Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Manaslu Circuit | Part I Route and Timings

Manaslu and the monastery of Lho
A team from South Col Expeditions trekked the circuit of Manaslu in April 2017. The trek route, notes and timings are given below which will be useful for trekkers planning for this route.

April 16th 2017 Kathmandu to Arughat 495m to Soti Khola 606m
We left Kathmandu around 7. 15 am and cleared the valley within one hour. The road then follows the Prithvi Highway which goes to Pokhara for around 60 km and then crosses the river and climbs to Dhading. Dhading Besi was reached by around 11 am and then the road started to climb steeply on a dirt track with the bus careering over the mud drenched potholes which made it very difficult. There were many sections of this road where two buses could not pass each other together and hence a lot of backing and manoeuvring was required. The dirt track climbed a ridge from where Ganesh Himal could be seen through the April haze and then skirted the whole ridge before descending into the Arughat valley. Arughat was reached around 1.30 pm and we had lunch at the View Manaslu lodge at the entrance of the village. Our bus then went back to Kathmandu as the motor syndicate allows only a local vehicle to ply between Arughat and Soti Khola. We left Arughat around 2.45 pm and reached the ABC lodge at Soti Khola around 3.40 pm. There are three lodges strung along the road - the ABC, the New Chum Valley and in between them the Green valley all offering similar accommodation in concrete and cement buildings. Both Ncell and Namaste mobile connections were working at Soti Khola. The evening was also warm with the temperatures hovering between 30 and 32 Celsius maximum. Cost Index Dal Bhat 370 black Tea 50.
Arughat 28 2 18 N 84 48 40 E Sotikhola 28 8 2 N 84 51 16E

April 17th 2017 Soti Khola to Lapubesi 823m to Macha Khola 849m to Khorlabasi 879m 
We left Soti Khola around 7 45 am and within a few minutes came to a diversion in the valley as the existing road had been damaged by landslides soon after Soti Khola and we would have to make a long detour to reach Lapubesi. The trail crossed the Budhi Gandaki on a long suspension bridge and then started to climb steeply out of the valley. The trail climbed to around 900 metres in 75 minutes and reached a tea shop on the hill. The trail then continued to climb gently uphill until it reached the top of a ridge and started to skirt the ridge. It then started to leave the ridge and head downhill through the forest on a steep and narrow short cut. It dropped towards the river and then crossed two suspension bridges before making a 40 minute hot and rubbly climb in the mid day sun to Lapubesi. Lapubesi was reached around 11 30 am around 90 minutes behind our scheduled time had we been able to follow the regular route.  Lunch was a delayed affair as there were three other groups at the same lodge. We left Lapubesi after lunch at 1.30 pm along the old road. However due to frequent landslides some of which may still be the remnants of the earthquake, we often had to descend to the river and then climb back again onto the trail which was tiring.  Kharabesi was reached in an hour and 15 minutes and we entered Machha Khola around 3 45 pm where the permits were checked by the Police.  Bibek had to buy a pair of sneakers as the soles of his boots had come apart - he found a pair of red sneakers in Macchakhola. We stopped to regroup in Machakhola and had some tea - we left Machakhola around 5 pm and got into Khorlabasi around 6.20 pm - around three hours behind our scheduled time. The lodges in Khorlabasi are primitive - no lights in the rooms, few outside toilets and presents a dirty bustee aspect a far cry from the beautiful stone patios and blue roofed cottages of Ghandrung and Chomrong on the Annapurna trail. There is no Ncell or Namaste coverage at Khorlabasi and no wifi either. We stayed at Shangri la home one of the two lodges at Khorlabasi. Cost Index Dal Bhat Rs 500 Black Tea Rs 60.
The route which we followed in not the normal route and once the landslide near Soti Khola is repaired the old trail will be in use again.
Soti Khola to top of first ridge 1 hr 15 min Ridge down to river 1 hr 30 min River upto Lapubesi 45 min Lapubesi to Kharabesi 1 hr 15 min Kharabesi to Machakhola 1 hr 30 min Machakhola to Khorlabesi 1 hr 10 min. 
Lapubesi 28 10 40N 84 52 46E Machakhola 28 13 52 N 84 52 26E Khorlabesi 28 15 14N 84 52 59E


