Manaslu Circuit + Tsum Valley Trek - Nepal

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The Manaslu Circuit, a remote trek of cultural and topographical diversity, is known for its spectacular Himalayan views (including Manaslu, 8156 meters,  'mountain of the spirit'), the breathtakingly beautiful Larkye La pass (5160 meters), the challenging terrain, a mix of Gurung and Tibetan traditional villages and its beautiful Tibetan Buddhist monasteries (gompas). Many people refer to the Manaslu region as the next Annapurna Circuit trek as Manaslu has Himalayan mountain views that rival any others in the Himalaya, few trekkers and is now relatively easy to trek using newly built lodges and tea houses. Although you still have to trek with a sense of adventure, the Manaslu region is soon becoming one of Nepal's top trekking regions!

Tsum valley is an ethnically Tibetan region nestled in a green valley in the shadow of the Ganesh Himal range, newly opened for trekking and breathtakingly beautiful. 



Our High Manaslu & Tibetan Tsum Valley trek begins in Nepal's steamy 'middle hills' in Nepal's famed Gorkha, or Lower Manaslu, region. We trek north along the incredible, mountain-capped high route, through sprawling Gurung villages perched on high, terraced hilltops covered in rhododendron, to reach Kutang, or lower Nupri. Here the ethnically Tibetan inhabitants speak their own dialect, partly Tibetan and partly Gurung, and live a lifestyle that spans Nepal and Tibet.



Heading north into hidden Tsum valley, recently opened to trekking but which David Snellgrove explored half a century ago, is one of the highlights of the trip. Tsum is a fascinating and magical region of approximately 4000 ethnically Tibetan inhabitants who still maintain strong links with Tibet. The living Buddhist culture is virtually untouched because of their remote location and wildlife abounds. Tsum is a green and fertile valley of tightly packed, Tibetan-style villages, ancient Tibetan Buddhist gompas and spectacular views of Ganesh and Shringi Himals. We trek high into these valleys, having a chance to approach Ganesh Himal and camp with the lively nuns at the spectacularly-set Gompa Lungdang.



Trekking ever higher to upper Nubri, purely Tibetan, we share the trails with yak caravans. Here, trade with Tibet continues as it has for centuries and Tibetan villages have been forged from the wilderness by Tibetan refugees. Sublime mountain panoramas, dominated by Manaslu itself, are a highlight of the trek as are side-trips to Manaslu Base Camp, the valley above Samdo near the border of Tibet and the epic crossing the snow-covered Larkya La pass which leads to the Manang region of the Annapurna region.



This is a locally-led 'homestay' and lodge trek, so be open to lots of local contact and a bit of adventure ...

Join us on our wonderful Kamzang Journeys Manaslu Circuit + Tsum Valley trek!
A classic Himalayan trek through timeless Nepal!


Trips

Classic Manaslu + Tsum Trek

Day 1 - Arrive Kathmandu
Day 2 - Kathmandu
Day 3 - Drive Arughat
Day 4 - Trek Soti Khola
Day 5 - Trek Macha Khola
Day 6 - Trek Jagat
Day 7 - Trek Phillim
Tsum Valley
Day 8 - Trek Chumling
Day 9 -  Trek Chhokangparo
Day 10 - Trek Mu Gompa
Day 11 - Mu Gompa (Daytrip to Bhajyo)
Day 12 - Trek Chhokangparo
Day 13 - Trek Gompa Lungdang
Day 14 - Gompa Lungdang (Daytrip up Ganesh Himal base camp valley)
Day 15 - Trek Lokpa
Kutang
Day 16 - Trek Deng
Day 17 - Trek Namrung
Nupri & Annapurnas
Day 18 - Trek Lho
Day 19 - Trek Sama Gaon
Day 20 - Trek Samdo (via Manaslu BC Lake)
Day 21 - Trek Dharamsala High Camp
Day 22 - Trek Bimtang
Day 23 - Trek Tilje
Day 24 - Trek Jagat
Day 25 - Drive Kathmandu
Day 26 - Depart

High Route Manaslu + Tsum Trek

Day 1 - Arrive Kathmandu
Day 2 - Drive Balwa
Day 3 - Trek Barpak
Day 4 - Trek Laprak
Day 5 - Trek Korlebesi
Day 6 - Trek Jagat
Day 7 - Trek PhillimTsum Valley
Day 8 - Trek Chumling
Day 9 -  Trek Chhokangparo
Day 10 - Trek Mu Gompa
Day 11 - Mu Gompa (Daytrip to Bhajyo)
Day 12 - Trek Chhokangparo
Day 13 - Trek Gompa Lungdang
Day 14 - Gompa Lungdang (Daytrip up Ganesh Himal base camp valley)
Day 15 - Trek Lokpa
Kutang
Day 16 - Trek Deng
Day 17 - Trek Namrung
Nupri & Annapurnas
Day 18 - Trek Lho
Day 19 - Trek Sama Gaon
Day 20 - Trek Samdo (via Manaslu BC Lake)
Day 21 - Trek Dharamsala High Camp
Day 22 - Trek Bimtang
Day 23 - Trek Tilje
Day 24 - Trek Jagat
Day 25 - Drive Kathmandu
Day 26 - Depart

NOTE
See our Nepal & Kathmandu Modules | Customize Your Trip! to put together the perfect journey in Nepal!

Highlights+Reviews

Trip Advisor Reviews

Client Comments
Simply the best! I cannot recommend Kim and her Kamzang Journeys team highly enough if you are looking for trekking experts in Nepal, India and Tibet. The High Himalaya are Kim's playground and she is expert at sharing her enthusiasm and knowledge with her groups. I have been trekking with them since 2007, and each year I return enthused and excited because I just know it is going to be so much fun.
Kim is completely professional setting her itineraries to make sure her clients acclimatize properly, she never skimps on staff so you can go at a pace that suits, and the food is the best I have ever had while hiking. Unlike many companies, Kim has a core group of excellent guides and kitchen crew, there is no single supplement, her gear is always the best, and Kim and Lhakpa's personal leadership ensures local interaction along the way, almost as if we were visiting old friends. And for sure you will make new friends with your fellow trekkers in Kim's famous Tibetan dining tent, the social hub of the group.
This trek with Kim and Lhakpa was the best of the ten or so we have done in the Indian subcontinent. No detail was overlooked, making for a camp that was the envy of other groups! Kim's ability to engage with local villagers added another dimension to our experience as the locals invited us to join them in their schools, homes and daily tasks. The food was imaginative, well-presented and plentiful, and served with a smile. Kamzang crew were unfailingly helpful and generous with their time, responding to individual needs as far as possible. An experience not to be missed!
 
- Marian D (New Zealand),  GHT | High Manaslu, Annapurnas & Upper Mustang Trek + more

I have been with Kim and her crew on four separate treks into the Nepal Himalayas. Each one has been unique, exciting, challenging, and totally amazing. Kim has the best crew around and they provide a comfortable camp and great food. I would highly recommend Kim, Kamzang Journeys and her group.
- Allan B (USA), High Manaslu Trek + more

Thank you so much for all of the effort, help and patience that you put in to make the trek special for us.  We had such an amazing experience, and we will always have such incredible memories that we will remember for the rest of lives.  It was truly an experience of a lifetime! I was so impressed with your whole operation; I don't know how you juggle it all.  You are not only an amazing operator, pulling all the levers, but you are a gifted guide which makes the trip truly special for everyone.  Also, your attention to detail is impressive, you can tell you put a lot of thought into how to make the whole experience as comfortable and pleasurable as possible.
- Rob B (USA), High Manaslu

Kim's support team are uniformly excellent, and all pitch in to ensure a smooth operation and to make sure that you are OK at all times. The equipment is all top-notch and the food is very, very good. In addition, the smaller, more "informal" style really promotes interaction between members of the group and the guys helping out, which is a rare thing. They are all really friendly, down-to-earth people and have a great deal of knowledge about the trekking regions, local history and customs, and are very happy to answer any questions you have. A good measure of the success of these trips is the number of returning trekkers and climbers that choose them again and again for their holidays. I'd have to say that every trip I've made with them has been a really special experience. Suffice to say, not once have I been tempted to join any other trekking group.
- Beau M (UK), High Manaslu Trek

Read More Testimonials
Trekkers' Comments

Trek Highlights

  • Remote, green Tibetan Tsum Valley
  • Mu Gompa & Gompa Lungdang
  • Ganesh Himal range
  • High Gurung villages of Laprak & Barpak
  • The high Manaslu route from Gorkha (optional)
  • Laprak & Barpak Gurung villages (optional)
  • The Larkya La pass (5400m)
  • The Tibetan region of Nubri
  • The mixed Tibetan & Gurung inhabitants of Kutang
  • Tibetans of Samdo & Sama Gaon villages
  • Tibetan Buddhist gompas (monasteries)
  • Manaslu Base Camp day trip
  • Pung Gyan Gompa
  • Incredibly diverse scenery and cultures
  • Spectacular Himalayan views & great side-trips

Photo Gallery | Trip + Trek Photos
Kim Bannister Photography

Himalayan Photos
Himalayan Wildlife Photos

Himalayan Bird Photos

Himalayan Flower Photos

Travel Reading
Travel Books

Online Articles + Films on Manaslu + Tsum
Soul Mountain - Nepali Times

Spirit Mountain - Nepali Times

Ramble to Manaslu - The Himalayan Times

Home Away form Home in Tsum- Nepali Times

In the Mountain of the Soul - Nepali Times

Academic Article on Manaslu - Nepali Mountaineering Association

Manaslu Avalanche - BBC

Unmistaken Child  - Film on Tsum Valley

Nupri Women's Health Training - Video by Nepal SEEDS (Geoff Childs)

Lower Tsum Clinic - Video by Nepal SEEDS (Geoff Childs)

Kami Kids in Sama Gaon School - Video by Nepal SEEDS (Geoff Childs)

Date+Price

Dates
Custom Departures (26 days)

Trek Price
$3480
Price based on 2+ people
Single Supplement - $150

Includes

  • Kathmandu Guest House
  • Airport pick-ups & drops
  • Transportation by private vehicle
  • Manaslu Concervation Area Permit, Manaslu National Park Permit, Annapurna Conservation Area Permit, Tsum Valley Permit
  • Lodge/Teahouse accomodation & meals
  • Nepali guide & porter(s)

Excludes

  • Insurance (travel & medical)
  • Nepal Visa
  • Helicopter rescue service cost
  • Meals in Kathmandu
  • International flights to/from Nepal
  • Equipment rental
  • Alcohol & soft drinks
  • Laundry
  • Tipping and other items of a personal nature.

Tips & Extra Cash
Allow approx $250 for meals (while not on trek), drinks (on trek) and tips. We recommend $200 per trekker thrown into the tips pool for the crew.

Contact+Details

Trekker's Comments
Travel Books

Kamzang Journeys Contact
Kim Bannister
kim@kamzang.com
Mobile: +(977) 9803414745
On-Trek Satellite Phone: +88216 21277980 (Nepal)
On-Trek Satellite Phone: +88216 21274092 (Tibet & India)

Kathmandu Contact
Khumbu Adventures
hiking.guide@gmail.com
Office: +(977) 01 4488352
Lhakpa Dorji Sherpa Mobile: +(977) 9841 235461, 9813 371542
Doma Sherpa Mobile: +(977) 9841 510833, 9803 675361

Follow Us on Facebook
Kamzang Journeys Facebook

Arrival Hotels
Kathmandu Guest House
Kantipur Temple House
Shangri La
Yak & Yeti

Dwarika's

Kathmandu Guest House Single or Double Upgrades | 2 Nights
Garden Single - $50
Deluxe Single or Double - $200

Kathmandu Guest House Single or Double Upgrades | 3 Nights
Garden Single - $75
Deluxe Single or Double - $300

Kathmandu Guest House Extra Nights
Includes breakfast + 25% taxes
Book with Kamzang Journeys + save on room rates

Kathmandu Guest House | Room Prices
Standard Single - $80
Standard Double - $100
Garden Single - $120
Garden Double - $140
Deluxe Single - $200
Deluxe Double - $220

Kamzang Journeys | Room Prices
Standard Single - $55
Standard Double - $75
Garden Single - $80
Garden Double - $100
Deluxe Single - $160
Deluxe Double - $180

Extra Days in Kathmandu | Customize your Journey!
We have plenty of great suggestions for extra days, or weeks, in Nepal! See our Nepal & Kathmandu Modules | Customize Your Trip! to put together the perfect journey.

Mountain biking, rafting, vespa tours or yoga retreats around the Kathmandu valley or Pokhara, trips to Bhaktapur or Patan (Kathmandu Valley's other historic capital cities), a visit to the Newari temple of Changu Narayan and a night at the Fort Hotel in Nagarkot for sublime Himalayan panoramas, an Everest sightseeing flight, a luxurious stay at Temple Tree Resort & Spa, paragliding, hiking or zip-lining in Pokhara, a spa & wellness getaway at Dwarikas Resort in Dhulikhel, a relaxing excursion to Chitwan National Park Wildlife Safari & Tharu Villages (staying at Maruni Sanctuary Lodge) or Bardia National Park, a weekend of adventure, sauna and pampering at The Last Resort or five-star treatment in historic Dwarika's in Kathmandu.

Kamzang Journeys can customize any of these excursions for you, just inquire!

Kathmandu
Kathmandu Happenings

Photo Gallery | Trip + Trek Photos
Kim Bannister Photography

Visas
You can get your Nepal visa either at the airport (or any land border) when you arrive in Nepal, or before you leave home.
Nepal Visa

Health Information
Nepal Health Information
CDC

We also recommend bringing probiotics with you to help prevent infections while on trek. Doctor's recommendation!

Travel Medical Insurance
Required for your own safely. We carry a copy of your insurance with all contact, personal and policy information with us on the trek and our office in Kathmandu keeps a copy. Note that we almost always trek over 4000 meters (13,000+ feet) and that we don't do any technical climbing with ropes, ice axes or crampons.

Global Rescue
We recommend that our trekkers also sign up for Global Rescue, which is rescue services only, as a supplement to your travel medical insurance.
Book package through Wicis-Sports via Carlota Fenes (carlota@wicis-media.com)

Wicis-Sports Wearable Tech | Sports Package
Live personal heath stats via a wearable chest strap heart rate monitor.
Track your vitals (heart rate, temperature, oxygen saturation), the weather, GPS locations, altitude, speed, bearing and stream LIVE via a Thuraya satellite hot spot. Partners: OCENS (weather), Global Rescue, Aspect Solar.

"Thuraya Telecom + WiCis Sports offer connectivity to Himalayan treks + expeditions"

"Founded in 2011 by Harvard and Stanford anesthesiologist Dr. Leo Montejo and located in the Lake Tahoe area, the company’s goal is to promote the use of mHealth and tracking devices to make adventure sports safer and engage their followers with real time data that is either private or also available to social medial platforms."

Book package through Wicis-Sports via Carlota Fenes (carlota@wicis-media.com)

Medical
Please bring a supply of all personal medications, have a doctor's check-up before leaving home, and inform us of any medical issues. This is for YOUR OWN safety. DO bring all prescription medications and good rehydration/electrolytes. We advise bringing your own Diamox, Ciprofloxin, Azithromyacin & Augmentin. Your guide will also have a basic medical kit with him with Indian-made drugs.

