Bali - Bal Bahadur Lopchan, star guide and organizer Jamie McGuinness

 

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Jeff: look at where we are! - Jamie McGuinness

GHT

The Great Himalaya Trail is the longest and highest trekking trail in the world, a trail from one end of the Himalaya to the other and Jamie and friends, Robin Boustead and Richard Bull particularly, are deeply involved in trekking and promoting it.

There are two main websites with lots of info, Robin Boustead's GreatHimalayaTrail.com and and the NGO-run GreatHimalayaTrail.org.

The missing section of the Nepal GHT

This last section of the Nepal Great Himalaya Trail is worth briefly explaining. When Robin Boustead, myself and others debated this area, in an ideal world trekking from Simikot to Kailash appealed, then dropping into India. However now there is a road all the way to Kailash (beginning from Tumkot less than two days walk from Simikot) and it will be a long time before tourists can ever cross between China and India since their border is in dispute, basically meaning in reality this route will never be feasible.

Additionally when Robin trekked the high route across the rest of Nepal, he took the less challenging cultural GHT route for the very last section to Darchula. So last section of the high route was never trekked. A number of people previously tried and failed. There is more detail and history in my guidebook coming out sometime.

Check Roger Nix's brief blog summary of our 2015 trek, with pros and cons..

Gear

It is critical to bring the right gear. Most importantly do bring sturdy trekking boots, we are trekking over rough terrain. These must be almost new (no old boots!) and should be relatively tough and strong, ie not the very lightest models. We must be prepared for some light snow, although I hope our trek is snow-free.

See Scarpa UK's trek range to get an idea of the choices. Fabric and leather boots trekking boots work, as do all leather options. You want to balance light weight with toughness and support, and each person weighs these values differently.

This trek is particularly logistically challenging and we have a 16kg baggage limit for the porters; that does not include your day pack that you carry yourself.

Fitness

You MUST have a good level of trekking fitness as this trek is particularly strenuous with lots of passes, day after day, and sections of ups and downs during other days. We did not set out to make this the "toughest trek in the world" and we don't trek more than five to seven hours each day, however it is the terrain that makes it tough, relentless ups and downs. It is a particularly rewarding trek too.

Trek style

We trek standard Nepal expedition style, with you carrying a day pack, porters carry the gear and we have a kitchen crew to cook for us. So in some ways it is basically a standard camping trek, the differences are that we won't be able to resupply, and that we are unlikely to meet another trekking group except at Simikot.

Background to the area

Why won't a land border open between India and China for foreigners? See The Record article about the Mahakali-Kalapani border dispute area. Briefly, the three way border with India, Nepal and Tibet should be above the originating stream of the Mahakali River, however the Indians have fudged it, chosen a more convenient point for themselves, and Nepal hasn't complained enough so doesn't have a stake in the straightforward Lipu Lekh pass which is set to become a China-India trade point sometime soonish. So instead border post #1 between Nepal and Tibet is the Tinkar Pass, and the Urai Bhanjyang is #2, which we have a chance to visit.

As a backup, Nepal's longer term plans is to open a road from Chainpur to the Urai Bhanjyang, indeed the first 25km of this route from Chainpur is already a new, rough road. However it will take some time to get to the northern sections, ie the Seti Gorge and where we walk, and the roadbuilding will be particularly tough there. Still, better to trek this area sooner rather than a decade later, there is always a chance that China offers to build part of the road in which case they will put considerably more energy into it, and have considerably more skill than Nepal.

The Seti Gorge is roughly where Garaph is written on the map below, and is a particularly formidable gorge that has had a reputation as tough and dangerous ever since a trail was first made, hundreds of years ago. Surely there are alternative routes through? Ha, once you start exploring the area you will realize, no, there are none that might be easier. The terrain all around is utterly fearsome.

The Lipu Lekh, Seti Gorge and the Urai Bhanjyang feature in Sydney Wignall's delightfully readable Spy on the Roof of the World, a book well worth bringing on the trek and usually available in Kathmandu, sometimes even secondhand.

Maps

The double-sided GHT map Far West NP110 covers Darchula to Simikot and is readily available on Amazon and from other map shops, and in Kathmandu. Although it is the only map that covers the area well, it is also the best and Jamie personally updates it. There is also a large GHT-themed route planning map of Nepal that will have you drooling.