April 18th 2017 Khorlabesi to Jagat 1350m
We left Khorlabesi around 7 35 am and walked up the valley with the Budhi Gandaki on our right roaring through the gorge. Tatopani was reached in an hour and we had a 15 minute tea break there. We left Tatopani around 9 am and immediately crossed a new suspension bridge across the river. The trail now entered a landslide zone with rocks and boulders strewn over the hillside. After some ups and downs it began a last short 15 minute climb to Dovan. Dovan was reached in around 80 minutes and we stopped at the Royal Mountain Lodge for a short break. This was the first lodge that reminded me of the some of the lodges of the Annapurna region neatly laid out rooms around a grassy patch. We left Dovan around 11 am and then followed a group of ponies making their way up valley.  The sun was now beating down on us as it neared midday and the trail immediately entered another landslide zone which took around 40 minutes to cross in the burning sun. Around noon we reached Shyauli Bhatti where Hotel Mountain was a suitable stop for lunch. We left Shyauli at around 1.30 pm after a prolonged lunch and the trail then went down for around 40 metres and then started a relentless climb for an hour which reached the Yaru Guest House on a ridge. We went down to the river from here and around 3 pm reached Yaru Bagar with a series of bhattis strung along the main trail. The river was in a broad flat plain here and we could see the new walkway bridge which had been recently constructed after the earthquake. We left the river around 3 30 pm after a cup of tea and then climbed gently for about 30 minutes until we came to another bridge across the Budhi Gandaki  - we crossed back to the left bank and started a 45 minute climb to Jagat which we finally entered around 5 pm. The lodge of choice in Jagat was the Jagat Guest House which was full and we were somehow able to manage five rooms in the Rubinala Guest House which also had a group of Germans staying and occupying most of the rooms.  Neither Namaste nor Ncell mobiles worked here but the lodge had a phone which could be used for a charge to make calls. Cost Index Dal Bhat 500 Black Tea 60.
Khorlabesi to Tatopani 1 hr 10 min Tatopani to Dovan 1 hr 20 min Dovan to Shyauli Bhatti 55 min Shyauli Bhatti to Yaru Bagar 1 hr 20 min Yaru Bagar to Jagat 1 hr 30 min
Dovan 1016m 28 17 43N 84 54 14 E Jagat 1350m 28 21 6 N 84 53 45E


April 19th 2017 Jagat to Deng 1800m
We left Jagat around 7.15 am and crossed another long suspension bridge across the Budhi Gandaki. The trail then climbed up to a flat piece of land marked as a helipad. From here the trail was cut narrowly into the side of a cliff. In around 40 minutes Salleri was reached which boasted of a lodge and some village houses. From here the trail started to climb out of the valley often on narrow stone steps. Frequent up and down traffic of ponies made the going slow. The trail then climbed upto a ridge top and then descended to Sidebars in about 1 hr 40 min from Jagat. Sirdibas is a good first stop for tea. From Sirdibas the trail passes through some of the village houses before descending to the river. Straight ahead is another long suspension bridge which crosses the Budhi Gandaki to its right bank. After the bridge there is a steep 30 minute climb to the village of Philim. There is a police checkpoint at Philim where the restricted are permit and the MCAP permit is checked once again. Around 50 minutes walk skirting the hill and remaining high above the Budhi Gandaki is the village of Chisopani / Ekle Bhatti which makes a good lunch stop.  There are a number of lodges here. From Ekle Bhatti the trail hugs the side of the gorge with the river thundering through the valley.  In about an hour we reached the junction of the Manaslu and Tsum Valley trail which is signposted. The trail on the left going down to the river leads to Deng. In about 10 minutes from the junction the river is crossed by another small bridge. The trail then begins to climb from the river to Pewa. Two smaller suspension bridges over the river are crossed in 30 minute intervals and the trail then comes to Pewa with two lodges on the banks of the river. Pewa would take around 2 hours from the Manaslu / Tsum valley trail junction.  From Pewa the trail follows the river and makes a number of ups and downs before climbing again to a high point and then descending to Deng. Namaste cell network has a one bar coverage in a fixed place of the Hotel Windy Valley dining room - other than this no networks were working. Deng is surrounded by high hills and I noticed some fresh snow on the hill tops. Cost Index Dal Bhat 635 and Black Tea Rs 60.
Jagat to Siridibas 1 hr 45 min; Siridibas to Philim 1 hour; Philim to Ekle Bhatti/ Chisopani 50 minutes; Elke Bhatti to Manaslu/ Tsum valley trail confluence 1 hr; Trail Confluence to Pewa 2 hrs ; Pewa to Deng 1 hour.
Philim 1570m 28 23 38N 84 53 46E Deng 1800m 28 28 36N 84 52 9E




