Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Trekking in Nepal for Dummies – Part 1

Many friends have been asking me for advice about trekking in Nepal – since I have done it twice. I trekked to the Everest Base Camp (14 days) in March last year and did the Ghorepani – Poon Hill – Ghandruk trek (4 days) last week. So I thought I should write a short article about trekking in Nepal for the benefit of my friends. I have tried to keep it as simple as possible. Of course, there are tonnes of books and websites out there that would tell you a lot more.

Caution : The notes below are purely based on my experience and preferences. They may or may not suit you. Sometimes, I have strange tastes.

1. Why trek in Nepal

Bcos it is there. Jaw-dropping scenery. The excitement of being at the top of the world. Friendly people. Rubbing shoulders with the Sherpas and mountaineers. Smiling at the yaks. Soaking in Nepali culture. Because Monyet King told you to do so.

Jaw-dropping scenery (en route to the Everest Base Camp)

2. Going to Nepal
To trek in Nepal, you first have to go to Nepal. There are many ways of going to Nepal from Kuala Lumpur. If you work for the NFC, you could fly to New York, then to London, then to Dubai and finally catch a plane to Katmandu. If you a member of PKR or MIC, you could take a sampan from Port Kelang, row all the way to the Bay of Bengal, then switch to a kayak and row all the way into India/Nepal border and catch a bus to Katmandu.

For most normal people, the best option would be to (a) fly direct to Katmandu using Royal Nepal Airlines or (b) fly via Bangkok using Thai Airways. Option (a) is cheaper but Nepal Airlines is not very reliable with frequent flight cancellations and delays. I heard AirAsia is planning to fly the KL – Katmandu route but I don’t know when it will commence. You can always call up Tony Fernandes and ask him. But remember, if he answers, there will additional charges.

3. Trekking options
There are two main trekking options in Nepal – (a) tea house treks and (b) camping treks. If you are a beginner, the tea-house trekking option is the best.

Tea houses are lodges of varying sizes in villages along the trekking route. Some teahouses have just 6 rooms, others may have 30 or more rooms. You will get a decent accommodation and relatively cheap and good meals [fried rice might cost you RM 10, a cup of coffee RM 2]. Most tea houses will provide you with a room with a bed and mattress, some even provide you with a blanket.  I found most of the tea houses to be clean. You should bring along your sleeping bags, especially if you are trekking into high altitudes. If you are using the services of a travel/tour company in Nepal, the company will usually provide you with a sleeping bag (do check with them beforehand). Many of these tea houses will also have a small grocery shops where you can buy stuff like toilet paper, snacks and batteries (but be prepared to pay a higher price than in Katmandu). On most popular trekking routes, there are many, many tea houses – so you should not have a problem finding accommodation. If your trekking is arranged by a Nepali tour company, they usually pre-book your accommodation at these tea houses. Tea house treks are by far the most popular option in Nepal. [BTW, the tea-houses do also provide tea. You can get a cup of good masala tea for RM 2]

A relatively large tea house

The dining hall in a large tea-house

How the bed looks like in one of the smaller teahouses

I have never gone on a camping trek in Nepal. Usually, camping treks are done for the far-out treks in under-populated areas where there are no villages. You can camp on your own or if you engage the services of a Nepali tour company, they will make all the necessary arrangement including porters and cooks. You just have to trek, someone else with carry your camping gear, set up the tens and cook your meals. This will be more expensive than the tea house treks.

4. Trekking routes
There are hundreds of trekking routes in Nepal. Some will require a day of trekking, some would require 30 days of trekking. You can choose a trek depending on the time you have available. The “big name” treks such as the Everest Base Camp trek will require 14 days, the complete Annapurna circuit will require 20+ days, Annapurna Base Camp 12 days and upper Mustang valley, 10 – 15 days. A camping trek to the Kancenjunga Base Camp in eastern Nepal could take 25 days. If time is of no concern, you could do the Great Himalayan trail for over 50 days. [Of course, if you are one of the politicians with really nothing useful to do, you could trek all the way from Nepal to Kazakhstan – 568 days and don’t come back].

If you are a novice with little trekking or high altitude experience, you may want to try the shorter 3 – 4 day treks where the altitude does not exceed 3000m. The Ghorepani – Poon Hill – Ghandruk trek near Pokhara would be a good trek to begin with.

