Jamie McGuinness, Project Himalaya owner-guide
Leader Jamie McGuinness
Bali - Bal Bahadur Lopchan, star guide and organizer


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The harvest in Tinkyu (Tinje), 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

Saving data; use your phone in landscape to see the detailed itinerary and more photos.

Upper Mustang photos

We absolutely love trekking through Upper Mustang and here are three galleries of one of our previous treks.

2013 Upper Mustang Exploration


2011 GHT Upper Mustang 2010 GHT1 Upper Mustang


Also, take a look at some incredible photos by Cory Richards' photos of a National Geographic expedition to investigate some inaccessible caves that are starting to give up some of the secrets of the region. We will talk about the caves that we see everywhere, once we are on the trail.

Detailed Itinerary

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 nearly a week 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

To explore Kathmandu and recover from long flights, we suggest arriving a day before the trip is scheduled to start. There is just so much to see and do, whether wandering around the various Durbar (King's) squares or taking a guided tour.

An additional day is also best to aid recovery from long flights and time zone changes, which are particularly brutal if coming from North America.

Early arrivals 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 either today or tomorrow morning.

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.

A stormy evening at Bauddha stupa, a great place for dinner

2 - fly Pokhara 827m

After the office has delivered 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 to laid back Pokhara. Touristy lakeside is an area of cafes, souvenir trinkets, trekking gear shops and hotels.

Lets check out the World Peace Stupa if your legs need some exercise.

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 Chhusang 2980m (/ 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 the village of Chhusang, mainly flat trekking this morning with minor climbs only, passing through authentic villages with apple orchards. Already there are organ pipe cliffs, hoodoos and ancient, inaccessible caves dug into vertical conglomerate.

This is probably a lunch camp for us so the afternoon will be free to relax, or to explore up to Tetang village and the spectacular cliffs there. As Chhusang is more usually a lunch stop, we might have the place to ourselves in the warm evening.

Harvest time - we are trekking while the fields are ripe with crops, and then through the harvest and threshing period too

5 - Trek Samar 3600m via Dajori La 3755m

We trek, briefly, along the river and then across the Kali Gandaki on bridges to Tsaile, which is the local name but this is often spelt Chele or variations on that. And here the climb begins. We have a choice of two routes, although it is not much of a choice as following the road is no fun so we take the interesting route via Ghyakar and then over the Dajori La (pass) with the huge views back to the Nilgiri mountains. Again, shady Samar is more frequently a lunch stop however we stay in the sister's lodge of our good friend Karma, a Mustang guide who now lives in the USA.

Samar is also not as high in altitude as alternative itinerary options, so a slightly more gentle introduction to the altitude rigors of Upper Mustang.

The bridge to Ghyakar - Jamie

Dajori La view - spectacular! - Jamie

6 - Trek Jhaite 3820m

Today's alternative route avoiding the road is to the compelling Chungsi Cave Gompa, also called Ranchung. Leaving Samar, we pass through a "kani", a protective chorten designed to cleanse evil spirits or thoughts. So don't think badly about the descent, and there is a delightful reward both in the sheer cliffs and the tucked away gompa with is unique inner kora in the cave. Continuing, we climb back to the main trail amid craggy, sheer walls.

For the afternoon the most direct route to our camp is probably best, passing by a huge, colourful chorten to admire and Chunggar. If you have excess energy though, detour via Ghiling, and its gompa there.

A feature of Upper Mustang are the strikingly set huge chortens, here on the outskirts of Chunggar

7 - 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

8 - Trek Lo Manthang 3800m

We cover a longer but easy distance, crossing the Mui La 4170m and the Chago La at 4280m to the heart of Upper Mustang, the last functioning walled city in the world, Lo Manthang. For the people of Lo, this is the largest village of the region, and the old seat of the kingdom, and once a major trade station for Tibetan (and Mustangi) salt, and wool. While the trade has shrivelled, tourism has stepped in. But all that is about to change again as Nepal is breaking up into federal states, and each will want direct trading links. The people of Lo will again become traders with Tibet, once the road is upgraded.

Dharma protector - Jamie

9-10 - stay Lo Manthang 3800m

In addition to exploring the walled city and the unique gompas, there are plenty of other options. Take a horse or jeep up valley to Chosar and the caves, or rarely visited Konchokling (which a few of us trekked to in 2018).. We will discuss options while there.

11 - trek grassy camp 4300m

In a change of character, we leave villages behind, camping in wilderness for the next 10 or so days, although perhaps with nomads for the first two nights. It is only half a day 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.

12 - rest-explore grassy camp 4300m

We are camped next to friendly nomads, basically the only Tibetan-style nomads in Nepal!

13 - 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

14 - 4850m camp

A rest and exploration day with plenty of possibilities including some high hills nearby.

15 - cross Kekyap La ~5600m, 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 and along the valley to a good camp site, which we use as a base for the next few days.

Dawa and Da'Kusang discuss the route over the pass; Annapurna I in the background

16 - 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.

17-19 - Arniko Chuli BC ~5400m

There are peaks and passes everywhere here. First we have to work out which peak is the real Arniko Chuli!

This is not Arniko Chuli but is indicative of what we might be climbing

20-37 ...

I don't have a detailed itinerary written for the rest of the trek; I will work on it sometime, perhaps - or just come along to experience it for real!

These are the Tsakhang gompas on the Crystal Mountain kora - Jamie

A yak shepherds a nak (female yak) amid the autumn colours near Namgung - Jamie

Traditional chuba-clad girls of Dolpo - Jamie

Don't believe "It never rains in Dolpo" - it might be rain shadow but it can still rain! - Jamie

38 - trek Phoksundo 3725m

We climb through birch forest to cross a small pass so as to avoid the cliffs below; and it is a panorama of the oh so turquoise lake that is worth the sweat. Descending, there is a traversing section then we will probably reach our camp by the lake for lunch.

That colour! - Jamie

39 - trek Chepka 2675m

Passing through the village of Ringmo, we descend on an initially dusty trail, dropping below 3000m/10,000ft for the first time since Kagbeni. Once beside the sparkling turquoise river, it is warm, pleasant walking amid the forest. We should move steadily as this is a moderately long trekking day.

Bali and the crew relax for a moment over tea in a local tea shop - Jamie

It is a delight descending the Phoksundo River - Jamie

40 - trek Suligad, trek-drive Juphal 2490m

Leaving forest behind, it is now a valley of thick grass. At the army post, we meet the main valley and the dirt road from Dunai, still not busy (I hope) and after following this for perhaps an hour, we take climb again in the hot sun taking walking trails for the shortcut to the airport area. We farewell our horsemen who return to their village near Dunai, and also to our crew, who trek down river roughly a day to where they can take a long distance bus back to Kathmandu.

41 - fly Juphal-Nepalgunj-Kathmandu

Fingers crossed for our fine weather only flight out of Juphal.

Day 42 - depart

You are free to leave Kathmandu today, however it is probably worth planning an evening flight as just occasionally the Juphal-Nepalgunj flight is delayed, perhaps a couple of times a month, and so this allows for a delay. Alternatively stay an extra day for cleaning up and shopping...