April 20th  2017 Deng to Namrung 2640m
We left Deng around 7.15 am and travelled northwest - the trail soon dropped to the river and after crossing the river climbed steeply to the village of Ranga in about an hour. From here onwards to Ghap reached in the afternoon the Nepal Telecom (Namaste) cell connectivity works very well but ends soon after Ghap. In around 45 minutes from Ranga, Bihi Phedi is reached with a couple of lodges. The trail then skirts the hillside climbing and descending until it reaches a junction with the left trail leading to Prok and the trail ahead going to Ghap. The trail begins to climb once more and in about half hour reached the solitary Bur Guest House. From here within 15 minutes you come to a landslide area and there is a steep diversion for about an hour through a narrow and rubble trail hair raising at times. The trail then comes down and meets the main trail about 20 minutes before Ghap. Ghap is a broad picturesque village with four tea houses nicely located amongst cultivated fields. From Ghap the trail begins to climb gently and in an hour or so reached the KLSP lodge which is situated in a clearing in the forest. This will make a good stop for those who are late and cannot reach Namrung the same evening. The trail then crosses two bridges about thirty minutes apart and from the second bridge begins the steep climb to Namrung in about 1 hr 40 minutes. Namrung has a number of good lodges with wifi facilities. Neither Ncell nor Namaste cell connectivity works here. Cost Index Dal Bhat 600 Black Tea Rs 60.
Deng to Ranga 1 hour; Ranga to Bihi Phedi 45 Minutes Bihi Phedi to Ghap 2.5 hours Ghap to Namrung 3 hours 15 min
Ghap 2136m 28 31 53N 84 49 16E Namrung 2640m 28 32 34N 84 46 16E




April 21st 2017 Namrung 2640m to Lho 3135m  
 One of our clients was troubled by a bad ankle and her knee was also getting affected. She decided to use her emergency evacuation policy and called a helicopter to get her to Kathmandu.  Shyam our sirdar and I decided to wait with her while the rest of the group left at around 9 am for Lho. However due to bad weather in Kathmandu and Dhading the helicopter did not arrive and we decided to leave at 1130 am leaving her in the care of the Namrung lodge owner. The trail started a gentle downhill and in around 20 minutes reached the pretty village of Bhanjan with green fields of barley and potatoes. From Bhanjan the trail started to climb for Lihi. We were now entering Buddhist country. Mani walls and chortens dotted the roadside and the entrances of the villages were marked by kanis. Prayer flags were strung together across the trail and monasteries were being repaired after the earthquake. At Lihi we entered the damaged monastery but found the idols had been saved after the earthquake. The monastery was being rebuilt in earnest. The trail then remained on the level and crossed a bridge and contoured the hillside before again climbing gently through a Kani and entered the village of Sho. Sho was in a picturesque location with green barley and potato fields. We stopped at a tea shop for a short break and then carried on to Lho. In about 30 minutes Lho could be seen on a hill at the end of the valley but it took another 30 minutes to get there! By around 3 15 pm we were in the Majestic Manaslu Guest House which had some clean rooms with an excellent gas hot shower which I used for the first time on the trek. There was no cell phones working at Lho but the lodge had a satellite phone which could be used for India calls at Rs 60 per minute and Kathmandu calls at Rs 10 per minute. Cost Index Dal Bhat 650 Black Tea Rs 60 Vegetable Omelette 320
Namrung to Bhanjan 25 minutes; Bhanjan to Lihi 50 minutes; Lihi to Sho 1 hour; Sho to Lho 1 hour 15 min.
Namrung 2640m 28 32 34N 84 46 16E to Lho 3135m 28 34 28N 84 42 4E

Note: Lho Ribang Monastery
This monastery has a spectacular location about 30 minutes above the village of Lho. I asked at the lodge and was told that today April 21st was an auspicious day and a whole day Puja was in progress. I walked up around 4. 30 pm and found that all the lamas were in prayers. It was an impressive setting with the village far below and on a good day Manaslu looming behind the ornate roofs of the monastery. The sounds of the long horn Bardo Lhamsol along with the drums reverberating through the monastery took me back many years ago to the Rumtek monastery in Sikkim where I had witnessed and photographed a similar service. Outside the monastery in the courtyard two young lamas were dutifully watching over a tray of butter lamps - I lit one for our trek and safe crossing of the Larke La. By the time I descended it was getting dark and the village was covered in a light mist floating across the valley.

... to be continued next week in Part II
  https://sujoyrdas.blogspot.in/2017/07/manaslu-circuit-part-ii-route-and.html


For a photo essay on our trek around Manaslu do visit 
 https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/bistare-bistare-around-manaslu/
For photographs from the Manaslu circuit please do visit
http://www.sujoydas.com/Nepal-Himalaya/The-Manaslu-Circuit-Trek/

2 comments:

  1. Very interesting blog. A lot of blogs I see these days don't really provide anything that attract others, but I'm most definitely interested in this one. Just thought that I would post and let you know.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Congratulations for this detailled and practical report. Dal Bhat index is a good idea. Thanks!

    Fabrice

    ReplyDelete

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