Nepal Trekking Itinerary
Day 1 October 12 Arrive in Kathmandu Elevation 4,500 ft
Hit the Ground Running
The Kathmandu airport may be the world’s most exciting airport because of the absolute chaos that envelopes travelers upon arrival. Jerry or Joe or a local guide will meet anyone who doesn’t travel with the group. After the hotel transfer, we’ll give you time to settle into your room. We’ll be staying near Tibetan Buddhism’s holiest site in Nepal, the Bhouda Stupa. The Boudha neighborhood is the home away from home and spiritual center for thousands of Tibetan refugees.
In the afternoon, walk the dirt road neighborhoods of old Kathmandu to Pashupatinath, one of the Hindu religion’s holiest temples in the world. Pashupatinath is a massive compound comprised of cremation ghats, forests, monkeys, ganja-smoking sadhus and is a riot of color and activity. Think Hindu theme park!
We’ll enjoy a group meal together in the evening overlooking the Boudha Stupa.
Day 2 Oct 13 Touring the Kathmandu Valley 4,600 ft
After breakfast we’ll pile into our microbus and take a 20-minute ride to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Changu Narayan. Changu Narayan is a unique walled temple complex/village set on a hilltop in the middle of the picturesque Kathmandu Valley.
Later in the day, depending on energy levels, we’ll drive to the ancient village of Kirtipur, walk through its narrow lanes, enjoy its gracious people and watch the beautiful Himalayan go by.
Day 3 Oct 14 Kathmandu to Syabru Besi + begin trekking to Goljung 6,500 ft
Let the Games Begin!
We get in deep today. With an early start, we leave our beloved Kathmandu behind, we drive north in 4-wheel drive vehicles, up and over the rim of the Kathmandu Valley, and in an unbelievable plot twist, dive down more than 4,000 ft before we ramp it up towards the Langtang Himal. As we climb, the scenery gets better and the road gets worse and begins to hairpin onward and upward. By the time we arrive at our trailhead in Syabru Besi, most of us will be quite happy to begin walking.
Our first afternoon should blow the carbon out of our legs as we walk uphill steadily for a few hours to a pass with great views. From here we’ll walk another hour downward to the Tamang (mountain people closely related to Tibetans) village of Goljung. The anticipation builds throughout the afternoon as this evening our first “Star of the Day” will be crowned. We will spend the night as guests in Tamang households!
Day 4 Oct 15 Goljung to Briddim 7,300 ft
Culture out the Ears
Our first full day of trekking is once again in the land of the Tamangs. This area has historically been desperately poor and forgotten by a subsistence government in Kathmandu. A few years ago, villagers in the area organized a network of homestays and upgraded trails to attract more trekkers. The area is still very poor and sees far fewer trekkers than other mountain areas, however, the Tamang way of life has advanced. In the afternoon, we’ll cross the Trisuli River and be only a few miles from the Tibet border. The final hours are upwards to Briddim where will be staying in a guest house or home stay.
Day 5 Oct 16 Briddim to Lama Hotel 8,400 ft
If you check out Google Earth, you’ll see that this day is a long traverse (going sideways across and around a hill, rather than up and down) that transitions from the high culture of the Tamang area in the wider Trisuli River valley to the close confines and higher mountains of the Langtang Valley. We’re lucky this day to be on the high, dramatic trail above the Langtang River rather than the low one – better views and fewer people! We pass through the village of Syarpagaon before eventually meeting up with the main drag of the Langtang trail. We’ll stay in our first real lodge tonight and be treated with conversation from fellow travelers from all over the world.
Day 6 Oct 17 Lama Hotel to Langtang Village 11,250 ft
Getting up There
We’re now higher than Mt. Hood and if you glance up, you’ll notice we’re far below the high, glaciated peaks that have come into view throughout the day! There’s a chance we’ll see monkeys and red pandas along the trail. Red pandas aren’t very bearish, they’re more like a cute cross between a raccoon and a fox? As we progress further up-valley, the valley becomes more U-shaped, rather than the canyon-shaped valley lower downstream. Indeed, Langtang is known as the Valley of Glaciers and more and more will come into sight as we make our way up the valley.
