. The diversion from the Jomsom and Annapurna Circuit treks is made from Ghorapani to Ghandruk.

     The route to the Annapurna Sanctuary is occasionally blocked by avalanches. Check with the ACAP offices in Ghandruk or Khuldighar for a report on current trail conditions, and do not proceed into the sanctuary if there is heavy rain or snow.

Kanchanjunga Base Camp

     The trekking route up to the Kanchenjunga North and South base camps in the extreme aorth-eastern corner of the country is open is trekkers, but you have to go with a recognised agency. The starting point can be Basantapur or Taplejung by road, or Tumlingtar or Taplejung by air.

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Makalu Base Camp

     It's a long but fine trek from Hile or Turnlingtar up the Arun River to the Makalu base camp in eastern Nepal. The area is protected by the recently established Makalu-Barun National Park and its conservation area.

 

Solu Khumbu To Hile

     As an alternative to flying back to Kathmandu from Lukla, or walking back to Jiri, the Everest Base Camp Trek can be extended by walking for 11 days east and then south to Hile. From Hile you can travel by road through Dhankuta and Dharan to Biratnagar from where there are buses and flights to Kathmandu.

 

Dolpo

      Trekking to the Dolpo region has only been permitted since mid-1989. The region lies to the west of the Kali Gandaki valley. A special permit is needed, and you must be well equipped and self sufficient. From Pokhara it's a tough 14-day trek to Phoksundo Lake, and beyond it is 'inner Dolpo' the site of Shey Gompa. A special permit ($700) is required to trek into this area.

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Rara Lake

     The eight-day round trip trek from Jumla to the Rara Lake and back still gets very few trekkers, largely because trekking here requires real planning since flights are difficult to get on, porters are hard to find and little food is available.

 

Mustang

     Mustang has lured trekkers for many years, and has only recently been opened. It was closed, both because of guerrilla war along the border with Tibet, and because of the ecological sensitivity of the region. The area is part of the Tibetan plateau, and is high, dry and beautiful. It lies to the northwest of the Kali Gandaki, beyond Kagbeni, which is the farthest point west on the Jomsom Trek. It is only possible to enter with an organized group, and permits are needed .

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