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Around Manaslu Itinerary - October 2003
Manaslu is a beautiful mountain, especially at sunrise from the south west. It is also one fo the few mountains where you can trek around the mountain and see all the sides in one trek.
I think most of the organized treks take way too long for the trek, from 18-20 days. I didn't push that hard to complete it in 12 days.
My crew are guide Gyan Prasad Tamang (firstname.lastname@example.org), who was the same guide on my trek to Annapurna North Base Camp in 2002. Gyan brought three of his relatives. My cook is 24 year-old Schandra, and my porters are 28-year old Satis, and 18-year old Ram who was also with me in 2002.
The weather was fantastic, sunny for 20 days in a row.
Here is my actual itinerary. The times shown are the actual trekking times and do not include lunch stops.
Oct 12 Arrive at Kathmandu
Our flight could not land at Kathmandu due to low cloud cover, so we circled the Himalayas, seeing Manaslu, Cho Oyu, Everest and Lhotse, Makalu, and Kangchenjunga. We had to land at Dhaka to refuel, and finally arrived in Kathmandu at 10:30.
I checked into the Hotel Garuda and then took a taxi to Boudhanath, and later visited Swayambhunath. I checked into the Hotel Garuda and then took a taxi to Boudhanath. Back at the hotel, I met Gyan and paid him the rest of the money. In the late afternoon I went to Swayambhunath.
Oct 13 Kathmandu
While I waited for my guide Gyan to get the special permits required for Manaslu, I visited Durbar Square.
Oct 14 Day 1 Drove from Kathmandu to Ankhu Khola (580m) 4:30. Trek to Arughat (600m) 2:45.
We left Kathmandu in the dark at 5:15 and drove past people walking, bicycling and even jogging. At 6am we crested the lip of the valley and left Kathmandu behind. We continued west along the paved Prithvi Highway passing the ubiquitous Tata trucks and buses. We left the highway at 7:30 and drove 17km on a paved road to Dhading Besi, turned left and followed the unpaved road up through the early morning clouds, and then down the north side of the ridge to the Ankhu Khola (580m).
We crossed the Ankhu Khola in a basket, and then the hiking finally began. We started at 12:00 in the blazing mid-day 31C sun and arrived in Arughat (600m) at 14:45.
Oct 15 Day 2 Arughat (600m) to Labubesi (880m) 6:30.
We left in the early morning mist at 6:20 to try and limit the amount of hiking in the middle of what would be another scorching hot day. I've never walked in the low country before. And, except for the heat, it's stunningly beautiful. It's luxuriantly green with rich and abundant vegetable fields. After leaving Arkhet, I had a good view of Sringi Himal (7187m) up the valley.
A Maoist arrived at 17:30! She was a young, very mannerly, and soft-spoken young woman. She said she was collecting a 100 rupee per day tax for the Maoist Government. I dutifully paid her 1600 rupees and she gave me a receipt. She also asked for a donation. I refused, and she left.
Oct 15 Day 3 Labubesi (880m) to Khorlabesi (970m) to Doban (1000m) 5:00.
Just after leaving Labubesi at 6:40 the riverbed of the Buri Gandaki was wide and rocky. After Khanibesi, the peaks of the Shringi Himal (7187m) shone brightly in the morning sun.
I walked along the narrow trail making ups and downs and arrived at Khorlabesi (970m) at 10:00. A young bearded Maoist, dressed in a t-shirt and army fatigues, talked to me. I showed him my 'tax form', and he was satisfied. A second Maoist young man obtained tax from another traveler.
Oct 17 Day 4 Doban (1000m) to Jagat (1415m) to Ekle Bhatti (1600m) 5:00.
We arrived in Buddhist country at the town of Jagat, fixed with paved stone plates and with the local school. The government officials have fled the area, leaving it to the Maoists. So, we didn't need the government permit to enter the Manaslu Conservation Area after all.
I'm always pleased to discover a beautiful mountain on my trips. These views of Shringi Himal (7187m) was my discovery on this trip. The mountain stands just huge above the valley, its summit glistening in the mid-day sun. We camped in a farmer's field at Ekle Bhatti.
Oct 18 Day 5 Ekle Bhatti (1600m) to Deng (1800m) to Ghap (2110m) 5:45.
Just after leaving Ekle Bhatti, the valley narrows, with the river carving a steep gorge. I arrived at the tiny picturesque village of Deng (1800m) at 9:15. The Buri Gandaki valley turns from north-south to east-west and the route has now crossed the main Himalayan range.
