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Manaslu Tsum Valley Trek20 Days
Manaslu Tsum Valley Trek
Manaslu Tsum Valley Trek is an adventurous route around the mighty 8163m Mt.Manaslu and hidden Shangri-La Tsum Valley. This trip has become extraordinarily well liked among the wilderness explorers since 1995 when the Manaslu Region was opened. When Tsum Valley got accessible for trekkers in 2008, Trekkers from all over the world recognised Manaslu Tsum Valley Trekking as a geographically extra spectacular and culturally very fascinating destination which has to offer its ultimate nature, cultural heritage and a lifetime experience of a mountain lifestyle. The inhabitants of upper Budhi Gandaki, a region known as ‘Nup Ri’ meaning Western Mountain are direct descendants of Tibetan immigrants and they settled here during early 16th century consequently their speech, dress and customs are exclusively similar to Tibetans in the North of Nepal. Nup Ri’s iconic Mountain views and Larkey Pass after visiting Tsum Valley is a thrilling and sensational experience not to be found anywhere else.
‘Tsum’ meaning vivid against the majestic backdrop of the Sringi Himal, Ganesh Himal and Boudha Himal Ranges, this serene Himalayan valley is rich in ancient art, religion and culture. The valley is yet being explored and is right place to trek for the travelling passionate. It is a blessed Himalayan Buddhist pilgrimage site located in northern part of Gorkha district, Nepal. It is said that the Buddhist saint Milarepa is believed to be meditated in the caves of these mountains.mountains. Tsum valley is home of some historic monasteries, including Mu Gompa and Ranchen Gompa, mani and prayer walls which lie on a highland nestled in the lap of the valley and Gompa Lungdang, situated at the base of a hill against the main slope of Ganesh Himal. The tribes here celebrate many Buddhist festivals such as perfume ritual burning of juniper sense to purifier the air, place prayer flags for happiness of all the sentient living beings install Mani Walls. The area is left behind so their culture remained as it is as it was centuries ago. The palace is one of the most fascinating attractions for the trekkers. Here we have designed an itinerary for this ideal mountain holiday in budget cost.
Manaslu Tsum Valley Trek Itnerary
- Day 1 : KATHMANDU TO ARUGHAT BAZAR BY BUS/JEEP (7-12HRS)We can take a direct bus from Kathmandu to Arughat or to Dhading and change, or to Malekhu on the Kathmandu-Pokhara road and change twice. In any case, allow a day for travel due to breakdowns and the very rough unsealed road from Dhading to Arughat, which can become impassable with rain. Alternatively, a 4WD jeep may get us there more quickly but costs around $US175-250 for up to 7 people depending on road conditions (and thus the kind of jeep required).In Arughat (600m), there’s a pleasant market town straddling the Budhi Gandaki river. Alternative access, which currently requires camping out two nights, is to take the quicker and better road to Ghorka (5hrs) and trek through Barpak, cross a pass at 2670m and rejoin the main trail at Khorlabeshi.
- Day 2 : ARUGHAT TO LAPUBESI (5-6HRS):Most people now take a jeep to Soti Khola to save 3hrs of walking but the road remains untrafficked and passes through pleasant fields and villages.We trek through Gurung and Magar villages on the more scenic upper road where there is a choice, staying on the left bank (true right) of the Budhi Gandaki, which we will be following to its source. It can be hot and humid so wet rice, maize and millet are the main crops and we may see monkeys in the forests. The spotless **Manaslu Lodge and the Market View Lodge at the pretty bazaar town of Arkhet (760m) could easily be our first night if we arrive early enough from Kathmandu. Climb on stairs as the valley becomes wilder, prettier and narrower and descend to Soti Khola (710m) and then Munel through the village over a bridge. There’s a swimming hole in the Soti Khola, popular with locals. Packhorses ply the trail from here on. We trek on through shady Sal forests then climb up and down for some time on an exposed track blasted from the cliff and views way below of wild rapids, eventually dropping to the Gurung Labubesi (880m; Lapubeshi).
