Manaslu and Nar Phu: I’m (almost) back!

Hello from the High Himalaya!

It’s my last day in Kathmandu and I’m killing time here at the Marshyangdi Hotel until my 02.40 flight.

A perfect opportunity for a post-trip blogpost!

On the approach to Kathmandu
On the approach to Kathmandu

The trip went really well. My two Bristol trek mates were great and it was fab spending time with Mingmi, Buddhi, Tsering (but not Chherring), Krishna, Tashi and Lakpa, and with Val. There were no major dramas (other than pre-election violence which has meant a curfew for the past couple of days) and in the 24 days I’ve had in Nepal – the first time since COVID struck – I revisited the Manaslu Circuit, had my first encounter with the (not so) “Lost Valleys” of Nar and Phu and topped and tailed the trek with a few days in Kathmandu and Pokhara.

Thank you, Val!

Nepalese Himalayas
Nepalese Himalayas

We completed the Manaslu Circuit (Machhakhola to Dharapani) in 12 days, jeeped up to Koto and spent the next 5 1/2 days exploring the valleys and villages of Nar and Phu, up close to the border with Tibet.

The trek featured two high passes (of course): the Larkye La (5106m) between Gorkha and Manang in Manaslu and the Kang La (5306m) between Nar and Manang. Both passes were snow covered.

The snow on the Larkye La started quite low down, and it was a much colder ascent than on my previous visit back in 2018. On the plus side the snow cover made for easier walking as we didn’t have to pick our way through all the boulders, rocks and stones on the way up, and we were on snow rather than slippery dust trails on the way down. Still very steep though and the hot sun made for potentially dangerous conditions so it was an “as speedy as possible” descent. The microspikes I bought for Dolpo were invaluable for stopping slippage whilst walking on the compacted snow trails. I’m still amazed that Hazel and I managed to negotiate the snowy Thorong La in 2009 without spikeys or poles.

The other difference in my 2018 and 2022 experiences on the Larkye La is that this year there were a bazillion other people at the pass at the same time as us, although that did include a proposal at the prayer flags (she said “yes”).

The trail we took from Dharapani to Tal and Chamje at the end of our 2018 Manaslu Circuit is no more – at least two big sections have slid into the river or been washed away. Nepal has been dealt two torrential monsoons in the past two years and you can see the damage everywhere.

The weather wasn’t looking great for the Nar Phu extension and Val almost took us back to Pokhara and out somewhere else instead but the weather gods were generous (and Mingmi checked a lot of forecasts) and in the end we managed to do 5-6 good days there, visiting both villages (very Dolpo – wood and stone, built into the hillsides) and getting over the Kang La pass just before the snow came to Nar …..

So, the Kang La pass: 2.30am bed tea, 3.15am start time, a good few hours before dawn trudging over frozen trails and streams and shattered rocks, then a couple more hours on steep zig zags trodden into a metre or so of snow. We got to the chorten that marks the pass at 8.11 am. Not bad going. The descent was a steep moraine / scree slope like the start of the descent from Amphu Lapsta, except it went on for 2 hours. And then there was another 2 hours of more down, some of it a bit less steep, before lunch. And then another 2 hours to Yaru village where we spent the night, face to face with Annapurna IV.

Crossing the Kang La pass also brought us into the Annapurna Circuit and The Road. Even taking the alternate higher route we were still on the same sort of dirt road / jeep track, just the less used one. Driving from Lower Pisang to Besi Sahar – where my 2009 Annapurna Circuit trek started – was all on the road, and it just got more and more depressing. The classic Annapurna Circuit trek has been destroyed but we still passed a lot of people doing it. My advice is “Don’t”, at leat not unless and until a new Annapurna Circuit has been established on alternative trails (assuming that’s possible).

From Besi Sahar we drove to Pokhara – on roads that were more potholes / dirt than tarmac: monsoon damage plus road works. The drive took 5 very uncomfortable hours, and half of that was on Nepal’s main East-West road, the Prithvi Highway. The upside was that Val decided none of us could face driving from Pokhara to Kathmandu (est. 12-16 hours) so we flew.