Notes on Itinerary
Although we try to follow the itinerary below, it is ONLY a guideline based on years of experience trekking in the Himalaya. At times local trail, river or weather conditions may make a deviation necessary; rivers may be impassible, snow blocks passes, and landslides wipe out trails. The trekking itinerary and campsites may also vary slightly depending on the group's acclimatization rate or sickness.

The Himalaya are our passion, and we take trekking seriously. Although everyone is here on vacation, please come with a dollop of patience and compassion added to your sense of adventure ...

Arrival Kathmandu

Arrival
You will be met at the airport by the Kathmandu Guest House van or our Kamzang Journeys driver. Look for a sign with your name on it AND the Kathmandu Guest House sign. You will be driven to the Kathmandu Guest House (or the hotel of your choice) where your rooms have been booked for you. Someone from Khumbu Adventures, or Kim if she is in Kathamandu, will meet you at the Kathmandu Guest House to go over details and get you settled into Kathmandu.

Arrival Hotel
Kathmandu Guest House

Visas
You can get your Nepal visa either at the airport (or any land border) when you arrive in Nepal, or before you leave home.
Nepal Visa

Temperatures + Clothing
Kathmandu during trekking season, in the spring and autumn, is usually warm (t-shirt, sandals, light pants or skirts) during the day, and gets chilly (light fleece or windproof top) in the afternoon. Nights can be cold enough for a sweater or light jacket, or warm enough for t-shirts. Summer is hotter and wetter; you’ll need a rain jacket and umbrella. The winter months (November – March) are chilly in the mornings and evenings, cold enough that you might start the day in a down jacket, but often warms up enough to wear a t-shirt by mid-day. Nights get cold enough for a down jacket if you’re sitting outside in the spring and autumn, and much colder in the winter when you won’t leave the hotel without your down jacket. It never snows in Kathmandu, leave your snow boots behind. Keens or lightweight sandals great for wandering around Kathmandu, and for trekking in lower altitudes.

Trekking is a mixed bag of temperatures. LAYERS are the key as hot can change quickly to freezing crossing the passes and snowfalls are common. We often have some rain below 3000 meters in the spring and early autumn, and it can rain hard in the summer. Have a wide range of layer-able trekking clothes for summer to winter temperatures. Keep a lightweight down jacket or synthetic jacket with you at all times, available inexpensively in Kathmandu. A lightweight rain poncho and umbrella for trekking recommended spring and summer. Be prepared! See our GEAR LIST for full details on gear, shoes, clothing, electronics and meds for the trek.

There are lots of real gear shops (North Face, Mountain Hardwear, Marmot, Sherpa Gear) and of course many fake ones in Kathmandu, so if you don't think you have the right gear starting the trip it will be easy to pick-up stuff once in Kathmandu. We have sleeping bags, duffel bags down jackets to rent.

Dress conservatively in Kathmandu and on the trail as a rule. Shorts are okay if they aren't too short, mini skirts aren’t recommended. Sleeveless t-shirts are absolutely fine, but perhaps avoid tank-tops on the trail. Super tight doesn't go over so well with the village elders. Many of the younger generation in Nepal wear modern Indian or Western-influenced clothes, but remember that you haven't signed up for a beach or surf vacation. Use your good judgment, be an ambassador for western tourists! Please ask Kim or your guide if unsure about appropriate clothing.

Duffel Bags
We have North Face style duffel bags with Kamzang Journeys logos for sale (XL, orange). They are (mostly) waterproof, mid to lightweight (lighter than North Face) and good quality. Price 4000 NRP ($40)

Cultural Issues
Nepalis are very open and welcoming, but there are a few issues you should be aware of to make your stay in Nepal more fulfilling. Use your right hand to pass things, shake hands or do most anything. Left hands are somewhat taboo. Nepali's often place their left hand on the right forearm when passing things to others, a sign of respect. Best not to pat kids on heads, or point feet ahead of you at monasteries. Don't walk over someone's legs or feet, but put your hand down in front of you to signal them to pull their legs to the side. Take off shoes and hats when going into Buddhist monasteries and Hindu temples, don't use flashes inside monasteries or temples in general, be respectful of a puja (prayer ceremony) if attending one. You can talk, all religious are very tolerant, but be aware of your level of voice.

Nepalis don't anger quickly, so try not to raise your voice if exasperated or angry as it only will make a situation worse. Do bargain at shops, with taxis and rickshaws, but don't fleece them. They are poor and making a living, generally.

Give small donations on the streets if you choose, but try not to encourage begging too much. Be aware of who you are giving money to, and please only give small amounts. If you do want to donate to a cause, ask about our Kamzang Fund or other responsible organizations.

Pampering Yourself in Kathmandu
We’re happy to book your rooms before or after the trek (or upgrade during the trek) at other boutique or luxury hotels in Kathmandu. We recommend Dwarika’s, Shangri-La, Yak & Yeti or Hyatt. We can also direct you to wonderful spa & massage centers in Kathmandu.

Tips for Staff
We recommend at least $200 per person to go into the tip pool for the staff. Please bring Nepali Rupees (NRP) with you on the trek for the tips. It’s nice to buy the staff drinks on the last night. Or any other night that you feel like getting them a bottle of Kukure Rum!

Tips in General
Tips are always appreciated but they don’t need to be extravagant. 100 NRP to carry bags to/from your room is fine. The women who clean your room will be happy with 100-200 NRP when you leave, and 100 NRP is good for drivers to/from the airport. Round up taxi fares. A larger tip would be expected for a daytrip in a car, perhaps 500 NRP. 10% is included in most restaurant and hotel bills in Nepal, and if it’s not included it’s still expected. Check your bills, and still round up at restaurants. Feel free to give out small change to the beggars in the streets (5, 10, 20 NRP) but try not to give it out to the street kids who use it for glue to sniff.

Cash + ATMs
You’ll want some cash with you on the trek for drinks, snacks, beer, sodas, etc. There are often  chances to during the trek, and usually local crafts to buy en route. (You’ll want your tip money in NRP as well). There are ATMs in KTM but they don’t dispense large amounts of cash (usually 10-20,000 NRP) so you’ll be best with currency or TCs to change.

International Medical Center Kathmandu
CIWEC

Kathmandu + Kathmandu Valley Information
Our personalized 'Insider' list of things to do, places to go, what to visit, the most happening restaurants + the best hotels in Kathmandu and the beautiful Kathmandu Valley.
Happenings in Kathmandu

Gear

Gear List
This is a guideline, not a bible, for the gear you will need on the trek. Ask if you have questions!
NOTE: Your duffel bag can NOT be any larger than a North Face XL (140 Liter, 32" x 19" by 19"). ONE duffel bag only please.

20 kg (50 lbs) weight limit for treks
15 kg (33 lbs) weight limit for domestic flights (airline regulations). This includes day packs.

  • Duffel Bag
  • Day Pack (35-45 L)
  • Sleeping Bag (-20F/-30C recommended)
  • Down Jacket
  • Trekking Boots
  • Crocs (evenings, river crossings & washing) 

  • Trekking Pants (2)
  • T-Shirts (2)
  • Long-sleeve Trekking Shirts (2)
  • Trekking Jacket
  • Gortex (or light weight) Jacket & Pants
  • Fleece or Thermal Top (evenings)
  • Fleece or Thermal Bottoms (evenings)
  • Lightweight Long Underwear (to sleep in or layer under clothes)
  • Socks (4)
  • Gloves
  • Wool Hat
  • Baseball Cap or Wide-brimmed Hat
  • Camp Towel
  • Trekking Poles (optional, recommended)
  • Sunglasses (2)
  • Water Bottles | Nalgenes (2-3)
  • Bladder (optional, recommended)
  • Toiletries, Sunscreen with SPF, Lip Balm with SPF
  • Watch (with alarm)
  • Extra Batteries
  • Battery Chargers
  • Head Lamp 
(2)
  • Water Purifying Tablets, Small Water Filter or Steripen
  • Laundry Detergent (Kathmandu) or Bio-degradable Clothes Soap
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Small Solar Panel (optional, recommended for iPods, iPhones, camera batteries, Kindles)
  • Book(s)
  • Zip-Lock | Plastic Bags
  • Soft Toilet Paper | Tissues (we supply toilet paper but you will want something softer for blowing your nose)
  • Baby-Wipes | Wet-Wipes (for personal cleaning)
  • Handi-Wipes, J-Cloth or Chux (optional: easy for a quick daytime clean, fast drying)
  • Rehydration | Electrolytes
  • Snacks!
  • Personal Medical Supplies

Medical Supplies
We strongly suggest bringing Western meds with you as there are a lot of Indian fakes on the market!

Suggested: Diamox, Azithromyacin, Ciprofloxacin, Tinidazole or Flagyl & Augmentin. Bring COMPEED for covering blisters & good tasting electrolytes &/or rehydration salts (Emergen-C is a good American brand). The local versions aren’t very appealing.

We also recommend bringing strong knee & ankle supports & braces, ACE bandages for sprains & strains, Tegaderm &/or other would coverings. Duct tape is always useful. We're happy to take excess medical supplies off your hands when you leave if you won't need them and pass them on to others. We use lots of the large amount we have with us to treat locals as well as our own trekkers ...

Comments on Gear
Layers are essential for trekking. Quality is more important than quantity. It’s worth investing in some of the great, warm, lightweight gear available in all gear shops or online.

Kim's suggestions: I generally wear a trekking t-shirt, light trekking pants, a mid-weight trekking shirt, a lightweight synthetic jacket (instead of a fleece jacket) and always carry a wind & rain jacket (the same jacket, light weight). If the weather looks stormy, we're at higher altitudes, it's cold or it’s a pass day I carry a lightweight down jacket with me. I always have a pair of gloves, a wool hat, a baseball cap and extra pair of socks in my day pack. Good trekking boots are essential for passes although I mostly trek in low Merrill hiking shoes with socks. You don’t need climbing or plastic boots (for mini-crampons or micro-spikes).

Nights are chilly to cold, so a down jacket and warm sleeping bag are essentials. We recommend a DOWN bag of 0 to -20 F (-18 to -28 C). Mine is -20 F). At lower altitudes I open it and sleep under it like a quilt and up higher am toasty warm during the cold nights. Campsites near passes can get COLD. Rentals available.

Trekking poles are not required but strongly recommended, especially for going down passes which can be quite steep and are often icy. Bring gators if you tend to use them but they’re not required if you don't own a pair. Micro-spikes (mini-crampons) or YakTraks are almost always useful (or essential) for high pass crossings. It’s also good (possibly essential) to have a pair of plastic Crocs for washing and the evenings. Tevas take a long time to dry, not recommended. You can bring a pair of light sneakers or running shoes for the afternoons or easy days if you have room in your pack, or if you are used to hiking in them.

Good, polarized sunglasses are essential; please bring an extra pair if you tend to lose them! Don’t forget a sun hat or baseball cap and have plenty of sunscreen and lip balm with SPF!

Bring extra large plastic bags or stuff-sacks in case of rain. You can pack electronics in them or stash your sleeping bag and clothes. The weather is changeable in the Himalaya, so again I recommend that everyone has a strong, waterproof duffel bag.

Daypack
We recommend a 35-45 liter daypack (ask at your gear shop if you’re not sure of the capacity). Better to have it too large than too small as on pass days you’ll need to carry more warm gear. Most have internal water bladders built in, which are good for ensuring that you stay hydrated. Make sure it fits and is comfortable before purchasing!

In your daypack, you will be carrying your camera, 2 liters of water, a jacket, wind & rain pants, hat, gloves, extra socks, sunscreen, snacks, electrolytes, water purifying tablets, filter or Steripen (optional), camera, hand sanitizer, a pack-cover and often a down jacket. I slip my Crocs on the back for lunch. Lhakpa & I carry small medical kits in our daypacks.

Water
We bring MSF water filters along on the trek for fresh drinking water, ecologically the best way to get water in the Himalaya’s fragile trekking regions. Bring your own filter pump, Steripen | UV purifier or iodine/chlorine tablets for fresh water while trekking. NOTE: To be extra safe with your drinking water, you can drop one purifying tablet into your water bottle after filling with our filtered water. Make sure you wait the required amount of time before drinking, and don’t add anything with Vitamin C as this negates the iodine.

Please bring at least TWO (and better three) Nalgene, Sigg or other unbreakable plastic | metal water bottles. Camelbacks and other bladder systems are good for trekking but can leak, so as a back-up it’s best to also bring a Nalgene or other water bottle.

NOTE: We do not provide boiled water for drinking on either our tea-house | lodge or our camping treks although there is endless hot water for herbal, black or green teas, hot chocolate, hot lemon as well as Indian chai and Kashmiri tea.

Snacks
You will NEED snacks hiking at altitude, even if you’re not a snacker. People crave unusual foods at altitude!  Energy bars, ‘GU’ gels, chocolate bars, dried fruit & nuts, beef jerky (or whatever) are important to have along for long days, pre-lunch bonks and passes. Lemonade mix, Emergen-C or similar drink mixes are great to have for hot days in your water bottles, and it is ESSENTIAL to bring electrolytes with you every day. 

Rentals
We have Western down jackets to rent for $1.50 per day.  We also have good super-down sleeping bags to rent (0 to -10F) for $2.50 per day.

Duffel Bags
We have North Face-style duffels with Kamzang logos for sale, L & XL. They’re very good quality and come in Yellow (L) for $35 or Orange (XL) for $40.

Packing & Storage
It’s easiest to pack and unpack from a duffel bag, especially when the temperature drops, and easy for porters to carry. Inexpensive and decent quality duffels are available in Kathmandu. You can store extra gear in Kathmandu at the Kathmandu Guest House or your hotel's  storage room free of charge.

Shopping
Almost all gear is now available in Kathmandu, from real (North Face, Mountain Hardwear, Sherpa Gear, Marmot shops in Thamel) to inexpensive knock-offs. The real gear shops take credit cards.

Manaslu Region
Manaslu, the 8th highest peak on the planet, locally known as the 'mountain of the spirit', is one of the most spectacular snow-peaks in Nepal, and the Manaslu Circuit, officially open for trekking in the early 90s, a cultural trek par excellence, without a doubt one of the best treks in Nepal. Oddly, it's also one of the Nepal Himalaya's least known treks, and happily doesn't boast of apple-pie lodges, sprawling trekking villages, internet cafes or Western coffee shops. A trek around the 'high' Manaslu Circuit in Nepal is a step back in time, a glimpse of pristine Nepali and Tibetan villages, a walk through a remote Himalayan paradise. The diversity of the trek, from the Hindu middle hills to the Tibetan high-country dwellers, and the awesome mountain scenery of the Manaslu Himal and surrounding peaks combine to make this circuit one of the most interesting, as well as one of the most challenging, treks in Nepal.

HW Tillman and his team were the first mountaineering expedition to explore the region in 1950, and the Japanese the first team to climb it in 1956; since then, Manaslu has been known as a Japanese mountain, and because of its sensitive location right at the border of Tibet, few western trekkers ventured into the region. Up to the 1840s, Kutang and Nupri were part of western Tibet and paid taxes to Dzongka Dzong in Tibet. Nupri only incorporated into Nepal in the mid to late 19th century when Gorkha power finally extended into the region. Manaslu was closed after 1959 due to Khampa guerillas encamped in Nupri.