- Day 3 : LAPUBESI TO TATOPANI (4-5HRS)We continue up-river, climbing sometimes and at other times down on the gravel riverbed, passing through Machhakhola (930m) . We will be continuing on the same side of the Buri Gandaki, up and down again and across sandy riverflats. The monkeys and langurs in the jungle above can knock rocks down, so we have to watch out for that. Large Gurung villages are way above while the track passes few houses, like lower Khorlabeshi (960m) which was largely destroyed by a huge rockslip 24 years ago. A survivor has built a botanic garden and nice lodge from which he sells his organic coffee. Goat herders passing through this area wear the distinctive smoke-browned capes called bokkhu made famous in the book Honey Hunters of Nepal. Continue up and down over a couple of ridges to Tatopani (930m; ‘hot water’) where there are hot water spouts under the sheer cliffs that provide a delightful evening shower and soft skin due to natural minerals. There are two simple lodges close to the springs, which might be smoky, and one further up.
- Day 4 : TATOPANI TO PHILIM (5-6HRS)We then climb over a ridge and cross the Buri Gandaki on a new suspension bridge, circle under cliffs and climb a little to Doban (1000m; Duvan). After a landslip and Yaruphant (1140m) cross the bridge across the Yaru Khola (1363m) and emerge onto riverflats at Yaru (1140m). We’ll have a memorable view downstream at the massive rockfall that chokes the river. We can just past Yaru, cross to the true right bank and enjoy easy up and down to Jagat (1410m), a neatly flagstoned Gurung village where jagat (‘tax’) is collected on Tibetan trade. We will need to show MCAP permit at an office. Jagat was a Maoist stronghold and not all people are friendly. In this area, potato, maize and climbing beans are all planted at the same time – the potato for food and to suppress weeds, the maize for food and to supply a trellis for the beans, which are an important source of protein. Marijuana is a major weed problem in season.We walk up the riverbed then climb over a rocky ridge to Salleri (1440m) with views of Sringi Himal (7187m), then descend to Sirdibas (1430m; Setibas, Tara). We’ll see our first signs of Buddhist culture here. Look out for rakshi spirit being distilled from millet beer in roadside kettles on this day. We continue up-river on the left bank, up and down before crossing Nepal’s longest suspension bridge to the east bank and a tiring climb up to prosperous Philim (1590m; Dodang) surrounded by rich fields of maize, potato and millet. We’ll be staying here for the overnight.
- Day 5 : PHILIM TO CHUMLING (5-6HRS)We’ll traverse north on the day out of Philim on the track signposted to the Larkya La, through some pretty forest with views up the narrowing valley. After 1hr climbing we enter the increasingly misnamed Ekle Bhatti (1600m; ‘lone teashop’) with at least six bhatti, then traverse high above a spectacular gorge, entering a largely uninhabited area of pine trees. Eventually drop to a trail junction going left to Ghap and right to the Tsum Valley, just above Gum Pul (‘bridge’). We then climb on a well-graded but exposed track through pines and rhododendrons, looking down on the other trail across the river. If the slopes here have recently had their annual burn there is a real risk of stonefall from the cliffs above, especially if there are goats grazing. We climb on zigzag steps, increasingly exposed, and gain our first glimpses of the narrow lower Tsum Valley, very steep across the Siyar Khola (Shiar Khola) which drains from the very top of the valley. Across the Buri Gandaki is Himalchuli (7893m) above steep cliffs. We’ll walk through a largely intact and peaceful temperate forest into Lokpa (2240m; Lakuwa), surrounded by barley fields.We’ll be descending through beautiful forest, crossing two new bridges, circle under a huge bluff on the river then climb steeply on deteriorating exposed stairs. After about 30mins we start to traverse north through pines and rhododendrons, still climbing and with very steep slopes. The hidden valley of Tsum stretches enticingly ahead. Eventually to a deserted bhatti Ghumlong (2130m) on the river. The path straight ahead climbs steeply to Ripchet (2470m; Ripche) in about 1hr; the path to Chumling (2360m) crosses the Siyar Khola on a wooden bridge and up. It is not for those afraid of heights – several locals have fallen to their death from this track while drunk. After about 30mins, below Chumling, we’ll take the level track to east for 15mins to arrive at a lodge. We’ll make sure you climb up to Chumling and check out the old gompa, the traditional houses, orchards, clinic and beautiful stone streets. This is Buddhist agriculture, with conical pine needle haystacks among the prayer flags. From here on trails are lined with artistic chortens and mani walls made of thousands of stone slabs carved with deities and prayers.