And the final bit of road news is that on the Manaslu Circuit the road is drivable to Macchakhola, will soon by drivable all the way to Jagat and is in place all the bridge to Doban. The proto-road has been dug out much further than that, heading on towards the turn off to Tsum. So I’m all the more glad I did my trips in 2015 (Tsum) and 2018 (Manaslu and Tsum) – I don’t think I’ll be coming back to this part of Nepal.

Do keep your fingers crossed for Kanchenjunga Base Camps North and South for next year! Hopefully that’ll be a camping trek – tea houses were OK but the food was a lot more limited than when we camp. The appeal of dal bhat wore decidedly thin…..

Dinner!
Dinner!

To end on a positive note: We distributed around 100 LED solar lights in Manaslu and Nar, and held a couple of eye clinics to distribute spectacles / glasses in Manaslu. Even though the electricity poles are more prevalent these days, many of them are bent double, buried in landslides or minus wires …. And, last but absolutely not least, Tseten and Tenzi did us proud in Tashiling.

I’ll add some photos once I’m back in Blighty – let’s hope the train strikes don’t make my GWR journey home toooooo painful….. Ever the optimist!

Herefordshire Week 150: Tuesday 08 – Monday 14 November 2022

In Nepal. From Manaslu to Nar & Phu. Election build up and over the snowy Kang La Pass (5306 m).


Tuesday: Bhimtang (3720 m) – Tilche (2300 m). The final day on the Manaslu Circuit.

Wednesday: Tilche (2300 m) – Chhauchha. Jeep to Koto  (2620 m), early lunch, then off into Nar & Phu! Very, very narrow river valley. A lot of up.

Thursday: Chhauchha – Upper Chyakhu (3500 m). More up. The valley broadened out at Meta.

Friday: Upper Chyakhu (3500 m) – Phu (4080 m). SO COLD.

Saturday: Phu (4080 m) – Nar (4110 m). Down to 3450 m and then up again.

Sunday: Nar (4110 m) rest day. Sunny sightseeing, avoiding electioneering.

Monday: Nar (4110 m) – Kang La Pass (5306 m) – Ghyaru (3730 m).


You’ll have to wait for my Photos & Notes post for the details.


Photos: Herefordshire week 150 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2022-11-13.

Herefordshire Week 149: Tuesday 01 – Monday 07 November 2022

In Nepal. Manaslu Circuit Days 4 to 10: over the snowy Larke La (5106 m)


Tuesday: Prok (2397 m) – Hinang Gompa (3200 m)

Wednesday: Hinang Gompa (3200 m) – Sama Gaon (3500 m)

Thursday: Sama Gaon (3500m): Acclimatisation day – Punggyen Gompa (3870 m)

Friday: Sama Gaon (3500 m) – Samdo (3860 m)

Saturday: Samdo (3860 m): Acclimatisation day – up the Mayol Khola / Samdo Glacier valley to the Yak Kharka and on up to 4760 m. Eye clinic and LED light distribution.

Sunday: Samdo (3860 m) – Dharmasala (4460 m)

Monday: Dharmasala (4460 m) – Larkya La pass (5106 m) – Bhimtang (3720 m)


You’ll have to wait for my Photos & Notes post for more details!


Photos: Herefordshire week 149 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2022-11-06.

Herefordshire Week 148: Tuesday 25 – Monday 31 October 2022

Off to Nepal to trek the Manaslu Circuit and Nar Phu, with Val and team, Sonia and Sara.


Up early on Tuesday to catch the 06.43 to London. Parked the car at the pay & display for the day – Phil returned from his long weekend in London / Witham later in the day and drove it home. We rendezvoused for coffee and croissant at Paddington.

Overnight flight to Kathmandu via Doha on Qatar Airways QR 0004 (LHR-DOH) and QR 0648 (DOH-KTM).

