The newest section of the Nepal Great Himalaya Trail and
the toughest trek in the world, but also incredibly rewarding
The far west of Nepal is barely trekked, indeed the high country only partially explored, and we have been at the forefront of pioneering high country treks. We first researched and succeeded on this route in 2012 then slightly refined the route in 2015, finding it a most beautiful and satisfying trek with rich variety from virtually the Indian plains to the Tibetan Plateau, but it is definitely challenging too. No other trekking group has trekked this Darchula to Simikot route to date; all others who have tried have failed.
Ours is a journey in the truest sense of the word. Flying to the far west Tarai and driving from there we experience the transition from hot plains to abrupt and steep hills with glimpses of the distant Himalayan giants. We begin innocuously enough at the edge of the wide band of less steep hills that is home to the bulk of Nepal's population, the verdant middle hills where children skip to school and small shops line developing main streets, sometimes sweaty trekking where we are almost out of place. Leaving the road head ribbon behind though, the country rapidly becomes rougher and steeper, so steep women cut the grass rather than let animals wander. Arable areas shrink and are further apart, and this is the remote high middle hills with glimpses of the Himalayan giants, friendly villages and authentic namastes. Api is one of the icons with it sheer face and piercing profile, and Nampa the other that lends its name to the national park in the process of being established.
The introduction is over now and leaving the last village we climb steeply into what is a tortured landscape, beautiful isolated alpine areas that touch the Himalayan giants above, rumbles of avalanches occasionally waking us. In contrast to eastern Nepal, nobody inhabits these areas because of plants poisonous to sheep, cows and horses during this late season. However, in summer these thick grassy areas are alive with people on their knees parting the grass, the yarsagunbu hunters (who sadly often leave their rubbish behind). We have a couple of weeks of pretty camps with snow mountain views, camp fires when on the edge of forest, steep passes and even glimpses of Tibet, and feeling the colors and textures of the Tibetan Plateau.
After breaking through between the Api and Saipal ranges, we climb around the back of the Kairang range, breathtaking Phirankoph Chuli and 7030m Saipal, to emerge at isolated, unlikely Chala, a village that time has forgotten. We have one more ridge to cross, camping at one of the most beautiful camps in all of western Nepal before reaching Simikot town. Stuck in a time warp, this is our last of our many authentic Wild West experiences before flying out and back to dusty Kathmandu.
And the "toughest trek in the world"? Although the highest pass is only around 5200m, and eight passes is nowhere near a pass a day, each pass has a steep ascent and descent, I rate several as heinous, a word I don't use lightly, and more than that there are a surprising number of sections of the trail including the formidable Seti Gorge so steep they will test your nerves, so uncomfortably steep, it is hard to believe the porters just skip down, shoes seemingly superglued on the slopes. There is also a relentlesssness about these sections that mean in an expedition-style trek we end up having short but intense trekking days. Logistically, too, it rates the most challenging with two weeks between villages at our group pace, and there are few companies that will get the logistics right for this. This utter remoteness, the free camping, the wilderness, mean our Wild West trek is one of the most adventurous treks there is.
Join us for an exhilarating, satisfying adventure!
2/3 star hotel in Kathmandu, single with breakfast
1 night Nepalgunj hotel, twinshare
domestic flights as per the itinerary
group transportation by private vehicle
entrance fees and permits as needed
Kathmandu group dinner
Expedition-style trek includes
all meals, afternoon tea and hot drinks
roomy single tent / large double for couples
thin mat to protect your air mattress
our special comfy dining tent
and more Project Himalaya comforts
porter and horse porterage
very experienced crew
we care for our porters providing:
warm jacket, pants, hat, gloves & sunglasses
warm duvets, mattresses and sleeping tents
Nice touches included
fresh filtered coffee for breakfast
solar charging for cameras, USB devices
filtered drinking water at camp
Our service excludes
insurance, Nepal visa, other meals in Kathmandu
additional hotel nights due to delays
satellite phone however available for rent
international flights, equipment rental, alcohol, bottled water and soft drinks, laundry,
tipping and other items of a personal nature
Tips & extra cash
allow approx $50 per day for Kathmandu meals
allow more if you are a shopaholic
we suggest 5% of the trip cost per trekker for the crew tips pool
Day 0 - - early arrival
This is the best arrival day as you have a day in Kathmandu for shopping and recovering.
Day 1 - - arrive Kathmandu 1350m
This is the latest arrival day and it is better to arrive before 10am. Jamie will meet the group in Kathmandu and help prepare all details.
2 - fly Dhangadhi
No rest for the wicked, we take the morning flight and meet the crew who have
driven from Kathmandu and drive with them in a private bus into the evening, perhaps staying at Dadeldhura.
3 - drive Gunna, drive/trek Churani School
More driving with the crew and porters, to the road head at Gunna. Note the
airports nearby are non-functional. In 2012 we
started in Darchula; this trip we save some torturous driving to focus on the
trek. If the road has been improved then we may be able to trek to near Okhal today in which case we have a day in hand, always handy.
4 - trek Okhal
5 - trek Sabbad
6 - trek Ghajir
The last village for quite some distance...
7 - trek Dharamghar
This palce, like half of the rest of the following place names have yet to make it on maps.
8 - rest-acclimatize Dharamghar
9 - trek Thane Ula via Bire Pharatak 4698m
10 - trek Tapaun via Dubai Khan 4583m
11 - trek Gaishera via Sirukuti 4320m
12 - trek Nilkatti via Nilkatti Khan 4950m
13 - trek near Saraphu Odar via Seti Gorge
We trek the formidable Seti Gorge, which only enhances the "hardest trek in the world" reputation
14 - trek Riungde
15 - Riungde
We can make a day trip to the top of the Urai Bhanjyang/Urai Khan, the historic trading pass to Tibet.
16 - trek wolf camp via no name pass
An early sun camp, finally.
17 - trek Thado Khola camp
This is a lunch camp, and can be combined with yesterday if we have lost a day. Otherwise it is possible to make a day trip to the Lookphu, a pass to Tibet.
18 - trek camp opposite Syang Tal via ridge pass
19 - trek Thang Chenbo via Zimgang La
20 - trek Tomilie/Logebsa
21 - trek Chala
Our first village since Ghajir, the curious Chala.
22 - trek Tosa
23 - trek Chhoila Tso
24 - rest Chhoila Tso
A well deserved rest day, although this day also gives flexibility for "What if's"...
25 - trek Dharapori
26 - trek to Simikot
27 - fly Simikot-Nepalgunj-Kathmandu
We fly via Nepalgunj and continue to Kathmandu, the same day. Simikot's runway is now full width and sealed, thankfully, making it
less exciting than it used to be.
Day 28 - trip ends (late
The trip ends today and you are free to fly out of Kathmandu however note the
domestic flight out of Simikot yesterday is entirely dependent
on good visibility. It is possible to be delayed, and leaving today after 8pm
allows an extra day to cover possible domestic flight delays, or leave
tomorrow to be safe, and allow time for shopping (unique Christmas gifts?).
(Day 29 - safer departure date)
You can end in Simikot with the flights back to Kathmandu or continue to Rara Lake and fly out of Talcha. Talk with us if interested.
Jeff: look at where we are! - Jamie McGuinness
Saving data; use your phone in landscape to see the detailed itinerary and more photos.