We trek on the usual route in to Lo Manthang and avoid the four
wheel drive track as much as possible.
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. We get to altitude quickly but then stay
at the 3800m level for a number days before heading higher.
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.
Day 0 - early arrival
If you haven't been to Kathmandu previously, we suggest arriving a day before the trip is scheduled to experience the city. There is just so much to see and do, whether wandering around the various Durbar (King's) squares or taking a guided tour.
The additional day is also best to aid recovery from long flights and 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 and you can pay ahead or on arrival.
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.
Jamie will show you around Thamel, the funky tourist area, to shop for maps and last minute gear. We have a trip briefing in the hotel garden starting 6pm this evening and head out to dinner together.
2 - fly Pokhara 827m
After the office has finished collecting all the permits, sometime after lunch, we take a short half hour flight to Pokhara in an approx 50 seater propeller aircraft. From the right side of the plane, the huge Himalayan mountains rise from the middle hills, dotted with villages and terraced fields. It is a relief to transition from the appalling Kathmandu traffic but smart new domestic terminal to laid back Pokhara. Touristy lakeside is an area of cafes, souvenir trinkets, trekking gear shops and hotels.
Check out the World Peace Stupa if your legs need some excercise.
Machapuchare from a morning excursion viewpoint near Pokhara
3 - fly Jomsom, trek Kagbeni ~2800m
It is an early morning flight to Jomsom, to beat the regular midday 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, and most visibly the Nilgiri mountains towering
behind us and it is said that the Kali Gandaki is the deepest gorge in the world,
with these monster 8000 metre peaks soaring no less than five kilometers above.
Kagbeni overlooks the Kali Gandaki River, and is a warren of mud brick alleys, an authentic taste of what is to come.
Kagbeni with colourful buckwheat fields and a glimpse of the soaring Niligiri mountains
4 - Trek Tsaile / Chele 3050m
Leaving Kagbeni, we pass through the restricted area checkpost; no more Annapurna Circuit trekkers. We walk on the eastern side of the Kali Gandaki as we trek along to Chele, mainly flat trekking today with minor climbs only, passing through authentic villages with apple orchards. Already there are organ pipe cliffs and ancient, inaccessible caves dug into vertical conglomerate.
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
Dharma protector - Jamie
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 - climb Arniko Chuli 6039m
The route is probably over rubble first, then onto the snow where there are no crevasses meaning we can get away without ropes and harness.
This is not Arniko Chuli but is indicative of what we might be climbing
17 - trek snow leopard lake 5370m
Retracing our path, we turn up the other main valley to camp by a delightful lake.
18 - 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 descent that opens into a pleasant valley. There is an alternative route up Arniko Chuli from this Dolpo side, and lets see how the weather and conditions were previously. This might be a better scrambling route.
19 - trek Chharka 4100m
We should reach Chharka today, if possible. And now we are in Upper Dolpo proper!
I don't have a detailed itinerary written for the rest of the trek; I will work on it sometime!
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.
Jamie's Flickr sets
The 2011 GHT Mustang and the 2011 GHT to Dolpo are the relevant galleries; the others - eye candy!
Carsten Nebel, an itinerate trekker and one of the 2011 explorers also has a Flicker Nepal Mustang 2011 set.
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.