- Day 6 : CHUMLING TO CHHOKANG-PARO (3-4HRS)An easier day after yesterday. We cross the suspension bridge just east of the hotel and traverse through rich farming land of maize and potatoes. The houses are classic Tibetan with barricades of firewood on the roof, but without flat roofs as it rains and snows here. Then we cross through a huge slip where rocks and flood cleared the area even up onto the opposite bank, killing five in 1999, but is now covered with a forest of new trees. Up the valley to the east are superb views of several of the 7000-7400m Ganesh Himal, of long suspension bridges on the opposite bank, and far above the perched village of Ripchet (2468m). We may find somebody willing to cook lunch at Rainjam (2400m), a single bhatti with enclosed courtyard.Crossing the Serpu Khola and climb for over 2hrs on well-graded but exposed track to upper Tsum and the joined villages of Chhokang-Paro (3010m), stone houses with a few iron roofs nestled under cliffs we arrive to the valley that opens into spacious fields of barley, maize, buckwheat and potato, but wheat has been abandoned due to ‘hill bunt’, a disease which turns the heads black and causes total crop failure. Herds of thar often graze the wild cliffs to the north, coming right down to the fields. We will be staying here with the clear Himalchuli (7893m) can be seen down valley.
- Day 7 : CHHOKANG-PARO TO NILE (3-4HRS)Most people can climb to 3000m without getting altitude sickness, but the altitude gain in these track notes above Chhokang-Paro is right at the 300m per day suggested for safety. We’ll have to watch for the signs of altitude sickness and be prepared to rest or retreat if they emerge.Take time to explore the village and climb north to a retreat where Lama Kongchog died after 26 years of meditation. His child reincarnation, found in the village, was subject of the award-winning DVD Unmistaken Child (available in Kathmandu). Thar are often sighted near here. The friendly people speak Tsumba, related to Tibetan, but often little Nepali and are quite unused to visitors.We’ll then head east through small villages and pass a local school, climb over a ridge of chortens and pass Lamagaon (3202m) through the flat fields, looking across the extensive crops and river to the huge courtyard of the Rachen Gompa (3240m) with excellent pilgrim accommodation . This nunnery is the female equivalent of the main Kathmandu Kopan Monastery. Lamagaon claims to have a lodge. At a lodge in Pangchhe (Lar) (3245m, under construction) we can pay and get a key for a visit to Milarepa’s Cave (Piren Phu), where the bringer of Buddhism to Tibet is reputed to have meditated. The cave is being extensively restored and a donation of Rs500 is suggested.Then we cross the Shiyar Khola, through hamlets of Phurbe (3251m) and Pangdun (3258m) and an unusual round stupa before reaching the larger village of Chhule (3347m) through an impressive entrance gate (kani). There is one homestay in Chhule, on the right above the bridge. The children here all wear the Tibetan dressing gown called chubas and there are many yaks. Heading upstream we cross the bridge and climb to Nile (3361m; Nyile, pronounced Nee-lay). Both villages are in traditional style with inclusion of livestock compounds into the houses and sheltered verandahs for drying crops. There’s a Homestay which has a sheltered courtyard and 5 beds and plans to upgrade to a hotel shortly. Two years ago there was no toilet in this village; now there are 14 and plans for all households to have one within two years, partly as a result of money flowing from teahouse trekkers.
