There are some things that are a nagging worry when preparing for a trek in Nepal, such as malaria vaccinations, altitude sickness and concerns about training. However, my biggest fear was when it came to being parted from the internet and my mobile phone for a whole month. The eighth highest mountain in the world doesn’t suffer from the development of tourism that has engulfed the area around Everest, and is truly a window into the real Nepal.
One of the main reasons I chose this particular trek was that it promised a window into a part of Nepal that isn’t seen by those who climb to Everest’s base camp. The first few days were a real eye-opener, with paths winding through sub-tropical valleys and jungle teeming with wildlife. Flocks of bright green birds exploded from a stand of trees above the path, but I won’t mention the appearance of the leeches at night. The genuine welcome and curiosity of the locals suggested that trekking groups weren’t a common sight, and I didn’t pass up the opportunity to show off my football skills with some local children either.
However, as the path wound its way up the Buri Gandaki valley, the heat of the lower valley was soon replaced by the warm days and cold nights once the sun went down. The upper valley was much more sparsely populated, and the regular mule trains were a sign of the trading route we were traversing. A visit to a mountain top monastery in the shadow of Manaslu was truly beautiful, but the majesty of the sun rise over the high mountains in that remote place will never leave me. I’m getting goose bumps just imagining it.
The Larkya La Pass
Sitting at nearly 5,200m above sea level, the Larkya La pass is one of the highest in Nepal, and being very close to the border with Tibet it was traditionally one of the trading routes between the two countries. Dinner at base camp before ascending to the peak of the journey was a warm belly full of soup, and the hearty meal took the edge of the freezing night time temperatures at such altitude.
An early start from base camp soon took us on to our only period of walking on snow, circling the deep blue glacier fed lakes in the valley below. After a few hours tough walking, an outcropping of rock bedecked in prayer flags came into sight, and the high point of the trek was celebrated with a cup of hot lemon drink.
As we crested the pass itself, the descent for the rest of the day was quite steep, and although we didn't use crampons our Sherpa did prepare guide ropes over some parts of the snow. For the last few days the trek joined the start of the more popular Annapurna circuit, and the small villages with practical stone dwellings were replaced with bright tea houses and cafes. Seeing two or three trekkers throughout the main circuit was replaced by seeing hundreds on the tourist route, and I can’t help but think that they may be missing out on the real face of this wonderful country.
Community Action Treks
We travelled with Community Action Treks, which is a company set up by noted mountaineer Doug Scott to support his charity Community Action Nepal. CAN is a charity that helps to bring sustainable tourism by looking after their Sherpa and porters with proper high altitude equipment, and has also funded a number of health centres around Nepal.
If you are interested in doing a trek like this you can find out more information on their website.