We link what most Nepal hands agree as the two most scenically
stunning treks in Nepal with a little trademark exploration and an optional 6000m scramble (!!!). This is a deeply appreciative and photogenic adventure.
We start with a full Upper Mustang trek to the fabled city of Lo Manthang then head
west into the high country over the imposing Kekyap La on the route that we pioneered in 2011. This huge, virtually unknown area is worthy of exploration and we aim to get 6000m high on Mustang Himal or Arniko Chuli before crossing to Chharka and enchanting Upper Dolpo. We traverse the high country via Tinje, just before the road-going-to-be highway dramatically alters Tinje forever (a reason to trek Upper Dolpo in 2018!).
From delightful Shimen, we cross to Saldang of Thinley, Himalaya (the movie) fame and to revered Shey Gompa via the stunning Namgung route. The kora around sacred Crystal Mountain is a spritual must do, and of course, we have a rest-explore day by surreal turquoise Phoksundo Lake. This is a longer trek however with at least seven rest-exploration days, it won't be as continuous as some of our other long treks. For the energetic, though, each of those days offers a tempting day trip.
This is the ultimate trekking adventure that traverses both Upper Mustang and the challenging-to-reach Panzang Valley of Upper Dolpo, and yet is only a few days longer than the traditional Upper Dolpo to Jomsom route (which cannot be reversed because of acclimatization issues). Our acclimatization plan is sound, and proven, and means the Panzang Valley route has no compromises either. We avoid the new road to Sangta too (yes; and instead mostly but not entirely avoid the road to Lo Manthang) and our trek is also timed to be culturally inoffense to the people of Lho, ie after the buckwheat harvest.
Ultimately, this is one of the greatest Nepal trekking adventures possible.
Our Upper Mustang and Upper Dolpo trek is a celebration of these gloriously scenic and culturally unique areas, however is at the tail end of the golden years of innocent trekking. There is a road being bulldozed from Sangta to Chharka, a dirt track now descends from Tibet through Tinje and has almost reached Dho-Tarap (but only a couple of kilometers are part of our trek) and, at last, Dunai (and Tarakot) is connected by jeep track to Jumla. These roads will join up, providing a trade road from Tibet to Jumla, dramatically changing accessibility to the region, and the style of trekking. I view these developments as positive, and they are the locals' choice anyway, however I sincerely hope that the protection Shey Phoksundo National Park begins functioning again, and indeed that the park and protections are extended. How many more times will we run this sort of ambitious caravan-style trek? The window is closing...
Previous Himalayan trekking experience is recommended. Upper Dolpo is remote trekking with
many 5000 meter passes, and particularly challenging if we are unlucky enough to get some snow. Bring a sense of
adventure and plenty of memory cards!
An alternative trek option is the 30 day Dolpo Ultimate, that we originally planned, get in touch if this is what suits you better.
For trekkers familiar with Upper Dolpo there is an option to to trek the first section, Upper Mustang and over the passes to Chharka and then head to Dho-Tarap and Phoksundo rather than further north. Please discuss!
And, anyone fancy a Mugu GHT special variation?
+ Upper Mustang
+ stunning, otherworld scenery
+ remote, little trekked route
+ a landscape photographer's paradise
+ stunning turquoise Phoksundo Lake
+ remote, magic Panzang valley
+ picturesque, culturally intact villages
+ our unique route around Crystal Mountain
+ well-timed rest days
+ breathtaking panoramas, big sky trekking
+ snow capped mountain views
+ peaceful, scenic wilderness camps
+ scenes from the movies 'Himalaya' & 'Seven Years in Tibet'
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 - 29 Sept - early arrival
Arrive early to recover from long flights, and to go sightseeing.
Day 1 - Sunday 30 September 2018 - arrive Kathmandu 1350m
2 - fly Pokhara 830m
No rest for the wicked, we fly to Pokhara, all permits in hand and perhaps stretch our legs up the World Peace Stupa.
3 - fly Jomsom, drive/trek Kagbeni ~2800m
Kagbeni is a gorgeous village.
4 - trek Tsaile (Chele) 3050m
Yay, we are in panoramic Upper Mustang!