Tsum Valley
Tsum Valley shares the honor of being one of the few sacred 'beyuls', or spiritual sanctuaries discovered by Guru Rimpoche, in the mountainous border regions of the Nepal & Tibet Himalayan regions. There are many traditional Tibetan villages to explore, ancient Tibetan Buddhist monasteries with exquisite murals to visit, sublime views of the little-known Ganesh Himal (seven peaks in all) and salt butter tea to be shared with the local Tsum-pas and their friendly Buddhist monks and nuns. Tsum is a fantastically green valley in planting and growing season, from March - August, and sees few other trekkers. The movie 'Unmistaken Child' recounts the true story of a reincarnated lama, called a 'trulku', who was discovered in the Tsum valley.

The Tsum Valley Homestay site, one of the original organizations created to promote this far-flung valley describes the Tsum Valley this way: 'These magical valleys are purported to be havens of peace, prosperity, spirituality and a sacred refuge for true seekers and believers. In the 17th-century, Tsum Valley became known as Beyul Kyimolung ... Tsum is a sacred and magical beyul. One of Nepal's most beautiful valleys, it is isolated from the southern lowlands (a five day trek distant) by deep forested gorges and cascading rivers, and from Tibet in the north by high snow-covered passes. It is home to 18 small villages and about 4000 people of the indigenous ethnic group known as 'Tsumbas'. They are primarily of Tibetan origin and practice Buddhism and Bon religions. It is surrounded by soaring Himalayan peaks, including the Baudha Himal and Himal Chuli to the west, Ganesh Himal to the South and Sringi Himal to the north. The northern terminus of the valley is bounded by three high passes to Tibet, including Ngula Dhoj Hyang (5093 m.) to the east and Thapla Pass (5326 m.) to the west. There are no airports, roads or motorized vehicles in (or near) the Tsum Valley. All travel is done on foot along time-worn trails that feature many ancient chortens and carved mani stone walls inscribed with prayers and depictions of deities. The Buddhist saint Milarepa is believed to have meditated in caves of this mountainous valley, and it is home to over 100 monks and nuns at Mu Monastery and Rachen Nunnery. Many residents of Tsum report having seen or found signs of Mehti, commonly referred to in the West as the 'Yeti' or 'Abominable Snowman'. Tsum Valley only opened to foreign trekkers in 2008. Due to this, along with its remoteness and inaccessibility, Tsum Valley and its people have avoided commercial impacts and changes for centuries. As a result, its unique culture has remained largely intact. Since it has not been visited by many travelers, there are very few established amenities such as teahouses, hotels, stores or restaurants along the trail'.

'Tsum Valley is the starting point for the holy Kyimolung Trail, the 120km sacred circumambulation in Nepal and Tibet of Siringi Himal. Pilgrims used to trek around the mountain till Tibet became out of bounds, but they still do the partial trek on the Nepal side. Tourism in the Manaslu Circuit has been picking up with nearly 4,000 trekkers in 2012, but only one-fourth of that number went to Tsum which was opened only in 2008 as a restricted area for which visitors need a permit from the immigration office in Kathmandu.' - Sonam Lama, from article 'In the Mountain of the Soul', Nepali Times.


 

Itinerary

Day 1 - Arrive Kathmandu 1340m
You'll be met at the airport by a representative from the Kathmandu Guest House or Tsum Valley Homestays, so look out for a Kathmandu guest house sign when you leave the airport. They will bring you back to the Kathmandu Guest House, where your rooms are booked.

You'll be staying in Thamel, the main tourist area of Kathmandu. Thamel is a myriad of banners, signs, music shops, bakeries, internet cafes, restaurants, bars, hotels, shops of all imaginable varieties and eccentrically clad backpackers.

Day 2 - Kathmandu
Come early and have a free day to explore the Kathmandu valley. Options: Climb the many steps to Swayambhunath (the monkey temple), with its commanding views of Kathmandu (at 1420 m), its whitewashed stupas and its unique synthesis of Buddhism and Hinduism. The striking Buddha eyes of Boudhanath Stupa watch over a lively and colorful Tibetan community and attract pilgrims from all over the Himalayan Buddhist realm. In the midst of traditional gompas, and hung with long strings of multi-colored prayer flags, Boudhanath attracts Sherpas, Tibetans and tourists alike for daily circumambulations (koras) of the stupa. Durbar Square, one of the old capitals of the Kathmandu valley, is a synthesis of Hindu and Buddhist temples, stupas and statues, and is often the site of festivals, marriages and other ceremonies. Hindu Pashupatinath and its sacred temple complex on the banks of the holy Bagmati river. Here, monkeys run up and down the steps of the burning ghats, and trident-bearing saddhus draped in burnt-orange and saffron sit serenely meditating - when they’re not posing for photos-for-rupees.

Day 3 - Drive to Arughat 875m
We're up early for our scenic drive from Kathmandu, mostly driving along the Trisuli River, to the starting part of our trek in the Gurung middle hills of Nepal several bumpy hours later. Arughat is a small village on the Bhudi Gandaki River inhabited mainly by Newars, and the major supply depot for the trade route north to the border of Tibet.

Day 4 - Trek Soti Khola
The next few days are buccolic and hot as we pass through Nepal's green middle hills, trekking up the Bhudi Gandaki River through villages of mixed Gurung, Magar and Brahmin-Chhetri denizens.

Day 5 - Trek Macha Khola 875m
One more day of beautiful low-altitude trekking, eventually reaching the small hamlet of Macha Khola (Fish River), which was wiped out by a flood several years ago and rebuilt.

Day 6 - Trek to Jagat 1370m
A six plus hour trekking day today, starting with a walk through the village of Korlebesi and followed by an hour of walking along the river, by tobacco and buckwheat fields, past rocks washed smooth by the river, often climbing up stone steps, to reach the hot springs in the center of the small, terraced village of Tatopani. We have plenty of time to soak our grungy bodies in the gushing hot water streaming out of sculpted spouts. A gentle climb through the woods past some spectacular waterfalls and sculpted rocks brings us to a new suspension bridge across the Budhi Gandaki which we cross. We continue along a forested path and soon reach the large teahouse at Dobhan where the staff is having dal baht. After a short break we cross the Dhoban Khola on another suspension bridge Above Dobhan, the Budhi Gandaki descends in an impressive series of steep cataracts. We'll share the trail with local sheep and goat herders, the youngest of the flock in rope baskets slung over their backs. More steep steps along cliff walls to climb as the river descends even more steeply and stratified river rocks decorate our route. It's hot and there will be chances to stop at fly-blown Nepali bhattis, shared with local farm animals, for a drink, snack and rest en route. The valley flattens a bit and after a short climb we reach a newer bhatti and campsite. From here our trail climbs high above the river, nearly 200 meters, only to descend to an 'eye' of the Budhi Gandaki River. The valley widens, the river makes a large S turn and then calms.

We'll stop for lunch at another camping spot and group of bamboo teahouses called Lauri just at the bottom of this climb, with another swimming spot on the Lauri River. An easy hour along the right banks of the river brings us to a long, new suspension bridge again crossing the Bhuri Gandaki after which we climb high, descend past the campsite at lower Jagat and then climb again on neat stone steps to enter our campsite in Jagat, the entrance to the Manaslu park. It is worth wandering around this beautiful, paved village, where proud villagers have recorded how much they contributed to these paving schemes.

Day 7 - Trek to Philim 1570m
Enjoy our short day of less than three hours, a day to restock for the Tsum valley ahead. After descending a long series of stone steps back down to the river from Jagat village, we climb on slab steps along a terraced hill-side to the small hamlet of Saguleri, just past where we'll have our first view of the impressive Shringi Himal, 7187 meters high. Beautiful flame-leaf trees adorn the trail as we continue to climb and descend far above the river. We pass through the fly-blown paved village of Sirdibas, where the local children sell oranges in the Autumn and soon afterwards pass the local water-mill. Crossing the river again on a long, high suspension bridge at Gata Khola, we have a steep climb past green fields of wheat to reach Philim, the MCAP headquarters with a health post, a Japanese-sponsored school and a micro-hydro plant. We arrive at our guest house in time for lunch, and have the afternoon free to wash at the darapani (tap), to explore the interesting upper village and gompa, or sit and enjoy the afternoon in the village.

The upper village's Gurung inhabitants are very poor, and we often spend the afternoon tending to wounds and sick villagers who have commented that our western medicine is 'magic'. Notice the chorten with the Maoist hammer and sickle in the center of the upper village, the kane chortens with murals inside and the intricately woven baskets which both the men and the women craft. The exquisite gold heirloom necklaces that adorn some of the women come from Barpak. Be careful of village dogs as they do sometimes bite!

Day 8 - Trek to Chumling 2280m
We start our trek into the beautiful and remote Tibetan Tsum valley today. Leaving Philim along the main, paved trail we hike through corn and millet fields on a high trail over the Budhi Gandaki and soon pass Ekle Bhatti (which means one tea-house). Continuing on this spectacular trail, we hike through a narrow, dramatic gorge with towering walls, past a thundering waterfall to the right of the trail and more smaller ones along the way. White-faced langurs frolic in the trees above and remote villages cling to the opposite side of the gorge. Everything is green and in full bloom. About two hours past Philim, just as we reach the metal bridge which spans the Budhi Gandaki, we veer off the main Manaslu trail to the east, in the direction of the Ganesh Himal. Entering the steep gorge leading into Tsum valley, we enter a purely Tibetan region untouched by Chinese intervention except for by mutual trade. We have about an hour of gradual climbing above the Shiar Khola through a light forest, much of it being cut down for timber, to reach the tiny hamlet of Lokpa at 1915 meters where we will stay en route back to Manaslu. We'll have views of Shringi & Ganesh Himal from here. The staff will have lunch at the small teahouse, pick up the only green vegetables available in Tsum, and we'll continue on, descending to cross two newly built metal bridges over the intersecting Sukki Khola and Shiar Khola (questionable name).

Once we reach river level we start to climb again, often steeply and on a somewhat exposed, switchbacking trail. The trails through the Tsum valley have been greatly improved over the past two years, so once precipitous and exposed trails are now safe and well maintained. We continue on this cliff-side, undulating trail for about an hour and then drop back down to a small tea-house at Ghumlung from where we'll cross the main Shiar Khola on a long suspension bridge. The hill-top village of Ripchet comes into sight across the steep-sided valley as we climb again on a nicely graded switchbacking trail to Chumling, a lovely village to the right and above our campsite at Hotel Ganesh Himal. Great mountain views from the guest house, so enjoy if you don't feel like exploring the village. There is a gompa in the northern (right) section of the village across the suspension bridge just out of camp and Himal Chuli rises down valley.

Day 9 - Trek to Chhokangparo 3085m
Venturing further into the Tsum valley, we have a lovely hike of 5-6 hours in front of us today to reach Chhokangparo, a twin village which translates as roughly 'place of wisdom'. Just out of camp we cross the suspension bridge and descend slightly as the valley opens ahead of us with green, fertile villages adding color to the already spectacular setting. We pass several small villages and the tiny Dhampa Gompa (2365m), worth a look inside and meeting the old ani (nun) who lives alone at the gompa. Inside are hundreds of ceramic statues of Chenrisig, the Buddha of Compassion, which line three of the walls. This is unique to the Tsum valley as far as I know and we'll notice these walls of Chenrisigs in most of the Tsum gompas. Descending once again to the small village of Rainjam where we'll be welcomed by barking dogs, we take the left-hand trail up a bit, cross another suspension bridge and ascend to the small hamlet of Gho (2570m) where our friends next to the village tap might be weaving or spinning at their small house. Passing the small shop, we continue to climb on a good trail for another few hours to reach Chhokangparo, where we'll stop and stay at a homestay for the night. This is one of our favorite villages in the Tsum valley, a scenic and interesting village with friendly villagers and small lanes to explore. There's a well-stocked shop in town and a local phone, and a home-stay sort of lodge owned by the same couple. The kids are eager to come and play so save some energy. We might have the chance to visit Tashi (of Tsum Valley Homestay)'s mother in their modest Tibetan home for a cup of salt-butter tea, and perhaps we'll also visit another English-speaking friend, Namgyal, at his much nicer and lighter house. There is lots of weaving happing in this village as in most others in Tsum and Manaslu, and perhaps an opportunity to purchase a hook rug or other textile if you're interested. The intricate, colorful woven belts adorning most women's Tibetan-style chubas are unique to the Tsum valley as well.

Day 10 - Trek to Mu Gompa 3645m
Heading further north towards the border of Tibet, our destination for today is the somewhat remote Mu Gompa, the furthest settlement in the Tsum valley. Leaving Chhokangparo via the long mani walls, it's an easy hike through the lower section of the village (Paro) and back up past a long mani wall to a chorten across from Chhogu Gompa and village. Continuing to climb gradually past green barley and potato fields, we pass a school and soon reach Nyakyu village (3225m). It's mostly flat walking to the next village, Lamagaon, which is a similar style to the last with narrow alleyways between the houses. This is the open, predominantly flat section of the Tsum valley where one lovely village runs almost into the fields of the next village, the trails are peppered with mani walls and small chortens and the scenery is sublime. Just past Lamagaon (3220m) to the left are two small hermitages (Milarepa Piren Phu Cave & Chi Phu Gompa), and to the right across the river is the nunnery called Rachen Gompa. We stay on the same side of the river, pass through Phurbe and Pangdum, both with small village gompas and between them an unusually shaped large chorten which dominates the skyline. Soon afterwards we pass through Chhule village (3250m) and then cross the bridge to reach Nile village where the staff will be eating lunch. These are the last villages in the Tsum valley; Nyi Le means sun-side and Chu Le translates as water side. Many groups camp here and make a day trip of Mu Gompa, but we'll continue on for another two hours, more strenuous than the first four, to reach our camp just below Mu Gompa. This last section is more desolate and more difficult as we'll gain 400 meters in the next two hours to camp at our highest spot in Tsum. The trail sticks to the left of the river, passing still more mani walls and chortens as it climbs and contours towards the north. After crossing an old 'slip' and a small bridge over a glacial stream, we climb a bit more steeply past several larger chortens, with Mu Gompa just above us.

We can either visit the gompa this afternoon or tomorrow morning. One year we had snow all afternoon and evening so had a spectacular morning's visit to Mu Gompa. The gompa is Drukpa Kagyupa, affiliated with Kopan Gompa in Kathmandu, and filled with ancient, unrestored murals in the main lhakhang which has a very medieval atmosphere. The murals outside of the gompa, with the usual four guardian Bonpo 'kings of the four directions' at either side of the doorway. There are about 16 novice monks, or thawas, and another 5 or 6 mature monks and lamas residing at the gompa, and the central temple is surrounded by the monks simple dwellings.

