Endless P Summer

May 5th and 6th…..Pokhara, Nepal

The Mardi Himal Base Camp Trek is a relatively new trekking route that’s only been open for about 5 or 6 years. It starts in Phedi at 3,700 feet and goes up to the Base Camp at 14,500 feet. The peak itself for Mardi Himal is around 18,200 feet. Since we only have 3 days we’ll try to get as close to Base Camp as possible in a day and a half and then head back to the city. It’s doable to get there if we’re hustling and also if the weather and our health are working in our favor.World Peace Pagoda, Pokhara

We left Besi Sahar en route to Pokhara on May 5th and for awhile our chances of getting to our destination didn’t look good. There was a nationwide transportation strike and the buses weren’t running that day so we paid 4,000 rupees each and rented a Jeep. Before getting out of town we were stopped by the Nepal police and got a special escort along with some other jeeps, something to do with Maoist politics, I didn’t understand it. A half hour later our driver couldn’t shift gears anymore and we broke down so the escort moved along without us. The transmission line shit the bed so we waited on the side of the road for a half hour until 2 guys on a scooter pulled up with the part and an hour later we were good to go again. This is when our driver told us there was a roadblock 15 km ahead and we probably wouldn’t be able to get through and would have to try again tomorrow, again something to do with Maoist politics that I didn’t understand. Luckily there was no roadblock and all it did was get my nerves up. A few hours later we got into Pokhara. There were lots of people bombing around on scooters and motorcycles and there were cows running around in the street. Just as I was thinking, ‘one of these cows is about to get waffled by one of these scooters’ one of the cows got waffled by one of the scooters. It was gruesome. A few minutes later we got dropped off into the Lakeside area of Pokhara(Lakeside is the tourist section of town). Pokhara is the 2nd biggest city in Nepal and is described by Wikipedia as more ‘mystical’ than Kathmandu and only had roads going to it for the last 50 years. I thought the town seemed more modern than Kathmandu and also had the highest concentration of dreadlocked white people that I’ve ever seen. We spent a couple days relaxing and regrouping in Pokhara. It was so nice to shower and do laundry and then just chill out for a little while with no place to be. I liked Pokhara. We explored the Lakeside neighborhood, walked along Lake Fewa, took a yoga class, went on a trip up to the World Peace Pagoda overlooking the lake, and of course ate lots of food. Now to the Mardi Himal trek.

May 7th…..Humal(Low Camp)….elev 9797 feet

This morning we took a cab about a half hour from the Crystal Palace hotel in Pokhara to the village of Phedi where we started our trek. From Phedi to Dahmpus the trail was a stone staircase the whole way. It took us up almost 2000 feet in elevation over the course of an hour. Stairs are fun, I’d climb stairs all day if I could(QB said she’ll count the stairs on the way back, we’ll see). Oh it was hot out too and wicked humid, I was quickly drenched with sweat. Once up in Dahmpus the temperature cooled a little bit but we were basically walking inside a cloud the whole day. An hour or so later we got to the village of Pothana where they had a checkpost to check our permits. We thought our Annapurna permits were still good but the fine print said they were ‘single entry only’ and since we had left the Annapurna region and then came back they were no longer valid. Because of this little guffaw on our part, we had to pay double the entry fee for new permits at the checkpost: 4500 rupees each, womp womp womp…Not the end of the world but had we noticed this yesterday we could have easily taken care of it in Pokhara for the regular permit price of 2250. From Pothana we walked steadily uphill through a rainforest or jungle the rest of the day. There wasn’t much for views of the mountains because of the cloud we were inside of but the fog gave a really cool look to the jungle. It was very green and there were lots of big moss covered trees. By the end of the day we got to Humal, aka Low Camp, ate a meal and crashed out for the night. Low Camp doesn’t really seem like a village but just a lodge catering to us and the few other trekkers here.

May 8th….Pothana…..elev. 6525 feet

We got a good start this morning and around 6:30, right after we wolfed down our oatmeal, we were walking uphill. The first half hour we climbed steadily through a rhododendron maze from Low Camp to Middle Camp. Once up at Middle Camp we were on a ridge above tree line and had fantastic views. We could see Annapurna South, Imchuli Peak, and the never before climbed Machhapuchhre AKA Fishtail Peak. It was amazing. I also was lucky enough to see a pair of Nepal’s National Birds; the very colorful Himalayan Monal(I didn’t get a picture but google them, they were wicked cool). I can only describe them to her as mountain peacocks. We walked for another hour and a half until we got to High Camp at 11,800 feet, where we stopped for tea. From High Camp to Base Camp was supposed to be a 2+ hour walk but the clouds had really started to roll in. We walked for about 40 minutes and when the mountains were all socked in we decided to turn around. It was pointless to me to keep walking towards Base Camp without anymore views, but what we saw was awesome. I think the best way to do this hike would be to get to High Camp in the evening and camp there, then in the morning wake up early while it’s hopefully clear and go back and forth to Base Camp. Or you could just do what we did, that was fun too.