Day 7 Oct 18 Langtang to Kyanjin Gompa 12,800 ft
Cheese and Ice!
As we continue to ascend, we’re treated to glaciers rolling off of Langtang Lirung – at 23,746 ft – the highest peak in the area. Kyanjin Gompa is the last settlement in the Valley and consists of a nice number of lodges, a cheese factory and traditional Tibetan Buddhist Monastery. After we settle into our lodge, there will be plenty of time to discover the village, take a mini hike or a nap. We’ll spend a day or two based in the village, exploring the area, going on mind-boggling day hikes, resting, or simply watching the mountains go by.
Day 8 Oct 19 Kyanjin Gompa Explorations 12,800 ft & up
In 1949, H.W. Tilman spent a month or so exploring the highlands of the Langtang Valley. We’ll have a day or two, plenty of time to whet the appetite and give a taste of the best of the area. Some of us will be content to stay in the warm lodge for a rest day. The rest of us can choose from a number of hikes –– what’s your flavor?? Ambling further up the flattish Langtang Valley? An uphill hike to the icy snout of a glacier? A big hike to one of the major league viewpoints above Kyanjin? The biggest and best is the imposing Tserko Ri – 16,400 ft above sea level and a full day round trip.
Day 9 Oct 20 Kyanjin Gompa
Today our team splits up into two: Team Ganja La and the Team Laurebina La. Those choosing to go over the high and mighty Ganja La Pass (16,750 ft) will have an extra day in Kyanjin Gompa. The others will retreat back down the valley for a day before again ascending towards the easier Laurebina La Pass. At 15,200 ft, it is lower than Ganja La and not as steep. But this route doesn’t let you entirely off the hook though – Laurebina La is higher than any mountain in the Lower 48! Both teams will meet up on the other side of the passes to walk together down the mountain into Kathmandu!
Day 9 Oct 20 Team Ganja La: stays in Kyanjin Gompa 12,800 ft
R & R
Smart team members will use this day to relax, rejuvenate and reset, kicking around the teahouse with friends, telling war stories from the day before, or mapping out the route over the Ganja La. The rest of us might do that as well, or we may be off exploring another enticing high point.
Day 9 Oct 20 Team Laurebina La: Kyanjin Gompa to Lama Hotel 8,400 ft
What goes up, must come down. After endless days of uphill marches, our hearts and lungs will definitely enjoy going back down the Langtang Valley. Our knees and quads may protest though as they bear the brunt of the day’s trek. For those who are not big fans of backtracking, rest assured that our arrival in Lama Hotel brings this nonsense to an end.
Day 10 Oct 21 Team Ganja La: Kyanjin Gompa to Base Camp 13,120 ft
We begin our assault of the mighty Ganja La with a half day hike to Ngegang, our base camp. Even though this leaves us with a big day tomorrow crossing the pass, there isn’t much level ground beyond this point. As well, we’ll all appreciate a nice night’s sleep at a lower altitude without high altitude-induced cold and panting. Ngegang is really just a couple of roofless stone huts used by nomadic yak herders (a tough job – yaks don’t like to be herded!) who spend their summers high in the mountains keeping their herds in fresh grass. You’ll be thankful for our friendly Team Sherpa as they set up camp and cook dinner for us.
Day 10 Oct 21 Team Laurebina: Lama Hotel to Thulo Syabru 7,380 ft
2nd Chance for Pandas
If you weren’t lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the red panda or langur monkeys earlier in our trip, this morning will be your last best chance as we continue dropping into the lushness that is the lower Langtang Valley. The afternoon finds us saying goodbye to our beloved Langtang Khola (river) for the final time as we climb up and out of the valley and begin our southward trek towards Kathmandu. Our lodge for the evening is set high above the river on a winding ridge top in the terraced farming village of Thulo Syabru.