Day 11 - Mu Gompa - Daytrip to Bhajyo 4095m
Now that we've hiked all this way, let's take advantage of our remote mountainous campsite and do some exploring. Our friend Mads, who biked the Tsum Valley earlier this year, found his favorite views of the trip from a hill-top vantage point above Mu Gompa. In June of 2012 we were lucky to catch the annual, monthly 'fair' at Bhajyo, which a local jokingly called the New York of Tsum valley. The commodity that brings hundreds of Tsum-pas to this grassy doksa for the month is yersa gumba, 'summer grass winter insect', a sort of worm or catipillar which becomes a host for paratical spores/fungus. To get to Bhajyo, head north from camp along a high trail to the left of the river, past several chortens and a slide area. About an hour later we'll reach a small, wooden bridge which we cross and hike up for about 15 minutes to reach Kalung (3830m) where a seasonal Tibetan-styled teahouse is in action in June. Several doksas encamp around the Kalung area, at the intersection of the Changmam Khola and the Yangdol Khola, in both directions. Heading east along the later river, it's a few hundred meters of altitude gain along a good trail, across a small bridge at the intersection of this river with the Salbu Khola, to reach Bhajyo. Here, many tea-houses do a good summer business, kids play on the grassy slopes and the older women sit spinning wool. Mules from lower down stop for the night here as they transport hundreds and hundreds of mule-loads of 'satua', a ginger-like medicinal root, to Tibet. All in all, an interesting early summer afternoon!

Day 12 - Trek to Chhokangparo
After visiting Mu Gompa we head back down the green valley back to Chhokangparo, which although easier as it's mostly downhill, still takes about six hours to cover. On the way back we can cross the Khugyu Khola and pass through the large school at Lar to visit Rachen Gompa (locally called Gompa Rangjung), an ani gompa affiliated with Kopan Gompa in Kathmandu with a large number of nuns who stay during the summertime. Further along, past Lamagaon and Ngakyu, we'll stop into the Chhogu Golden Temple for a look. Once back in Chhokangparo, we'll be well-situated for our trip to Gompa Lungdang the next day ...

Day 13 - Trek to Gompa Lungdang 3340m
It's a harder day than it looks on the map to reach Gompa Lungdang but worth the effort to get there for the experience of staying with the friendly nuns and the mountain panorama of the Ganesh Himal peaks surrounding the gompa. Leaving camp the same way we came, we backtrack down the large hill on the switchbacking trail that we climbed a few days previously. When we reach the shop and our friend's small house at Gho we'll take a sharp left turn and descend through ferms and dense folliage to the Shiar Khola which we cross on a small, wooden bridge. A short hike through light forest brings us to the green hamlet of Dumje (2450m) where some of the young nuns from Gompa Lungdang stay and study, and the nuns have their barley fields. From where we'll have an often steep three hour hike far above the Laudang Khola to reach Gompa Lungdang. The views are great along the way and there are plenty of resting points en route. Note that the first time you'll see Gompa Lungdang from the second vertical prayer flag pole on a ridge it's still a good hour and a few hundred meters away. We'll camp in the slate courtyard of the gompa unless they've decided to build a camping platform. It's a good way to get to know the very friendly family of nuns, all from the nearby village of Ripchet, who live at the gompa. There's a cozy kitchen on the other side of the courtyard and the nuns have a puja every morning and evening in the main gompa, very interesting to sit in on. Dinner and breakfast are usually a tsampa dhiro (mash) with timbur (mountain pepper) and stinging nettle sauce, and of course butter tea. There is also a smaller and older looking prayer room just to the right of the main gompa with some fantastic old murals, perhaps in the northern Indian style. And the views are superb!

Day 14 - Gompa Lungdang
We'll have a rest day at this wonderful spot, a chance to get to know the lively nuns better and go for a walk. We'll have an optional hike up the valley towards (but not all the way to) Ganesh Himal Base Camp which will be quite strenuous but spectacular. Or just sit, enjoy your surroundings, do some peak-gazing and enjoy the company!

Day 15 - Trek to Lokpa 1915m
Back down the steep hillside is easier for some than the ascent and should take us an hour and a half to reach the small nunnery outpost at Dumche. Heading further to the south than our route in, we hike briefly along a narrow trail between wooden fences which actually passes through a local inhabitant's barn and then drop down to a new suspension bridge over the Laudang Khola. After crossing to the other side we'll have about twenty minutes of flat hiking before reaching an ancient, lichen-covered chorten and mani wall marking what seems to be the far reaches of Dumche. We continue, climbing very gradually, though a dense forest which looks as if it might be home to snakes, bears and monkeys (although we never saw any). About an hour and a half after this chorten, after crossing another new suspension bridge, we climb briefly to reach the long village of Ripchet. Ripchet seems a bit poorer than many other villages in the Tsum valley, and is situated on a ridge far above the Shiar Khola with its fields in back. The dogs are a bit ferocious and the flies are plentiful, so it's more scenic and interesting to view the village from the fields above. At the end of the line of simple wooden houses is another chorten and then a small school (20 students and 2 teachers on a good day) where we'll stop for lunch. Afterwards we have a steep descent over a small stream and then straight down the hill to the small tea-house at Ghumling which we passed about a week ago. Just past here is a small pool for cooling hot feet, and the teahouse has drinks. Now starts our long undulating trail to return to Lokpa. In theory it should be easier to return to Lokpa as it's lower than our starting point by a few hundred meters, but in reality it still takes a good 2 1/2 to 3 hours of ascents and descents, and after the last two bridges we should be good and tired upon reaching Lokpa!

Lokpa has a nice, terraced campsite, small guest houses and cold beers at the shop and is a welcome sight after a long hike. Note the large, green village on the flat plateau high above the Budhi Gandaki on the opposite side. This is Nyak, a village of Gurung's who graze their sheep and goats far below Barpak and who we probably met en route.

Day 16 - Trek Deng 1865m
We've scheduled a short-ish day today to recover from the last few long ones. Leaving wonderful Tsum valley, we descend for half an hour to where we left the main trail at the river junction, cross the Budhi Gandaki on a steel Bailey's bridge, and continue further north into more Tibetan border regions. After the bridge and passing the trail to Nyak on the left we ascend gradually along a wide, hillside trail through an open pine forest, and then cross the river two more times on newly built steel suspension bridges (thanks to a benevolent Gurkha society), trekking through dense woods of rhododendrons, bamboo and wild flowers. As we climb, look back for views of Ganesh Himal IV. A few hours later we pass the riverside campsite and teahouses of Pewa where the staff will eat lunch.

After another 45 minutes of relatively easy climbing we leave the narrow gorge, cross the Dyang Khola on a metal suspension bridge, and climb briefly to the hamlet of Deng. Deng is the start of the lower Nubri region called Kutang, where the people are ethnically Tibetan but speak a different dialect than the people of upper Nubri where the people are purely Tibetan. The Kutang dialect, called 'kukay', is a mix of Tibeto-Burman and Gurung. We have views of the Ganesh Himal to the rear, as well as Lapuchen and Dwijen Himals to the north. We stay right in the middle of the small village, which now has a few new lodges, and get fresh greens from the family that owns the land. It's worth a visit to the upper floor of their house above us, perhaps for a glass of local 'chang', or Tibetan beer (which the husband has undoubtably already started into). It starts to feel like a piece of old Tibet again ...

Day 17 - Trek to Namrung 2540m
The valley is still steep-sided and impressive as we leave camp in the morning, descending briefly to a metal suspenion bridge which we cross as we head along the undulating trail to Nupri. We switchback steeply, once climbing a notched wooden ladder, up to the small, poor village of Rana where the women usually have their looms out. After more climbing through lovely woods of pine and crossing another bridge, we reach Bihi Phedi, where there is a new lodge and views of Kutang Himal. From here we start to see very artistic mani stones (prayers etched onto wayside rocks, particularly mani stones with pictures of gods and goddesses in this region), a sure sign that we are entering another of the tiny Tibetan footholds that mark the high Himalayan places. These particular mani stones were carved by stone carvers from Bihi, above Bihi Phedi, famous in the region for this craft. We have several more hours of ascents and descents ahead of us, twice crossing tributary streams on metal suspension bridges, staying high above the Budhi Gandaki. The walk through the gorge is breathtaking but hot, with spectacular views. Five hours past Namrung, just past a beautifully painted kane chorten and after crossing a bridge over the Budhi Gandaki, we reach the outskirs of Ghap. Again, note the elaborate mani walls with Buddhas in several asanas which were carved by the famous Bihi stone-carvers, and the egg-shells strung above the local 'tea-house' doors in Ghap prevent the evil spirits from entering the house. Past the bridge, it's a good half hour to reach lunch at Hotel Kyimolung.

*** We don't stay at Ghap but across the Bhuri Gandaki and up steeply up for 45 minutes is the village of Chaak, where the son of the tea-house and campsite owner in Ghap lives with his family. There is a small, deserted gompa, carved mani stones (the style here is distinctly different that most other Tibetan Buddhist regions), and some Tibetans from Samdo who graze their yaks here. In the village, they will be drying their maize to grind into flour, and then trade with the people of upper Nubri. Across the river are great views of the village of Prok perched on the plateau jutting over the river below us. From Chaak, you can trek further to Kwak, and there is a trail up to Shringi Himal base camp. A fire recently destroyed the gompa at Kwak.

Soon after leaving Ghap, we ascend for two hours through a dense, cool forest of fir, rhododendron, bamboo and oaks, crossing the now narrow Budhi Gandaki twice on newly built suspension bridges, and continue to climb, often on smooth, stone steps. We might spot danphe, the national bird of Nepal, or grey langur monkeys with white faces along the trail. As we gain altitude, we reach alpine territory and are treated to increasingly broad mountain views. We eventually reach Namrung, the first village in Nubri, a region of purely Tibetan inhabitants speaking a dialect of western Tibet. Our guest house at Namrung is small and grassy; it's a spectacular spot when the weather is good but can be chilly if in the clouds so bring something warm in your daypack. It's a long day for the porters so expect your bags a bit later than usual.

We are now entering the Tibetan region of upper Nupri; Nupri means 'western ridge' or 'western mountains'.

Day 18 - Trek to Lho 3180m
Another wonderful and diverse trekking day awaits. Above Namrung, the valley opens out and there are extensive barley fields and bear watches to guard them (note the bamboo structures in the fields at the nearby village of Banzam). An hour and half of undulating trails later we reach the village of Lihi at 2840 meters, a substantial altitude gain. Lihi houses two old gompas, and is spread along the trail with billowing fields of barley, guarded by more bear watches. Lihi is known for its unusual architecture which we'll see further north in Nupri as well - apartment-like units with a common roof. From Lihi, you can head east to the newly opened village of Hinang, which also has an important gompa.

We climb gently through the village past the lodge campsite, descend to the Hinang Khola which flows from the Hinang and Lanjam Glaciers, and climb again, with views of Ngadi Himal and Manaslu north opening up aheadof us. Soon we reach the kane chorten and the picturesque Tibetan village of Shyo at 3000m. Shyo has a small lha-khang and two newly rebuilt gompas (with help from the Taiwanese?), one across the river. Look for the bear claw on the upper deck of one of the slate-terraced house at the far end of the village. Across the river are said to be the ruins of an old Tibetan fort as well as the resplendent new gompa. From Shyo, the views of Ngadi Chuli are spectacular, and further on, towards Lho, we are finally treated to breath-taking views of Manaslu itself, an impressive afternoon!
One more small descent out of Shyo, past a fly-blown teahouse and a small stream, and we start to climb up to Lho. We'll stop for lunch at one of the new lodge decks in the lower reached of Lho. From here it's a short but steep switchback up to Lho.

We stay near the top of Lho, a lively, green and sprawling village adorned with many prayer flags, in the yard of a small lodge just above the new chorten that was built with the help of the Taiwanese in 2009. The local household deities in Lho are called 'pholhas' and are revered at small altars in all of the houses. The small gompa just below our old campsite and new lodge is worth a visit as is the new Nyingma Rimjung Gompa, adorned with multi-colored prayer flags just up the hill from our campsite. The large gompa houses 150 monks (both novice monks and lamas) from such far away Tibetan regions as Manang, Dolpo and Bhutan. The gompa was a join venture of these same Taiwanese and Kempo Tashi Tsering.

From the guest house, sunset and sunriseare wonderful, with breathtaking views of Manaslu and Manaslu North just ahead of us.

Day 19 - Trek to Sama Gaon (Ro) 3525m
We wake to a misty, golden sunrise and spectacular views of Manaslu and Manaslu North from the campsite. Walking through the upper reaches of Lho, with the snowy peaks of Manaslu rising behind the gompa, we pass billowing green barley fields, a long mani wall and large, old chortens followed by the kane chorten where we'll get the best views of Manaslu. We descend, cross a small stream on wooden bridges and then ascend through light forests next to a small river until we reach a small hydro-electric hut. From here we'll hike up through a once dense forest of pine, now nearly deforested. Locals from Lho and Sama Gaon have cut almost all of the large pines to transport by yak to Tibet where it will be sold and other Chinese goods purchased. Soon we reach Hong Sangbu Gompa, once a small village gompa and now dwarfed by the larger, newer gompa which will apparently be used for meditation. The gompa is near Musithang kharka, a seasonal herding spot, and has fantastic views of the surrounding peaks.

Leaving the gompa and barking dogs, we descend just a bit to an old mill where local women who stay in Shayla are often roasting barley and grinding it to make tsampa. Soon we reach the high, idyllic summer settlement of Shayla, where we've found pelts of blue sheep tucked away in the rafters of the now-deserted settlement. There are extensive mountain panoramas from here as well, and new lodges. Once past Shayla we have two hours of trekking through classic alpine scenery, crossing two small bridges over glacial streams. Our trail leads us past Tibet grazing settlements, the trail to Pung Gyan Gompa to the left, several doksas (kharkas), a large school and eventually past checkered fields of barley and potato to Sama Gaon, or Ro, as the locals call it. Pung Gyan Gompa sits at 3870 meters and is a stunning walk up an often icy and slippery trail along the Numla Khola and the Pung Gyan glacier past Tibetan 'kharkas' or seasonal herding settlements. There are unbeatable views of Manaslu near the gompa. The gompa was mostly destroyed by an avalanche in 1953, and recently rebuilt. The complex includes a cave gompa as well, which affords even better views of the valley.

Back down the valley to the school, it's just a half an hour's walk to Ro. Sama Gaon sits in a bowl at the foot of the pastures leading to the high peaks. It's a lovely village of mani walls, household monks, gompas and tightly packed rows of houses. Just above the village is the extensive Pema Choling Gompa which acts as a retirement home for many of the elders of Sama. The people settled here from Tibet over 500 years ago, and the two gompas (one in the lower village) date from this time, both having unique architecture, colorful doors and windows and built of wood. The Tibetan villages in this region of Manaslu have distinctive entrance gates (kanes), and they maintain an active trade with their co-religionists in Tibet over several high passes nearby (notice the Chinese brandy and beer for sale in the small shops). Taxes were actually paid to the Dzongka Dzong (fortress) at the border of Tibet, a few days walk from Sama Gaon, as late as the 1940's until it was taken over by the Gorkhas in the late 19th century. Later, after 1959, the region was home to Tibetan guerrillas, and thus closed to trekking until 1992. The economy is based on farming, herding and trading.