From our turn around point we cruised down to Middle Camp then to Low Camp where we had lunch and another hour to Forest Camp. We walked downhill all afternoon through the jungle and then heard a crack of thunder and moments later were being pelted with hail. Good thing for the tree cover, we didn’t get it too bad. We did wait out the rest of the storm when we got to Deurali and then walked another half hour to Pothana and found a teahouse to spend the night.

May 9th…..Back in Pokhara

Holy Mackerel! Crazy thunderstorms overnight last night. I woke up in the middle of the night and didn’t know what the hell was going on, I thought the sheet metal roof of the teahouse was about to fly into outer space. It didn’t though, and I quickly fell back asleep and woke up in Pothana to a nice clear morning with views of Fishtail Peak. After eating our porridge we spent a little over an hour walking down to and through the rather sprawling village of Dahmpus and from there started the massive staircase to Phedi. QB counted the steps on the way down the staircase, 2803, I didn’t even try. Immediately while in Phedi a bus came by and we jumped on. 50 rupees to Pokhara(that’s not a lot of rupees). I’d been wanting to ride one of these buses just to see what it was like, it really didn’t look that enjoyable and it wasn’t, but I was intrigued. It was jam packed and even though I was descending all morning I was still soaked through with sweat and I’m sure I stunk so I definitely wasn’t helping the situation. The bus really wasn’t too bad but a 1 hour ride from Phedi to Pokhara was enough for me. I’d rather not travel all day on one of these. Once back in Pokhara we enjoyed a nice little day here; eating momos and Indian food, taking yoga and walking up and down Lakeside running into a handful of people we met up in the mountains.

Tomorrow we’re taking a short flight from here to Kathmandu then spending a couple days in the big city until we fly back to the US. It’s been quite a trip and Nepal lived up to the hype and then some. This is a magical place and I will be looking forward to the day I come back. Until then if you have any questions about traveling to Nepal or any of these treks feel free to contact me and maybe I can help you out. And of course follow me on insta @endlesspsummer if you’d like.

Day 10

Danakyu

Elev. 7181 feet

Today we mixed things up a little. Sara and I have been thinking about what we were going to do after the Manaslu Circuit. A couple days ago we decided to just link it to the Annapurna Circuit and try to do them back to back. The start of the Annapurna circuit overlaps the end of the Manaslu circuit anyway. We don’t need a guide and we already have the permits, and since Mac can lend us a map of the Annapurna region and loan us some extra rupees there’s no reason to leave the mountains yet. We took Mac up on his offer since we wouldn’t see an ATM for awhile and cash is king in the mountains. Our original plan was to walk another 2 days to the end of the Manaslu circuit, Besi Sahar, and then catch a ride down to Pokhara, the nearest city, but we figure this plan is better. 

Today we walked from Bimthang to Dharapani. It was almost all downhill and it was pretty cool, we had awesome views of the big mountains early on then we got into a pine forest with plenty of pink and red rhododendrons in full bloom. We arrived in Dharapani around 3 PM which is where the 2 circuits join. Our friends would walk the rest of the way to Besi Sahar so we said goodbye to them in Dharapani; Mac was headed back to Kathmandu for a while then on to thruhike the Japanese Alps, Moist was trying to decide between going to the Everest region or going to Kyrgyzstan, and Gopal AKA Mountain Tiger was headed home to Kathmandu until his next guiding mission.

QB and I walked along a road, the first road we’ve seen since day 1, for another hour until we got to the town of Danakyu. We found a place to stay for the night, pretty much just picking at random. This should be interesting going without a guide and figuring it out on our own. We’ve done absolutely zero research on the Annapurna Circuit but how hard could it be? We have a map.

Day 11

Upper Pisang

Elev. 10,820 feet

I think everybody gets sick eventually in Nepal. Today it was QB’s turn. Yesterday she started feeling lousy walking down from Bimthang and it progressed throughout the day and overnight. She’s tough though and once she got on the Imodium train this morning she started feeling better. Maybe not 100% yet but she’s getting there.

The weather wasn’t great today plus with QB’s bellyache it didn’t look like we’d have much of a day. Still crushed though. There was a decent climb from Danakyu to Timthang then walked a couple more hours to Chame. A German guy Alan walked with us for a while and that was a breath of fresh air, someone new. He stopped in Chame where he was meeting a friend and we carried on. For lunch we got to this lodge in Brathang that looked totally out of place. It looked more like a farmhouse you’d see in the Montana mountains than a tea house in Nepal, and it was actually called ‘The Farmhouse.’ All of a sudden there were lots of other trekkers around. I think a lot of them were actually starting here at The Farmhouse. The Annapurna Circuit is much different than Manaslu for a bunch of reasons but for starters there’s a Jeep road on Annapurna that goes almost all the way around. This gives people the option to start in all different towns.