- Day 8 : NILE TO MU GOMPA(1-2hrs)We can leave our rucksack behind and visit Mu Gompa as a day trip, continuing on to Rachen Gompa or Chhokang-Paro, or stay overnight in Mu Gompa and visit the isolated Dhephu Doma nunnery and gompa and even climb above it for great views.We’ll then make up valley on the west bank, enjoying sunrise on the narrowing valley walls and yaks being put to pasture. The final climb up to the large Mu Gompa (3700m; Mugumba) is through dry Tibetan country, with rows of chortens and widening mountain vistas. This is a large monastery with over 100 monks and an ancient gompa visited by David Snellgrove (Himalayan Pilgrimage) in 1956. There are many rooms available and nearby toilets (bed Rs250, db Rs300). The food is basic. You can try tsampa (roasted barley flour) for breakfast with tea or even Tibetan butter salt tea.On three sides now are tantalising views of the border with Tibet, with frequently used passes to the east (Ngula Dhojyang or Mailatasachin Pass, 5093m) and west (Thapla Bhanjyang, 5104m) just out of sight. Some people climb to Kalung (3820m) or Bhajyo (4030m) and camp, making a daytrip to the passes for a view into Tibet. We’ll have organise accommodation and/or horses if you want to do this. It takes about 4hrs to climb to the pass from Bhajyo and 3hrs down. From Mu Gompa there are extensive seasonal yak pastures in all directions, the Lungdang Glacier to the east and high peaks in all directions.In the early monsoon, in pastures at 5000m, many Tsumba collect the most expensive natural medicine in the world, known as yarsagumba. This is the caterpillar of a ghost moth parasitised by a fungus Cordyceps sinensis and is worth $10,000/kg in China as an aphrodisiac and cancer cure.The isolated 600 year-old Dhephu Doma Gompa (3900m) is 30-45mins uphill on the obvious westward track and has two resident nuns who report seeing snow leopards and musk deer and may give you tea. The inside of the gompa has been repainted by monks from Tibet and there are some ancient thankas.
- Day 9 : MU GOMPA TO RACHEN GOMPA(3-4hrs)We return down valley through Chhule, collect our rucksack if left it there, and continue down as far as Phurbe, where the Sheraps (sic) Homestay with camping looks clean and comfortable. We stay on the east bank of the Siyar Khola and cross flat boulder-covered plains following the power lines to Rachen Gompa (3240m), where it is possible to inspect the ancient gompa if you want and the many young nuns are very friendly. Families in the Tsum usually have at least one family member as either a monk or a nun.At Rachen Gompa we’ll stay in comfortable pilgrim rooms, wash clothes and eat dalbhat in shifts with the nuns, enjoying electric light and a solar hot shower.
- Day 10 : RACHEN GOMPA TO GUMBA LUNGDANG(5-6hrs)We’ll be continuing to the south until a bridge crosses to the west bank and pass again through Chhokang Paro then drop below on the previous trail towards Chumling. After about 2hrs, we’ll see a small white gompa on the left at Gho (2485m). Then descend on a narrow trail passing the gompa and drop to a wooden bridge over the Siyar Khola. This is a good place to wash clothes and ourselves after the lack of water further up the Tsum. Then cross the bridge to Domje (2460m, Dhumje, Tumje) which has a Tibetan herbal medicine clinic and school but no food or lodging. The track onwards climbs just behind the clinic, which may be out of sight so take any clear trail that heads upwards.Then we’ll be climbing very steeply through pines and rhododendrons until the track starts traversing at a mani wall with prayer flags. The track is exposed and narrow. Finally, in the pine forest, take a prayer flag marked uphill trail and make a zigzag climb through huge silver pines to reach Gumba Lungdang (3200m), perched on a ridge with small cells for the nuns scattered through the beautiful rhododendrons above. This small gompa with 40 nuns has an intense and engrossing puja from 6.00-7.30pm each night unless the nuns are on holidays or elsewhere, which is for some months each year. There is no lodge or formal camping area but permission may be obtained for a limited number of people to sleep on the gompa verandah or to camp in the gompa forecourt and use their kitchen. The mountain views in all directions are amazing and being here was the absolute highlight of our many trips to Nepal.
