Jamie McGuinness - Project Himalaya owner-guide


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The Dajori La 3795m, our Himalayan spectacular first pass - Jamie

These Upper Mustang colours approaching Dhakmar are reputed to be the blood of a demoness in the tales of the region.
For scale, there is a person in front of the right-most chorten - Jamie

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

Detailed Itinerary

We trek the usual route to Lo Manthang but taking an extra day and avoiding 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 on arrival procedure, meeting our staff, contact details and changing money etc.

Classic Upper Mustang near Luri Gompa

Day 0 - early arrival

Our trip already has a full day in Kathmandu at the beginning however, you may want to consider an extra days if you haven't been to Kathmandu previously. There is just so much to see a do, whether wandering around the various Durbar (King's) squares or taking a guided tour.

An additional day also aids recovery from long flights and time zone changes, which are particularly brutal if coming from the Americas.

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

Our staff meet you at the airport, look for a sign with your name on it and Jamie will meet you at the hotel. We take your passport for the final permit process.

Jamie will show you around Thamel, the funky tourist area, pointing out the best restaurants, the shops 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 - Kathmandu sightseeing

We arrange a morning or full day guided tour of the main sights of Kathmandu, and with seven world heritage sites in the valley, there is no shortage of places to see. However, for a truly special experience wander around the Bauddha (below) or Swayumbunath in the evening.

A stormy evening at Bauddha stupa

3 - fly Pokhara 827m

We take a short half hour flight to Pokhara in an ~50 seater propeller aircraft. From the right side of the plane, huge Himalayan mountains rise from the middle hills that are dotted with villages and terraced fields. It is a relief to transition from the appalling Kathmandu traffic to laid back Pokhara, which has a new international airport currently under construction. Touristy lakeside is an area of cafes, souvenir trinkets, trekking gear shops and hotels.

Check out the World Peace Stupa if your legs want some excercise.

4 - 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. 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 us.

Kagbeni overlooks the Kali Gandaki River, and is a warren of mud brick alleys, an authentic taste of a Tibetan-style village and of what is to come.

Kagbeni with colourful buckwheat fields and a glimpse of the soaring Niligiri mountains

5 - trek Chhusang 3000m

Leaving Kagbeni, we pass through the restricted area checkpost. Kagbeni and south are in what is classified as Lower Mustang and are part of the popular Annapurna Circuit. Beyond, through the checkpost is Upper Mustang, long restricted by an expensive restricted area permit.

We walk on the eastern side of the Kali Gandaki River as we trek along to Chhusang village, mainly flat trekking today with minor climbs only, passing through authentic villages with apple orchards. Already there are eye-catching organ pipe cliffs and inaccessible caves dug into the vertical conglomerate rock.

We plan to have an easier day to Chhusang and once installed in our lodge-camp, this gives time to wander along the side valley to the village of Tetang, off the usual beaten track, or simply to relax and soak up the atmosphere in this distinctive place.

Harvest time (for seasonal reference, taken 26 September, 2010)

6 - trek Samar 3600m via Dajori La 3795m

Again, today is a shorter than usual trail day if we were to take the direct, fastest trail. However, with our additional time, lets take a minor detour through Ghyakar village, infrequently visited by trekkers.

We stay in shady Samar village at the lodge owned by brother of Karma, who has guided us with such energy on several treks up here. Unfortunately for us, Karma now living in the USA.

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

Spectacular, the bridge to Ghyakar - Jamie

7 - trek Zhaite 3820m via Syanboche La 3850m

Today's alternative route 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 hidden 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

8 - trek Dhakmar 3820m via Nye La 4010m

Every day is more scenic than the last, if that is possible. We climb over a minor but spectacular pass, then descend to the village of Ghami with tiers of fields, watered by the Ghami Khola, a steep valley that we explored once. We lunch at a well-known lodge that has an incredible array of souvenirs.

Leaving, the mood changes to forbidding fluted red rock canyons and we pass the longest mani wall in Mustang that has quite s story to it, being the blood and entrails of a demoness eventually slayed here.

The gorgeous colours and formations - Jamie

9 - trek Lo Manthang 3800m via 2x passes

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 town of 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.


10-11 - Lo Manthang 3800m

In addition to exploring the impressive gompas in the walled city, there are so many other of other options for day trips that we stay two full days here.

People often take a jeep or horses up valley to Chosar, the caves and gompa there. We will discuss the many options while there.

A gompa protector

12 - trek Dhi 3400m

There is the quick way back, and the scenic eastern side, which we take. Optionally, you could jeep to Charang, explore the village then trek to Dhi.


13 - Yara 3650m via Luri Gompa

Luri is a unique cave gompa, set amid the incredible crumbled terrain, and is a "must visit" if we are in the region. It really gives an insight to the dedication of the faith and also of how people used to live, when everybody lived in caves, perhaps 500 years or more ago.

Climbing up to Luri Cave Gompa

14 - trek Tangye 3240m via ~4000m pass

Now that we are more trekking fit, we cover some distance today with a normal day but a steady pace, and the landscape entertains.

New Dhi; the plan was (?) for the village to relocate here, due to water issues

15 - trek Tetang 3040m / Chhusang

Between Tangye and Tetang, there is nowhere to stay in between, so it is a longer day trekking, but immensely satisfying. Walking steadily will get us there, no problem. It is also perhaps the most scenic day of landscapes of this immensely beautiful trek, and that is really saying something.

Leaving the village of Tangye

16 - trek/drive Jomsom 2720m

There's an optional trek via Lupra, to skip the road, or take the easier way, perhaps even drive via Muktinath, one of the holiest places for Hindus.

17 - fly Jomsom-Pokhara-Kathmandu

We take a morning flight by small plane then an afternoon flight to Kathmandu.

Day 18 - trip ends

We take you to the airport for your flight home.

We are happy to arrange other activities if you want to stay longer.

Namaste and Tashi Delek!