We walked a couple more hours after lunch, sometimes on the Jeep road and sometimes on trail, until we got to Upper Pisang where we’ll spend the night. There’s a big group of Russians here and another group from Israel. Including us and the locals there’s four different languages being spoken in the dining room but I can only understand one.

Day 12

Gunsang

Elev. 12,952 feet

Well, today was awesome. Yesterday we had a choice; take either the low route or the high route. The high route was longer and had more elevation gain but left the road and had incredible views. The low route stuck down on the road and would have been easier walking, albeit less scenic. Naturally we went high.

Shortly after we left Upper Pisang this morning we were admiring the beefy Annapurna II from across the valley. I was alternating between looking straight ahead where I was going and turning to get another look at this gigantic mountain when suddenly I saw a massive amount of snow break off from near the top of the peak and pick up steam and more snow as it tumbled down towards the valley. AVALANCHE! The natural phenomenon that until this point I had only heard about. It was incredible. Thankfully it didn’t reach the valley containing Lower Pisang and I don’t think people climb that side of the mountain. I hope not anyway. Check out below for a video or see it on my instagram @endlesspsummer.

 

The rest of the day was cool but nothing happened as exciting as a Himalayan avalanche. From Upper Pisang we had a steep climb up to Ghyaru, an ancient village looking over the valley. We contoured along the side of a mountain for awhile and got to Ngawal. The villages for the most part seem much bigger in the Annapurna region than over by Manaslu, probably because most can be accessed by a road or at least close to a road.

Eventually we rejoined a road and had to stop at a police checkpoint, and for whatever reason QB’s permit has her listed as Algerian but the Nepal police didn’t question it. I wasn’t about to say anything, that would just slow us down. We got lunch at a really good spot in a tiny village called Manchi then made our way to the big city in the area; Manang.

Manang is literally the end of the road, it will be all trail from here until we get over the pass. Because of this we figured we better stock up on coconut cookies and other goodies before the prices jump when we get higher in the mountains. Lots of trekkers usually stop in Manang for a night or 2 but we strategically wanted to get a little higher for acclimating purposes. We walked another hour uphill to this place Gunsang that is pretty much just one active hotel.

After taking a few minutes to get set up we came out to eat and the kid here was like, “My parents just left and will be back in an hour or two.” It’s 5:30 and we’re both wicked hungry and it’s not like they just ran to the store or something, the nearest anything is an hours walk in each direction. Whatever, at least the kid here made us some tea and I guess we just eat late. It’s weird though, I would have thought they would have told us they won’t be around to cook for awhile. Anyway our room tonight is incredible, I mean there’s nothing to it but we have a view of some of the most gigantic mountains I’ve ever seen and it will probably only cost something like 3-5 dollars.

Well I just learned that the reason the parents ran out is because they went to check on one of their yaks that was bitten by either a snow leopard or a wolf(I didn’t know there were wolves here but who knows). I guess I can wait for my food, sure hope their yak is ok.Sweet $3 view!

Day 13

Thorung Phedi

Elev. 14,837 feet

Today was a short day for miles hiked or for hours hiked but we did put ourselves another couple thousand feet higher and should be good to go to get up and over Thorung Pass tomorrow. Ideally we would just walk all day and be on the other side of the pass tonight but that’s not the way things go out here. Clouds usually roll in every afternoon and the chances for lousy weather go way up later in the day. Thorung La(or pass) sits at something like 17,500 feet and I’ve never been up that high, I’ve also never slept as high as I am tonight. I think getting acclimated the last couple weeks has got me and QB in good condition and we’ll spend most of the day resting, eating, and drinking mint tea. Hopefully tomorrow morning will be nice and clear and we’ll be able to get it done. Even though we only walked about 4 hours today the hiking was pretty rad. We walked higher and higher through a valley all morning and had views of some incredible mountains ahead of us and behind us. At one point along the side of the trail there was a dead goat or a blue sheep carcass and we watched as about a dozen Himalayan Vultures(not sure what the real name is for these birds but they’re massive) fought and picked over the dead meat. It was quite a sight. 3rd coolest thing I’ve seen in 2 days: avalanche, a dog sliding off a roof that a girl caught that we saw in Manang, and these vulture fights.

 

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We got to Thorung Phedi around 11 and our only other option for today was to go another hour and another thousand feet to sleep at High Camp. I’m comfortable here. Excited about tomorrow and a little nervous.

Day 14

Thorung Phedi

Elev. 14,837 feet

Well today didn’t go as planned. We woke up at 4:30 am and were ready to crush it up the pass. Overnight the weather turned to shit and it was already snowing down here below 15,000 feet. We decided to wait until 6 and if it didn’t improve we’d wait it out a day for safety’s sake and try the pass tomorrow. It didn’t improve. Not the end of the world though, it was nice just laying around, resting, reading, and beating Sara in Chess.