5 - trek ~Syanboche ~3800m / Ghiling 3570m
6 - trek Dhakmar 3810m
7 - trek Lo Manthang 3800m
8-9 - stay Lo Manthang 3800m
The gompas have to been seen to be believed, and how about a horse ride north? We could save half a day ahead to give us a day in hand by leavin gthis afternoon.
10-11 - trek Grassy camp 4300m
We take an acclimatization day and there is a shapely hill to wander up.
12 - trek High Camp 4850m
13 - trek Ghyung Chu ~5100m via Kekyap La ~5600m
14-18 - exploring and climbing period ~5400m
We aim to explore the major valley and climb/scramble Mustang Himal or Arniko Chuli and cross a ~5700m pass.
19 - trek Chharka 4100m
20 trek Ghajyan Sumna ~4700m via Mola La 5030m
We enter the Panzang Valley, only leaving after Shimen.
21 - trek Chorten Margo camp ~4550m
22 - trek Tinje (Tinkyu) 4410m
With only a couple of hours trekking in the morning, this is almost a rest day - or explore around Tinje.
23 - trek Shimen 4940m
Again, this is a shorter day, with time to explore the village.
24 - trek Saldang via Shimen La 4260m
25 - trek Namgung 4430m
After exploring around Saldang, we have an afternoon's walk to camp.
26 - trek Shey Gompa 4343m via Sela La 5095m
And another day, another pass, the Yambur La 4813m.
27 - Shey Gompa 4343m
A well deserved rest day, or trek the kora of Crystal Mountain.
28 - trek high camp 4717m or further via Nangdala La 5350m
Alternatively, we may cross "our" pass, the Shyurik La ~5150m.
29 - trek Khola Camp 3725m
30 - trek Phoksundo 3725m
31 - Phoksundo 3725m
Relax at our lakeside camp, and visit the Bon gompa.
32 - trek Chepka 2675m
We drop below 3000m/10,000ft for the first time since Kagbeni.
33 - trek Suligad, trek-drive Juphal 2490m
34 - fly Juphal-Nepalgunj-Kathmandu
Day 35 - Saturday 3 November - depart
We suggest an evening flight tonight that gives an extra allowance for delayed domestic flights yesterday, or fly tomorrow.
Day 36 - 4 Nov - optional departure
The harvest in Dolpo
On our special route route to Shey; note the people dots in the mid-upper right corner
Pik and Ornella cruise down to Shey (Shelri Sumdo) Gompa, down to our camp already set up
"Snow Leopard Lake" under moonlight
To see the detailed itinerary and more photos use a laptop/desktop browser or tablet in landscape (and hit refresh).
We trek in the usual route in to Lo Manthang and avoid the four
wheel drive track as much as possible. You may notice we get to altitude quickly but then stay
at the 3800m level for a number days before heading higher.
Our itinerary is well planned with appropriate time for acclimatization to altitude and the multiple rest days can handle unscheduled delays, and there is a variety in the length of trekking
days with some half-days to/from villages, giving time to further wander around locally and enjoy.
Although this is the itinerary we plan, we adapt the itinerary to conditions and to the trekkers along with us.
Prior to your arrival in Kathmandu we send out an email with detailed arrival instructions including the visa procedure, meeting our staff, contact details and changing money etc.
Here is the itinerary for the Upper Mustang section.
Day 0 - early arrival
We suggest arriving today to recover from long flights and have an additional day to recover from the time zone changes, which are particularly brutal if coming from North America. You will be met at the
airport by our staff and escorted to the hotel where Jamie will meet you. We book
the extra nights hotel nights.
Day 1 - arrive Kathmandu 1350m
If you want to spend the minimum amount if time in Kathmandu then you can arrive today before 2pm so that we can take your passport to finish the permit process.
Our staff meet you at the airport, look for a sign with your name on it and Jamie will meet you at the hotel. Give your passport to the pickup staff for the final permit process.
We have a trip briefing in the hotel garden starting 6pm this evening and head out to
2 - Fly Pokhara 827m
We fly to Pokhara (less than an hour) sometime after lunch and relax in the warmth near the lake. Check out the World Peace Stupa if your legs need some excercise.