- Day 11 : DAY TRIP TO GANESH HIMAL BASE CAMP(7-8hrs)Altitude can make this day difficult for some, but the intact forest wilderness and views make it an outstanding trip.We circle from the gompa through a white gateway (kani) and below the nuns’ housing, between two houses and traverse down and up through two small valleys, then drop right on dusty or muddy zigzags on a shortcut to regain the lower track and continue up valley through the forest. After about 5mins we’ll be passing through a small clear pasture (kharka) and 5mins later take the descending track and drop to the river. This is about 30mins from the gompa. An informal bridge takes you to a steep bank – look for cairns upstream and climb the bank. We’ll traverse through forest on a passable track with a lot of wind-thrown trees for 30mins and cross the Laudang Khola to the west bank on a rickety wooden bridge then climbe steeply for 30mins through pristine pines and rhododendrons on a ridge, bearing left to two rude stone huts beside a large boulder in a kharka. The track continues between the huts and up, veering to the left, not straight up! The track is clear through cut silver pines then into birches and up the true right of a birch-lined dry creekbed. Eventually we emerge into grassy flats behind the lateral moraine of the Torogumba glacier. We continue climbing past seasonal yak huts and we will find several tracks on the moraine wall that give superb views of the cirque of mountains. The camp is somewhere about here and it is a most beautiful spot.It takes about 4hrs to reach the Ganesh Himal Base Camp (4200m). The map shows another base camp on the east side of the glacier, but there appears to be no obvious track between them, so we return to Gumba Lungdang in time for the evening puja by retracing our steps. We’ll have to make sure that we find our 15mins shortcut up to the gompa; the alternative takes 45mins.
- Day 12 : GUMBA LUNGDANG TO LOKPA(7-8hrs)This can be a taxing day so we’ll have to start early. Descending to Domje, where there are no lodges or bhatti, by the upward track and cross the Laudang Khola on a new swing bridge between the two lowest houses in Domje to stay on the south (true left) bank of the Siyar Khola (contrary to the map). Then we traverse 10 mins on a new trail through lovely forest until a choice of upper or lower trails – either works, the lower is the best. We will come across some very deep gorges on new swing bridges to picturesque Ripchet (2470m; Ripche) where there is a homestay and we can get lunch. We’ll take our time to look around at this perched fertile valley of barley and buckwheat with evocative chortens in the fields backed by pine forest. Then, descend on steep loose stairs to the deserted bhatti Ghumlong (2130m) on the river, which we passed through some days ago and climb again through the pristine forest to Lokpa (2240m) and enjoy a comfortable bed in the lodge there and maybe a bucket bath in the toilet or camping toilet.
- Day 13 : LOKPA TO GHAP(4-5hrs)Continuing from Lokpa down the exposed track we reach the track from Philim and cross the Buri Gandaki on a solid bridge after about 1hr and traverse to a welcome bhatti just around the corner for tea and a last look up the Tsum Valley. We’ll have to enter a very narrow gorge with loose tracks, up and down, up and down and Cross to the east bank at one point and then back again to the west bank on a new suspension bridge. After about 2hrs reach Sirdibas (1860m). In another hour we enter Nupri (‘the western mountains’) through bamboo forests to Deng (1800m), inhabited by Gurungs who practice Buddhism. We’ll be lodging here. Just beyond Deng we recross to the east bank and climb to Rana (1980m) and pass Bihi Phedi (1990m) with the trail up to the stone-carving village of Bihi (2130m; Bhi). The river roars below. We continue in and out of continuous wild canyons, with a village perched in every conceivable cropping situation, cross the Serang Khola coming from the north and climb steeply again before finally circling into Ghap (2160m; Tsak) past Mountain View lodge where the horses stay. The mani walls here and onwards as far as Bimthang often display intricate quality carvings of various Buddhas in meditation, incised in the hard local stone by a family of carvers from Bihi. The Manaslu Thakuri lodge and Kyimolung lodge and camping ground are in Ghap itself and building is underway.A side-trip from a bridge below Bihi can take you up to Prok (2380m), with an ACAP office and emergency radio and an excursion to Kal Tal (3685m; Kalchhuman Lake), then back down to Ghap.