Below, our route is the dotted green line, with Dadedhura underlined in the bottom left corner, and we drive on the road then continue on the thick green line which is also a road, built to high standard since it leads to the on a gain off again Chameliya hydro project. Then the trekking begins. We end in Simikot, underlined in the right upper quadrant.

Real exploration

We love exploring, truly exploring and have many firsts to our credit and major achievements that we haven't previously publicized, but as importantly, they have been amazingly successful, fun treks too. From 1998-2006 we explored the greater Kanchenjunga region with 7x 42 days treks then since 2008 have been opening routes of the the Nepal Great Himalaya Trail (GHT) and assisting with the GHT maps and guidebooks.

Most trek pages below have links to photo galleries, or see our Nepal Photos Inspiration. We are also exploring in Ladakh, India...

2016 Upper Dolpo & Mu La - getting to Bhijer wasn't as hard as we expected, and we finished our Mu La exploration from 2014, crossing this last somewhat enigmatic pass in front the Dhaulagiris.

2015 GHT Wild West - we straightened the last section from Darchula to Simikot, and successfully explored the Simikot-Mugu high route, a first, and a route that is unlikely to ever be repeated.

2014 GHT Mu La exploration - we investigated Lower Dolpo's Mu La as a GHT alternative but were snowed out by Cyclone Hudhud

2013 GHT Tilman's and Tashi Labtsa Wild - we found the hard way the map+guide book are wrong on Tilman's; and had great conditions for the Tashi Labtsa

2012 GHT Wild West exploration - we broke trail to be the very first trekkers ever to trek Darchula to Simikot between Api and Saipal, staying completely in Nepal ... !

2011 GHT Dolpo Wild exploration - we were the very first commercial trek team across the Lakyap/Kekyap passes (thanks, Paulo Grobel), rerouted the GHT near Bhijer saving a 5368m pass crossing and crossed the tough high route between Dolpo and Mugu without incident.

2010 GHT Mustang & Saribung Wild - we traversed from Upper Mustang to Nar-Phu and climbed Saribung, 6328m, with 100% team success then traversed around Manaslu as well.

2009 GHT Makalu Wild - we were the very first commercial trek team to trek Chyangtang to Makalu Base Camp the direct way (Robin Boustead was the first).

2008 Limi-Saipal - Jamie discovered the crucial pass near Saipal for the 2012 trek after guiding James Vlahos writing for Nat Geo; thanks Nepal Trust.

2007 Manaslu Wild - we explored the Tsum Valley to the Tibet border, and also explored the peaks and passes above Samdo.

2006 Kanchen Gola Wild - first trekkers ever to the top the Umbak La to Tibet

2005 Kanchen Gola Wild - first commercial trek to cross the Lumbasamba, Kanchenjunga to the Makalu region, crucial for the GHT

2004 Nangpa La exploratory - trekking to the Tibet border in the Everest region for the guide book Trekking in the Everest Region

2003 Kanchen Gola Wild - first trekkers to the top of Olangchung Gola's Tipta La (after Joseph Hooker in 1848)

2002 Kanchen Gola Wild - first trekkers to Yangma's 5746m Ghari La

2001 Kanchenjunga Wild - first trekkers to the Chabuk La, virgin peak ascent, a climb of Tengkoma peak and saw snow leopards, see Wanda's diary.

2000 Manaslu High - we trekked the Tsum valley prior to Tsum being opened and climbed Chulu Far East

1999 Kanchenjunga-Makalu - 42/75 day trek (!)

1998 Wild Kanchenjunga - the trek that started the Kanchenjunga exploration series; we didn't meet any other trekkers.

1998 Churen Surprise - a trek to Churen Himal base camp above Gurjagoan, a trek that still few people have ever heard of.

To see the detailed itinerary and more photos use a laptop/desktop browser or tablet in landscape (and hit refresh).

2015 GHT galleries

Roger has some wide panoramas on Google Photos and a huge Flickr set.

2012 GHT galleries

We discovered and explored the route from Darchula to Simikot, behind Saipal, the very first to trek here. See Jamie's public Flickr sets.

 

Jamie's Flickr photo sets

Jamie's Flickr sets