At KTM airport, the efficiency of the new improved tourist visa process (provided you fill out the form before you go) was offset by there only being 2 security scanners, plus Tihar Holiday meant luggage was slow to materialise.

Mingmi met me outside the new “international” entrance and organised a taxi to the Marshyangdi Hotel, Thamel.

Met Sonia and Sara, did some errands with Val, falafel wrap, had a nap. Dinner at Thakali Bhanchha Ghar.

On Thursday, S, S and I got a taxi over to Boudhanath Stupa for the morning. Back in Thamel, our coffee and cake quest was only partially successful – Tihar holidays struck again. Dinner at the hotel (Tihar again).

We set off early on Friday to drive from Kathmandu to Machhakhola – you can stay in the same jeep (provided it’s local) all the way through to Machhakhola, which is where the new road (rocky, dusty jeep track from Arughat via Arkhet Bazar, Sotikhola and Lapubesi) now runs to. In Machhakhola, the village Tihar party procession keep us entertained (to a point) through to the early evening.

Saturday: trekked Machhakhola (930 m) to Salleri (1360 m). We were on the proto-road all the way to the new bridge over the Budi Gandaki to Dobhan / दोभान (1050 m) – ie not nice walking. Once over on the west side of the river we were on the Manaslu Circuit trail – but the road is being carved out of the hillsides on the eastern side.

Sunday: trekked from Salleri (1360 m) to Deng (1870 m). Lots of landslides, some nasty ones between Nyak Phedi and Deng mean that the trail gets very narrow and precarious, with long, sheer drops down to the raging torrent down in the gorge below. Lots of up and down to the river too, where landslides have destroyed the trail completely.

Monday: trekked from Deng (1870 m) to Prok (2397 m). LED solar light distribution in Deng, Rana and Bihi. The hydo-electric power station high up in the forest just before Prok is now in service. Sara and I got stung by hornets at the old gompa in Prok.

You’ll have to wait for my Photos & Notes post for more details!


Photos: Herefordshire week 148 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2022-10-30.

Naar Phu, Nepal: Update

Almost time to go!

It’s been a flurry of activity in the last few days.

I got the final money instructions from Val on Thursday, after a nudge. Handily I had accumulated sufficient cash on recent journeys into Hereford. It’s a far cry from a couple of weeks of stopping off at the cash machine on the way to work and changing GPB for USD at Thomas Foreign Exchange just across the road.

I’ve had my COVID booster the Friday before last and am banking on my existing vaccinations being effective… probably need to check that before I travel again. Printed off my updated NHS COVID Pass (International travel version).

On Friday I checked the various requirements for getting into Nepal – the Qatar Airways and GOV.UK websites are still saying I need to complete the CCMC’s International Traveller Online Arrival Form, as does the Nepal Immigration website,  so I’ve done that. Val also recommended completing the Tourist Visa On Arrival Form to speed up that process once we land, so I’ve done that too.

There are no COVID or visa requirements for transiting through Doha, but Qatar Airways wants me to present a completed Customer Acknowledgement Form at check-in, so I’ve printed off and filled that out for both pairs of journeys.

I sped through online check-in for LHR-DOH-KTM yesterday, and selected (hopefully) good seats, so straight to the bag drop for me. Did I mention that Qatar Airways had been playing around with the Doha arrival/departure times on my return flight, and then emailed to let me know they’d cancelled the DOH-LGW flight I was booked on? Thankfully they’d booked me onto another flight which leaves only an hour or so later – not that the notification email said that! Hopefully no more changes between now and then.

Packed this evening. Thank heavens for lists!

Now I just need all the alarms to wake me up tomorrow morning so that I can catch the 06.43 HFD-PAD….. (Tickets purchased 23 Sept)

Oh, and I’m still not entirely sure of the itinerary. I think we’re doing most of the Manaslu Circuit then branching off into Naar Phu before returning to … Annapurna Circuit? take another route to Jomsom or Pokhara? Anyway, it means I’ve not been able to check the weather forecasts on YR.no. All will be revealed soon I’m sure!