Take the afternoon to hike up to the old Kagyu Pema Choling Gompa settlement just north of the village. This is locally called Labrang, or Lama's place, and houses several lamas and their families as well as many nuns. The lamas and monks in Sama are all married, and there are about sixty of them. There are frequent pujas at the gompa and many prayer rooms with old murals and statues, worth at least an hour to explore. It's also endlessly fascinating to wander the dirty alleyways of Sama, it's stone houses with wooden decks and shingles a similar style to the ones in Lho and Lihi. Yaks and dzobkios share the narrow alleys, which have small waterways running in the middle of them and planks to bridge the two sides. If the weather is good, you will see the village women weaving wool (phal) from Tibet as well as local sheep and goat wool into lengths of fabric which eventually become chubas.We often shop for hook rugs (den) and other Tibetan artifacts in the village, a good way to interact with the villagers.

Geoff Child's 'Tibetan Diary' is a must-read before (or after) spending time in Sama Gaon.

Day 20 - Trek to Samdo 3850m
Another day of mountain views as we trek past craggy woods of Himalayan birch during the walk up to Samdo, an easy 3 or 3 1/2 hours away. For those who want an extra excursion we'll hike above the lake up Manaslu Base Camp valley. Half an hour after leaving Sama Gaon, cross the small bridge, hike through the gate of the grazing wall and head west towards Manaslu Base Camp along the grassy lateral morraine. En route, we'll pass two seasonal kharkas, looking like they've not been used recenty. As we hike up through the woods on a dirt trail, past birch, juiper and rhododendron, the lake opens up below us and we get closer to the impressive icefall of the Manaslu Glacier. We'll hike up to a cave at just over 4000 meters before calling it a day and returning back to the valley, crossing the small stream and heading north again.

We pass by the left side of the long mani walls at Kermo Kharka and 1/1/2 hours afterwards spot the entrance chorten of Samdo high on a bluff. We descend back to the Budhi Gandaki and cross a small bridge leading to a short climb to the 'kane' entrance of Samdo. The villagers of Samdo came across the border from the village of Riu in Tibet after 1959 and built their new village here, at their old herding settlement. Like the people of Ro, Samdo inhabitants are Tibetan, and were ceded the land by the king of Jumla over 500 years ago. Unlike the Ro people, they only claimed their land after the Chinese takeover in the early 1950s. Since then they have established a trade with China and India, marketing among other things, the aphrodisiac root that grows in the region. We have lots of friends in the village so will probably be invited to visit and share some chang (Tibetan barley beer), salt-butter tea and perhaps do a bit of carpet or textile shopping. Take a walk around the village where the inhabitants live an essentially Tibetan lifestyle, herding their yaks, sheep and goats, training their horses and planting barley. There is a small gompa in a house mid-village which we visited in a previous year where a puja was held by several of the reincarnated lamas of Samdo.

We have a connection with a family in Samdo that Clint Rogers, who wrote the book about Samdo 'Where Rivers Meet' (also in our library), lived with years ago. We helped the wife, Nima Dikki, get over her four-year postpartum depression, and knew her husband Tsewang Gyurme and their kids well. Sadly Tsewang Gyurme died fighting a forest fire in January 2011 (see memorial in Kamzang Fund section) and Nyima Dikki is now trying to make ends meet by running a small local tea-house. We'll visit them later in the afternoon and anyone is welcome to come sit by the warm fire. The oldest daughter, Menden Samo, age 14, is now home helping her mother run the household ....

Day 21 - Trek to Dharamsala High Camp (Larkya Phedi) 4480m
It's a short 3 -4 hour day as we head to our high camp for Larkya La. We leave Samdo on the old trade route towards Tibet (Sherpas from the Khumbu region used to bring their yaks into Tibet and then across the Larkya La down into Nubri on their extensive trade-circuit in years past), cross a small bridge, and climb westwards above the ruins of Larkya Bazaar. The bazaar was one of the trade markets, a seasonal tented camp, that flourished years ago, before the closing of the Tibetan border. Ascending through grazing lands, open, grassy plateaus filled with dwarf rhododendron, juniper bushes and lichen-covered granite, the panoramas become increasingly awe-inspiring. We soon reach the view up to Syancha Glacier on the other side of the valley which tumbles down from Manaslu & Manaslu North. The route up Manaslu is visible from one of the many spurs that we crest this morning. Finally we come to the developping campsite at Dharamsala, the high camp for the Larkya La pass. We'll have lunch here while the staff sets up camp and gaze out at the views. You'll feel the altitude and the cold here, so perhaps enjoy a leisurely afternoon and keep warm. We're in blue sheep territory, so keep an eye out for herds of them grazing nearby on the barren hillsides.

If you've still got energy to spare hike up either of the ridges that form the boundery of our valley, or hike up alongside the small spring-fed stream in back of camp and enjoy the birds, marmots and blue sheep. Either way you'll have good views of Naike Peak to the south and the tip of Manaslu in front. We'll have an early dinner in preparation for our pass crossing tomorrow ...

Day 22- Cross Larkya La (5140m & 5160m) to Bimtang 3590m
Thank God for fresh-brewed coffee! It's dark and cold as we pack up our gear and tents in the morning and head off on our eight to nine hour trek over the Larkya La to Bimtang. Bring your trekking poles, and 'yak tracks' if you have them. After a short climb directly above the campsite, we hike along the right side of the lateral morraine, soon following the narrow bottom of this valley. Look for blue sheep, pika, marmot and Tibetan snow-cock tracks in the snow - and we'd be lucky to see snow leopard prints. We'll soon reach the ablation valley on the north side of the Larkya Glacier where we'll have views of Cho Danda and Ganesh Himal l to the east and then of Larkya Peak (6250m) to the west. We continue across the often snowy, undulating moraine of the glacier, past the many snow markers, and in about two hours reach a small hut, mostly unused, at 4920 meters. From here we've got another two hour push to reach the pass. We continue to ascend on small ridges and past a lovely frozen lake, often through the snow, making a gradual ascent which becomes steeper only in the last section to the pass.

The views from the top of the Larkye La are wonderful, mountain panoramas equally amazing from both sides of the double pass. From the east, the direction we just hiked up, we'll look down on Samdo Peak and the peaks bordering Tibet, and Larkye Peak to the southeast. To the west towards the Annapurna region rise Kang Guru (ridge only), Himlung Himal, Cheo Himal and a bit further down the pass the views open up to included Gyagi Kung and Annapurna II. After hanging our Tibetan prayer flags and yelling 'Ki ki so so lha gyalo' (may the Gods be victorious), get ready for a steep climb down a razor-edge ridge and then a descent, often slippery and icy and slightly precipitous, to a trail following the left side of the Salpudanda glacier moraine. We'll lunch after reaching a flat area with smooth rocks if there's no snow, once we've crossed the rock-fall area. From here we continue to traverse downhill with another steep section ahead, soon reaching a flatter valley full of primulas and azalea bushes. We still have a good 2-3 hours to go to reach our campsite, a long haul. A boulder-strewn, circular descent lead us, finally, to Bimtang, which means 'plain of sand', the region where the Samdo people keep their yaks and horses in the summer and winter months. The three sisters of the 'Three Sisters Hotel' are on hand with chilled beer as the evening clouds gather, turning pink behind the surrounding peaks ...

Day 23 - Trek to Tilje 2300m
A chilly but beautiful morning, as the sun behind the ridge hits the peaks around us long before the campsite. After leaving the grazing fields of Bimtang, we climb to a ridge over the moraine, soon afterwards crossing a boulder-strewn river, which recently flooded, on a wooden bridge. We ascend and then head down through open forests of brilliantly blooming rhododendron, juniper, birches and spruce past the doksas below Bimtang. En route we might pass Samdo-pa returning from their shopping in the Manang region with their loaded horses. Butterflies flutter peacefully around us, hummingbirds dart from tree to tree, and white strawberry flowers and azalea bushes are underfoot as we descend through forests of rhododendron, with the back side of Manaslu openning up impressively in front of us. We follow the intersecting glacial rivers, increasingly large as we drop, and eventually cross a steel Bailey's bridge and reach the small hamlet of Karche where there is a tea-house and lodge, and where the porters are having their dal baht. We might eat here, or perhaps we'll lunch just below along the riverside, now the Dudh Khola.

We continue along the rocky river-bed, often on trails which traverse sliding hillsides, to several small, green villages, a sign that we've reached lower altitudes. After a somewhat long (6-7 hours) but very scenic day we reach the large village of Tilje and our campsite in the lower section of the village in the yard of a small teahouse. The inhabitants of Tilje are a mix of Manangis, Ghale Gurung and Chettris (Hindus) so have developped a unique architecture and culture, and eat a mix foods ranging from dal bhat and buckwheat dhiro to tsampa to Tibetan salt-butter tea. The deep gorge ahead marks the land of apple pie, cold beers and hot showers, otherwise known as the Annapurna Circuit.

Day 24 - Trek to Jagat
It's an easy trekking day following the Dudh Khola through bamboo forests down to Dharapani, an atmospheric Tibetan village with prayer flags fluttering in the wind, stopping en route at the gompa in Thongje on the old Annapurna trail. Trekking south on the main Annapurna Circuit trail, we soon arrive at a long suspension bridge over which we cross the Marsyangdi River to reach the small village of Karte, re-crossing it soon afterwards. We continue along a high, winding, stunning cliff-side trail past several small teahouses at Khorte, and then switch backing down the steep trail before crossing the Marsyangdi River yet again. Before us to the left we drop to river level and spot the wide plain and waterfall at scenic Tal, the last village of the Lower Manang region.

Tal means lake, and the area here was formed when the valley was blocked by a landslide and a dam formed behind. The lake has long gone and now the village of Tal sits on the river flats. Continuing along the left bank of the riverside, we have a quick ascent to the entrance 'kane' of Tal, and after cresting the small hump, we descend steeply past the small teahouses at Sattale, loosing even more altitude as we continue down on an undulating trail through the lush forest to the river and cross another suspension bridge leading to Chamje. a short hike uphill. Chamje is an atmospheric, 'wild west' village of traditional-style teahouses, often packed with saddled local horses. From here the road-building is full-on, so we'll continue as far as we can get, and hop in our jeeps. But before then we have one more hour-long descent along the new dirt road, looking across the river to large waterfalls, to reach the (once) lovely cobbled village of Jagat, situated on a shelf which juts into the precipitous Marsyangdi valley. Jagat isn't what it used to be as the road now passes through it, but it's still got charm and we'll appreciate staying in rooms and eating in the dining room for our last night on the trail ...

Day 25 - Drive to Kathmandu
Back to the lush, semi-tropical middle hills of Nepal. We'll have a bumpy drive to Besi Sahar, the old start of the Annapurna circuit, and then continue driving for five (plus) hours back to Kathmandu, so we'll try to head off early and will stop for lunch en route back. It is a different world back in the Nepali hills, and the gentle light sends us on our way back to the bustle of Nepal's capital. Finally, back at the Kathmandu Guest house and a real shower!

Day 26 - Depart
Sadly, we send you to the airport for your flight home ...

Extra Days in Kathmandu
If you wish to stay longer, we can offer plenty of suggestion!

Mountain biking or rafting in the Kathmandu valley or Pokhara, a luxurious stay at Temple Tree Resort & Spa, paragliding or zip-lining in Pokhara, a getaway at Dwarika's Spa, Yoga & Wellness Retreats in Dhulikhel or Dwarikas in Kathmandu, the Everest sightseeing flight, touring Bhaktapur, Patan, and historic villages such as Changu Narayan & Panauti, a night at the Fort Hotel in Nagarkot for sunrise & sunset mountain panoramas, a relaxing excursion to Chitwan National Park Wildlife Safari & Tharu Villages (staying at Maruni Sanctuary Lodge) or Bardia National Park or a weekend of adventure and pampering at The Last Resort.

Kamzang Journeys & Kim can help to arrange any of these excursions for you.

High Route Itinerary

Day 1 - Arrive Kathmandu 1340m
You'll be met at the airport by a representative from the Kathmandu Guest House or Tsum Valley Homestays, so look out for a Kathmandu guest house sign when you leave the airport. They will bring you back to the Kathmandu Guest House, where your rooms are booked.

You'll be staying in Thamel, the main tourist area of Kathmandu. Thamel is a myriad of banners, signs, music shops, bakeries, internet cafes, restaurants, bars, hotels, shops of all imaginable varieties and eccentrically clad backpackers.

Kathmandu
Come early to explore the Kathmandu valley. Options: Climb the many steps to Swayambhunath (the monkey temple), with its commanding views of Kathmandu (at 1420 m), its whitewashed stupas and its unique synthesis of Buddhism and Hinduism. The striking Buddha eyes of Boudhanath Stupa watch over a lively and colorful Tibetan community and attract pilgrims from all over the Himalayan Buddhist realm. In the midst of traditional gompas, and hung with long strings of multi-colored prayer flags, Boudhanath attracts Sherpas, Tibetans and tourists alike for daily circumambulations (koras) of the stupa. Durbar Square, one of the old capitals of the Kathmandu valley, is a synthesis of Hindu and Buddhist temples, stupas and statues, and is often the site of festivals, marriages and other ceremonies. Hindu Pashupatinath and its sacred temple complex on the banks of the holy Bagmati river. Here, monkeys run up and down the steps of the burning ghats, and trident-bearing saddhus draped in burnt-orange and saffron sit serenely meditating - when they’re not posing for photos-for-rupees.

Day 2 - Drive to Barwa
You'll be early for a scenic drive from Kathmandu, mostly along the Trisuli River, to the starting part of our trek in the Gurung middle hills of Nepal several bumpy hours past the historic town of Gorkha. Gorkha was once the capital of a massive kingdom which included parts of lower Tibet, and is dominated by an impressive 'durbar', or fortress palace complex, predominately Hindu with frequent animal sacrifices in the name of Durga or Kali in its several old Hindu temples. The fort is perched high up in the surrounding hillsides and reached by nearly an hour of hiking up worn stone steps, often with other Nepali Hindu pilgrims. We used to start our trek to Manaslu here but now continue on a newly built jeep road heading north past our old campsite at Arkole village, past vivid green rice paddies, over small rivers and past many road-side batties to the small hamlet of Rangrung. From here the jeep continues up a winding road through a densely forested hillside filled with rhododendrons, bauhenia and other large, leafy trees, and then contouring beside tilled fields to the rustic village of Barwa where you'll spend your first night at a local guest house.

Day 4 - Trek to Barpak 1915m
It's a short hike up to the incredibly scenic village of Barpak, situated perfectly on a green ridge overlooking the misty valley below. You will hike past Gurung memorial 'chautaras' or rest stops specific to the Gurung and Rai people, both Buddhist with an animist/shamanistic bent. You'll soon reach the local school at Mandaray followed by an entrance gate and several small tea shops where you can stop for a cold drink. Continuing to climb gently, contouring around tilled wheat fields, it will take us another hour of more gentle climbing to reach the ancient chortens that mark the lower reaches of Barpak village. We'll set up camp at a private schoolyard in the upper section of the village and there is a small shop just below our camp where you'll be able to find a cold beer or drink. Locals might stop by for a game of volleyball on the school grounds ...