Then around noontime my stomach started doing somersaults. Over the next few hours my condition deteriorated. I’ll spare you the details but if you look back to my entry for day 3 of this adventure you’ll get a good idea of what I went through again. Things aren’t looking good for getting over Thorung Pass. If by some miracle I’m 100% by morning and the skies are clear we might go for it. Otherwise I think our best option will be turning around and hiking down to Besi Sahar(our original ending point for the Manaslu Circuit). It will probably be about 4 days of walking either way, hopefully between the 2 of us we’re carrying enough Imodium. Thorung Pass and the Annapurna Circuit were never part of the original plan so I won’t be too upset if I don’t get up and over it. Sure would be cool though.

Day 15

Besi Sahar

Elev. 2500 feet

The skies were clear and the weather looked just about perfect to go up and over the pass this morning. The problem was I was completely drained. I wasn’t so much feeling sick and nauseous anymore but I didn’t have any energy at all, I was dehydrated and I’d barely eaten anything in the last 24 hours. Neither of us slept well the last 2 nights. Going over the pass would be a poor decision. QB and I decided to head back down the way we came and in a few days end up in Besi Sahar, which was the town we were originally aiming for before detouring over to the Annapurna Circuit. In just a few hours of walking quickly downhill we were back in Manang, the town where the trail meets the road and vice versa. We walked another couple hours and were just getting through the town of Humde when a Jeep pulled over with a deal for us: 8,000 rupees for the 8 hour ride to Besi Sahar. Deal! I’m only in Nepal for so long and I don’t need to see the same things twice.

There were already seven other Nepalis jammed into this thing so Sara and I jumped into the back and it was an enjoyable first couple hours. At one point a couple got out and they told us to come sit in front. I just do what I’m told. The road got wicked bumpy after that and the ride was slow going and treacherous. It’s beyond me why people go 4 wheeling for fun. After a long day of traveling we got Besi Sahar and will stay here for the night. Tomorrow we’ll either get another Jeep or a bus to take us into Polkara where we’ll regroup, do laundry, take showers, have internet and come up with a plan for the rest of our trip.

It’s been a great couple weeks in the Himalayas. A very different style of hiking than I’m used to and also for the most part very enjoyable. I’ve switched from coffee to tea and gave up eating meat for my time in the mountains. I also had 2 separate and very extreme cases of getting sick. I got sick more times in the last 2 weeks of hiking in Nepal than in almost 10,000 miles of long distance hiking in the States. Maybe I’m just unlucky. I broke my no shower record(not sure if my hygiene contributed to me getting sick but I diligently used hand sanitizer before I ate and I treated all the water I drank). I climbed to the highest point in my life multiple times on this trip and also slept higher than I’ve ever slept before. Most importantly I got to see a part of the world that is simply incredible; people living with a backdrop of arguably the most spectacular landscape on the planet.

Day 5

Pewa

Elev. 5700 feet

This morning we left the Yak Hotel in Lar and started walking back towards the Manaslu Circuit from Tsum Valley. The first hour or so was pretty cold until the sun came out. It’s weird, daylight and sunrise aren’t even close. It gets light out way before the sun shows itself over the mountains. Once the sun does show itself the temperature rises considerable. After we walked through Chhokang Paro the trail dropped steeply for awhile and we had to redo the dicey spot where the trail got real narrow and the footing was soft due to a previous landslide. I usually don’t like doing out and back style hikes but since I felt like death the other day it was nice to re-walk the same trail and I was able to enjoy it more. Same goes for the place we had lunch today in Chumling; 2 days ago I was throwing up in their bathroom and today I wolfed down a plate of fried noodles. From lunch we walked a few hours downhill to Lokpa and then a couple more to where we rejoined the Manaslu Circuit and the confluence with the Buddhi Gandaki river. We all went for an icy cold refreshing bath in a little tributary to the big river. It was so nice! I love cold water on a hot day. We returned to the circuit and everything was new again.

The trail stayed right alongside the river for the rest of the day and in the early evening we got to the tiny village of Pewa where we’re staying the night. Gopal strongly suggested the dal bhat and since I’m a glutton for punishment I figured I should get back at it. It was good, I just hope I don’t suffer the consequences again. The bed here is comfortable and directly next to the loud soothing sound of the river, really hoping for a nice peaceful night sleep.

Day 6

Lho

Elev. 10,425 feet

Today was great day! QB celebrated her 25th birthday and what better place than smack dab in the middle of the Himalayas. I was finally able to lighten my pack and unload her present, a dark chocolate bar that I’ve been carrying for a week.