I stopped and admired the Ghap (2110m) kani, with intricate, well-preserved paintings on the inside. The mani wall in Ghap has particularly elegant carvings depicting the Buddha, Avalokiteshvara, and Padmasambhava among others.
Oct 19, Day 6 Ghap (2110m) to Lihi (2900m) to Lho (3180m) to Shyaula (3520m) 6:00.
We stopped for lunch at Lihi (2900m) in the back of a local house, with wood stacked high, clothes drying, barley let out to dry, and children looking on. The stone houses of Lihi are grouped together like apartments into units of five or six that share a common roof and courtyard.
The mountain views have finally started with Simnang Himal (6251m), Naike Peak (5515m), and two peaks of Ganesh Himal towering above the valley. Clouds obscured Manaslu and Manaslu North (7157m), but Unnamed Peak evaded the clouds for awhile because it is lower.
Lho (3180) has an enormous mani wall amid fields of barley in front. The kani, with beautiful paintings inside, welcomed me to Shyaula (3520m) after the long slog uphill. As the sun set, the clouds obscuring Shringi Himal cleared to reveal a beautifully white summit with huge shoulders left and right reminding me of the Eiger North Face.
The Shyaula campsite was already occupied, so we camped in the yard of the Maili Manaslu Hotel, run by a mother and her daughter. I watched as the girl cut mini-potatoes and fried them in a cast iron type pan on a small wood stove. I told her that potatoes were my favourite. She offered me a bowl, which I gratefully accepted. They were fantastic, though a bit spicy.
Oct 20 Day 7 Shyaula (3520m) to Pungyen Gompa (3870m) to Sama (3530m) 4:30.
Sensational!! Manaslu is probably the best sunrise mountain I have ever seen! The subtle changes of the light on Manaslu are terrific, turning from grey to pink to orange to yellow and then to white, all within a few minutes. The cirque of mountains are Simnang Himal (6251m), Ngadi Chuli (Peak 29, 7879m), Manaslu, Manaslu North (7157m), Unnamed Peak, Naike Peak (5515m), and Shringi Himal (7187m).
From Shayula I climbed steeply up the ridge and then along an enormous kharka to the Pungyen gompa (3870m). It was destroyed by fire during the winter of 1953 after the first Japanese expedition to Manaslu, killing 18 inhabitants, mostly nuns. The villagers believed the god residing on Manaslu destroyed the gompa to show his wrath for the trespassers, and refused to let the second Japanese expedition to Manaslu climb the mountain in 1954. When I got there, there was nobody home, but there were more sensational views of Manaslu. I looked across the valley to more fine mountain views with Khayang (6186m), Saula Himal (6238m), Lapuchun (5960m), and Pama Himal (6300m) visible.
It was an easy walk to the extensive village of Sama (3530m), with many houses having courtyards overlooking the trail. An old monk let me visit a small gompa with two statues of Padmasambhava at Kargyu Chholing (Sama) gompa.
Oct 21 Day 8 Sama (3530m) to Samdo (3860m) to Larkya Phedi (4480m) 5:00.
It was another glorious sunrise, with Manaslu looking a little foreshortened from Sama. As I walked towards Samdo, I turned and caught another view of Manaslu and Manaslu North with the Manaslu Icefall tumbling down. Just before Samdo I turned around again and finally saw Himal Chuli, a graceful-looking mountain with three summits, the highest being 7893m.
The simple houses of Samdo (3860m) stand at the junction of three valleys with a major Tibetan trade route heading east of the village. Just after leaving Samdo, I crossed the Buri Gandaki, now a mere stream, for the last time.
A half hour before Larkya Phedi (4480m), through a break in the mountains caused by Larkya Glacier, I had a view of the full width of Manaslu leading up the normal route of ascent, and then the summit. The weather was a little cold, -10C, overnight.
Oct 22 Day 9 Larkya Phedi (4480m) to Larkya La (5100m) to Bimtang (3720m) 6:00.
We left at 6:30, the climb being a fairly straightforward, but seemingly never-ending, finally reaching the Larkya La (5100m) at 9:30. With the help of a Sherpa, I strung up prayer flags.
Just after leaving the pass, the vista opened up with Himlung Himal (7126m), Gyaji Kung (7030m), Kang Guru (6981m), and Annapurna II (7937m) visible. After a long descent traversing scree slopes on a long set of steep, rough switchbacks, we reached a bit of grass and stopped for lunch.