Barpak is a large, Ghale (royalty) Gurung village, extremely clean, with a weekly market, wide alleys between the houses, grain and vegetables drying outside on the patios, several shops, a new school, a soccer field, viewpoints and flowers planted along the decks of these Gurung houses. Many of its men joined the Ghurkha Army, returned to Barpak with new wealth, and have built lovely houses. We arrive in time for lunch, and have the afternoon to wander the narrow streets of the village, a photographers paradise. Note the locally woven 'bakus', a sort of felted wool poncho which most men wear to keep the rain and cold away, and the men carrying hemp rope bags. The village is full of women weaving on wooden looms, spinning and carding. The villagers often organize 'cultural shows', the proceeds of which go to improving the village, so we might be treated to one in the early evening. Across the steep valley the hillsides are peppered with other terraced villages. We are towered over by Bauddhi Himal, a high, snow-capped peak which makes for wonderful sunrise and sunset photos ...

Day 5 - Trek to Laprak 2200m
After breakfast we'll start on a picturesque climb right out of town towards a lovely pass, with Bauddhi Himal providing a spectacular back-drop to the sprawling, scenic Barpak as we ascend the narrow ridge. Starting on old stone steps and passing several chautaras, we reach grassy grazing kharkas and look out at the tilled hillsides and impossibly perched Gurung villages across the many deep valleys. Our trail is often stone steps, alternating with hard-packed dirt and stony trail, which meets the new road to Laprak near the ridge-pass, the Laprak La (2820m), which separates Laprak and Barpak. From the viewpoint half an hour before the pass, with flocks of sheep grazing on the grassy hillsides, we are rewarded with panoramic mountain views which are better than at the actual pass itself. Bauddhi Himal, Shringi Himal, Ganesh Himal and the Langtang range all span the horizon. The rhododendrons are blooming brilliantly in many hues of white, pink and red, lovely foreground for photos with the snow-peaks in back. Bring a wind jacket as the clouds often move quickly up to this ridge, and it gets cold at the pass.

Another steep hour or two of trekking between tilled fields, past local kharkas and through the new 'kane' chorten brings us down to Laprak, a large, closely packed Gurung village of five hundred houses, perhaps not quite as scenic as Barpak but just as interesting. The Maoists used to stay in this village, and the villagers often offer some friendly indoctrination. We camp in the only campsite around, at the school in the upper section of the village, with several tea-houses nearby. Again, we have the afternoon free to explore the village below. Take a walk down the hill on the stone steps leading to the lower village and a look into some of the houses, several connected by wooden decks, all with symbolic murals on the mud-brick walls and family photographs over the doors. Medicinal roots are often drying on the decks, and millet and barley are spread in low baskets. Again, many women will be on their standing or back-strap looms weaving the long strips of wool for their bakus or blankets. The villagers are friendly, and there is lots to explore in Laprak's winding maze of lanes.

Day 6 - Trek to Korlebesi 875m
Today is a long and classic Nepali trekking day of eight hours, all spectacular but a bit hard on the knees. We'll have an early start to have plenty of time for all of us, including the porters, to reach Korlebesi. Descending steeply on muddy stone steps through the maze of Laprak village, we pass old and young villagers out early on their decks, taking advantage of the morning sun, with wheat, barley and buckwheat laid out on straw mats. We continue to descend steeply, switchbacking through corn, wheat and barley fields to the river. After crossing the river on a new suspension bridge (next to the old, very rickety one), we climb equally steeply back up, past terraced fields of pink sorghum and rice, all the time far above the Macha Khola which we follow for most of the day. We contour around several hillsides on a narrow trail, barely visible at times, up to a small chorten just below the village of Singla. From here we're treated to views of Manaslu Himal, Kutang Himal and Shringi Himal to the north. We've still got a way to go as we trek through more terraced fields, climb and descend several dusty hillsides, climb on more stone steps and reach a plateau that seems to extend into an expanse of nothingness. We descend finally from here, and after about twenty minutes of steep stone steps reach the Gurung village of Korla. Still more downhill from here during which the landscape becomes more tropical, through more tilled fields, past a small hamlet with lovely rocks and finally we reach an extremely steep set of stone steps which leads to a long suspension bridge across the Nimrung Khola and to our campsite at Korlebesi on the Budhi Gandaki river. Look out for the local women weaving straw mats in the village. Our campsite is just below the village, next to the Nimrung Khola, again providing great swimming holes. We will probably get a visit in the evening from this village's cultural ambassadors, and perhaps have another show.

Day 6 - Trek to Jagat 1370m
A six plus hour trekking day today, starting with a walk through the village of Korlebesi and followed by an hour of walking along the river, by tobacco and buckwheat fields, past rocks washed smooth by the river, often climbing up stone steps, to reach the hot springs in the center of the small, terraced village of Tatopani. We have plenty of time to soak our grungy bodies in the gushing hot water streaming out of sculpted spouts. A gentle climb through the woods past some spectacular waterfalls and sculpted rocks brings us to a new suspension bridge across the Budhi Gandaki which we cross. We continue along a forested path and soon reach the large teahouse at Dobhan where the staff is having dal baht. After a short break we cross the Dhoban Khola on another suspension bridge Above Dobhan, the Budhi Gandaki descends in an impressive series of steep cataracts. We'll share the trail with local sheep and goat herders, the youngest of the flock in rope baskets slung over their backs. More steep steps along cliff walls to climb as the river descends even more steeply and stratified river rocks decorate our route. It's hot and there will be chances to stop at fly-blown Nepali bhattis, shared with local farm animals, for a drink, snack and rest en route. The valley flattens a bit and after a short climb we reach a newer bhatti and campsite. From here our trail climbs high above the river, nearly 200 meters, only to descend to an 'eye' of the Budhi Gandaki River. The valley widens, the river makes a large S turn and then calms.

We'll stop for lunch at another camping spot and group of bamboo teahouses called Lauri just at the bottom of this climb, with another swimming spot on the Lauri River. An easy hour along the right banks of the river brings us to a long, new suspension bridge again crossing the Bhuri Gandaki after which we climb high, descend past the campsite at lower Jagat and then climb again on neat stone steps to enter our campsite in Jagat, the entrance to the Manaslu park. It is worth wandering around this beautiful, paved village, where proud villagers have recorded how much they contributed to these paving schemes.

Day 7 - Trek to Philim 1570m
Enjoy our short day of less than three hours, a day to restock for the Tsum valley ahead. After descending a long series of stone steps back down to the river from Jagat village, we climb on slab steps along a terraced hill-side to the small hamlet of Saguleri, just past where we'll have our first view of the impressive Shringi Himal, 7187 meters high. Beautiful flame-leaf trees adorn the trail as we continue to climb and descend far above the river. We pass through the fly-blown paved village of Sirdibas, where the local children sell oranges in the Autumn and soon afterwards pass the local water-mill. Crossing the river again on a long, high suspension bridge at Gata Khola, we have a steep climb past green fields of wheat to reach Philim, the MCAP headquarters with a health post, a Japanese-sponsored school and a micro-hydro plant. We arrive at our guest house in time for lunch, and have the afternoon free to wash at the darapani (tap), to explore the interesting upper village and gompa, or sit and enjoy the afternoon in the village.

The upper village's Gurung inhabitants are very poor, and we often spend the afternoon tending to wounds and sick villagers who have commented that our western medicine is 'magic'. Notice the chorten with the Maoist hammer and sickle in the center of the upper village, the kane chortens with murals inside and the intricately woven baskets which both the men and the women craft. The exquisite gold heirloom necklaces that adorn some of the women come from Barpak. Be careful of village dogs as they do sometimes bite!

Day 8 - Trek to Chumling 2280m
We start our trek into the beautiful and remote Tibetan Tsum valley today. Leaving Philim along the main, paved trail we hike through corn and millet fields on a high trail over the Budhi Gandaki and soon pass Ekle Bhatti (which means one tea-house). Continuing on this spectacular trail, we hike through a narrow, dramatic gorge with towering walls, past a thundering waterfall to the right of the trail and more smaller ones along the way. White-faced langurs frolic in the trees above and remote villages cling to the opposite side of the gorge. Everything is green and in full bloom. About two hours past Philim, just as we reach the metal bridge which spans the Budhi Gandaki, we veer off the main Manaslu trail to the east, in the direction of the Ganesh Himal. Entering the steep gorge leading into Tsum valley, we enter a purely Tibetan region untouched by Chinese intervention except for by mutual trade. We have about an hour of gradual climbing above the Shiar Khola through a light forest, much of it being cut down for timber, to reach the tiny hamlet of Lokpa at 1915 meters where we will stay en route back to Manaslu. We'll have views of Shringi & Ganesh Himal from here. The staff will have lunch at the small teahouse, pick up the only green vegetables available in Tsum, and we'll continue on, descending to cross two newly built metal bridges over the intersecting Sukki Khola and Shiar Khola (questionable name).

Once we reach river level we start to climb again, often steeply and on a somewhat exposed, switchbacking trail. The trails through the Tsum valley have been greatly improved over the past two years, so once precipitous and exposed trails are now safe and well maintained. We continue on this cliff-side, undulating trail for about an hour and then drop back down to a small tea-house at Ghumlung from where we'll cross the main Shiar Khola on a long suspension bridge. The hill-top village of Ripchet comes into sight across the steep-sided valley as we climb again on a nicely graded switchbacking trail to Chumling, a lovely village to the right and above our campsite at Hotel Ganesh Himal. Great mountain views from the guest house, so enjoy if you don't feel like exploring the village. There is a gompa in the northern (right) section of the village across the suspension bridge just out of camp and Himal Chuli rises down valley.

Day 9 - Trek to Chhokangparo 3085m
Venturing further into the Tsum valley, we have a lovely hike of 5-6 hours in front of us today to reach Chhokangparo, a twin village which translates as roughly 'place of wisdom'. Just out of camp we cross the suspension bridge and descend slightly as the valley opens ahead of us with green, fertile villages adding color to the already spectacular setting. We pass several small villages and the tiny Dhampa Gompa (2365m), worth a look inside and meeting the old ani (nun) who lives alone at the gompa. Inside are hundreds of ceramic statues of Chenrisig, the Buddha of Compassion, which line three of the walls. This is unique to the Tsum valley as far as I know and we'll notice these walls of Chenrisigs in most of the Tsum gompas. Descending once again to the small village of Rainjam where we'll be welcomed by barking dogs, we take the left-hand trail up a bit, cross another suspension bridge and ascend to the small hamlet of Gho (2570m) where our friends next to the village tap might be weaving or spinning at their small house. Passing the small shop, we continue to climb on a good trail for another few hours to reach Chhokangparo, where we'll stop and stay at a homestay for the night. This is one of our favorite villages in the Tsum valley, a scenic and interesting village with friendly villagers and small lanes to explore. There's a well-stocked shop in town and a local phone, and a home-stay sort of lodge owned by the same couple. The kids are eager to come and play so save some energy. We might have the chance to visit Tashi (of Tsum Valley Homestay)'s mother in their modest Tibetan home for a cup of salt-butter tea, and perhaps we'll also visit another English-speaking friend, Namgyal, at his much nicer and lighter house. There is lots of weaving happing in this village as in most others in Tsum and Manaslu, and perhaps an opportunity to purchase a hook rug or other textile if you're interested. The intricate, colorful woven belts adorning most women's Tibetan-style chubas are unique to the Tsum valley as well.

Day 10 - Trek to Mu Gompa 3645m
Heading further north towards the border of Tibet, our destination for today is the somewhat remote Mu Gompa, the furthest settlement in the Tsum valley. Leaving Chhokangparo via the long mani walls, it's an easy hike through the lower section of the village (Paro) and back up past a long mani wall to a chorten across from Chhogu Gompa and village. Continuing to climb gradually past green barley and potato fields, we pass a school and soon reach Nyakyu village (3225m). It's mostly flat walking to the next village, Lamagaon, which is a similar style to the last with narrow alleyways between the houses. This is the open, predominantly flat section of the Tsum valley where one lovely village runs almost into the fields of the next village, the trails are peppered with mani walls and small chortens and the scenery is sublime. Just past Lamagaon (3220m) to the left are two small hermitages (Milarepa Piren Phu Cave & Chi Phu Gompa), and to the right across the river is the nunnery called Rachen Gompa. We stay on the same side of the river, pass through Phurbe and Pangdum, both with small village gompas and between them an unusually shaped large chorten which dominates the skyline. Soon afterwards we pass through Chhule village (3250m) and then cross the bridge to reach Nile village where the staff will be eating lunch. These are the last villages in the Tsum valley; Nyi Le means sun-side and Chu Le translates as water side. Many groups camp here and make a day trip of Mu Gompa, but we'll continue on for another two hours, more strenuous than the first four, to reach our camp just below Mu Gompa. This last section is more desolate and more difficult as we'll gain 400 meters in the next two hours to camp at our highest spot in Tsum. The trail sticks to the left of the river, passing still more mani walls and chortens as it climbs and contours towards the north. After crossing an old 'slip' and a small bridge over a glacial stream, we climb a bit more steeply past several larger chortens, with Mu Gompa just above us.

We can either visit the gompa this afternoon or tomorrow morning. One year we had snow all afternoon and evening so had a spectacular morning's visit to Mu Gompa. The gompa is Drukpa Kagyupa, affiliated with Kopan Gompa in Kathmandu, and filled with ancient, unrestored murals in the main lhakhang which has a very medieval atmosphere. The murals outside of the gompa, with the usual four guardian Bonpo 'kings of the four directions' at either side of the doorway. There are about 16 novice monks, or thawas, and another 5 or 6 mature monks and lamas residing at the gompa, and the central temple is surrounded by the monks simple dwellings.

Day 11 - Mu Gompa - Daytrip to Bhajyo 4095m
Now that we've hiked all this way, let's take advantage of our remote mountainous campsite and do some exploring. Our friend Mads, who biked the Tsum Valley earlier this year, found his favorite views of the trip from a hill-top vantage point above Mu Gompa. In June of 2012 we were lucky to catch the annual, monthly 'fair' at Bhajyo, which a local jokingly called the New York of Tsum valley. The commodity that brings hundreds of Tsum-pas to this grassy doksa for the month is yersa gumba, 'summer grass winter insect', a sort of worm or catipillar which becomes a host for paratical spores/fungus. To get to Bhajyo, head north from camp along a high trail to the left of the river, past several chortens and a slide area. About an hour later we'll reach a small, wooden bridge which we cross and hike up for about 15 minutes to reach Kalung (3830m) where a seasonal Tibetan-styled teahouse is in action in June. Several doksas encamp around the Kalung area, at the intersection of the Changmam Khola and the Yangdol Khola, in both directions. Heading east along the later river, it's a few hundred meters of altitude gain along a good trail, across a small bridge at the intersection of this river with the Salbu Khola, to reach Bhajyo. Here, many tea-houses do a good summer business, kids play on the grassy slopes and the older women sit spinning wool. Mules from lower down stop for the night here as they transport hundreds and hundreds of mule-loads of 'satua', a ginger-like medicinal root, to Tibet. All in all, an interesting early summer afternoon!