Day 11 Oct 22 Team Ganja La: Base Camp, cross Ganja La (16,747 ft) to Keldang 14,500 ft
Your teammates will be suspicious if you wake up bright and chipper, showing no signs of butterflies in your stomach for the day ahead. Our day begins with tea and a full breakfast served by our efficient crew and we begin hiking while they’re cleaning up. As we climb higher, the trail becomes less distinct and the views more outstanding. We’ll move through snowfields before the prayer flag spangled summit comes into view. The last section is a bit dicey as it’s quite steep and has some exposure. Team Sherpa will fix ropes for us below the summit if conditions call for it.
It’s hard to believe that anything could be higher than we are at the summit, but yes, we truly are dwarfed by giants all around us. We’re a few thousand feet below the summit of Naya Kanga rising right beside us. Looking back across the Langtang Valley we see Langtang Lirung and dozen other high peaks. A bit beyond that is the hulking mass of the biggest mountain around, Shishipangma. At 26,282 ft, this behemoth is the highest mountain wholly within Tibet.
The descent down the south side of the pass is a steep, rocky slope that demands your full attention at every step. Following rock cairn trail markers leads us into a moonscape basin of massive, jumbled rocks surrounded by high peaks. Eventually we reach the yak shelters of Keldang. With any luck, Team Sherpa will have a meal ready and waiting for us there.
Day 11 Oct 22 Team Laurebina: Thulo Syabru to Sing Gompa 11,150 ft
Up and At ‘em
We’ll keep our mileage down a bit today and tomorrow because there’s quite a bit of ascending in store for us. A good rule of thumb for acclimatization (above 10,000 ft) is to sleep no more than 1,500 ft higher than the night before. We’re safe not following this rule to a tee because we’ve just spent several days higher up in Kyanjin Gompa. As we head southward and upward out of Thulo Syabru, we’re again rewarded with great mountain views in exchange for a little pain. We’re still in monkey territory, so keep an eye out for one of our jungle cousins. Sing Gompa has a monastery and a cheese factory, just like Kyanjin Gompa. In fact, “gompa” means “monastery” in Nepali.
Day 12 Oct 23 Team Ganja La: Keldang to Dukpa 13,380 ft
What Goes Up, Must Come Down . . .
Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a downhill day in Nepal. The people of the mountain go by the “shortest distance between two points is a straight line” rule of path-building. This means that many trails get straight to the point and make their way through some tough terrain. Today finds us going one step up and two steps down as we gradually descend to the summer huts of Dukpa. We’re in our third day of isolation and wilderness travel – hopefully there will be a few shepherds to chat up around the campfire tonight.
Day 12 Oct 23 Team Laurebina: Sing Gompa to Gosaikunda 14,430 ft
The first hour of our hike today takes us from the southern slopes of the ridge to the top of the ridge where we’ll spend the rest of the day. The joys of ridgewalking cannot be overstated with endless views and open vistas. We’ll walk through the tiny trekker town of Chalang Pati in the morning and continue upward to Laurebina Yak for lunch. The afternoon brings us more upward ridgewalking until we arrive at the first of three Gosaikunda Lakes. These lakes are a power spot for the Hindu people of Nepal and India; every August, 20,000 people make the monsoon pilgrimage to Gosaikunda to bathe in the lakes. We’ll settle in at a lodge near the third lake.
Day 13 Oct 24 Team Ganja La: Dukpa to Tarke Ghyang 8,500 ft
After a downhill start, please do not be surprised to find yourself climbing up to a mini pass. No pain, no gain, and the reward here is that this high point offers us wide open views of one hundred miles of Himalaya – almost to Mt. Everest! As we descend again we come across a monastic center before taking the big plunge down to the big town of Tarke Ghyang. We are now in Sherpa country, although the Sherpas here are a bit of a different lineage than the famous mountain climbers of the Khumbu region.
Day 13 Oct 24 Team Laurebina: Gosaikunda to Laurebina La (15,120 ft) + Gopte 11,285 ft
You’ll be happy to know that you’ve already done most of the work to get over Laurebina La. That was easy! We only need an hour or two to get to the summit, it’s not that steep, and you’ll find yourself at yet another one of earth’s dazzling and desolate places. From here our road dives desperately downward towards the foreboding village of Phedi and we’ll likely see ancient bits of a mangled Thai Airlines plane that crashed into the mountainside after getting lost in 1992. Leaving Phedi, we continue up and down to our overnight village of Gopte. You’ll feel Kathmandu inching closer here as you see its glow after dark.