After breakfast we walked on the side of a cliff along the river for most of the morning. There was only one relatively gnarly spot where the trail was damaged from landslides but we got through no problem. I’m not too crazy about these landslide sections but they’re never as bad as they seem and so far so good, 100% survival rate (knock on wood). For lunch we made it to the little village of Gap and pigged out on some fried noodles with egg. Today there’s been lots of other trekkers from all over the place but none going a similar pace so we usually just exchange niceties and what not and don’t see them again. After lunch the trail went through what I guess would technically be called a jungle and we were suddenly in the middle of a bunch of big trees. The river got smaller and faster as we climbed higher and at one point it caused this really cool arch in the rock. We also saw more monkeys and blue sheep this afternoon. Around 3 we got to Namrung which was home to the fanciest hotel I’ve seen up this way. We aren’t staying here but as luck would have it they were selling pieces of chocolate cake and we were able to have a little birthday ceremony for QB. the Birthday GirlAfter Namrung, Gopal suggested we hike for a few more hours and of course we were all in so we crushed the rest of the day with steep climbs all the way to the village of Lho. People are always asking where we are coming from, it’s like the main topic of conversation out here, and one local villager said to Mac, “Even Nepali people don’t walk from Pewa to Lho in one day.” I guess we really are crushing. Lho is almost 5000 feet higher than where we slept last night. The lodge here is bigger than usual, has a wood stove to keep the dining room warm, a sit down(western)toilet, and some really good food. I got Swiss Rosti which is some kind of delicious fried potato and garlic pancake with eggs and cheese on top, my favorite dish of the whole trip. We also were able to get WiFi cards and had a little bit of service for the first time in a week. I mean a real little bit. Everybody had just enough service to get a message back and forth to their folks.

Day 7

Samdo

Elev. 12,700 feet

Today for breakfast I had a huge delicious apple pancake. I have to give it to the place in Lho for food, best so far on the Circuit (in my opinion anyway). It was cloudy when we got in last night because this morning we got our first look at Manaslu Peak. What a beefcake! 8000+ meters and the 8th tallest mountain in the world. After we ate breakfast we quickly climbed about 500 feet to Ribung Gompa and had ourselves a little look around. This monastery was bustling with monks, I think there was a school there and they were all sitting outside studying. From the monastery we walked through lots of pink and red blooming rhododendrons and then the trail climbed steeply through a forest until we got to the town of Shyla. Mountains in every direction. Another hour of walking and we were in Samagon, one of the largest towns we’ve been in. I thought the villages would get smaller as we got higher but I guess since we are getting closer to the Tibetan border the villages draw people from Tibet. From Samagon the trail was really flat for a couple hours as we walked through a huge valley until we got to Samdo.

The plan is to go over Larke Pass(16,900 feet), the main obstacle of the Circuit, in 2 days. We’ll stay in Samdo(at 12,700 feet the highest place I’ve ever slept) tonight and tomorrow and do a couple of hikes around here to get acclimated. Mac’s been over 20,000 feet before, but the highest the rest of us have been is 14,500. I don’t want to mess around with altitude sickness, so I’m really hoping things go alright and we get through the next few days ok. This afternoon Gopal, Mac, QB, and I climbed up to just over 14,000 going up a peak right outside of Samdo. Moist wasn’t feeling too hot so he stayed down low to rest.

On our way down we stopped and watched a festival going on. I guess we just missed an archery competition but there were lots of people dancing and a soccer game at 12,000 feet. The prize for the winning team was standing by, a live goat to be slaughtered. We watched the game for a little bit then got some supper and early to bed. Tomorrow we plan to climb a pass that goes to the Tibetan Border. It would be cool to make it to Tibet but I just heard there’s a decent snowpack so maybe we’ll just get as high as we can.

Day 8

Samdo

Elev. 12,700 feet

Right after breakfast today we walked to China. Well we walked to the Nepal/Tibet border and since Tibet is an autonomous region under Chinese rule, we technically walked to China. From Samdo we walked west toward Larkya Pass then cut north through a valley that went towards Tibet. The trail was steep, rocky and awesome. We saw tons of marmots, yaks, a few blue sheep but sadly no snow leopards. I guess this was the place to see the elusive snow leopard but it just didn’t happen for me. Moist rebounded nicely from feeling lousy yesterday and joined us for the first couple thousand feet. He turned back at 14,700 and the rest of us continued. Gopal, Mac, QB and myself got to the border after about 4 hours.

Lajyang Pass, right on the border, sits at 16,392 feet and is the highest I’ve ever been before. At that elevation I could see my house, just kidding. I definitely felt the effects, a little bit of head pressure, but nothing serious. I’ve been drinking lots of water and took a couple of IBs around 14,000 feet. The border itself is just a small fence that goes along the pass in between 2 higher mountains. Gopal said that since it is not patrolled until a 2 hour walk into Tibet, and it was ok to step over and take pictures. I’ll leave it to your imagination whether or not we did that. People on both sides of the border bring their yaks back and forth to graze with special permission from both governments.

The way down was quicker and we were back in Samdo around 2:30pm. Our plan is to get an alpine start in the morning and get up and over Larkya Pass tomorrow. I’m definitely getting another rosti for supper and hoping to get to bed early.