Day 12 - Trek to Chhokangparo
After visiting Mu Gompa we head back down the green valley back to Chhokangparo, which although easier as it's mostly downhill, still takes about six hours to cover. On the way back we can cross the Khugyu Khola and pass through the large school at Lar to visit Rachen Gompa (locally called Gompa Rangjung), an ani gompa affiliated with Kopan Gompa in Kathmandu with a large number of nuns who stay during the summertime. Further along, past Lamagaon and Ngakyu, we'll stop into the Chhogu Golden Temple for a look. Once back in Chhokangparo, we'll be well-situated for our trip to Gompa Lungdang the next day ...

Day 13 - Trek to Gompa Lungdang 3340m
It's a harder day than it looks on the map to reach Gompa Lungdang but worth the effort to get there for the experience of staying with the friendly nuns and the mountain panorama of the Ganesh Himal peaks surrounding the gompa. Leaving camp the same way we came, we backtrack down the large hill on the switchbacking trail that we climbed a few days previously. When we reach the shop and our friend's small house at Gho we'll take a sharp left turn and descend through ferms and dense folliage to the Shiar Khola which we cross on a small, wooden bridge. A short hike through light forest brings us to the green hamlet of Dumje (2450m) where some of the young nuns from Gompa Lungdang stay and study, and the nuns have their barley fields. From where we'll have an often steep three hour hike far above the Laudang Khola to reach Gompa Lungdang. The views are great along the way and there are plenty of resting points en route. Note that the first time you'll see Gompa Lungdang from the second vertical prayer flag pole on a ridge it's still a good hour and a few hundred meters away. We'll camp in the slate courtyard of the gompa unless they've decided to build a camping platform. It's a good way to get to know the very friendly family of nuns, all from the nearby village of Ripchet, who live at the gompa. There's a cozy kitchen on the other side of the courtyard and the nuns have a puja every morning and evening in the main gompa, very interesting to sit in on. Dinner and breakfast are usually a tsampa dhiro (mash) with timbur (mountain pepper) and stinging nettle sauce, and of course butter tea. There is also a smaller and older looking prayer room just to the right of the main gompa with some fantastic old murals, perhaps in the northern Indian style. And the views are superb!

Day 14 - Gompa Lungdang
We'll have a rest day at this wonderful spot, a chance to get to know the lively nuns better and go for a walk. We'll have an optional hike up the valley towards (but not all the way to) Ganesh Himal Base Camp which will be quite strenuous but spectacular. Or just sit, enjoy your surroundings, do some peak-gazing and enjoy the company!

Day 15 - Trek to Lokpa 1915m
Back down the steep hillside is easier for some than the ascent and should take us an hour and a half to reach the small nunnery outpost at Dumche. Heading further to the south than our route in, we hike briefly along a narrow trail between wooden fences which actually passes through a local inhabitant's barn and then drop down to a new suspension bridge over the Laudang Khola. After crossing to the other side we'll have about twenty minutes of flat hiking before reaching an ancient, lichen-covered chorten and mani wall marking what seems to be the far reaches of Dumche. We continue, climbing very gradually, though a dense forest which looks as if it might be home to snakes, bears and monkeys (although we never saw any). About an hour and a half after this chorten, after crossing another new suspension bridge, we climb briefly to reach the long village of Ripchet. Ripchet seems a bit poorer than many other villages in the Tsum valley, and is situated on a ridge far above the Shiar Khola with its fields in back. The dogs are a bit ferocious and the flies are plentiful, so it's more scenic and interesting to view the village from the fields above. At the end of the line of simple wooden houses is another chorten and then a small school (20 students and 2 teachers on a good day) where we'll stop for lunch. Afterwards we have a steep descent over a small stream and then straight down the hill to the small tea-house at Ghumling which we passed about a week ago. Just past here is a small pool for cooling hot feet, and the teahouse has drinks. Now starts our long undulating trail to return to Lokpa. In theory it should be easier to return to Lokpa as it's lower than our starting point by a few hundred meters, but in reality it still takes a good 2 1/2 to 3 hours of ascents and descents, and after the last two bridges we should be good and tired upon reaching Lokpa!

Lokpa has a nice, terraced campsite, small guest houses and cold beers at the shop and is a welcome sight after a long hike. Note the large, green village on the flat plateau high above the Budhi Gandaki on the opposite side. This is Nyak, a village of Gurung's who graze their sheep and goats far below Barpak and who we probably met en route.

Day 16 - Trek Deng 1865m
We've scheduled a short-ish day today to recover from the last few long ones. Leaving wonderful Tsum valley, we descend for half an hour to where we left the main trail at the river junction, cross the Budhi Gandaki on a steel Bailey's bridge, and continue further north into more Tibetan border regions. After the bridge and passing the trail to Nyak on the left we ascend gradually along a wide, hillside trail through an open pine forest, and then cross the river two more times on newly built steel suspension bridges (thanks to a benevolent Gurkha society), trekking through dense woods of rhododendrons, bamboo and wild flowers. As we climb, look back for views of Ganesh Himal IV. A few hours later we pass the riverside campsite and teahouses of Pewa where the staff will eat lunch.

After another 45 minutes of relatively easy climbing we leave the narrow gorge, cross the Dyang Khola on a metal suspension bridge, and climb briefly to the hamlet of Deng. Deng is the start of the lower Nubri region called Kutang, where the people are ethnically Tibetan but speak a different dialect than the people of upper Nubri where the people are purely Tibetan. The Kutang dialect, called 'kukay', is a mix of Tibeto-Burman and Gurung. We have views of the Ganesh Himal to the rear, as well as Lapuchen and Dwijen Himals to the north. We stay right in the middle of the small village, which now has a few new lodges, and get fresh greens from the family that owns the land. It's worth a visit to the upper floor of their house above us, perhaps for a glass of local 'chang', or Tibetan beer (which the husband has undoubtably already started into). It starts to feel like a piece of old Tibet again ...

Day 17 - Trek to Namrung 2540m
The valley is still steep-sided and impressive as we leave camp in the morning, descending briefly to a metal suspenion bridge which we cross as we head along the undulating trail to Nupri. We switchback steeply, once climbing a notched wooden ladder, up to the small, poor village of Rana where the women usually have their looms out. After more climbing through lovely woods of pine and crossing another bridge, we reach Bihi Phedi, where there is a new lodge and views of Kutang Himal. From here we start to see very artistic mani stones (prayers etched onto wayside rocks, particularly mani stones with pictures of gods and goddesses in this region), a sure sign that we are entering another of the tiny Tibetan footholds that mark the high Himalayan places. These particular mani stones were carved by stone carvers from Bihi, above Bihi Phedi, famous in the region for this craft. We have several more hours of ascents and descents ahead of us, twice crossing tributary streams on metal suspension bridges, staying high above the Budhi Gandaki. The walk through the gorge is breathtaking but hot, with spectacular views. Five hours past Namrung, just past a beautifully painted kane chorten and after crossing a bridge over the Budhi Gandaki, we reach the outskirs of Ghap. Again, note the elaborate mani walls with Buddhas in several asanas which were carved by the famous Bihi stone-carvers, and the egg-shells strung above the local 'tea-house' doors in Ghap prevent the evil spirits from entering the house. Past the bridge, it's a good half hour to reach lunch at Hotel Kyimolung.

*** We don't stay at Ghap but across the Bhuri Gandaki and up steeply up for 45 minutes is the village of Chaak, where the son of the tea-house and campsite owner in Ghap lives with his family. There is a small, deserted gompa, carved mani stones (the style here is distinctly different that most other Tibetan Buddhist regions), and some Tibetans from Samdo who graze their yaks here. In the village, they will be drying their maize to grind into flour, and then trade with the people of upper Nubri. Across the river are great views of the village of Prok perched on the plateau jutting over the river below us. From Chaak, you can trek further to Kwak, and there is a trail up to Shringi Himal base camp. A fire recently destroyed the gompa at Kwak.

Soon after leaving Ghap, we ascend for two hours through a dense, cool forest of fir, rhododendron, bamboo and oaks, crossing the now narrow Budhi Gandaki twice on newly built suspension bridges, and continue to climb, often on smooth, stone steps. We might spot danphe, the national bird of Nepal, or grey langur monkeys with white faces along the trail. As we gain altitude, we reach alpine territory and are treated to increasingly broad mountain views. We eventually reach Namrung, the first village in Nubri, a region of purely Tibetan inhabitants speaking a dialect of western Tibet. Our guest house at Namrung is small and grassy; it's a spectacular spot when the weather is good but can be chilly if in the clouds so bring something warm in your daypack. It's a long day for the porters so expect your bags a bit later than usual.

We are now entering the Tibetan region of upper Nupri; Nupri means 'western ridge' or 'western mountains'.

Day 18 - Trek to Lho 3180m
Another wonderful and diverse trekking day awaits. Above Namrung, the valley opens out and there are extensive barley fields and bear watches to guard them (note the bamboo structures in the fields at the nearby village of Banzam). An hour and half of undulating trails later we reach the village of Lihi at 2840 meters, a substantial altitude gain. Lihi houses two old gompas, and is spread along the trail with billowing fields of barley, guarded by more bear watches. Lihi is known for its unusual architecture which we'll see further north in Nupri as well - apartment-like units with a common roof. From Lihi, you can head east to the newly opened village of Hinang, which also has an important gompa.

We climb gently through the village past the lodge campsite, descend to the Hinang Khola which flows from the Hinang and Lanjam Glaciers, and climb again, with views of Ngadi Himal and Manaslu north opening up aheadof us. Soon we reach the kane chorten and the picturesque Tibetan village of Shyo at 3000m. Shyo has a small lha-khang and two newly rebuilt gompas (with help from the Taiwanese?), one across the river. Look for the bear claw on the upper deck of one of the slate-terraced house at the far end of the village. Across the river are said to be the ruins of an old Tibetan fort as well as the resplendent new gompa. From Shyo, the views of Ngadi Chuli are spectacular, and further on, towards Lho, we are finally treated to breath-taking views of Manaslu itself, an impressive afternoon!
One more small descent out of Shyo, past a fly-blown teahouse and a small stream, and we start to climb up to Lho. We'll stop for lunch at one of the new lodge decks in the lower reached of Lho. From here it's a short but steep switchback up to Lho.

We stay near the top of Lho, a lively, green and sprawling village adorned with many prayer flags, in the yard of a small lodge just above the new chorten that was built with the help of the Taiwanese in 2009. The local household deities in Lho are called 'pholhas' and are revered at small altars in all of the houses. The small gompa just below our old campsite and new lodge is worth a visit as is the new Nyingma Rimjung Gompa, adorned with multi-colored prayer flags just up the hill from our campsite. The large gompa houses 150 monks (both novice monks and lamas) from such far away Tibetan regions as Manang, Dolpo and Bhutan. The gompa was a join venture of these same Taiwanese and Kempo Tashi Tsering.

From the guest house, sunset and sunriseare wonderful, with breathtaking views of Manaslu and Manaslu North just ahead of us.

Day 19 - Trek to Sama Gaon (Ro) 3525m
We wake to a misty, golden sunrise and spectacular views of Manaslu and Manaslu North from the campsite. Walking through the upper reaches of Lho, with the snowy peaks of Manaslu rising behind the gompa, we pass billowing green barley fields, a long mani wall and large, old chortens followed by the kane chorten where we'll get the best views of Manaslu. We descend, cross a small stream on wooden bridges and then ascend through light forests next to a small river until we reach a small hydro-electric hut. From here we'll hike up through a once dense forest of pine, now nearly deforested. Locals from Lho and Sama Gaon have cut almost all of the large pines to transport by yak to Tibet where it will be sold and other Chinese goods purchased. Soon we reach Hong Sangbu Gompa, once a small village gompa and now dwarfed by the larger, newer gompa which will apparently be used for meditation. The gompa is near Musithang kharka, a seasonal herding spot, and has fantastic views of the surrounding peaks.

Leaving the gompa and barking dogs, we descend just a bit to an old mill where local women who stay in Shayla are often roasting barley and grinding it to make tsampa. Soon we reach the high, idyllic summer settlement of Shayla, where we've found pelts of blue sheep tucked away in the rafters of the now-deserted settlement. There are extensive mountain panoramas from here as well, and new lodges. Once past Shayla we have two hours of trekking through classic alpine scenery, crossing two small bridges over glacial streams. Our trail leads us past Tibet grazing settlements, the trail to Pung Gyan Gompa to the left, several doksas (kharkas), a large school and eventually past checkered fields of barley and potato to Sama Gaon, or Ro, as the locals call it. Pung Gyan Gompa sits at 3870 meters and is a stunning walk up an often icy and slippery trail along the Numla Khola and the Pung Gyan glacier past Tibetan 'kharkas' or seasonal herding settlements. There are unbeatable views of Manaslu near the gompa. The gompa was mostly destroyed by an avalanche in 1953, and recently rebuilt. The complex includes a cave gompa as well, which affords even better views of the valley.

Back down the valley to the school, it's just a half an hour's walk to Ro. Sama Gaon sits in a bowl at the foot of the pastures leading to the high peaks. It's a lovely village of mani walls, household monks, gompas and tightly packed rows of houses. Just above the village is the extensive Pema Choling Gompa which acts as a retirement home for many of the elders of Sama. The people settled here from Tibet over 500 years ago, and the two gompas (one in the lower village) date from this time, both having unique architecture, colorful doors and windows and built of wood. The Tibetan villages in this region of Manaslu have distinctive entrance gates (kanes), and they maintain an active trade with their co-religionists in Tibet over several high passes nearby (notice the Chinese brandy and beer for sale in the small shops). Taxes were actually paid to the Dzongka Dzong (fortress) at the border of Tibet, a few days walk from Sama Gaon, as late as the 1940's until it was taken over by the Gorkhas in the late 19th century. Later, after 1959, the region was home to Tibetan guerrillas, and thus closed to trekking until 1992. The economy is based on farming, herding and trading.

Take the afternoon to hike up to the old Kagyu Pema Choling Gompa settlement just north of the village. This is locally called Labrang, or Lama's place, and houses several lamas and their families as well as many nuns. The lamas and monks in Sama are all married, and there are about sixty of them. There are frequent pujas at the gompa and many prayer rooms with old murals and statues, worth at least an hour to explore. It's also endlessly fascinating to wander the dirty alleyways of Sama, it's stone houses with wooden decks and shingles a similar style to the ones in Lho and Lihi. Yaks and dzobkios share the narrow alleys, which have small waterways running in the middle of them and planks to bridge the two sides. If the weather is good, you will see the village women weaving wool (phal) from Tibet as well as local sheep and goat wool into lengths of fabric which eventually become chubas.We often shop for hook rugs (den) and other Tibetan artifacts in the village, a good way to interact with the villagers.

Geoff Child's 'Tibetan Diary' is a must-read before (or after) spending time in Sama Gaon.

Day 20 - Trek to Samdo 3850m
Another day of mountain views as we trek past craggy woods of Himalayan birch during the walk up to Samdo, an easy 3 or 3 1/2 hours away. For those who want an extra excursion we'll hike above the lake up Manaslu Base Camp valley. Half an hour after leaving Sama Gaon, cross the small bridge, hike through the gate of the grazing wall and head west towards Manaslu Base Camp along the grassy lateral morraine. En route, we'll pass two seasonal kharkas, looking like they've not been used recenty. As we hike up through the woods on a dirt trail, past birch, juiper and rhododendron, the lake opens up below us and we get closer to the impressive icefall of the Manaslu Glacier. We'll hike up to a cave at just over 4000 meters before calling it a day and returning back to the valley, crossing the small stream and heading north again.