- Day 14 : GHAP TO LHO(5-6hrs)This day we enter a beautiful forest of fir and rhododendron with many birds, staying on the south bank, cross north on a wooden bridge with a roaring narrow canyon below then cross back to the south bank on a new swing bridge with grey langurs watching. The main trail now climbs on well-made stairs, but a highly recommended narrow shortcut to the right just after the bridge and along the riverbank is far quicker and through superb pine forest. After about 1hr, we climb a zigzag from the river to the neat village of Namrung (2660m) with shops, restaurants and the Thakali, Thakuri and Namrung lodges about the flagstoned square. While waiting for a meal it is worth wandering around the village, where carvings from Bihi have been painted in colours above a gateway. The architecture characteristic of upper Nupri starts here: several houses gathered together about a common courtyard and livestock shelters on the ground floor, with heavy wooden shingle roofs and log stairs to dark verandahs.We’ll be passing by mani walls, fields and houses through Banjam (2800m, Banzam). We enter the fir, rhododendron and oak forest before climbing to Lihi (2900m; Li, Ligaon) with the Lihi Hotel in 1hr, then onto Sho (2950m, Syogoan) where there is a bhatti but no lodges yet. The platforms in the fields are where people keep overnight watches to chase bears from their crops. Most people from here onwards wear traditional Tibetan dress, with the children in small chubas like dressing gowns, asking for shim shim (Tibetan for candy). Some have impeccable English due to an Australian aid project. There are some particularly fine paintings in the kani (gate arches) that we pass before Sho. On reaching Shrip (3000m), we’ll be taking a leisurely walk onwards, in and out of gullies to Lho (3180m; Logoan). We’ll be pitying about the wedding-cake stupa donated from Taiwan which dominates this otherwise picturesque village focussed on yak herding.There are excellent views of Manaslu (8163m) and Manaslu North (7157m) from the mani wall at the far end of the village and from the gompa on the hill to the west.
- Day 15 : LHO TO SAMAGAON(2-3hrs)This short day takes you into the mountains with time to enjoy and acclimatize. The views of Manaslu are stupendous. Easy walk to Shyala (3520m, Syal, Syalagaon, Shyaula) up a pine and rhododendron gully with moss and gin-clear stream. Enjoy 360° views from here due to a fire and extensive deforestation and extensive building including the largest lodge on the trek under construction, currently Manaslu Pik 21 Hotel and Gurkha Manaslu Homestay. Another easy hour to the large village of Sama (3530m, Samagaon, Ro), losing the gigantic views of Manaslu but entering a world of yaks, pastures and houses which seem to have grown from the stones. Only potatoes and barley can be grown at this altitude. A day-long acclimatisation trips can be taken from here to Pungyen Gompa or to Manaslu Base Camp (4900m).
- Day 16 : SAMAGAON TO SAMDO(2-3hrs)It’s an another short day because of the altitude, with time to go via the iceberg-covered Birendra Tal (3450m) under the Manaslu Glacier, wade the exit stream depending on the time of year and drop down to pick up the main trail from Sama to Samdo. Easy walking through yak pastures up a broad valley with long mani walls, marmots in April but not November standing on their burrows. Finally we leave the treeline behind, although low-lying juniper is all around, climb to a ridge and drop to cross the Buri Gandaki on a wooden bridge. It takes some time to reach the white kani above but immediately behind is Samdo (3860m), a very picturesque village dedicated to yak herding, so much so that there are more animal and fodder shelters than human accommodation. Lodges are comfortable here although likely to be cold at this altitude.Side valleys and Samdo Peak call out for afternoon wandering but remember to take a jacket as cold wind can come up at any time. The Larkya La trail is ahead up valley and left. We can see the main track for Tibet over the Larjyang La (Lajyung Bhanjyang, 5098m) sloping up to the right from the Larkya La trail and we can make an excellent afternoon acclimatisation walk of 4-5hrs return to 4500m up this trail, seeing lots of blue sheep and yaks and entrancing views, but the pass itself is a full day trip. The first village and road in Tibet is about 2hrs beyond the pass with access currently blocked by China even for locals. There is a lot of Chinese and Tibetan alcohol and food for sale in Samdo.