Day 9

Bimthang

Elev. 12,146 feet

Today we woke up a couple hours before the b-crack of dawn and started walking at 3:45 am. Our goal was to get to the top of Larkya La(La means pass) before the clouds roll in usually around 10 or 11. We all started with our headlamps except for Mountain Tiger, he has night vision so he led the way.

The sky was awesome as we walked through the early morning hours. First the stars were incredible and as the sun began to come out it lit up the very peak of Manaslu and then gradually the surrounding mountains.

We got to the tiny village of Dharmasala at 6am. This was an option as a place to stay last night and I’m glad we didn’t do it. Dharmasala sits at 14,700 feet and has 1 long room where they serve food and a bunch of semi-permanent tents where everybody sleeps. I guess there were around 60 people here last night and when they all tried to get breakfast at the sane time it was just chaos. By the time we got here most were already gone and we stopped in for a quick cup of garlic soup and some black tea. It was cold, at 6 am we still weren’t in the sun so even though I was warm from walking my water bottle was starting to freeze.

Once we left Dharmasala we were in direct sunlight and had a pleasant 3 hour walk to the top of the Pass. It was a beautiful morning and I was feeling good so I was able to crush the couple thousand feet to the top of Larkya La at 16,800 feet. Today felt like a long gradual climb and besides the elevation it was pretty easy. I felt like climbing to Tibet yesterday was a more difficult pass and getting up high definitely prepared me for today.

There was a ton of people on top of the pass and we all hung out on top for about 45 minutes until the clouds started to roll in. The descent was kind of lousy, it was super steep and there was a fair amount of snow. Thankfully QB and I had been carrying micro spikes this whole time and were glad to have them for this section.

Eventually we got below the snow line and walked a few more hours until we got to a tea house in Bimthang around 1pm. We still had lots of daylight left but everybody was content to just chill out and stay here the rest of the day.

Our plan is to hike the Manaslu Circuit in Nepal with a side trip out and back to Tsum Valley. It will be QB and myself plus Mac and Moist, two friends we met last year while hiking CDT.

Mac, Me, Moist

I did my usual next to nothing for preparations but luckily Mac, a full time hiker and traveler, is on it and took care of just about everything. All we had to do is show up. Mac took care of getting the permits, vetting and selecting a guide, and organizing a Jeep ride for all of us for the 8 hour trip from Kathmandu to Arughat Bazar.this should get us there no problem

Manaslu Circuit is a trail that goes around Manaslu Peak (the 8th largest mountain in the world at over 8,000 meters). We’ll be topping out at 16,900 feet on Larke Pass. It usually takes people between 2-3 weeks for the hike (or the trek, they call hiking trekking out here). The circuit requires a couple different permits; one for the Manaslu region and one for the Annapurna region which we’ll be crossing into. We also are required to have a guide which will be a new experience for me. With everything it was a little over $300 USD to get started.

Instead of camping which I’m used to, we’ll be stopping in villages every night and staying in tea houses or lodges which are really just very basic accommodation. Instead of carrying food we’ll be stopping to eat all our meals at tea houses.

While you are reading this blog don’t get too hung up on spelling, the Nepali certainly don’t. Same goes for elevations; I’ve seen plenty of different numbers for the same place, I think the numbers are just a general estimate and I have to convert from meters to feet which just complicates matters further.

Getting here:

From Vegas on the 13th, QB and I took an overnight flight to New York. We spent a couple days with her family there and my folks came down from Massachusetts for the weekend. Monday morning the 16th we were scheduled to fly from JFK in New York to Kathmandu, Nepal. Due to a storm on the east coast we were delayed about 4 hours but it ended up being no big deal.

The first leg of our journey was a 12 hour flight on Qatar air to Doha, Qatar. This was the biggest, most luxurious airplane I’ve ever been on, and they fed us real well. Plus there was a person missing in our row so we had even more space in our already oversized seats. Exactly what I could have hoped for on a flight around the world. Hamad airport in Doha was gigantic and state of the art. Because of the weather delay, Qatar air provided all of the passengers a lunch voucher which was a nice touch but more importantly there was another flight going to Kathmandu in a couple hours so even though we missed our transfer we were still good to go.

After a 5 hour flight we arrived in Kathmandu around 7:30 pm local time. We cruised through customs quickly and were greeted by our welcoming committee, Mac and Moist. From the airport we took a taxi to our hotel in Thamel which is the main tourist district of the city. For supper we went around the corner and got some falafel wraps for like 200 rupees which translates to about 2 USD. Amazingly after losing 9 hours and 45 mins due to traveling, QB and I both crashed out around 11 pm and woke around 630am. Right on schedule. We got on a good sleep rhythm right away.

The following day we explored around Kathmandu and took care of any errands that needed taking care of. We also checked out some of the local attractions, like Monkey Temple and Durbar Square.

4/19

Arughat Bazaar

Elev. 1665 feet

Gopal our guide met us at the Norbulinka hotel at 7:30 this morning and Visal the driver showed up shortly afterwards in a Scorpio SUV.