The longer your trek, the more things you need to bring along, the more expensive it gets and the long treks tend to go into high altitudes. It is fine if you are well prepared. Issues with high altitude are described in later in this article.

5. Guides and Porters
Guides and porters are very useful when trekking. If you use the services of a Nepali travel/tour company, they will arrange for the guides and porters.  When I say guides, I mean trekking guides, not girl guides. Although the trails are well-established and there is little danger of you getting lost, a guide brings another dimension to your trekking experience. A guide can point out to you the various mountain peaks, explain the local cultures and histories, speak to the locals on your behalf, help take your photos, and sometimes scratch your back when it is itchy. Do not be stingy. Employ a porter. It provides an income to the local community while allowing you to enjoy your trek without having to lug a large bag on your back. During my trek last week, I had the privilege of having Ang Gyaljen Sherpa as my guide – Gyaljen has summited three 8000m+ mountains, Everest (twice), Makalu and Choyo in addition to a number of lower peaks. He had a lot of stories to tell (including how he carried the oxygen tanks for the Malaysian climbers during their Everest summit attempt in 2007). During my 2011 and 2012 treks, I found all my guides and porters to be extremely nice and helpful.

Save much of your troubles by letting a porter carrying your bags

Although most of the treks are well-defined, a guide adds so much more wealth to your trekking experience.

Feel free to ask questions.
All photos by Sathya


PahNur said...

you, me....teh tarik session..on me....me want to ask a lot lot lot of questions on trekking nepal. Me trekking manaslu next year. will call later. cheow.

Cat-from-Sydney said...

Apa ni? I don't see any cats. purrr...meow!

Monyet King said...

Pah Nur,
OK.... just call when you are inspired. BTW, why Manaslu ?

Monyet King said...

Cats are rather scarce in Nepal. I saw a lot of dogs, chicken, ducks, horses and donkeys but very few cats. Maybe the cats don't like the mountains. Sejuk...brrrrrr

hike himalayasik said...

Dhaulagira Base Camp Trek

This is extended and strenuous trek to the foot of Mt. Dhaulagiri through high alpine pastures, higher passes and serene and uninhabited valleys. From Beni we head north-westerly direction towards the villages of Babichour, Dorbang and Darapani to Muri keeping to the banks of the Myagdi Khola which goes into the very center of the Dhaulagiri massif enjoying the first views of the impressive eastern wall of the mountain Once we get to the camp we see the gigantic northern wall as well as the Dhaulagiri, I, III and IV carrying on through the French Pass (5,360 m) and ending in the valley of Kali Gandaki, Marpha and Jomsom. Long closed to visitors for a variety of reasons - including its remoteness, the region west and north of Dhaulagiri was opened to trekkers traveling in organized groups.
Dhaulagira Base Camp Trekking

Day 01: Fly to Pokhara. Overnight at hotel
Day 02: Drive to Beni (850m) – 4 hrs.
Day 03: Trek to Babiachor (950 m)– 5 hrs.
Day 04: Trek to Dharapani (1,400m)–6 hrs.
Day 05: Trek to Muri (1,850m) – 5 hrs.
Day 06: Trek to Boghara (2080m) – 6 hrs.
Day 07: Trek to Dobang (2,520m) – 5 hrs.
Day 08: Trek to Choriban Khola (3,110m)
– 6 hrs.
Day 09:Trek to Italian Base Camp (3,660m) – 7 hrs.
Day 10: Rest Day.
Day 11:Trek to Glacier Camp (4210m) – 6 hrs.
Day 12:Trek to Dhaulagiri Base Camp (4740m) – hrs.
Day 13: Rest Day.
Day 14:Trek to the French Pass (5,100 m) – Hidden Valley High Camp. (5,360m) – 6 hrs.
Day 15: Climb Dhampus Peak (6013m) – OPTION, or rest day
Day 16: Cross Dhampus Pass, and trek through Yak Kharka (3,680m) – 6 hrs.
Day 17: Trek to Marpha (2,667m). Continue to Jomsom (2,710m) – 3 hrs.
Day 18: Fly: Jomsom – Pokhara (30 min).
Day 19: Drive / Fly to Kathmandu. http://www.nepalguideinfo.com/Dhaulagiri.php http://www.nepalguideinfo.com Email-sanjib-adhikari@hotmail.com