Day 14 Oct 25 Team Ganja La: Tarke Ghyang to Kutumsang 8,100 ft
If you missed getting tucked into bed every night by a loved one on Team Laurebina, today’s your lucky day! If you just missed your bed, tonight is your night. We will be on the same trail as Team Laurebina by lunchtime and there’s an outside chance we’ll meet run into them before our lodge in Kutumsang. There’s some business to take care of first though… We walk down to the river then up to the well-to-do village of Melamchigaon. If we’re so inclined, we can take a few minutes to visit the Buddhist monastery. From Malamchigaon, we’ll take the rest of the morning to walk up to the pass and village of Therapati where we’ll have a well-deserved lunch break. In the afternoon, we’ll stick near the Therapati ridge top, descending to meet our beloved Team Laurebina in the village of Kutumsang.
Day 14 Oct 25 Team Laurebina: Gopte to Kutumsang 8,100 ft
Did you feel hurt and abandoned by Team Ganja La? Then you may have mixed feelings about our meetup in Kutumsang. The rest of us, however, will be very much looking forward to seeing our old friends again. We’ll start with a bit of up and down before a nice uphill to the village of Therapati. The Himalayan views open up from here as we retreat from the view-blocking mountains of the Laurebina-Ganja La ridge. We continue along and down the ridge to our joyous rendezvous with Team Ganja La in our lodge at Kutumsang.
Day 15 Oct 26 Kutumsang to Chisopani 7,020 ft
Signs of Life
Today and tomorrow we will all trek together as we see more and more signs that there is life beyond our spartan mountain existence. Jeep tracks will become evident, maybe we’ll see the occasional motorcycle or taxi? We lose 1,000 vertical feet today, but as usual, the Himalaya does not willingly give up altitude – we’ll have lots of ups and downs! There are numerous small villages along the way today, so we’ll have plenty of choices for a lunch stop or afternoon break. In its final show of defiance, mountains of Helambu throw a mini ascent at us to get up to Chisopani (cold water in Nepali). Once again though, pain brings gain and we’re rewarded with wide open views of the high peaks in Chisopani.
Day 16 Oct 27 Chisopani to Sundarijal 4,600 ft
Our two week primer into the mountains of Langtang, Gosaikunda, and Helambu comes to an end today, but for most of us, it will leave us wanting more – but only after a couple days and nights of good food and better beds. And that’s exactly what awaits us in Kathmandu! It’s all downhill into the Kathmandu Valley; we should be down and in our microvan for the quick trip into the city by early afternoon.
We’ll stay in a nice hotel in downtown Kathmandu for the last few days. After this major league accomplishment of two weeks walking the high Himalayas, we have earned a couple nights at a nice historic hotel. We’ll settle into a very nice hotel, take full advantage of all it has to offer and eat a well-deserved delicious meal accompanied by a few very well deserved frosty beers while telling trekking war stories in the evening.
Day 17 Oct 28 Kathmandu 4,500 ft
Kathmandu is kind of like a big theme park – so much to see and do, wild taxi rides, historic squares, sights, sounds, smells, and chaos in every corner. Our last full day in Nepal will be filled with shopping and taking in as much of the city’s goodness as we can. Or, if you prefer, you can spend the day relaxing by the hotel pool or at the Garden of Dreams, just down the street. Just before sunset, we’ll make our way to the Swoyambhu, often called the Monkey Temple because of all the mischievous monkeys that inhabit the area. The 365 steps leading to the hilltop temple (and magnificent sunset views) will be our last uphill of the trip! We’ll follow this with a blowout meal together and possibly an awards ceremony?
Day 18 Oct 29 Departure from Kathmandu
Transfer from hotel to airport for flight home. Hopefully many of us will be traveling together. Bicycle rickshaws . . .