We pass by the left side of the long mani walls at Kermo Kharka and 1/1/2 hours afterwards spot the entrance chorten of Samdo high on a bluff. We descend back to the Budhi Gandaki and cross a small bridge leading to a short climb to the 'kane' entrance of Samdo. The villagers of Samdo came across the border from the village of Riu in Tibet after 1959 and built their new village here, at their old herding settlement. Like the people of Ro, Samdo inhabitants are Tibetan, and were ceded the land by the king of Jumla over 500 years ago. Unlike the Ro people, they only claimed their land after the Chinese takeover in the early 1950s. Since then they have established a trade with China and India, marketing among other things, the aphrodisiac root that grows in the region. We have lots of friends in the village so will probably be invited to visit and share some chang (Tibetan barley beer), salt-butter tea and perhaps do a bit of carpet or textile shopping. Take a walk around the village where the inhabitants live an essentially Tibetan lifestyle, herding their yaks, sheep and goats, training their horses and planting barley. There is a small gompa in a house mid-village which we visited in a previous year where a puja was held by several of the reincarnated lamas of Samdo.

We have a connection with a family in Samdo that Clint Rogers, who wrote the book about Samdo 'Where Rivers Meet' (also in our library), lived with years ago. We helped the wife, Nima Dikki, get over her four-year postpartum depression, and knew her husband Tsewang Gyurme and their kids well. Sadly Tsewang Gyurme died fighting a forest fire in January 2011 (see memorial in Kamzang Fund section) and Nyima Dikki is now trying to make ends meet by running a small local tea-house. We'll visit them later in the afternoon and anyone is welcome to come sit by the warm fire. The oldest daughter, Menden Samo, age 14, is now home helping her mother run the household ....

Day 21 - Trek to Dharamsala High Camp (Larkya Phedi) 4480m
It's a short 3 -4 hour day as we head to our high camp for Larkya La. We leave Samdo on the old trade route towards Tibet (Sherpas from the Khumbu region used to bring their yaks into Tibet and then across the Larkya La down into Nubri on their extensive trade-circuit in years past), cross a small bridge, and climb westwards above the ruins of Larkya Bazaar. The bazaar was one of the trade markets, a seasonal tented camp, that flourished years ago, before the closing of the Tibetan border. Ascending through grazing lands, open, grassy plateaus filled with dwarf rhododendron, juniper bushes and lichen-covered granite, the panoramas become increasingly awe-inspiring. We soon reach the view up to Syancha Glacier on the other side of the valley which tumbles down from Manaslu & Manaslu North. The route up Manaslu is visible from one of the many spurs that we crest this morning. Finally we come to the developping campsite at Dharamsala, the high camp for the Larkya La pass. We'll have lunch here while the staff sets up camp and gaze out at the views. You'll feel the altitude and the cold here, so perhaps enjoy a leisurely afternoon and keep warm. We're in blue sheep territory, so keep an eye out for herds of them grazing nearby on the barren hillsides.

If you've still got energy to spare hike up either of the ridges that form the boundery of our valley, or hike up alongside the small spring-fed stream in back of camp and enjoy the birds, marmots and blue sheep. Either way you'll have good views of Naike Peak to the south and the tip of Manaslu in front. We'll have an early dinner in preparation for our pass crossing tomorrow ...

Day 22- Cross Larkya La (5140m & 5160m) to Bimtang 3590m
Thank God for fresh-brewed coffee! It's dark and cold as we pack up our gear and tents in the morning and head off on our eight to nine hour trek over the Larkya La to Bimtang. Bring your trekking poles, and 'yak tracks' if you have them. After a short climb directly above the campsite, we hike along the right side of the lateral morraine, soon following the narrow bottom of this valley. Look for blue sheep, pika, marmot and Tibetan snow-cock tracks in the snow - and we'd be lucky to see snow leopard prints. We'll soon reach the ablation valley on the north side of the Larkya Glacier where we'll have views of Cho Danda and Ganesh Himal l to the east and then of Larkya Peak (6250m) to the west. We continue across the often snowy, undulating moraine of the glacier, past the many snow markers, and in about two hours reach a small hut, mostly unused, at 4920 meters. From here we've got another two hour push to reach the pass. We continue to ascend on small ridges and past a lovely frozen lake, often through the snow, making a gradual ascent which becomes steeper only in the last section to the pass.

The views from the top of the Larkye La are wonderful, mountain panoramas equally amazing from both sides of the double pass. From the east, the direction we just hiked up, we'll look down on Samdo Peak and the peaks bordering Tibet, and Larkye Peak to the southeast. To the west towards the Annapurna region rise Kang Guru (ridge only), Himlung Himal, Cheo Himal and a bit further down the pass the views open up to included Gyagi Kung and Annapurna II. After hanging our Tibetan prayer flags and yelling 'Ki ki so so lha gyalo' (may the Gods be victorious), get ready for a steep climb down a razor-edge ridge and then a descent, often slippery and icy and slightly precipitous, to a trail following the left side of the Salpudanda glacier moraine. We'll lunch after reaching a flat area with smooth rocks if there's no snow, once we've crossed the rock-fall area. From here we continue to traverse downhill with another steep section ahead, soon reaching a flatter valley full of primulas and azalea bushes. We still have a good 2-3 hours to go to reach our campsite, a long haul. A boulder-strewn, circular descent lead us, finally, to Bimtang, which means 'plain of sand', the region where the Samdo people keep their yaks and horses in the summer and winter months. The three sisters of the 'Three Sisters Hotel' are on hand with chilled beer as the evening clouds gather, turning pink behind the surrounding peaks ...

Day 23 - Trek to Tilje 2300m
A chilly but beautiful morning, as the sun behind the ridge hits the peaks around us long before the campsite. After leaving the grazing fields of Bimtang, we climb to a ridge over the moraine, soon afterwards crossing a boulder-strewn river, which recently flooded, on a wooden bridge. We ascend and then head down through open forests of brilliantly blooming rhododendron, juniper, birches and spruce past the doksas below Bimtang. En route we might pass Samdo-pa returning from their shopping in the Manang region with their loaded horses. Butterflies flutter peacefully around us, hummingbirds dart from tree to tree, and white strawberry flowers and azalea bushes are underfoot as we descend through forests of rhododendron, with the back side of Manaslu openning up impressively in front of us. We follow the intersecting glacial rivers, increasingly large as we drop, and eventually cross a steel Bailey's bridge and reach the small hamlet of Karche where there is a tea-house and lodge, and where the porters are having their dal baht. We might eat here, or perhaps we'll lunch just below along the riverside, now the Dudh Khola.

We continue along the rocky river-bed, often on trails which traverse sliding hillsides, to several small, green villages, a sign that we've reached lower altitudes. After a somewhat long (6-7 hours) but very scenic day we reach the large village of Tilje and our campsite in the lower section of the village in the yard of a small teahouse. The inhabitants of Tilje are a mix of Manangis, Ghale Gurung and Chettris (Hindus) so have developped a unique architecture and culture, and eat a mix foods ranging from dal bhat and buckwheat dhiro to tsampa to Tibetan salt-butter tea. The deep gorge ahead marks the land of apple pie, cold beers and hot showers, otherwise known as the Annapurna Circuit.

Day 24 - Trek to Jagat
It's an easy trekking day following the Dudh Khola through bamboo forests down to Dharapani, an atmospheric Tibetan village with prayer flags fluttering in the wind, stopping en route at the gompa in Thongje on the old Annapurna trail. Trekking south on the main Annapurna Circuit trail, we soon arrive at a long suspension bridge over which we cross the Marsyangdi River to reach the small village of Karte, re-crossing it soon afterwards. We continue along a high, winding, stunning cliff-side trail past several small teahouses at Khorte, and then switch backing down the steep trail before crossing the Marsyangdi River yet again. Before us to the left we drop to river level and spot the wide plain and waterfall at scenic Tal, the last village of the Lower Manang region.

Tal means lake, and the area here was formed when the valley was blocked by a landslide and a dam formed behind. The lake has long gone and now the village of Tal sits on the river flats. Continuing along the left bank of the riverside, we have a quick ascent to the entrance 'kane' of Tal, and after cresting the small hump, we descend steeply past the small teahouses at Sattale, loosing even more altitude as we continue down on an undulating trail through the lush forest to the river and cross another suspension bridge leading to Chamje. a short hike uphill. Chamje is an atmospheric, 'wild west' village of traditional-style teahouses, often packed with saddled local horses. From here the road-building is full-on, so we'll continue as far as we can get, and hop in our jeeps. But before then we have one more hour-long descent along the new dirt road, looking across the river to large waterfalls, to reach the (once) lovely cobbled village of Jagat, situated on a shelf which juts into the precipitous Marsyangdi valley. Jagat isn't what it used to be as the road now passes through it, but it's still got charm and we'll appreciate staying in rooms and eating in the dining room for our last night on the trail ...

Day 25 - Drive to Kathmandu
Back to the lush, semi-tropical middle hills of Nepal. We'll have a bumpy drive to Besi Sahar, the old start of the Annapurna circuit, and then continue driving for five (plus) hours back to Kathmandu, so we'll try to head off early and will stop for lunch en route back. It is a different world back in the Nepali hills, and the gentle light sends us on our way back to the bustle of Nepal's capital. Finally, back at the Kathmandu Guest house and a real shower!

Day 26 - Depart
Sadly, we send you to the airport for your flight home ...

Extra Days in Kathmandu | Customize your Journey!
We have plenty of great suggestions for extra days, or weeks, in Nepal! See our Nepal & Kathmandu Modules | Customize Your Trip! to put together the perfect journey.

Mountain biking, rafting, vespa tours or yoga retreats around the Kathmandu valley or Pokhara, trips to Bhaktapur or Patan (Kathmandu Valley's other historic capital cities), a visit to the Newari temple of Changu Narayan and a night at the Fort Hotel in Nagarkot for sublime Himalayan panoramas, an Everest sightseeing flight, a luxurious stay at Temple Tree Resort & Spa, paragliding, hiking or zip-lining in Pokhara, a spa & wellness getaway at Dwarikas Resort in Dhulikhel, a relaxing excursion to Chitwan National Park Wildlife Safari & Tharu Villages (staying at Maruni Sanctuary Lodge) or Bardia National Park, a weekend of adventure, sauna and pampering at The Last Resort or five-star treatment in historic Dwarika's in Kathmandu.

Kamzang Journeys can customize any of these excursions for you, just inquire!

Manaslu+Tsum

Manaslu Region
Manaslu, the 8th highest peak on the planet, locally known as the 'mountain of the spirit', is one of the most spectacular snow-peaks in Nepal, and the Manaslu Circuit, officially open for trekking in the early 90s, a cultural trek par excellence, without a doubt one of the best treks in Nepal. Oddly, it's also one of the Nepal Himalaya's least known treks, and happily doesn't boast of apple-pie lodges, sprawling trekking villages, internet cafes or Western coffee shops. A trek around the 'high' Manaslu Circuit in Nepal is a step back in time, a glimpse of pristine Nepali and Tibetan villages, a walk through a remote Himalayan paradise. The diversity of the trek, from the Hindu middle hills to the Tibetan high-country dwellers, and the awesome mountain scenery of the Manaslu Himal and surrounding peaks combine to make this circuit one of the most interesting, as well as one of the most challenging, treks in Nepal.

HW Tillman and his team were the first mountaineering expedition to explore the region in 1950, and the Japanese the first team to climb it in 1956; since then, Manaslu has been known as a Japanese mountain, and because of its sensitive location right at the border of Tibet, few western trekkers ventured into the region. Up to the 1840s, Kutang and Nupri were part of western Tibet and paid taxes to Dzongka Dzong in Tibet. Nupri only incorporated into Nepal in the mid to late 19th century when Gorkha power finally extended into the region. Manaslu was closed after 1959 due to Khampa guerillas encamped in Nupri.

Tsum Valley
Tsum Valley shares the honor of being one of the few sacred 'beyuls', or spiritual sanctuaries discovered by Guru Rimpoche, in the mountainous border regions of the Nepal & Tibet Himalayan regions. There are many traditional Tibetan villages to explore, ancient Tibetan Buddhist monasteries with exquisite murals to visit, sublime views of the little-known Ganesh Himal (seven peaks in all) and salt butter tea to be shared with the local Tsum-pas and their friendly Buddhist monks and nuns. Tsum is a fantastically green valley in planting and growing season, from March - August, and sees few other trekkers. The movie 'Unmistaken Child' recounts the true story of a reincarnated lama, called a 'trulku', who was discovered in the Tsum valley.

The Tsum Valley Homestay site, one of the original organizations created to promote this far-flung valley describes the Tsum Valley this way: 'These magical valleys are purported to be havens of peace, prosperity, spirituality and a sacred refuge for true seekers and believers. In the 17th-century, Tsum Valley became known as Beyul Kyimolung ... Tsum is a sacred and magical beyul. One of Nepal's most beautiful valleys, it is isolated from the southern lowlands (a five day trek distant) by deep forested gorges and cascading rivers, and from Tibet in the north by high snow-covered passes. It is home to 18 small villages and about 4000 people of the indigenous ethnic group known as 'Tsumbas'. They are primarily of Tibetan origin and practice Buddhism and Bon religions. It is surrounded by soaring Himalayan peaks, including the Baudha Himal and Himal Chuli to the west, Ganesh Himal to the South and Sringi Himal to the north. The northern terminus of the valley is bounded by three high passes to Tibet, including Ngula Dhoj Hyang (5093 m.) to the east and Thapla Pass (5326 m.) to the west. There are no airports, roads or motorized vehicles in (or near) the Tsum Valley. All travel is done on foot along time-worn trails that feature many ancient chortens and carved mani stone walls inscribed with prayers and depictions of deities. The Buddhist saint Milarepa is believed to have meditated in caves of this mountainous valley, and it is home to over 100 monks and nuns at Mu Monastery and Rachen Nunnery. Many residents of Tsum report having seen or found signs of Mehti, commonly referred to in the West as the 'Yeti' or 'Abominable Snowman'. Tsum Valley only opened to foreign trekkers in 2008. Due to this, along with its remoteness and inaccessibility, Tsum Valley and its people have avoided commercial impacts and changes for centuries. As a result, its unique culture has remained largely intact. Since it has not been visited by many travelers, there are very few established amenities such as teahouses, hotels, stores or restaurants along the trail'.

'Tsum Valley is the starting point for the holy Kyimolung Trail, the 120km sacred circumambulation in Nepal and Tibet of Siringi Himal. Pilgrims used to trek around the mountain till Tibet became out of bounds, but they still do the partial trek on the Nepal side. Tourism in the Manaslu Circuit has been picking up with nearly 4,000 trekkers in 2012, but only one-fourth of that number went to Tsum which was opened only in 2008 as a restricted area for which visitors need a permit from the immigration office in Kathmandu.' - Sonam Lama, from article 'In the Mountain of the Soul', Nepali Times.

 Namaste & Tashi Delek!

© Kim Bannister

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