- Day 17 : SAMDO TO DHARAMSALA(2-3hrs)Today we descend beyond Samdo on a broad trail, dropping to cross the much-reduced Budhi Gandaki at 3850m and pass the trail to Tibet to the right and climb left after a mani wall, traversing through juniper with many marmots in April but not November when they hibernate. We’ll cross two ravines on narrow tracks, very icy towards winter. There is no Larke Bazar despite what many maps assert; at one time traders from Namche Bazar came through Tibet to trade in this area and maybe some of the scattered stone shelters you will pass were part of that market. Dharamsala (4480m; Larke Phedi, Larkya Resthouse) is now a seasonal village with dark stone rooms and tents for at least 50 people and a dirt-floored but efficient dining hut. Even toilets are available. The views are marvellous. A large herd of blue sheep call the tussock-covered hills home and if we are lucky enough we may see snow leopards.
- Day 18 : DHARAMSALA TO BIMTHANG(7-9hrs)Today we climb steadily over the ridge behind Dharamsala and beside the large lateral moraine of the Larke Glacier. The climb is not difficult but it is long and rocky underfoot, particularly as we top the moraine. We’ll have to look for cairns and metal snowpoles which assist route finding. We’ll then descend passing four frozen lakes and make a final tiring climb to Larkya La (5160m), marked by prayer flags. It takes about 3-5hrs to reach the pass and it can be very cold and windy with a risk of exposure if under-equipped or ill. The peaks to the west are Himlung (7126m) near Tibet and Kang Guru (6981m) and Annapurna II (7937m) in the Annapurna Range.We will trek west on a high moraine ridge exposed to wind for some distance, on the right side of a deep gully, then drop steeply on loose scree, eventually traversing left on more steep scree. There are several places where snow or ice would make this treacherous and some groups fix a rope on the steepest piece. Make a long descent on loose gravel to a welcome more level area with grassy moraine, where the angle eases. The track now runs left of the large lateral moraine, rocky at times, in a widening and beautiful valley all the long way to very scenic Bimthang (3720m; ‘plain of sand’), a descent of 1400m in about 3hrs. The views during the descent are huge – icefalls and mountains in all directions, a medial glacial lake (Pongkar Tal) between the Pongkar and Salpudanda Glaciers, and the joining of these two glaciers with a third glacier to form the Bhimdang Glacier whose lateral moraine towers over Bimthang. We’ll be staying here for the night.
- Day 19 : BIMTHANG TO DHARAPANI(7-8hrs)We walk south below Bimthang behind the moraine wall for some time before crossing the Bhimdang Glacier, which can be loose underfoot then climb up the far moraine wall quickly to avoid stone-fall and enter some of the best forest in Nepal. If you are in rhododendron season, the mauves, reds, pinks and whites are stunning amongst the huge pines and the views of the back of Mt Manaslu are superb. Then descend rapidly along the true right bank of the aptly named Dudh (‘milk’) Khola through a bhatti at Hompuk (3420m) in a forest clearing. Gentle riverside walking continues rapidly to Karche (2700m; Karache, Surki Khola, Suti Khola) for lunch after about 3.5hrs. In the next hour you will see many signs of a glacial flood, with tree trunks smashed and banks undermined, the track becoming quite rough. We’ll be climbing steeply over a ridge and drop to Gurung Goa (2560m, Gho), the first real village since Samdo. The valley becomes more agricultural as we pass fields and copses of oak and rhododendron, staying on the north (true right) bank until Tilije (2300m; Tiljet). We pass under a stone arch, cross the Dudh Khola and descend rapidly towards the Marsyangdi Valley through scrubby forest. Crossing back to the north bank just below Thonje (1900m; Thangjet, Thoche) we’ll have to climb up to join the main round-Annapurna trail, over the Marsyangdi Khola on a long suspension bridge to Dharapani (1860m).Jeeps now ply for a seriously scary ride back through Besi Sahar to Kathmandu (6-8hrs).
- Day 20 : Transfer to the airport and on to your onward flight.