We hit the road right away and for about 4 hours we were on paved roads going through crowded urban areas and getting jammed up with traffic all over the place. Visal was a very popular guy because everybody that saw him beeped at him and he beeped at everybody too, I mean everybody. Driving through the city was crazy, I can’t believe we didn’t get into a million accidents. Around noon we stopped at a little road side pull-off that catered to tourists and filled up a plate of food and sat by a river.

Back on the road there was only another half hour of the good paved stuff until we crossed a river and were on bumpy, muddy, dirt roads the rest of the way to Arughat. It didn’t take long for our 2wd Scorpio to hit some deep mud and get real stuck. We created a bit of a traffic jam, and then bus behind us with about 50 passengers also got stuck. Now there was a huge crowdand a whole lot of watching as everybody gave their opinion, pushed in different directions, did all kinds of stuff and eventually the trucks all became unstuck and we were able to move on. This went on for a couple hours though, it was quite a scene. I guess it happens all the time on this road and was no big deal.

Once we got going again we still had about 3 more hours of driving this wicked bumpy road through farming villages and down into and out of a jungle. We made it through sections of road that had rivers running right through them and other situations that were just as muddy as when we got stuck and then at one point the driver even got pulled over and got a 500 rupee ticket ($5) for some silly rule but eventually we made it to our destination, Arughat Bazaar. Even though the traffic was miserable, and the road was probably the worst I’ve ever been on, it was still an enjoyable ride and was leaps and bounds better than our alternative; being crammed into the bus. The Scorpio was comfortable, the company was fun and Visal was a good driver. When we got to Arughat we got set up at a guest house and got some food. The room even has a toilet and a fan.

Day 1

Dobhan

Elev. 3850 ft

We got up this morning around 6 and ate breakfast at the hotel in Arughat. Fresh eggs from their chickens, toast, honey they harvest from the bees on the roof, and a miniature banana from a tree nearby. And black tea, I’m trying to switch from coffee to tea while on this hike, so far it’s going ok.

The first half of the day we were on a road and had cars, trucks, and buses still coming by. We got to Arkhet Bazaar which was a pretty busy bustling community and bought a soda and a snack. As we get into the mountains the prices of goods increase but things like lodging get cheaper. For instance: a bottle of coke that was 60 rupees in Kathmandu was 100 rupees when we got stuck in the mud yesterday and then 180 rupees at Arkhet Bazaar and going up. The lodging on the other hand goes down, I think. The room at Arughat was 800r and tonight it’s 300r but also we don’t have electricity or a bathroom in our room. No need.

After Arkhet we walked the road for a couple more hours, it was fun and there was an awful lot going on, we even saw a wedding procession. We got to a little restaurant that overlooked a waterfall, a suspension bridge, and the river. The Buddhi Gandaki River. The same river we followed all day. For lunch we got noodles and vegetables kind of like chow mein. We learned that if we all order the same thing the meal comes out way quicker.

The road ended at the restaurant so we dropped down onto the trail that went right alongside the river. The valley we are walking through got steeper and the trail became narrower. Nepal suffered an earthquake 3 years ago and since then this section of trail had some serious landslides. Part of the trail was pretty dicey but I’ve got faith in Gopal and he was pretty confident we’d get right through. I guess most of the other trekkers took a long cut way out of the way but we did fine.

The trails here are used everyday by the people living here going village to village and just doing their thing. It’s amazing to me how some people live their lives. Later on this afternoon, after we got through the landslide section, we got to Tatopani (tato: hot, pani: water) and cleaned up a little, these weren’t ideal for soaking but good for rinsing quick in the water coming out of the spring.

An hour later and we got to Dobhan, our home for the night. Dobhan is a tiny little village and we’re the only trekkers at this guest house. For supper I had dalbhat for the first time, a traditional Nepalese dish, and loved it. Dalbhat is lentil stew and rice, paired with curried vegetables and some other pickled stuff. It’s a staple in people’s diets up here. Gopal eats it twice a day everyday and I can see why. I think we’ll just eat this every night and I’m cool with that.

Day 2

Lokpa

Elev. 7200 feet

Today was awesome. We ate breakfast and walked out of Dobhan around 7 this morning.

The trail climbed for an hour or so before passing through a village right next to the river where they were drying out some pork in a smokehouse and a little girl was throwing rocks at a dog , pretty standard. Right after that there was a bridge fixed to the side of the rock wall above the river for about a tenth of a mile. That was a first, most of the bridges we go over are these big wobbly suspension bridges spanning the river.

Shortly after the fixed bridge we got to Jagat and this is where we officially enter the Manaslu region. Jagat is where we need to give our permits to the police. Actually we didn’t do any of that, Gopal was in charge of talking to the police. Another couple hours after Jagat we got to the village of Phimel for lunch, this was pretty high up above the river and had some incredible views.