We finally arrived at our campsite at the large meadow called Bimtang (3720m). I climbed the ridge behind Bimtang to get fantastic views of Manaslu's Northwest Face, and the full summit area. The Pinnacle certainly looks lower than the summit from this vantage point.
Oct 23 Day 10: Bimtang (3720m) to Tilje (2300m) 5:00.
The boys had some rakshi last night, and sang and danced til 11. We got up a little later this morning, and I left at 7:30. A part of the path was cut off by a landslide, so I had to descend to the Dudh Khola and and scrambled up and down the precariously quickly made trail. Once again, who needs an amusement park when you can have real life adventure? I arrived in the large Gurung village of Tilje (2300m) at 12:30.
Oct 24 Day 11 Tilje (2300m) to Dharapani (1920m) to Chame (2710m) to Bhratang (2950m) 6:45.
I left at 6:20 and in about an hour met the Annapurna circuit. I back tracked to upper Dharapani (1920m) to get my Annapurna trekking permit stamped. The trek has now entered the east-west Manang valley and travels west up the valley with high Himalayan peaks to the south.
Thirty minutes later I walked through Bagarchap (2160m), which was hit by a landslide that destroyed much of the village, including two lodges, in November 1995.
On my way to Chame, I had a good view of Annapurna II (7937m) peaking out from the trees. From Chame (2710m) there is a perfect view of the southwest face of Manaslu, first climbed by Reinhold Messner in 1972. I left Chame at 13:55 and arrived at Bhratang (2950m) at 15:30.
Oct 25 Day 12 Bhratang (2950m) to Ghyaru (3670m) to Braga (3500m) to Manang (3540m) 7:00.
The trail just beyond Bhtatang has been blasted out of the side of the cliff, and took years to complete. When the trail rounds a bend there is the first views of the dramatic Paungda Danda rock face, a tremendous curved rock slab of rock rising more than 1500m from the river. At Dhukure Pokhari (3200m) the valley opens up from a V-shape to a gentle U-shape.
From Pisang (3240m) I decided to take the high route to Manang, so I crossed the river and ascended 450m to Ghyaru (3670m). Ghyaru and Ngawal are supposed to be medieval villages, but they looked more modern than the villages in the upper Buri Gandaki valley Around Manaslu. The views were very good with Annapurna III (7555m), Gangapurna (7455m), Tilicho Peak (7134m), the long wall of rock, ice and snow called the Grande Barriere, and the north face of Annapurna II (7937m) leading across a long ridge to Annapurna IV (7525m).
I took another side trip and visited Braga (3500m), a Tibetan-style village with a 400 or 500 year-old gompa perched on a high crag overlooking the village. It was then a short walk to the plateau of Manang (3540m), the main village of the upper valley, which could easily stand-in for a town in a spaghetti western with horses going up the wide dusty streets.
Oct 26, Day 13 Manang (3540m) to Khangsar (3770m) 1:30.
Out next stop was only an hour and a half away, so we stayed in Manang until the afternoon. As usual I was up before sunrise to see Annapurna III (7555m), Gangapurna (7455m), and the Grande Barriere, named by Herzog in 1950, shine in the morning sun. I walked to the glacial lake below Gangapurna and had a magnificent view of Gangapurna and the Gangapurna Glacier reflected in the lake.
The trek to Khangsar (3770m) heads west along the river, crosses a bridge, and then becomes a pleasant stroll. Khangsar is a collection of traditional stone buildings surrounding a large village square.
Oct 27 Day 14 Khangsar (3770m) to Manang (3540m) to Humde (3420m) 2:45.
I awoke to snow falling hard and having to cut my trekking plans short. My plan was to climb to Tilicho Lake and cross over to Jomsom, kind of following in the footsteps of the 1950 French Expedition. I knew the route was dangerous, but as long as the sunny weather held, I was willing to take the risk. Now with the snow, I abandoned the rest of the trek.
I left Khangsar at 11:15 and arrived at Humde at 14:00. The sun came out amongst the clouds. I added my name to the waiting list for the flight to Pokhara, and now I, eh, wait.
Oct 28 Day 15 Fly Humde (3420) to Pokhara to Kathmandu.
I made it onto the flight, so I said goodbye to my crew, giving them their tips. The Royal Nepal Airlines flight took off from Humde at 8:50, and after passing by Manaslu, we landed in hot Pokhara at 9:10. I then switched to Cosmic Air and once again passed Manaslu and Himal Chuli, before landing in Kathmandu at 10:50. I then departed from Kathmandu the same evening.