3 - Fly Jomsom, Trek Kagbeni ~2800m
It is an early morning flight to Jomsom, to beat the later morning winds,
and after meeting the crew (who came in overland), we stretch the legs with the less than three hour
walk to Kagbeni, a delightful village well worth exploring. We are trekking up the massive Kali Gandaki valley with Dhaulagiri and Annapurna towering
behind us unseen. It is said that the Kali Gandaki is the deepest gorge in the world,
with these monster 8000 metre peaks beside.
4 - Trek Tsaile / Chele 3050m
We leave the busy Annapurna region for the restricted area of Upper
Mustang, and enter a culturally unique area.
5 - Trek Syangboche 3850m
... lunch in shady Samar. We have a choice, the easier road route or the
more adventurous via Ranchung cave gompa. We get a view of this bridge below but don't cross it.
Spectacular - Jamie
6 - Trek Dhakmar 3820m
Today is perhaps the most colorful and scenic day of what is one of the most scenic treks there is.
The gorgeous colours and formations - Jamie
7 - Trek Lo Manthang 3800m
The last functioning walled city in the world...
8 - Lo Manthang
9 - stay Lo Manthang 3800m
In addition to exploring the village, there are plenty of other options. People often take a jeep or horses up valley to Chosar. We will discuss options while there.
10 - trek grassy camp 4300m
It is only half a day to our first wilderness camp as we climb 500m in altitude, a prudent gain considering how many nights we have already spent at around 3800m. There is a very special longer route to the camp that we will probably take, and will share it's secrets only on the trail.
11 - rest-explore grassy camp 4300m
This is a somewhat optional rest and acclimatization day, let's see how everyone is feeling.
12 - trek 4850m camp
Heading further up, the water and grass thin, and we camp at the last water source, in a pleasant camp with wonderful views across the valley to Tibet to the north, and across to the Saribung region and where we have previously explored.
Our delightful camp - Jamie
13 - cross Lakyep La ~5600, Ghyung Khola ~5100m
Also called the Kakyep La, we crawl up the stony pass, traversing around and up, and feel the altitude. The panorama is breathtaking for other reasons though, with much of the Annapurna range another peaks piercing the skyline.
The descent down the other side is steep and relentless, and basically we aim simply to get down to the bottom of the valley to a good camp site. The stream we are camping by cannot be climbed up, hence our pass.
Dawa and Da'Kusang discuss the route over the pass; Annapurna I in the background
14 - trek Arniko Chuli BC ~5400m
The terrain opens out as we gently gain altitude in the valley. Let's see how far up the valley we get, but probably we camp by a glacial lake.
Kiang, the wild ass of Tibet, rarely seen in Nepal however we will almost certainly see them.
15 - rest-exploration Arniko Chuli BC ~5400m
There are peaks and passes everywhere here. First we have to work out which peak is the real Arniko Chuli!
16 - rest-exploration Arniko Chuli BC ~5400m
We have another day of exploring, or resting and reading, and preparing for the climb tomorrow.
This is not Arniko Chuli but is indicative of what we might be climbing
18 - climb Arniko Chuli 6039m
The route is probably over rubble first, then onto the snow where with a bit of luck there are no crevasses meaning we can get away without harness; let's see.
19 - trek snow leopard lake 5370m
Retracing our path, we turn up the other main valley to camp by a delightful lake.
20 - cross 5760m pass to camp 5500m
This is a high region and our pass bears this out, stony and without a real trail but the reward is a a descent that opens into a pleasant valley and we camp where ever we reach.
35 - depart
You are free to leave Kathmandu today, however it is probably worth planning an evening flight as just occasionally the Jomsom-Pokhara flight is delayed, perhaps a couple of times a month, and so this allows for a delay. Alternatively stay an extra night for some shopping...
Photo galleries of the 2011 trip
We had a classic exploratory adventure, check out Jamie's public Flickr albums.
For more info on the region also check out Paulo Grobel's explorations, his Araniko Chuli page, in particular, and the translated version. Sometimes it feels like I have followed in Paulo's footsteps, across Saribung, and this Arniko Chuli area, and in ideas, such as exploring about Simikot. He is a great explorer; however we have done more than our share of exploring in the east of Nepal too.