For the first time we could start seeing some big beefy mountains. There was a view of a 7000 meter peak that was the biggest mountain I’ve ever seen in my life to this point. Nepal uses the metric system and they also use hour as a unit of measurement for distance. Instead of miles or kilometers everything is either an hour here or two hours there. So a couple hours after Phimel we got to the confluence of the Buddhi Gandaki river and the Siyar Kohla river where we took a right to go out to Tsum Valley. This is an out and back route off of the Manaslu Circuit that we chose to add on to our trip to spend a couple days seeing Tsum Valley.

After we turned the trail ziggy ziggy’d (Gopal’s term for switchbacks) up for awhile and we got to the little village of Lokpa where we are spending the night. I got dal bhat again and I learned a couple things about it: first of all it’s not the same from place to place, I mean it’s pretty much the same basic ingredients but they are always a little different, second of all it’s customary that dalbhat is free refills as much as you want. This is a game changer. I’m probably eating dal bhat for dinner the rest of my time here.

While we were talking about trail names Gopal told us he also has a trail name: Mountain Tiger. I’ll probably be referring to him in this blog as Mountain Tiger from now on. I didn’t know why he didn’t tell us right away but I guess he’s more well known in the Everest region and they all call him Mountain Tiger over there.our fearless leader, Mountain Tiger

Day 3

Chhokar Paro

Elev. 9975 feet

WARNING: This post gets a little gross

Well maybe I won’t be eating Dal Bhat every night for the rest of this hike, but I’ll get back to that.

Last night I saw the biggest spider of my entire life and it was in my room. QB was coming in and just about to latch the door when this monster appeared right next to the latch. Now neither of us would consider ourselves spider scared (if you read this blog you know that I’m really afraid of snakes) but after we got visited by this guy we both were definitely scared. Mountain Tiger said it was not venomous but that still didn’t make me want to share a room with it, the thing was as big as my palm.

Shortly after the spider incident I fell asleep then woke up a couple hours later with some horrible nausea. I was up the rest of the night rolling around with a belly ache. Still had to hike though and the trail was tough, lots and lots of climbing.

I felt a little better at first but around noontime when we got to Chumling I didn’t think I could go on. I told Mountain Tiger I was struggling and he encouraged me to go to the toilet and make myself throw up. Now the toilets here are squat toilets. Basically just a little outhouse with a hole in the ground outlined with a piece of porcelain. Throwing up in one of these was quite an experience and not a pleasant one. I did feel a lot better however and was able to eat some garlic soup on Gopal’s suggestion.

Good thing I was improving because after lunch we had about 4 hours of difficult hiking. The trail climbed steeply up to the village of Chhokar Paro where we’d spend the night. Along the way we saw a bunch of monkeys and a couple of blue sheep. Chhokar Paro was a nice place, because of reconstruction after the earthquake it seemed newer than the villages down low and had great views of Tsum Valley.

Stupa

At dinner I started to feel a little rumble in my stomach. This is when the diarrhea started. I rested a little bit then made it down to dinner and tried to eat a some soup. First I took some Imodium, then QB had an antibiotic for this situation so I started on that, Mac gave me some pill to help with my fever that was developing and Mountain Tiger had me eat a huge garlic clove and whipped up a magic potion for me to drink. I left dinner early to crash out.

A couple hours later I woke up and had an episode of the most spectacular diarrhea of all time. My system was completely flushed, it was another very unpleasant situation. QB took care of me and put me back to bed and I was able to sleep soundly the rest of the night.

Day 4

Lar

Elev. 10,500 feet

Miraculously I felt really good this morning, not great, but really good. My system was completely empty so I had some porridge and black tea for breakfast and I was back on my feet again. Good thing too because today was a beautiful day.

We walked north into Tsum Valley which had big green fields and even bigger white mountains all over. There was lots of Buddhist shrines or Stupas along the trail and we stopped at Rachen Gompa (Gompa: monastery) to check it out. This place was cool but it seemed relatively modern, newer than I expected anyway for a Himalayan Monastery.

From there we walked a little further to the village of Lar and had some lunch at the Yak Hotel (it would have been more fitting if I threw up at this place). Since we’d be staying here tonight we dropped off most of our stuff and went with light packs the rest of the day. From Lar we walked further into Tsum Valley towards Mu Gompa. I knew we were getting into the good stuff because for the first time of the trip I saw Gopal take out his phone and take a few pictures.

Along the way we saw a ton of monkeys raiding a potato field and a lot more Stoopas and Mani Walls(These are Buddhist prayer walls in the middle of the trails, stay to the left if you come to one).

Mu Gompa is the real deal, it’s a 700 year old very authentic feeling monastery that sits around 12,200 feet. The monks there showed us around and served us some tea. It was otherworldly. They don’t talk much but one of them really liked QB’s tattoos.

We walked back down a few hours to the Yak Hotel and it was a very enjoyable day. After the night I just had I felt very lucky to be able to hike comfortably today.