MANASLU CIRCUIT TREK –
17 Days. Max. Altitude 5,100m
Basic Tea-House/Camping Trekking with guides and porters. NB: see note at itinerary end
Pre-trek Briefing: HE Office (Kathmandu Guest House) 5pm on day prior to Day 1
Manaslu, at 8,163 m, is the eighth highest mountain in the world standing isolated and yet in the very centre of the Nepalese Himalaya. To trek around the base of this majestic giant is to trek perhaps the very best of all the ‘best kept secrets’ of the Nepalese Himalaya.
Not only are there exceptional views in every direction but the low-to-high range of altitudes presents such varied flora and, most noticeably, a wide cultural spectrum, including strong influences from Tibet mixing with Nepali ethnic diversity.
The contrasting ascent and decent gradients and the spacing of lodges at the higher altitudes advocate that the Circuit is best trekked anti-clockwise, on ancient valley trails using the valleys of the Budhi Gandaki, up, and the Dudh Khola, down, east and west respectively of the Manaslu massif. At the top end of the Circuit (which is actually the shape of an open square) the trails are linked by the 5,135m Larkya La. This is serious high altitude trekking.
Although likened to what was once the similarly remote, roadless, Annapurna Circuit, here some aspects are more demanding. Firstly, in many places the accommodation and food locally available is best described as 'primitive' (some would say ‘in the extreme’). Secondly, The Annapurna’s Thorung La (Pass) is not quite the same degree of challenge as Manaslu’s Larkya La. Although Larkya is about 300m lower, it is in almost permanent shadow of Manaslu’s north face and can have more severe snow conditions. It is also a long 1,500m five-six hour trudge to the
top and a steep grueling 1,600m four-five hour descent to what are only primitive overnight facilities.
It is after years of lobbying that many of the restrictions on movement in the area have recently been lifted, for the ‘far-side’ section of this trek is just a stone’s throw and a high hill away from Chinese-controlled Tibet and from a heavily-patrolled frontier. Here traditional Tibetan norms survive like they no longer do on the other side under the heavy weight of an alien presence. (Though some might say they are just as threatened instead by alluring western culture and values.) There are only a few places where unbelievably beautiful and awesome scenery is the setting for time-warped and other-aged encounters - but trekking in Manaslu is one of these ever rarer regions.
DAY TO DAY PLAN –
Day 1: Kathmandu to Arughat
(O/nt Altitude570m/ approx 7 hr drive by private transport OR approx 8-9 hr by local bus) Early departure from Himalayan Encounters’ headquarters at the Kathmandu Guest House. Travelling by road via the Prithvi highway, before Malekhu we turn north taking the single track road for Dhading Besi and beyond to Arughat- the last hr or so on a very dusty section. (D)
Day 2: To Soti Khola
(O/nt Altitude 730m/5-6 hrs approx.) A well-defined path through verdant paddy fields climbs past Gurung villages. A first view of Shringi Himal is there at Shanti Bazaar from where the torrent that is the clear glacial run-off of the Budhi Gandaki is our uphill companion. It is then across the suspension bridge at Soti Khola and into the land of the famed ‘Honey Hunters’. (B,L,D)
Day 3: To Machha Khola
(O/nt Altitude 930m/6 hrs approx.) The trail now weaves in and out of forest past the settlements of Liding and Lapubesi. The trekking theme to come is that of following this remote and classic mountain stream in all its glory up towards its source in the snow-melt and glaciers on the utterly isolated north face of Manaslu. And so it is that the trail continues to the night’s stop at Machha khola. (B,L,D)